The Stigma of Teen Pregnancy

I didn’t set out to be a teen parent; I didn’t plan for the majority of things that have happened

since high school, but in that way I am no different than most young adults who are finding themselves. I am happy with every decision and its consequences, good or bad, because I am where I am because of each choice.

It was September of Grade 12 when I became pregnant with my now 15-year-old daughter. I was due on my last official day of high school. It was a complete shock, as most teen pregnancies are. I don’t believe it was expected by any of the people around me; I was not what people might categorize as “at risk”, as subjective as that statement is. It could mean I had a good home life, was an eager student with good marks, held a job, and didn’t get into any serious trouble. You could say I was considered responsible.

This all changed when I became pregnant at 17. I not only grew a baby, but a stigma. Please don’t misunderstand, I am not trying to argue for teen pregnancy or to say it is responsible to choose to have a child while still a child. I just want to point out that one choice with consequences does not define a person instantly as irresponsible or troubled, or any other negative quality.

I take issue with the judgment placed upon teen parents by society, teachers, and in some cases, loved ones, particularly at a time when they are scared, vulnerable, and in need of even more support to ensure the best future for themselves, and the future of another little person.

I was so afraid of everyone’s reactions, of seeing disappointment as I revealed my situation. I still remember the exact conversation I had with every person I told. The first person was my French teacher, in her classroom. My close girlfriends came next — in the high school bathroom.

Next came my parents. We were sitting at our kitchen table; I was shaking like a leaf. I had already moved out and came back to explain that I had left because I was pregnant, even though I really moved out because I didn’t think I could live day-in and dayout with their disappointment.

I ran hard from everyone’s disappointment for a long time — to try to right whatever wrong I felt society saw. I instantly felt I had let everyone down. Was that society or I?

In retrospect, it was mostly me seeing or feeling what I thought everyone felt. In reality, it was probably a very small minority that wrote me off as simply a “teen mom”. The rest just worried for my future. The weight of my fears built into a big chip on my shoulder and I instinctively pushed away from everyone for much of my pregnancy, trying to do it all on my own. I went to high school full-time, lived with my daughter’s father, and worked evenings and weekends. I worked even harder at school, just to prove myself.

One teacher told me to quit my high school classes and just go to the Teen Parent Centre at a different school, even though I explained that it would conflict with the courses I wanted for post-secondary education. She encouraged me to quit her class because she didn’t think I could manage it and just needed to just focus on parenting.

I felt differently. The Teen Parent Centre is an amazing program that I had the pleasure of professionally working with after I received my social work degree, but it wasn’t the program for me at that time. I was a student who was pregnant, not a pregnant student, and the difference mattered to me.

I wanted to hold onto my dreams and identity a bit longer. It wasn’t some deep insight at a young age that helped me maintain my sense of self during a period when my poorly-timed entrance into motherhood could have shaped my future; it was stubbornness.

In retrospect I am so happy with my stubborn younger-self for having this attitude because it allowed me to raise my daughter with a fierce determination to find myself and my future, while also growing into a mother. She became my world, no doubt, but the world I wanted for her had bigger dreams that I was determined to go for — for both of us.

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