Last week, the story of 17 teen-age girls in Gloucester, Massachusetts who agreed to a “pregnancy pact” made international headlines. Whether the pact is truth or fiction (some are now saying no such promise was ever made) the fact remains that seventeen teen-agers who are all 16 years of age or less are about to become parents, and that these young girls saw pregnancy as the only answer to the question of what they were going to do with the rest of their lives.
According to the original story in Time, from October onward girls at Gloucester High School were going into the school nurse’s office asking for pregnancy tests, and seemed dejected if the tests proved to be negative. Some of the girls were reported to “high five” each other when they found out they were pregnant. In the same article, Amanda Ireland, a graduate of the high school who herself had a baby her freshman year, said that many girls approached her in the halls to tell her how lucky she was to have a baby. “They’re so excited to have someone to love them unconditionally. I try to explain that it’s hard to feel loved when an infant is screaming at 3 a.m.”
Mostly this story just makes me sad. These kids seem to have jumped into parenthood at such a young age because they didn’t realize that they had other options in life. Having a child is a wonderful thing, but being a parent isn’t like the glamorized version of it you see in the media. When you’re actually changing diapers, staying home every night, or up every hour with a sick baby, it’s a far cry from the motherhood you see portrayed in tabloid magazines by Jamie Lynn and Britney Spears, Nicole Richie and the rest. Don’t get me wrong, no one knows exactly what the Gloucester teens were thinking when they decided to become mothers, but I believe the media greatly influences the way adolescents see parenthood—all fun and romance and baby bumps.
Whatever their reasoning, one thing is certain: the lives of these teens in Gloucester are about to change dramatically.
About Elisabeth Wilkins
Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.