Woman holding child / Daria Shevtsova / Pexels.com
I used to be one of them.
Even though I would never say a word against a teen mother to anyone. Even though I would always smile and make conversation with the young mothers I met.
I used to be one of those people who looked at the young mothers in the countless reality TV shows about teenage pregnancy and swore I’d never let that happen to me. I felt pity for the girls on the screen, burdened by children when they were children themselves. And I promised I would be more responsible than that.
All these thoughts — internal, as most thoughts about the female reproductive system often are — changed when I had my first pregnancy scare. I was two weeks late, but my pregnancy test came back negative. After that, I started on Depo Provera and despite getting the injections like clockwork, I still went to get pregnancy tests whenever paranoia set in. Which was often.
This is what the jugdmental climate around teen pregnancy does to sexually active women, especially when they are young. I was so full of fear that even when I was on hormonal birth control, I insisted on pregnancy tests once every two months and started researching my nearest abortion provider (all for a pregnancy that never happened).
That fear I had wasn’t even of pregnancy itself. I was afraid of the gossip, the lost opportunities, the friends that would turn on me, the judgment that comes from nearly everyone whether they voice it or not. The fact that my birth control became less about my safety and more about proving my responsibility is a glaring sign the stigma around teen pregnancy has reached a toxic level.
At a youth forum concerning local politics, I met a woman attending a teen parent unit to finish her secondary education. Her passion for her community, her awareness of the climate around women’s healthcare and her determination to reach success was inspiring. I thought, ‘how can anyone say she’s not responsible?’
People look at teen mothers, become fixated on the fact that they were sexually active at a young age and somehow arrive at the conclusion that they were careless or irresponsible. But that’s not true. Firstly, because everyone has the right to pleasure. Secondly, because pregnancy can happen when birth control fails (like when taking antibiotics), when condoms break, when people get drunk. Peer pressured. Assaulted even. And thirdly, because some people actually choose to become parents at a young age, which is their right.
Whether or not you know the circumstances surrounding a teen pregnancy, you don’t have a right to judge the mother. Maybe she was the one-in-a-hundred who fell pregnant on birth control or maybe she had unprotected sex. The circumstances are irrelevant.
What is relevent is what happened after. She made room in her body and in her life for a new human being. She delivered the child and endeavoured to raise them despite the vicious ridicule waiting from pious outsiders who could have easily been in her situation. I could have been her. Any woman who’s had sex could have been her.
The difference between a teen mother and me is that she took the weight of a person on her shoulders that I couldn’t. She found her support network. She became a support network. When many others in a similar situation might have had an abortion, she chose to bring new life into the world. That doesn’t make her stupid or careless. It makes her a brave human being who still deserves the support, respect and opportunities we give other young people.
Today I laugh (and cringe) at fourteen-year-old me, thinking I’d go on birth control and watch all my worries fade away. Turns out being a woman isn’t as easy as popping a pill a day. Being a woman can turn you inside out, but there’s no group of women who carry themselves as gracefully as those who are raising children, working, seeking an education and growing into themselves all at once.
Teenage motherhood isn’t for me, but I am in awe of teenage mums. Given their infinite love, endurance, staunchness, and sense of responsibility, I would be honoured to be like a teenage mother.
For more on the experiences of teen mothers, click here.Support Villainesse