Teenage pregnancy is basically a girl becoming pregnant between the ages of 13-19 years. And that happens a lot of times. In millions, actually. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that about a million girls of 10-11 years give birth yearly. Another 16 million between the ages of 15-19 also give birth every year. This is mostly prevalent in developing countries than developed countries. A lot of studies have been dedicated to this issue. Why’s it such a big deal?
Babies are a pain in the *ss. Pun intended.
It’s difficult raising a child and a lot of adults are rethinking having kids; how much more a teenager? What’s shocking, teenage pregnancy accounts for the second leading cause of death of girls aged 15-19 years all over the world. Teenage pregnancy, due to the demands on finances, can lead to economic strain on parents with whom they live. On the child, it may result in a drop in the likelihood of employment. This has been largely attributed to hazardous abortions. Also important is the effect teenage pregnancy has on the mental health of teenage girls
Teenage mothers tend to experience self-devaluing moments associated with family, friends and schools. They tend to experience low self-esteem and view themselves as not succeeding compared to their colleagues, especially in terms of academic achievements. This is because they are not matured, psychologically, to be mothers at that young age. Self-esteem is that awareness of value a person holds about himself that is formed during childhood. It affects a person’s sentiments and reasoning.
Most teenage mothers live with their parents; when the teenage mother has only little time to spend with the father, their relationship is affected. Moreover, the teenage mother may not receive any support from the male responsible; or the teenage father is equally immature to handle the level of responsibility required for that new reality. The father, young, wild and free, may get into other relationships and the connection between him and the teenage mother decays.
Think about the pressure; think about the dilemma a teenage girl finds herself in; the shame, the self-pity and self-chastisement. The moment this happens, certain immediate actions need to be taken. This cannot be delayed or realized too late. The must happen immediately. We have categorized them into two; for parents of the teenage mother; and for the teenage mother herself.
Rubbing salt on your teenager’s wounds is not gonna solve anything. Constantly chastising her for being pregnant has never solved much in history. Instead, it makes things worse. Like worsseeee. She is at her lowest moments, her self-esteem has dropped like Bitcoin after Elon Musk’s controversial tweet, she has possibly become the object of ridicule amongst her peers. Other parents are probably citing her as an example to their own daughters as consequence for not facing one’s studies. Her last place of refuge and security is her home, her parents. Her lovely mom, her sweet dad, her protective big brother, her compassionate grandma. She needs someone to tell her that even though she made a mistake, mistakes can be salvaged. Damage control can be made and life can go on just fine afterwards. She needs someone to tell her that mistakes do not define an individual; that she has all the support in the world. A warm hug, friendly smiles, care, concern, so much that she begins to see the child growing in her as a a good thing and not as an evil seed. Avoid the sarcastic comments. Make a big fuss over picking the name for the baby so that she sees her child as a being that makes her closer to family. Give good gifts. Pray on her belly. Protect her from the harsh world; stand up for her and be her impenetrable defence system. Also, learn to give her space when she needs it. Despite the love and attention, she may need some time to be alone, to cry and think things over. Loving her means giving her that space while also ensuring she is under watch for emergencies.
This is the time to invest your all in your daughter. Expectedly, her academic performance may begin to suffer. This may be the period to consider home-schooling and extra classes. This will save her of the embarrassment that is bound to happen in school. It will also make sure that she is not missing out on anything pending the time she is ready to resume the traditional school setting. Praise her efforts for trying at her studies even if she is not her best. Let her understand that it is perfectly okay to have low grades due to her conditions. Hire a special nurse or paediatrician for her if you can afford it.
This is also the time to begin to educate her about her new responsibilities as a parent. As an about-to-be mom, she would need to learn from an already experienced mom – You. Let her understand the changes that are beginning to occur to her body; how to take care of a child; her maternal health. Buy books for her and teach her first-hand what it means to raise a child.
It’s going to be a long and tiring process. During and after the pregnancy, it will be a very challenging. Not just for the teenage mom but for the entire family. You guys are gonna be termed the bad parents who couldn’t train their daughter to keep her legs closed. You are most likely going to be called unfai and dirty names. You will first need to be confident yourself. This is important because if you are unable to stand up to your mockers, you are gonna direct that pain and aggression towards your own daughter.
The new mom will eventually have to face the world. She’s 17, she’s young, and she’s trying to figure out what’s left of her interrupted life. The nosy neighbours are gonna be peeping through their windows and intentionally giggling audibly. You must train her to walk with her head held high. She must be able to own it. Only then will the sneering and giggling stop. People sense fear and frailty like a shark smells blood. You must train her to be the shark. This does not mean she should be aggressive and engage in heated verbal exchanges, but that her gait must ooze total confidence.
For Teenage Moms
If you are in this situation, your mind is probably already messed up. You are 15 or 16; you’ve just had your first child. You probably had to quit school; when you resume, your mates are gonna be a class or two ahead. Maybe the baby daddy has skipped town and his parents are also refusing responsibility. Whatever is this case, we want you to wipe your tears, and read these powerful words very carefully.
First accept that you made a mistake. Many people are probably trying to sell you ‘everything happens for a reason’, and that’s why it’s been so difficult to heal. Discard that and understand this was a mistake. It doesn’t always have to be your fault, but one thing is constant – it was a mistake. So, did you have sex deliberately, were you trying to have fun and try all sorts of funny things with boys? Accept that you did all of that. Did you allow yourself to be guiled into doing stuff? Accept it. Soak in that realization. Don’t fight it, it’ll only hurt more. Own it. Then admit to yourself clearly that it was a mistake. Why is it a mistake? Simple, because if you could turn back the hands of time, you would undo everything. Anything you regret right now was a mistake. So accept that too. Look at that, don’t you feel in control already? You will begin to feel better. You won’t have to fight bleak thoughts and battle with emotions if you simple say “Yes I did that, now let’s move on”.
The next stage is to accept that certain aspects of your life are going to change. It is crucial to absorb this otherwise you are going to be in for a long emotional torment. When a woman is expecting a child, she would need to take break at some point before and after the arrival of her baby. As a teenage mom, this is not different. This may mean leaving school for a very short time. This may sometimes cost you semesters if you are in the university or some years if you are in secondary school. When this happens, know this – YOU ARE NOT BEHIND. You have only fast-tracked one aspect of your life which your mates are going to meet later in the future if they wanna have kids too. Yours might be a little bit unusual because of the circumstances of your age but the time fact remains the same. So you’ve had your baby, understand that you have sorted out that aspect of your life. Moving on, you are going with speed into your career. You are going to catch up with your peers because when they eventually start getting married and giving birth, pausing their careers briefly for months, you are going to be speeding up like a Ducati. While they are trying to understand the dynamics of being a mom and balancing that with their jobs, you are already experienced. You’d laugh and breeze through life. You might even give them some tips on how to not go crazy.
Accept your baby
Accept also that your baby is a gift. You may have made a mistake, but your baby is not a mistake. That cute kid right there, she’s a precious gift. Isn’t that beautiful. You are now an awesome mom and a little baby is looking up to you to protect her. Protecting someone who cannot protect herself and who sometimes may not be able to repay you for that act is one of the most beautiful things when done out of love. Your child is gonna grow up; she’s gonna learn about how you took care of her when you were just 15 or 16 and she’s going to be madly in love with you. She may even turn out to be your best friend.
It would not be an easy task. Accepting that you made a mistake will not be so cheap. Accepting that child might not be easy. Truth it, you most likely will not accept it for months. This is a normal human reaction to crises. It’s a natural response. So if you find yourself hating yourself at first, then you are actually on the right track. Don’t hate yourself for not accepting these things yet. Instead, take it slowly. Day after day, week after week, as the emotional wound slowly heals and the pain slowly goes away. Then learn to love. Pick up your baby every day, kiss her cheek, pray for her, tell her you love her and that you are glad she’s here with you. Make it a routine. Dress her up pretty. Let her be your little princess.
Again, is life going to be easy when you have a child? NO. This write-up will create an imbalance if we tell you that it’s going to be all rosy and cute. Matter of fact, it’s going to be most challenging 2-3 years of your life, even with the help of your parents and siblings. Grown-ups find it daunting to raise children; so much that there’s the trend of couples agreeing to stay kidless. How much more a teenage mother? This means you are you going to be stressed out. You will need to learn to very courageous. You’d need to work twice harder than your peers. Yes, you had a child in SS2 but remember that you still want to be successful. You still wanna be a doc. You want to kill it at law school. Hard work is the temporary price to pay. When you come out of it, you’re gonna be a hero to many others.
You child is amazing. You are amazing.
Rooting for you,
The Oyemaja Foundation.