“Yes, I got pregnant at 16. Now I’m 23 and I’m married and own a VERY successful company with my husband. Way to generalize and be totally ignorant. You’ve really offended me and your words disgust me. You’ve lost a subscriber. You’re a jerk!”
As you can see, yesterday’s post about teen pregnancy upset a number of readers. Early in the day I apologized for the poor way I expressed myself, but that didn’t stop comments like the one above from coming in. While I regret the way I expressed myself, I don’t regret the overall message that teen pregnancy is a very hard thing for young people to deal with, and that I am going to do my best to ensure that Annabel doesn’t have to walk that hard road. Obviously, however, my apology didn’t address everything that was upsetting some readers, and as the day went on there were a few things I felt I needed to address:
1. “Seriously…has anyone ever known anyone get pregnant that young and have things work out?”
As I said in my apology yesterday, this was a stupid thing to say because there obviously have been young people who have made it work. But I think this comment upset people more than just because it was an exaggeration. I think some people felt this comment was a slight to the children they had as teenagers. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Every child, no matter how he or she comes into this world, is beautiful and a gift. No decent person would regret having brought their child into the world. That doesn’t mean, however, that they can’t understand that the circumstances that brought their child into the world might not have been ideal. Teen parents must overcome a lot of challenges (completing education, financially supporting the child, dealing with the loss of typical teenage life) that older parents don’t.
Loving my child but regretting the circumstances that brought her into this world isn’t something that I am a stranger to. I love Annabel more than anything, but wish that she could have been brought into my life without having to have lost my sweet Maddie. I would hope that some of the most vitriolic commenters (like the one above) could be reflective enough to understand that while they love their child with all their heart, the circumstances that brought him or her to them made their life much more difficult than it otherwise would have been.
2. The allegation by a couple commenters that I am a misogynist.
A couple commenters said that they found this post misogynistic, which I found not only very off-base, but offensive. “Misogyny” is defined as a hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women. First, this is not the kind of word that should be thrown around lightly, and perhaps the commenters didn’t fully understand its actual meaning. Regardless, I don’t understand how discussing the challenges of teenage pregnancy could be construed as anti-women. It takes two teenagers to make a baby, and both will see their lives changed dramatically when they become parents. Sadly, the boys often take off leaving the girl to handle the brunt of caring for the child. Rather than being misogynist, a call for less teenage pregnancy will actually lead to more opportunities for women.
One of the commenters went on to explain that it was the following that they found misogynist: “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.” I wrote that line not written out of hatred for women, but a love for my daughter. It is a father’s job to protect his daughter, and if that strikes you as misogynist, then you don’t understand a father’s job (or what teenage boys have in mind).
3. The suggestion that my frame of reference for this subject is only MTV’s 16 and Pregnant.
As I mentioned yesterday, I have quite a few family members who became parents as teenagers. That isn’t where my frame of reference ends, however. I used to work as a English teacher at an inner city high school. One year I had an extraordinary girl in my class whose family had escaped death in Hurricane Katrina and somehow managed to make a new home in South Los Angeles. For the first few weeks she was so full of life – thankful to have received a fresh start and excited about her future. She did all her homework and contributed lots of intelligent comments in classroom discussions. Then, suddenly, she became angry and sullen. She stopped doing her homework, stopped participating in class, and soon dropped out. I learned from a fellow teacher that the girl had left school because she was pregnant. This was a heartbreaking thing to see happen to a girl who had so much promise. She never did return to school.
One commenter made a great point as to why she took offense at my post. She said that I made it seem to teenagers that they would be doomed and have no chance for a good future if they got pregnant. I agree that is not a message we should send to teenagers, but neither is the message that teen pregnancy is anything but a very, very hard road to walk.