These are the recent New York City Human Resource Administration ads causing a huge uproar in the media. The first time I saw them, I was unable to find words for how they made me feel. I knew theses statistics prior to seeing it plastered on a sign. When I found myself pregnant as a senior in high school, I spent many hours researching birth control, sex education, and teen pregnancy. Granted, it might have been a little late, but I wanted to educate myself on my own situation so one day I might prevent it from happening to somebody else.
I know, without a doubt, that these ads would not have prevented me from becoming a teen mom, and I do not believe that they will help other young girls from following in my footsteps. And that is what really upsets me. We can sit here and argue all day, but what is really important, what really matters, is that we give teenagers a comprehensive sexual education.
Prior to getting pregnant, my knowledge about sex was extremely limited. Honestly, sex was not good for me. I did not even experience an orgasm until after I had a baby, and my reasons for having sex were extremely immature. But I was a teenager who thought that I knew everything about everything. I thought that I was an adult and that I was invincible to all the consequences that came with my adult decisions. I do not blame my teen pregnancy on my lack of education. I got pregnant because of my own choices, but I do believe that informing teenagers (and people of ALL ages) about sex would encourage them to make better decisions.
A couple weeks ago, I was out with a group of friends from high school. We are all about 22-23 now and the conversation of baby making came up. A majority of us already have kids, but there were a couple guys who do not. One of the guys said, "I was dating a seventeen year old girl, and I always pulled out", to explain why he had never had an unplanned pregnancy. I just kind of sat there and looked at him for a very long time, then I rambled off all my statistics about birth control while he blankly stared back at me...confused.
This is not the first time I have ran into young adults who are still uneducated about sex. A big part of the stigma and judgement associated with teenage pregnancy occurs because individuals of all ages are misinformed. People assume that if you got pregnant, you must have been being careless or promiscuous.
These ads show me that, more than anything, being a teen parent costs your dignity, respect, and any chance you or your baby might have had to live a happy, successful life. Is this the message that we want to send to young mothers and fathers around the country who are struggling to make a better life for themselves and their children? So they made the choice to have sex which resulted in a pregnancy, but does this automatically seal the fate for two generations?
I do not think so. I do not let statistics rule my life nor determine my future. Less than two percent of teenage mothers graduate from college, but on May 11th, I will walk across the stage to receive my Bachelor's degree after five years of hard work. I refuse to give up on my dreams, and I know that I am not alone. My son is happy, healthy, and capable of being so much more than just the child of a teenage mother.
Teenage pregnancy is an important issue that does need attention. I have given presentations at my local high school about the issue, sharing my experience in hopes that maybe I prevent just one young girl from becoming a mother too soon. But as essential as it is to prevent future pregnancies from occurring, it is equally important to foster the growth and success of teen parents and the children that they already have. We should not be stereotyping them; we should not be shaming them. We should be supporting them and their dreams, every step of the way.