Teen moms look for support, but find only shame

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

[This post, originally published on 5/9/11 is an excerpt from a Colorlines article, was part of a Mama’s Day Series by The Strong Families Initiative. To follow all of the Mama's Day & Papa's Day events, visit us on Facebook and Twitter.]

By Miriam Perez

Seventeen-year-old Gaby Rodriguez recently made national news when she revealed to her entire Toppenish High School that the baby bump she had been slowly developing over the last six months was actually a modified basketball with cloth and netting inside. Rodriguez, an enterprising Latina senior, told everyone she’d set out to do a social experiment. She lives in a town that is 75 percent Latino, making teen pregnancy an important issue for her community—half of Latinas nationally will become pregnant as teenagers (the same is true for black teens).
But Rodriguez’s project wasn’t focused on trying to prevent teen pregnancy. Her presentation, entitled “Stereotypes, Rumors and Statistics,” was instead about highlighting the stigma she experienced as a high-achieving student who was thought to be pregnant. She told her classmates about how perceptions of her suddenly changed, generating comments like this one: “Her attitude is changing, and it might be because of the baby or she was always this annoying and I never realized it.”

Rodriguez isn’t alone in experiencing this stigma. Shows like MTV’s “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom” may make some think that teen pregnancy is becoming glamorized, but girls who actually live through the experience speak of much less supportive circumstances. Adriann Barboa, Executive Director of Young Women United, who gave birth to her first child at 18, had this to say on the National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, which fell on Wednesday of this week.
“I had heard dire predictions about teen pregnancy at school assemblies, seen billboards, and watched after-school specials that warned me of its perils. Girls who look like me were routinely warned against what would happen to us and to our kids if we became parents too soon. From low birth-weight babies to high drop-out rates, our kids were likely to be on the losing end of every childhood measure.”
To read the rest of the article, click here.

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