Today, courtesy of my amazing mom, I read an article by an American woman called Bee Lavender – you can read it here, at the Guardian website – Young, Gifted and Pregnant. The article resonates with me in many ways. Like Bee, I was the typical “not supposed to get pregnant” girl – I am smart and ambitious, with a good reputation in the local community and one of the few people in my village to go to university in the last few years. Bee Lavender was a pregnant teenager in 1990, but even today in 2013, very little has changed. Girls who get pregnant in their teens are drop-outs – they have no hope and no ambition, and no desire to better themselves. They’re happy to claim benefits and live that way forever.
That’s not me. I’m not your stereotypical girl who gets pregnant in her teens – but that’s the funny thing about stereotypes; they’re very rarely true for the majority. Bee and I are just two of many smart, ambitious young women who have the audacity to get pregnant before the age of twenty – a crime for some inexplicable reason – and, like Bee, I refuse to let it end my life. That’s why this blog is called ‘The Speed Bump’ – because that’s exactly what this pregnancy is. It isn’t a stop sign – it’s a speed bump; a small obstacle in the road that I just have to adapt my life around. Nothing stops, nothing ends – life carries on, just differently.
One of my favourite bits of the blog is where she says –
How can we solve the problem of teen parenting? By recognising it is a choice, not a problem.
At first, when I read that, I disagreed – I’m not pregnant by choice, after all. Then I realised that if I look at it logically, I am. I made the conscious choice to have sex, sure, but getting pregnant was an accident. My pregnancy is an accident, but becoming a mom is a choice I have made – a choice I am every bit as entitled to make as a woman in her thirties. I also had just as many rights as a woman in her thirties to have an abortion, if that had been the way I wanted to go – without fear of being accused of using it as a form of contraception, or a remedy for immaturity, or any of the insults it’s apparently acceptable to throw at younger women who get pregnant.
My baby will never be an accident. My pregnancy is – there’s no disputing that. I didn’t set out to get pregnant, but it happened. However, once I realised that I was pregnant, I made the conscious decision to keep the baby and to become a mother. Therefore my baby is not an accident, and nor will she ever be. And if I have made that choice, in full awareness of the consequences, who are you – or anyone, for that matter – to tell me that I’ve made the wrong choice? Never judge a man – or a woman – until you’ve walked a mile in her shoes.
What makes it acceptable to ask a 19-year-old girl if her baby is an accident, when it would be considered just plain rude to ask the same of someone in their thirties? What is it about the space of little more than ten years, that makes it fine and dandy to throw courtesy and manners out of the window, in favour of old-fashioned prejudice and nosiness. As it is, I feel no shame in admitting that I didn’t intend to get pregnant – not because it would be any worse if I had planned it, but because I want others to know that I refuse to be shamed by what is in the past, and I refuse to look back in ten years time and think that I was ever ashamed of having my child.
You can’t generalise all teenage mothers, just like you can’t generalise people of a certain colour, or all people with a certain disability, or of a certain sexual orientation – because we’re all different. No two sets of circumstances will ever be the same, and people are idiots if they can’t understand that.
So if anyone ever tells my child that they are an accident, purely based on my age, as soon as she’s old enough to understand I’ll make sure she knows the truth – that from the moment we knew she was there, we have loved her and wanted her every bit as much as any other parent loves and wants their children. And then I’ll use the power of my youth to teach whoever it was who told her she’s an accident not to do it again.
Mama Bear is out in force, and baby bear hasn’t even been born yet!
I’m using female personal pronouns just because that feels right at the moment; I think I’m having a girl. I’ll probably continue doing this for a while, so if you see me referring to the baby as a ‘she’ after the 20-week scan, don’t assume we’re having a girl – we may not have found out the sex, or I may be struggling to adjust to calling her a ‘him’!