Thursday, June 19, 2008

Pregnancy Pact

A disturbing headline from the Boston Globe: Teens had pact to get pregnant together, report says.

Gloucester school officials have discovered at least part of the reason that their high school pregnancy rate has more than quadrupled over the past year, according to a Time magazine story that hits newsstands today.

"Nearly half the expecting students, none older than 16, confessed to making a pact to get pregnant and raise their babies together," the magazine's story said, after reporters talked with Joseph Sullivan, Gloucester High School principal.

Seventeen girls at the 1,200-student Gloucester High have gotten pregnant over the school year, more than four times the average number. The spike has shocked and baffled education and health officials there and reignited a fierce debate about contraception in schools. But many told the Globe last month that the most alarming facts were that a significant portion of the expecting girls were 16 and younger and that some seemed to be intentional.

"More students are coming in and asking about pregnancy testing," the city's public health director, Jack Vondras, told the Globe last month. "What's odd is that some of them are disappointed because they're not getting pregnant."

This is shocking news. Why on earth would a group of 16 year old girls want to become pregnant together? My guess: the rise of the Mommy Porn. The term was recently popularized by Penelope Trunk, although I've been calling it baby or pregnancy porn for a long while.

Roughly about the time Britney Spears became pregnant, the celebrity baby-craze ratcheted up several notches. Every week the tabloids and celebrity-stalking web sites, gossip columns and the like are filled with the reproductive cycles of celebrities. Each week at the grocery store, I stare at the headlines about Angelina Jolie's impending second birth, Nicole Richie's new baby girl, Jessica Simpson's baby envy, Britney's two boys and their troubled mother, Jennifer Lopez' twins, and so forth. Even youngsters Jamie Lynn Spears and Ashlee Simpson are having babies. It's the cool and hip thing to do. Since we now hold up these beautiful air-brushed images as the ideal, it's no wonder young girls want to have babies together and live in a world of soft baby blankets and smiling, cooing toddlers.

What would be nice is if some of these young mothers returned a few years later and told those would-be mommies what the reality is like. Babies throw up. They cry. They create feces-filled diapers. They don't sleep when you want them to. They're not fashion accessories, no matter what In Touch or Us Weekly would have you believe. They're little people who need constant care.

This is further manifestation of the backlash against women's advancement and the onslaught of the conservative media. We see more articles about the wonders of stay-at-home mothering and how even Ivy League graduates aim for this. There's still the great push for young women to see marriage as a milestone surpassing all others.

What should change here is that these young women should be made aware of the basic economic functions of motherhood. Sure young mothers like Jamie Lynn Spears will survive and maybe even thrive--because they have plenty of money and a support system. The average teen will instead have to struggle to finish high school and care for a child, if she doesn't drop out first. Without an education, her earning power drops significantly, and the chances of her landing a job that offers benefits (life insurance, health insurance, child care assistance) drop dramatically. She won't be pushing her darling along in a Bugaboo stroller, sipping a latte, and toting a Kate Spade diaper bag to a baby yoga class. More likely she'll be borrowing hand-me-downs as she passes the baby to an elderly relative to take care of as she scrambles to get to her minimum wage job. Not something you'd ever see on the cover of Star or Hello!.

1 responses:

Anonymous said...

I totally agree that the media is completely glamorizing pregnancy and causing all kinds of issues within woman in general, not just teens. Think about what this does to women who want kids and can't and they have to constantly hear about all these movie stars and singers getting pregnant, or even hear about what a lousy mother they are (like Britney) and yet they would be good mothers and can't be for whatever reason. It's a self-esteem killer and it put unnecessary expectations on women. It also showcases that fact that this is what we're supposed to be doing whether or not we want kids.

I'm not very happy with how Motherhood and Pregnancy is being glamorized right now.

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