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Pregnant Before Twenty

By: Shaye Alba

Factors that can affect the outcome of a Teenager’s Pregnancy

You’ll find yourself able to hide the pregnancy for a long time, specifically from yourself. But when the second or third month rolls around without the expected “visitor” making its appearance, you’ll feel the denial begin to wither.

You then finally gather the courage to buy a home pregnancy test, only to find that big fat “positive” staring you in the face. At this point, your life can go a number of different directions. The outcome depends on various factors, some of which we’ll lay out here.

Factor #1: Your decision. This is not meant to be a debate, simply a statement of the obvious. There is a choice that you are facing, and in the end, you need to make it. What it all boils down to is three options: abortion, adoption, or parenting. Because the intent of my article is to inform those who are choosing to parent at a young age, what you decide here may make a lot of what I’m going to say later non-applicable. Having been in this situation myself, I only have this to tell you. You will have a lot of different voices telling you what to do during this time. Make sure you only listen to yourself.

Factor #2: Your age. A pregnant sixteen year old is going to face a different set of challenges than a pregnant eighteen year old. This is the difference between high school and college, legal minority vs. legal adulthood, and having a few more years of experience to draw upon. If you still have some years of high school remaining, it is likely that the social pressures you’ll experience will be less than pleasant. Be aware that you do not have to put up with it. Homeschool is a real option. If that is not what you want to do, you can develop a system for dealing with the less-than-friendly attention you might receive.

When you begin to show, do not wear clothes that attempt to hide your belly. If your classmates ask you questions about your pregnancy, look at them in the face and answer them frankly. Do not behave like someone ashamed of herself (even if you do feel some shame) and people will find it difficult to treat you as someone who should be.

If you’re older and attending college, you will probably not get as much negative attention as would a younger woman. Still you will have a different dilemma facing you, and this has more to do with your current career path. Will it be possible to continue going to school? You wonder if the money you’re spending on college courses might be better spent on saving for future expenses. You worry about what you’re going to do with your life, in the event that you have to put your education on hold. Whatever age you might be, make sure to draw upon the resources available for young women in this position. Schools and universities offer counselor services for free, and may be able to help you figure some of these things out.

Factor #3: Your parents. At some point, they will need to be told. I wish I could tell you how they will react, but I cannot. There are too many things that will affect the way they’ll take the news of your pregnancy. Religious background, political affiliation, financial status, and even overall temperament can make the difference between a parent being supportive or being explosive. If they go so far as to leave you without a place to live, there are programs that provide housing for pregnant teenagers and teenage moms. If parents are angry to begin with, most of them will only need time. Under very few circumstances would I recommend not telling your parents about your pregnancy as soon as possible, because the sooner you tell them, the sooner you can have their support. This can be a crucial step in easing your tension. Realize that your parents’ support can mean help with your medical bills, help with keeping you in school, and of course, help watching your child if you need to work or go to class during the day.

Factor #4: Your boyfriend. He will also need to be told. I cannot guarantee his reaction any more than I can your parents’, but it seems that young men vary less in their response to the news of their imminent fatherhood. It is entirely possible that your boyfriend could have a radically different reaction. He may decide to believe that you are not actually pregnant, or more commonly, to believe that he is not your child’s father. He may feel angry, powerless over the direction of his own life. Some young men do have the sense to realize that giving you his support during this time means that he will have your support in return. But I’d advise you not to expect him to “man up” as he should, especially in the beginning. Like you, he is very young. You will likely go through a great deal of disappointment and pain, because while he is fighting to cope with these changes, he will likely leave you alone to cope with your own. There is no telling if the relationship will survive the pregnancy, and there is no telling how involved he will be in your child’s life. Like your parents, he will need time.

Factor #5: You. After she becomes pregnant, a young woman’s inner strength will influence the direction of her life more than anything else will. I realize that a lot of these factors I mentioned cannot be controlled by you. I know the feeling of helplessness, as if nothing you can do can make it better. I know how it feels when the odds are stacked against you. Young motherhood is daunting. Single young motherhood even more so. You need to remember that you don’t need to have everything figured out right now. You are still very young, and your concept of what you want in life is probably as of yet undeveloped. You need further years to discover the things about yourself and your life that will make you happy. Your time is not running out, your life is not over simply because you’re going to be a mother. You need to realize that you’re still the young carefree woman that you were before you became pregnant. The only difference now is that you will have a beautiful little child beside you. The burden is an illusion, and the best thing you can do for yourself is not to fall into that trap.

Congratulations and good luck!

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