Mothers Too Soon
“My boyfriend was a cute guy. He had money, and we could go places and have fun. When I missed my period, I realized something was wrong. How was I to tell my mom? How could this happen to me? I was only 16 years old, and I didn’t know what to do.”—Nicole.
TODAY Nicole, * in her mid-30’s, is a confident, energetic mother of three. Her oldest child is 20 years of age. Yes, years ago she was one among millions of unmarried pregnant teens. Like other teenage mothers, she found herself lost in a morass of formidable challenges, tough decisions, and uncertain prospects.
Nicole does not often talk about the shock, the denial, the fear, the anger, and the despair that marked her late teenage years—a time when her peers worried about their clothes and school grades. Nevertheless, Nicole’s situation was not hopeless. She came from a loving family that had tried to instill high moral principles in her. Although for a while she chose to disregard those principles—and paid the consequences—later on, those same values led her to a productive and meaningful life. “Not all hope is lost” became her motto.
Unfortunately, not every teenage mother has a supportive family—or such an optimistic outlook. Many quickly find themselves trapped in a seemingly hopeless state of poverty. Some must deal with the emotional aftermath of rape and violence.
None of this bodes well for the children of teen mothers. Says the book Teen Moms—The Pain and the Promise, babies of teen mothers “tend to have lower birthweight, more childhood illnesses, more infant mortality, poorer medical care, suffer more from hunger and malnourishment; they are exposed to more violence, and have more delayed development than children born to older mothers.” Indeed, daughters of teen mothers are more likely to become teen moms themselves than are children born to older mothers.
How widespread is teen pregnancy? How can teenage mothers successfully face the challenges of raising their infants? Is there any way to help young ones avoid falling into such dire straits in the first place? The following articles explore these questions.
^ par. 3 Some names in this series have been changed.