Tuesday, September 2, 2008

children's children

1/3 of American girls become pregnant before the age of 20. Should I repeat that? One-third, one out of three, thirty-three percent, of American girls become pregnant before the age of 20.

Or so says Barbara Walters in response to the announcement of 17 year old Bristol Palin's pregnancy. (Yes, in addition to watching Regis and Kelly, I believe I may have just outed myself as a viewer of The View.) I know that many an infertile's reaction to the announcement of yet another oops! pregnancy is bitterness. Jealousy. We might find ourselves pleading with the universe, begging for an answer as to why they get pregnant and we don't. I have been there. I still do that. But this time that is not my reaction.

As an exceptionally liberal liberal, one who has developed a serious aversion to the pick of Palin for V.P., my immediate reaction might've been glee. Upon sharing the news I could tell my mother expected me to lick my lips at the scandal. My husband, who has been surprised by my violent reaction to Palin's candidacy, assumed I would rant about the hypocrisy of a champion for abstinence-only education finding herself a 44 year old grandmother. But I didn't experience this revelation as a liberal, but rather as a woman. My gut reaction was simple sadness at the official statement that the parents-to-be will be married.

An unintended teenage pregnancy can be, I imagine, a devastating, scary event for the family. And I understand the desire when faced with a personal tragedy to do everything you can to Make Things Better. In some situations that might mean an abortion and in other, more right-wing families they Make Things Better with the sound of shotguns ringing in the air...er, I mean, wedding bells.

I can understand a girl, a child, who thinks that Johnny No-Condom will make a wonderful husband - I mean, he *always* texts when he gets home! - and I can relate to her dreams of an (off-)white wedding and blissful family days to come. But what I cannot understand is the parent who condones these childish delusions. More likely than not, the parents have had their doubts about this boy from the start. They don't like that he beeps from the driveway instead of ringing the doorbell. They aren't sure about all those text-messages - isn't it too soon to be *so* swept up in each other? They probably haven't trusted this boy to bring their daughter home by curfew, but now they trust him to hold her beating heart in his palm? Now they ask him to help raise their grandchild, when days prior they wouldn't have allowed him to pet sit their dog? I understand the need to fix things, but I wonder just how many things, how many hearts, how many people will be broken as a result of this "fix". And I worry that Bristol, like so many other young mothers, will feel herself and her life speeding past her, without her control, on a crash-course with a future she never intended.

Upon blowing out the candles on my 20th birthday cake I exclaimed that I officially would never be a teenage mother. It was a joke, of course. Mostly. I didn't even lose my virginity until I was in college and officially legal and I went on birth control immediately thereafter. At 20 I'd still only slept with one boy and he was so concerned about knocking me up that we often tripled up on protection - pill, condoms and spermicide. But I'd known of so many unwelcome surprises (I *was* an unwelcome surprise!) that I assumed the same fate would befall me.

When my brother, at 21, found himself an unexpected father to a very unexpected pregnancy I couldn't help but try to picture myself in his place. He loved his son, as did his girlfriend, but it was clear that this was not a path they would have chosen for themselves. They fought through those early days together and now work separately to give him a stable(ish) home. They've done their best and it's been enough, but it wasn't what any of them wanted. I look at my nephew today, at almost 11 years old and am proud of the smart, feisty boy he's become, but I cannot for a moment imagine him to be mine.

I might not have chosen the path I currently walk, had I been given the chance. I wouldn't have asked for the waiting, the heartache, the loss. But if I'm honest, I wouldn't have traded it for the alternative. I am glad that I didn't drop my 10 year old off at school this morning. I am thankful that I haven't spent the last decade wondering how I would provide for myself and my child. I would've loved my baby and I would've done my best, but I don't know that my best would've been enough.

Infertility might hold my heart in a vice-like grip, forcing me to grow in ways that I never expected and wasn't prepared for. It's battered and bruised me. Teenage motherhood would have beaten me just as thoroughly, however it's pushes and punches would've fallen not just in my gut, but in my child's. And I'm so thankful that I'm the only one taking the beating.

12 comments:

MrsAmandaMqn said...

wow, you just blew me away. So very well said and so very true.

Jennifer said...

"1/3 of American girls become pregnant before the age of 20." My god, is that true? I'm... speechless.

I cringed at the news of Bristol's shotgun wedding as well. I too was the result of a teenaged accident. My mom raised me with tons of help from her parents. My parents tried to make it work, but by the time I was four they were through with each other — and that was a good thing.

I had a pregnancy scare when I was 17 (I didn't understand that I probably wasn't ovulating at the time) and could have made my mom a 34-year-old grandmother. I've seen how hard her life has been and am eternally grateful that I didn't have to go through that.

Penny said...

The whole pregnancy thing, whether you want it and can't have it or don't want it yet have it, is such bad engineering. Someone needs to revamp the female reproductive system, that is all there is to it.

this one said...

That was a thoughtful post, and I've been having the same reaction to hearing about their impending marriage. Which is: feeling incredibly bad for her. 17? Married to the guy on the basketball team who knocked you up?

And in other news, I'm with you on the horror at Palin as VP.

Ariella said...

I am a new reader and commenter, but you "know me" from the nest as kittylove.

My libral heart sinks for the one in three girls who get pg by age 20 too and for all of the same reasons. My sister was a "teen mother" although hers was planned and it has been very hard on both her and her husband. The struggle they face is not something I am envious of at all, or want for myself.

The path of infertility is a very hard one to walk but you are right, it is better than some.

Emily said...

Thoughtful post. You always do a great job of fleshing out these issues.

I am having such a Palin aversion, I think I may have hives. She makes liberal girls like us shudder!

Echloe said...

My brother went through an unexpected pregnancy at 21 and now has the best little girl anyone has ever had. But it was rough on the whole family. Especially him.

Poor Bristol and her boyfriend. I am a bleeding heart liberal and would love a real scandal for the republicans. But I just don't think that a teenage pregnancy is a scandal. In fact from your quote from the View (I love it too) shows that it is the norm.

Lifeslurper said...

LOL! Outted as watching 'The View'....oh my....it is my little secret too....I am ashamed to say I watch to hear what Elisabeth Hasselbeck might say next (and what might be said in response, or the many many attempts to explain things to her gently). Here from the safe distance of Oz, I find her the most truly frightenng thing I have ever seen on the telly...I can have no real clues as to how representational her thoughts are, but it certainly gives me some increasingly growing concerns over US society. Most of the time I reassure myself with the thought Barbara Walters likes to keep one controversial panel member on staff to extend interest in the program......

SmartOne said...

So completely true. As someone who watched her teenage sister go through pregnancy and single-parenting as I went through the throes of IF, I wholeheartedly agree.

I feel terribly for Bristol - not because she's easily managed what so many of us had to fight for, but because it seems like life is steamrolling right over her. A choice? I doubt she was ever given one, not to carry or adopt (or even abort), and certainly not to remain single.

..... Carmen said...

Thank you for such a thought provoking post. I've invited others to read it as well via my blog. A member of my husbands extended family has just become a Father through an unplanned pregnancy. This touched close to home.

journey to junior said...

here through smart one's blog...

this was an amazing post. and one i totally agree with. i can't imagine that this girl was ever given the chance to make a decision for herself on how to live her life given her parents' views on women's rights.

thank you for putting this out there.

Meghan said...

My cousin Carmen pointed me to your blog and I must say I still have the chills up my arms after re-reading it. You have given a voice to what many go thru I think. I work for an OBG in Canada and have watched many a 16 year old girl walk thru our doors holding hands and wonder "do you really know" as their mother's watch with the hidden criticism. If only all those mothers and daughter's could read what you have so eloquently published thru your struggles. I wish to thanks you for sharing that with me.