While at a housewarming party over the weekend, I ended up chatting with an slightly older woman about how quickly them babies will grow up on you. She had two boys — 13 and 15 — and joked how “wild” it is parenting through the teen years. Like the day she found condoms in her older son’s bedroom. She went through a range of emotions from shocked to embarrassed to a little alarmed and perplexed (this, thanks to the son assuring her that he and his girlfriend “were not having sex, but using the condoms for something else.”)
Our brief convo reminded me of a smart, young woman I met at BlogHer two months ago named Gloria Malone. She’s a student, blogger and young parent advocate. Gloria is also a former teen mother. I asked her to write a guest post on any topic about which she feels strongly.
And here it is …
By Gloria Malone
Everyone seems to be talking about vaginas and birth control lately. They all have an opinion and with New York City schools offering Plan B, the morning after pill, to female students as young as 14 everyone has even more to say.
Huffington Post had a panel discussion with Dr. Cora Breuner, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics; Mona Davis, the President of the New York City Parent’s Union; and Natasha Vianna, a former teen mom and young parent advocate.
The person who I watched the most was the President of the Parent’s Union. She was so angry and disappointingly very ill-informed. She kept stating that Plan B was a dangerous chemical that was being administered to young children without a parent’s consent (forms were sent home to parents and only 1-2 percent opted out), and that teens that take Plan B are at risk of possible severe allergic reactions because it’s a chemical that is foreign to their bodies.
Parents, PLEASE educate yourselves to avoid miseducating your children. Plan B is NOT a chemical. Plan B is Estrogen. If your daughter was allergic to Estrogen, she’d be dead.
In the weeks following that panel discussion I saw a slew of online articles about young women and teen moms that had administered self0abortions, killed their newborns and other shocking, sickening incidents that I — admittedly — immediately judged. Then I stopped. I asked myself the question that all people who read these stories should ask: Why? Why did these women feel compelled to do such a heinous thing?
Shame of getting birth control and then shame that being on birth control would somehow advertise that they are “available.”
Shame and judgment that they would have to undergo when telling people they are pregnant.
This type of shame is what has replaced real sexual education, in hopes that shame alone will keep women from having sex. However, it obviously hasn’t and it only leads to lack of education among sexually active people.
In fact, it is this overbearing amount of shame that drives these young women to carry their child full term only to be so frightened and confused that they feel the only way to cope is to “get back” their former lives by any means necessary.
I’m not defending the actions of these women at all. However, the blatant lack of education from adults is being passed down to children.
So where can we start to fix this problem? At home.
As parents we don’t hope for someone else to feed or clothe our children, so why do we hope for someone else to educate our children about their bodies and sex?
In all of the stories about these young women I’ve read, one of the underlining themes is the parents had no idea their own child was pregnant. Don’t get me wrong, I know parents have a lot going on, but how can you be so far removed from your own child that you don’t notice a change in their behavior, size or schedule?
I remember when I, at 15, went to tell my mother that I was pregnant. Before I could get the words out of my mouth, she finished my sentence.
Teens are having sex. I started at 14. Now, before you start judging me, you should know that the “sex education” at my middle school and high school (which is the same at most schools, public or private) was abstinence-only.
I can clearly remember the oxymoronic lessons that we were taught by women well into their 50s (which seems like 100 years old to a teenager). They would tell us that sex was GREAT, that it was FUN and very pleasurable but … we had to wait. Telling a room full of hormonal teenagers that sex was all of these great and amazing things and then telling them to wait is like having your toddler help you bake cupcakes, ice them with sprinkles on top, and then tell them they have to throw them away.
Being pregnant at 15 was the most difficult thing to understand. I was overcome with the guilt of letting down my family, ashamed of what people would think about my family and me, and I was also super angry!
How the hell did this happen to me?! The girl who sang in the school chorus, who was involved in drama, who just started running track, and who was an honors student — how does that girl end up pregnant? Pregnancy doesn’t happen to girls “like me.”
But it does.
I watched as more and more girls at my school met the same fate. (In fact, a recent study showed that there are nearly 750,000 teen pregnancies in the U.S. each year.) Something more than “you should wait” talks need to happen, because the facts are plain: Whether a pregnancy results or not, teens are having sex. More than ever, parents need to start this important conversation with their children. Get comfortable with it, parents, and get talking.
Gloria Malone is a young parent advocate, speaker, blogger, student, and mother to her 6-year-old daughter. Gloria lives in New York City and and blogs about her life as a young parent and student at Teen Mom NYC.