So I have a confession of sorts to make. 16 and Pregnant and its sister show Teen Mom are one of my biggest guilty pleasures/self-esteem boosters/de-stressors for some inexplicable reason. The U.S. has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the developed world. While the girls on the show 16 and Pregnant come from a variety of geographic, familial, and socioeconomic backgrounds, I’ve noticed some definite trends among most of the teenage girls that become pregnant on the show. For anyone reading this: please note that this is in no way meant to be offensive, and obviously there are exceptions to everything I say. Having never been through this process myself, I am merely making observations as a fascinated outsider because as an aspiring actress and playwright, that’s kinda what I do. Sorry about that. Anyways, here it is:
- They are in denial about the pregnancy until they cannot physically hide it any longer. For girls with certain body types, this may mean that they don’t even tell anyone until their third trimester. As a result, it is often too late for them to legally get an abortion, giving them no choice than to go through with a live birth. (Most teenagers choose this of their own accord anyway). Being in denial for so long can also make it harder for girls to find the support necessary to navigate their options.
- They consider adoption, but are uncomfortable with the idea of someone else raising their child (which is understandable) despite the fact that another family may be able to give their child a better life than they can provide. As a result most of them keep their babies and live below the poverty line, or rely on their parents entirely for support.
- They get very defensive if anyone implies that they may not be fit to be a mother, even if it is obviously true.
- The girls that get pregnant either seem slutty and like they sleep around a lot, or totally innocent. Often they are at extreme ends of the spectrum. Rarely do you see a high-achieving, emotionally stable, got-a-good-head-on-her-shoulders kind of girl on these shows.
- Many of the moms have a second child (or even a third-I’m looking at you Leah Messer) within a year of becoming a teen mom.
- Very rarely does the father stay with his baby mama and when he does, it’s almost always obvious that he just feels bad that he knocked the chick up and ruined her life. Yeah you know the whole fairytale idea many girls had that if they get pregnant their boyfriend will want to marry them and they’ll live happily ever after? Seldom happens.
- Most of them don’t sound like they were particularly ambitious before they got pregnant, which makes me wonder how many of these supposedly “unplanned” teen pregnancies are actually more calculated than we realize. Perhaps these young woman incongruously feel that having a baby will fill some void in their life. For example, in the beginning part of the episodes when they talk about their career goals, it’s usually something like “I wanna be a hairdresser” or “I wanna be a nurse.” Rarely do you hear these girls say things like “I wanna join the supreme court” or “I wanna be a doctor” or “I wanna be an architect”, etc.
- Often the babies are born premature-quite likely from the stress their mothers experienced during their pregnancy-or with serious health complications. This can again be connected to the fact that most of them are in denial for a good chunk of their pregnancy and therefore are likely not consulting a doctor.
- Next-to-none of the girls are in college full-time, and the ones that are seldom attend elite universities.
- They feel like the whole world hates and judges them. They act like the world is against them. Listen gurl, I don’t judge YOU, I just completely disagree with your lifestyle choices. In this day and age, there are so many different contraception options, plus emergency contraception, and all you have to do to learn about it is go on the internet. So there really is no excuse for “not knowing” except stupidity. Have fun changing diapers while I’m out saving the world.
Finally, I just want to say as a disclaimer that I recognize that this is an exceedingly controversial subject for many people, and I am not judging anyone personally. Rather, I am examining the issue as a whole and observing patterns, from an outsider’s point of view. Also, I think this is an interesting topic because just like almost everyone knows someone who is gay, almost everyone knows someone who is a teen parent. As friends/relatives/colleagues of a teen parent, we have to figure out how to support and help the people we care about and leave the judgement at the door.
Peace, love and reality TV.