Author: Jeannie Vega, Pima Community College
The most important day for most high schoolers is maybe prom or graduation. For me it was the birth of my daughter. She got to be in my prom pictures and watch me walk across the stage while graduating with honors. I didn’t have the most conventional high school experience, but to me it was perfect. I was lucky enough to have an amazing support system for both my daughter and me. It was difficult, but I was able to be very successful and continue to work hard to make the best future for my daughter and me.
Teen pregnancy is much more common than people think. Being a young parent is looked down upon and rather than turning people away, I think that we need to help them as much as we can. Statistically, around 75% of pregnancies were unintended for women ages 15 to 19. (CDC). Specifically in Pima County in 2019, the teen birth rate was 22.1 per 1,000 teens 15-19. (Tucson’s Health). I believe that there are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to teen pregnancy, there are some people that believe it is purposeful and reckless. They don’t take into account that contraceptives can fail, and that you can have an unplanned pregnancy at any age.
I was terrified when I found out I was pregnant, I was scared that I would be treated badly by everyone, both family and strangers. I didn’t know what my future was going to look like. I only imagined the worst. Of course, telling my family was very difficult, but once we moved past that point, things were much better. I was able to have a lot of items donated to me from friends and family. I graduated high school, and am currently working and going to college. There were no programs or any type of assistance at my school, and that was challenging at times. There are school districts that have very good programs such as TAP, which is a support program in the TUSD school district. It has been around for about 50 years and is very successful. (TAPHS). I have searched through PCC’s website and have yet to find any programs or support systems for young parents. As hard as my experience was, that was with care and support. A lot of people don’t get anything at all. If I was kicked out of my house or treated poorly, I wouldn’t have been able to be happy and give my daughter a good life. But now life is so much better for me and I am more successful than ever.
As a society, we need to come together and support each other. We are all humans and everyone has their own struggles. I feel that the issue sometimes is people being so closed-minded. Anything that isn’t the “normal” is perceived as bad and that is not the case! Life rarely ever goes as planned, so it is best to always treat others the way you want to be treated. You can try to find places that support young families to donate old things to, you could volunteer at places, or simply just give kindness and support to anyone you might know in these situations. Schools are a great place to start, whether it’s high schools or colleges, there needs to be support for young parents. A good education is a necessity for a good future. People tend to get mad at people who use state resources and who “waste taxpayers money”, but helping young parents further their education would greatly help people lessen their use of resources. It is not a bad thing to use resources as well as extra funds, and most people use it only when necessary and to lean on while pursuing further education or better paying jobs.
A few things that I feel are important to mention are some of the things people think are “bad” or even “stupid” about having a baby young. One of the main things that people tend to bring up is the issue of finances. While this can be a serious issue, it is not exclusive to young people. Low finances can affect people of all ages. Another issue is the misconception that teens are being reckless or irresponsible. The majority of friends that I know use some form of birth control, whether that is the use of condoms or prescription hormone drugs. For example, birth control pills have a 9% rate of failure. (Kliff). This shows that doing everything right can lead to an accident, nothing is completely perfect or foolproof. The last misconception that I hear about a lot is about missing out on your childhood, this is completely false. The things that these people are referring to most of the time are about hanging out with friends, partying and maybe even drinks and drugs. That was never fun for me, I have always enjoyed being at home and watching movies, and I still can do that!
I want to elaborate on that last point by sharing my personal experiences. I was so scared to tell my friends about having a baby, especially since they were all guys. I figured that they wouldn’t want to talk to me anymore, let alone hang out with me. They were surprised of course, but I got nothing but love. They got my daughter so many gifts before she was even born. We even refer to them as “Uncle, their name”! They hang out with us as a family, they give me love and support. Maybe I am missing out on parties and sneaking out and all that, but I am much happier and don’t feel sad about it. Things in my life are non-traditional and my life is hard at times, but I have never once had a single regret. Everyday I am so grateful for my friends and family, for the love and support they give me to help me through motherhood. I truly wish that everyone could feel the kindness that I feel, just a simple “congratulations”, rather than a mean comment or glare when someone announces a pregnancy can make a world of difference.
Kliff, Sarah. “7 Facts Anyone Taking Birth Control Should Know.” Vox, Vox, 19 Sept. 2014, https://www.vox.com/2014/9/19/6418767/birth-control-pills-effectiveness-how-to-use-common-questions.
“Teenage Parent High School.” Teenage Parent High School, 2021, https://taphs.tusd1.org/.
“Tucson’s Health: Teen Birth Rate.” MAP AZ Dashboard, https://mapazdashboard.arizona.edu/article/tucsons-health-teen-birth-rate.
“Unintended Pregnancy.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 28 June 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/contraception/unintendedpregnancy/index.htm