I watched Juno when I was in my first year of university with my roommate at the time. It had gotten rave reviews in the theatres, so we torrented it and had a girl’s night in complete with popcorn and chocolate covered almonds. Starring Canadians Ellen Page and Michael Cera in the two lead roles, the film tells of the struggles of a teenage couple with an unplanned pregnancy. Ellen Page totally deserved an Oscar nod for her performance. She is smart and witty and totally lovable. Like many teenage couples, they consider adoption because they cannot support this new life and want to give the baby the life that they could not provide. While moments of the film are humorous, unwed teen parents is far from funny.
The MTV series Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant tell the stories of teens all across the United States in this same predicament. While each girl’s story differs (from her family situation, to the length of time she has been with the father of her baby, to how supportive their family is to keeping the baby, to the status of their relationship with the baby daddy) – they are all unprepared, financially unstable and naïve in life. What I find the most disturbing is that there are enough girls across the US who get themselves into this predicament to have three series and counting. It’s a massive responsibility that no teenager needs – and once you have a child, your childhood is over. Having a baby changes everything (not that I would know from experience). I enjoy the series a lot – I find that they don’t sugar-coat the tensions and struggles that teenage parents go through (though I know that they do get paid to be on the show). Growing up is scary enough, and by having unprotected sex teenagers take the chance of being thrust into (no pun intended) adulthood far sooner than they need to.
Bringing a child into this world is difficult even in the best of circumstances. My parents had been together for 4 years and married for 1 year before they had me. They had bought a house, had a car and had all their finances in order. But she suffered from severe postpartum depression with me and had to endure a cesarean section and the pain/ recovery associated with that. Throw in a screaming baby that disrupts your day-to-day life and you have a recipe for emotional ups and downs. They are fully dependent on you and as much as they drive you crazy you have to provide all their needs. My parents planned me, my brother and my sister. No child should be a mistake. With all the contraceptives out there, there really are no excuses. Considering a box of condoms costs around $10.00 and a child is around $10 000/year (including food, clothing, toys, doctor’s appointments, etc) – it’s easy to do the math.
The rise of teenage pregnancy across North America is another reason why I believe that abstinence should not be taught instead of a sexual education class. While abstinence is good in theory – it is rarely ever practiced. Teens are curious and their hormones are raging. Encouraging abstinence also contributes to more teens engaging in oral and anal sex, as they believe it is safer than vaginal penetration. Teens need to be educated and given the tools to deal with this unknown territory; both sex and in their relationships. I never dated when I was in high school and didn’t have my first boyfriend till I was 19, so my parents never really had to deal with any boy drama with me. I didn’t suffer any heartbreak or pregnancy scares, no teen should have to deal with that.
Even at 22 I feel that I would be nowhere close to being ready to have and support a child, let alone 16 years old, like many of the girls from the TV series. I’m having a difficult time as it is supporting just myself and getting by, let alone another life. I’ve noticed recently that the trend seems to be having kids really young (before the age of 20) or quite late (over the age of 35). I come from a small town in Ontario and there are over 60 girls that I went to high school with that now have babies. Another handful are married, and even fewer are both. It’s scary. I think of where I am in life, and I’m nowhere ready to be settling down and having a family. I’m not done all my schooling yet and don’t even have a man in my life for that to even take place. I’m just living my life for me right now. Not that I don’t want those things in the future – it’s just not a priority.