When Heather and I watch MTV’s 16 and Pregnant we always say that we can’t tell if it’s a new episode or a re-run because they all follow the same basic plot:
- Kids get pregnant but think they will be able to handle it.
- The baby is born.
- The new Mom grows frustrated/overwhelmed/exhausted by the demands of the baby.
- The Dad freaks out at the responsibility and starts dating a baby-less girl from school.
- The mom pawns the baby off on Grandma so she can head out to meet boys, or
- She raises the baby but regrets getting pregnant and dreams about going back to school.
It’s heartbreaking to watch things turn out so poorly for these kids, but really, what other outcome could there be? (Seriously…has anyone ever known anyone get pregnant that young and have things work out?) When I think about what I was like at sixteen, I don’t think I would have known how to get a girl pregnant let alone what to do once the baby came. As for the sixteen-year-old Heather, she was still rocking bangs that should not have been seen outside of an elementary school, a fact alone that makes me doubt her prospects as a teen Mom. (waves…Hi Heather…just kidding!)
The truth is that becoming a parent at any age is incredibly hard. I remember when Maddie first came home I was thrown for a serious loop by how much care and attention she demanded. For thirty-one years I had come first, but that had all changed. Becoming a parent meant that my life was no longer dedicated to just my hopes, dreams, and happiness but another person’s as well. And if I was to become a good parent it would mean putting Maddie’s hopes, dreams, and happiness ahead of my own.
This is a monumental thing to adjust to for any new parent – let alone a teenager. That’s why I’ll be bringing a shotgun to the door to meet every boy who comes to pick up Annie until she is well into her thirties.
EDITED TO ADD: I wanted to apologize for the poor way I expressed what I was trying to say. Using the word “doomed” in the title and asking if anyone knew anyone for whom teen pregnancy worked out was over the top and came off a lot harsher than I intended. It was stupid of me to write because some young people do make it work – even in my own family my cousin gave birth at sixteen and went on be married for thirty-five years to her husband (before he passed) and together they even started a very successful business. On the other hand, however, there were nine other instances of teen pregnancy in my extended family and becoming a parent so young made life very, very hard for all of them.
What I was trying to express – poorly as it was – is that parenting is very hard, and that teenagers just aren’t prepared for it. 16 and Pregnant may be just a reality show, but sadly I think it reflects the majority of teen pregnancies. (Don’t forget MTV casts the show when the kids are pregnant and they don’t yet know how things will turn out for them as parents.)
Can teen pregnancy work out? Yes, and the many great success stories in the comments show how this is possible. I commend those people, but know that I couldn’t have done it as a teen and want to protect Annie from having to have to face such a tough road ahead.