The five minutes spent awaiting the results of a pregnancy test is honestly the longest five minutes of anyone's life, especially a teenage girl's. In the span of time between the preparation and the completion of the home test, a girl begins to contemplate the impact an unwanted pregnancy will have on her life.
Literally hanging in the balance between the plus and minus sign on the indicator is the difference between freedom and responsibility, opportunities and obligations.Many choices await a young mother faced with a plus sign who decides to keep her baby, and they all mean hard work and sacrifice. But it shouldn't be automatically assumed that she (and her partner, should they choose to remain committed) is doomed to a life filled with welfare stamps and hand-me-downs.
Many unwed parents make the sacrifices to provide a good life for themselves and their children, those who do should be recognized.
The stigma attached to being a young unwed mother is one of the many difficulties faced by teenage girls in this situation. Many have the assumption that any girl in such a situation is "trashy" or sleeping around. That's far from the truth in most cases.
Practically everyone knows someone or of someone who was or is a teen parent. Teen parents, though they often categorize their pregnancy as a mistake, have the opportunity to mature, albeit prematurely, as a result.
When faced with the responsibility of another mouth to feed, girls have to decide between financial independence and school, health and hard work. Many girls choose both financial independence and education.
These girls often choose not to attend day school because of employment or the isolation they feel from those who were once their peers. Because many of these girls recognize the importance of a high school diploma, they opt to attend teen parenting classes.
One very good example of such a program is the Jordan School District's teen mothers program, looked over by Valley High School administration and held at Bingham High School. Currently, 133 mothers attend from eight high schools every Tuesday night for about five hours. They take core classes such as math, science and English as well as parental development classes like adult roles and child development.
Yvonne Cardwell, the program's director for 19 years, said the difference between teen mothers who succeed at life and those who don't is the will to succeed from inside. "Some girls I've seen have lived by themselves with little support and succeeded, and others with support have dropped out of school. It's all desire," she said.
One woman in her 30s who was a teen mother said the difference between making a happy, successful life for yourself and failing is easy to define. In a word, it's commitment.
The mothers I saw at the teen mothers' school have an apt excuse to drop out, but they are committed to receiving an education. The girls enrolled in child development are committed to learning about the development and behavior of children to be better parents.
The people who look for a good job to support their children are committed to providing food and housing for their kids. The contrast between this commitment and the stereotype is clear. Many teen mothers do all this and more to be responsible parents, another key factor in their success.
The alternative to all of this is of course abortion or adoption, both considerably easier than the heavy work load a teen mother is called to bear. Not all girls who become pregnant should keep their babies; that is, of course, a very personal decision, and many complex factors come into play. I am merely saying that responsible teen mothers who decide to keep their babies should be given a certain amount of respect instead of being looked down upon and stereotyped.
It is a rare thing in today's world to see someone stand up to be held accountable and take responsibility for his or her mistakes. In short, in the words of Jean de la Fontaine, "Beware of judging people by appearance as long as you live."