Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Teen Pregnancy, and a contest!!

Given the hubbub around this presidential election--and most recently, about McCain's VP candidate Palin's pregnant teenaged daughter--I wanted to talk about teen pregnancy.

Confession time. I was a teenage single mother (that sounds like a Lifetime Television for Women movie, doesn't it? haha).

I got preggers when I was 19. I was a sophomore in college, and the father of my child and I were not, and did not, get married. When I found out I had a bun in the oven, I moved home for a while, then moved out and was on welfare for a year or two. All the while, I continued going to school to get my bachelor's degree, and I was working a part-time job to help bring in extra income.

Yes, I had a few people tell me it was shameful that I was single and pregnant--especially as a teenager. But for every person who pointed a finger, who shook their head in shame at me and my "unfortunate" situation, I had twenty more who told me how much they loved and respected me for trying to keep moving forward.

I clung to that comfort and support during those long nights when I couldn't get my daughter to sleep, or when I was stressing over final exams, and work, and missing milestone moments in my child's development.

Palin's daughter has a long, tough road ahead of her. Being a single teen mom is hard enough, but being a single teen mom whose mother is striving to be the VP of our country? It must be incredibly trying on her to be in the spotlight right now, to have so many people judging her and her family. I can't even imagine the pressure she must be under.

But you know what? Politics aside, I'm happy to see that Palin is supporting her daughter in this difficult time. I know I couldn't have made it without my mom and dad's support.

Here I am, 13 years later, with my own house--that I pay for with my own $$. I have a Master's degree in English. I couldn't have gotten my day job, or my weekend teaching job, without my schooling. My children are happy and healthy. I'm happy and healthy.

I think I read a statistic that said 1 out of 4 teen girls will get pregnant. It's scary how common this occurence is, but it's a fact of living in the US.

Yes, it happened to me, but even from the start, my family and I knew I wanted to be more than just a "statistic." I was going to make something of myself, and just because the path was harder didn't mean it was impossible. My folks insisted I stay in college, and I'm thankful every day that I did.

I hope Palin's daughter will keep moving forward and let her family's love and support launch her into being a strong, independent woman who can take care of her family--as well as herself.

Teen pregnancy doesn't need to be a tragedy. Out of my struggles, I developed character, inner strength, tenacity, empathy, and the capacity to deeply love. And I wouldn't trade my kids, or my past, for anything. They made me the person I am today.

* * *

Contest time--please leave a comment here on today's post. Tomorrow, I'll pick one lucky commenter to win a $10 Amazon gift certificate! This is my way of apologizing for being MIA last week...boy, was August totally insane!

34 comments:

  1. I think you're an inspiration. I can't imagine myself in that situation. To say it's a hard road seems an understatement.

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  2. Emily Ryan-Davis10:57 AM

    I'm ten years older than you were, AND married, and I can't imagine coping NOW if I had an unexpected pregnancy.

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  3. kudos to you.
    I'm so happy it's worked out for you, and that you could move on past the nay-sayers. Why make a difficult time more difficult? Who does it help?

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  4. You amaze me. I am in awe of your strength and proud to call you friend.

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  5. The title led me to believe I could enter to win a pregnant teen. This is false advertisement.



    Your kids are lucky to have you for a mom, Rhonda. You set a great example. Even if being a single mom at nineteen isn't what you want for you daughter, she watched you take an iffy situation and turn it into a spectacular life.

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  6. Powerful story! Powerful lady! Where I live, 40 percent of teens get pregnant. Many don't go to college. You did good!!!

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  7. Wow, Rhonda! Thanks for your candor. As a high school English teacher in a large city, I saw plenty of girls going through this. You said it right, "just because the path was harder didn't mean it was impossible." In fact, it's the tough roads that teach us the most...about the world and about ourselves and what we're made of.

    And just because a teenager gets pregnant doesn't mean her parents are terrible parents either. Life gets messy and difficult, no matter what. What really matters is how you handle it. You did aces, doll! (and your parents too!)

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  8. Thanks so much, guys! And I also completely forgot to give kudos to my sister--she was a godsend, as well. Thanks, Lisa!

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  9. It's amazing how many people think that getting pregnant early in life means you'll end up on welfare and living in crack houses for the rest of your life.

    Anyone can do anything.

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  10. I agree with you, Seeley. How badly do you want to succeed? It's like that with anything in life--obstacles are there to help you figure out how badly you want something, and how much you're willing to work for it.

    I hope teens out there who get in predicaments like I had, or others that may cause problems in their lives, can see that good can come of any situation.

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  11. That's wonderful that your family was so supportive. Thank you for sharing your inspiring story!

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  12. What an inspirational story, Rhonda! You rock and your kids are fortunate to have such an upbeat Mom. I'm sure that compassion and optimism comes through in your writing for teens. (I definitely see the "upbeat" in what I've read of yours!)

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  13. Thank you for sharing your story - it was very motivating! I think that part of the issue with Palin's daughter is that Palin is an advocate of abstinence-only education. IMHO, we should teach our children about safe-sex, about all the choices available to them. Palin's daughter getting pregnant is seen as an example that abstinence-only education doesn't work.

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  14. The media seems to be in love with pregnant teens--usually criticizing them. Teen celebrities have it rough, and the extra scrutiny that comes with having to grow up really fast because you're having a child of your own can only make that harder! (Teens who aren't celebrities except by association have it, in my opinion, rougher, as they get none of the benefit of the public scrutiny and all of the negative!)

    Rhonda, thanks for sharing your story of how you struggled and succeeded. You *are* an inspiration!

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  15. These are fantastic comments that really round out the conversation--thank you guys SO much for posting your thoughts on this touchy subject!

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  16. I agree with ciara. They praised Palin for walking the talk of being Pro-Life, but what about abstinence-only education obviously not being enough to prevent teenage pregnancy?

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  17. Well if ever there was an advertisement for somebody getting it right, Rhonda.

    *plonking star on your forrhead*

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  18. Rhonda, you were so smart to realize how much your education was going to matter, and you've set a great example to your children about the importance of education. You're the teen mother who had vision and guts. Of the three generations of teen mothers in my family (stemming from one of my mother's sisters), one married, raised two children and held down a decent job, then raised her granddaughter, when her daughter got pregnant as a teenager, but declined to marry the father or keep the child. That granddaughter also became pregnant at 16. This time my cousin, now a greatgrandmother, declined to raise this child, who is now with other relatives.

    Teen pregnancy isn't easy for anyone, but kudos to you for doing it so well.

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  19. Great contest and I liked your post. :)

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  20. Thanks for reminding us that there is more to this than politics. I applaud you for sticking with you goals while raising your children.

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  21. It's always times like that when you find out who your true friends are. I'm so glad you had support. I mean, look at you now! Awesome! :)

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  22. That's a tough road to walk, and it's really inspiring that you raised a child and earned a degree. Pregnant teens have it hard even without the social stigma.

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  23. You guys are making me tear up. *sniffle* thank you.

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  24. Thanks for this post, Rhonda. You're a fabulous example of keeping your eye on the goal.

    I've been aching for Ms. Palin's daughter. It's hard enough to be a pregnant teen without having the entire country judging you and your family. {{Hugs}} to that young lady.

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  25. My mom wasn't a teenager when she first became pregnant, but she was poor and we were homeless. On welfare. All the while, she went to school and became a nurse. It pisses me off when people equate public assistance with laziness. And I'm so glad you proudly tell your story. Like my mom, you are a wonderful example of working hard to get through tough times, even if it means asking for help. Kudos to you!

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  26. That's a great story. You're really fortunate that you have such a loving and supportive family that didn't allow you to become a statistic. :)

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  27. Rhonda, major hugs. I can't even imagine how hard it must have been for you, but you're proof positive that you can flourish in the face of adversity.

    You're way stronger than I ever could have been. I'm not sure I'd have even gone through with even having the baby at all, let alone raising it.

    As for the Palin situation, I respect the daughter for making the decision she has, but I have lost some respect for both Gov. Palin and Sen. McCain for dragging this poor girl into the national spotlight at what is undoubtedly the most difficult and vulenrable time in her life.

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  28. I think the issue with Palin is that she does not want sex education in schools. Yet her own family is a good example of why we need to educate teens on sex.
    Some teens have sex. Fact of life. There are also a lot who don't. Abstinence doesn't always work.
    I'm horrified that this kid is getting married at 17 just because she is pregnant. She should have that baby (because its her choice) and get her education. Don't count on the baby's father. He's a high school senior. Who knows where he'll be in five years? The girl needs to be able to support herself if it comes to that.
    I feel Palin outted her daughter to the nation for her own political gain. Did this girl really want her business aired like this?
    Fictionista? You did it the right way. You got an education and worked hard. You are an inspiration.

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  29. Crystal kendrick9:53 AM

    Hey Rhonda. It's so good to see what you're up to nowadays. I guess my major complaint with Palin is that even though she has a pregnant teenage daughter she's still abstinence only. I simply don't think that's realistic. I remember being a teenager. It was tough and I didn't know my options. Otherwise, I think it's great how she's supporting her daughter and not acting like it's a dirty secret. However, I'm not sure the whole marriage thing is a good idea. Just because they made a baby doesn't mean they have special chemistry that will link them forever.

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  30. Thank you guys for your honest thoughts on the topic, and double thanks for playing nicely! Politics is always a touchy subject, so I appreciate it.

    I'm going to draw a winner in just a few and ask Amanda to post it on her blog today. Thanks!

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  31. Rhonda, my sister got preggers at 16. She married the daddy, who wasn't much older than she was and now their "mistake" is a beautiful freshman in HS, they have two more kids, and they are still crazy in love. It HASN'T BEEN EASY. I wouldn't recommend that route for anyone because the odds are stacked against them. But love and support is the key. Not judgment.

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  32. Good for you Rhonda--what a tough haul that must have been, but if I would have got pregnant at 19 I would have done the same thing--(but probably not as good as you did) not to encourage teen pregnancy, but it does happen, and being a mother is an incredible gift at any age.

    Look at you now, dude. A published author!

    WHOO HOOO

    xoxo

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  33. christykenner12:11 PM

    Rhonda, you rock. I know it was hard being a pregnant and a teenager. I did it too! I made the mistake of marrying him! You did things on your own and for you and your child. It is harder than you ever thought it would be at times. But the reward for your efforts are more than ever imagined! I will say it again, You Rock!
    c

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  34. Awwwww Christy, thank you! ((hugs))

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