Teen pregnancy: Close in our hearts

This post has been in my mind/heart for days, weeks and months. Typing it and putting it into words is a different thing. A difficult thing. Where to start-you see? Difficult already!!!

First let me say that we love all of our nieces and nephews as if they were our own children. While there are many, many other reasons we do not have a child of ours yet there IS one thing for sure and it is that we have always had these wonderful children around us that we love so very much and therefore have very rarely felt like we were lacking our own. Bad choices are made, yes. By all of us, including me. Including Adam. Including these children that we love. We and these children all learn by these choices and will hopefully be stronger, more productive because of them.

Now, our story.

MISSISSIPPI is ranked 3rd in the United States for teen pregnancy. In general the states that have the highest teen pregnancy rates are in the southern part of the US. One high school a mere 45 minute drive from where our family in Mississippi lives has a 26% teen pregnancy rate. This school has hired an additional 5 social workers to assist in “identifying pregnant teens and showing them resources”. Seems backwards to me. I am glad that they are going to try to identify these girls as early on as possible but shouldn’t they be focusing on preventing pregnancy instead?

What about Teen Mom on MTV? Just last week they announced that  the current teen mom on the show has three friends (all of whom who are teens) are pregnant, too.

Is it an epidemic? Is there more teen pregnancies in certain areas in the south because the education levels are lower? There is less for teens to do, activity-wise? Religion, perhaps? In general, do they think a pregnancy bump is “cute”? Do they want a little baby to dress up and don’t think about the actual hard-core care part of being a teen-parent (or any aged parent for that case!)? Lack of education of contraception use? Poor parenting? OR. Are teens just going to do what they are going to do? I have some of my own thoughts.

In Mississippi where our family is there are very few safe activities available for adolescents to do. There are very few sports. There is not a YMCA. You can play softball but that is pretty much it. There is a movie theater that is a 45 minute drive. That is if you have the money to go. I imagine teens must get bored.  Mississippi is a very poor state. The public schools are not safe. The private schools are very, very expensive. Religion is huge in Mississippi. My own Father-in-law is a preacher, in fact having two churches. Abstinence of course is preached. I imagine contraception is often not discussed between parents and children. As there are not as many sports I imagine there are not sports physicals required each summer like there are where I have always lived. When I do sports physicals on adolescents I take advantage of those few precious moments with that teen and zone in on sex, protection, pregnancy prevention, std’s, etc. In fact, now that I think about it…..I remember them doing that in Whitefish, Montana when I had to have my yearly sports physical in high school.

This is Heather. I remember the day Heather was born, I was outside the hospital room. Adam and I were dating and had just become engaged in fact. She and her little sister spent last July with Adam and I and we spoiled them rotten like you would not believe. We all had a wonderful time. We knew she wanted to be a veterinarian so we had arranged for her to spend a day with our vet in Lincoln before she came to stay with us. I took her shopping for scrubs and here she is before we went to Lincoln. She was so, so excited. This is one of a TON of shots as she twirled around on the deck! When I picked her up later that day she had somehow decided she wanted to be a large animal vet-hmmm….go figure. Before she came to visit with us she didn’t know she could do it but after we talked about how scholarships work and the schools that had vet programs, etc..she was very excited.

We now know that while with us in July she was already far enough along that she was having some morning sickness. In hindsight, Uncle Adam and I recall one specific morning at Worlds of Fun!!! And, it was always soooooo hard to get her to wake up. She was very, very tired....

Because of the cost of private school, Heather home schools.

Meet Alexia Hope. Alexia is Heather’s daughter. 16 days old now, born 5 weeks early. A very high-risk complicated pregnancy. Born via csection due to risk of stroke to Heather. Alexia came home when she was 10 days old and weighed 4lbs 6oz when she came home. We praise God that she is healthy and that Heather is now all better because she wasn’t. She was very sick for the last several months. Children are not meant to have children. Their underdeveloped bodies are simply not ready. Heather had pre-eclampsia, she had supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), intrauterine growth retardation-she was on catergory c cardiac medications just to get far enough in the pregnancy until it was safe enough to deliver Alexia. Heather landed in the ICU after delivery but has done remarkable since. Once again we are blessed.

But. Heather turned 16 a month ago and has a high-risk newborn daughter now. She has completed 9th grade. Adam’s sister and his Mom are helping. This IS how it will work (it takes a village after all). There will be no other way. She is now trying to figure out how to get her GED someday and is thinking about maybe going to a local community college to be an LPN to be able to buy things her baby needs. She already likes to take her baby to her friend’s house so they can see her but Heather doesn’t have a driver’s license so she has to rely on Adam’s sister. Again, a reminder that she is still a child.

Although a child, she is still a mama that is definitely in love with the baby that was in her for all of those months. She puts pictures on her facebook and says I am in love with her. I can tell it is legitimate and she has bonded very well. She did not handle leaving the hospital before Alexia well AT ALL. She only got to go back twice per day to feed her and she was tormented with missing her.

I am saddened in just a quick view of some of her facebook friends when I see a couple of other teens either pregnant or that already have a baby talking to one another about how they can’t wait to see each other’s pregnant tummy, etc.  I think that teen pregnancy is a multi-factorial issue. It starts at home most definitely but social exposure also plays a role. Adolescents need entertainment. We are happy to say that Heather’s little sister will be attending private school next year, thank you Nana and Pawpaw.

We are happy our Heather and Alexia is healthy. A bumpy road may be ahead, yes but ultimately though a beautiful child is here now and in our lives and we have our first great niece….Alexia Hope.

It is 2010 isn’t it? And, we are in America, aren’t we?

True story.

Scene: Mississippi in May at Sonic. Took the nieces there at 9pm for ice cream. Parked in our car like most people usually do. An African American police officer kept walking in front of car over and over again every 5-10 minutes or so.

Shana: “Okay, this guy is really starting to give me the creeps.”

Heather: “Aunt Shana, we did park on the black side, ya know.”

Shana: “????!!!!”

Segregation is truly alive and well. Very sad. We asked the girls if we should move and park on the other side but they said no because there were no other cars there.

This goes right along with the general rule of needing to wait for at least “10 miles or so” until you have last seen bars on the gas station windows before you can stop at a gas station to use the restroom. Several times Adam has made me “hold it”!

Sad.

Women….ya’ just never know what we are up to…

While in Mississippi Adam and I got to spend an entire day with his Pawpaw. We decided to go to the Carter cemetery to start with to Mawmaw’s grave~we just lost her in 2009 just like we lost my Nana. We drove 350 miles with Pawpaw that day and learned all about Adam’s family history. We knew Adam has some Native American in him but are not sure to which extent. We know there is Cherokee and Chaqueta but his mother has been working on the family genealogy and has hit a road block beyond that. He has some English and German in him. He is kind of a mutt….like we all are I suppose. Don’t worry~he finds this funny when I say that!

Everyone always is amazed at how much Adam and his Dad look a like, well throw Pawpaw in there and you can pretty much tell how these guys are gonna look as they age:

Son

Father

Pawpaw

Anyway, Pawpaw had some amazing stories to tell us and we learned so so much that I think we will need to spend an entire day with him again to re-hear these stories to be able to remember them to pass them down in the family.

One last thing that we learned from Pawpaw about Women (I’m laughing already before I even have this typed!!!!)….he looked at Adam in the most serious face ever and said (in a southern drawl with each word long and drawn out), “Adam, did you know that there are women now that own their own farms?!!!”.

Thanks for the amazing day, Pawpaw. We love you.

Chinese Fire Drill….Gone Wrong

Adam and I love chinese fire drills. We do them all the time with my sister’s kids…just to make them laugh. When we do them with my little brother it is for pure competition. I’m talkin’ who can run around the car more times and even who can run around the most cars (yeah, you read right….other people’s cars!) at a red light.

While in Mississippi we pulled up to a red light and Adam’s sister’s girls were with us and I nudged Adam like I do normally as the “it’s a go for the drill” type of warning. He about tackled me in the car right there. I guess running around your car and maybe other people’s cars in the delta might get me shot….or so Adam says.

His sister’s girls are coming in less than two weeks to stay with us for at least a couple of weeks. Yay!!!! We are counting down the hours. I, personally, cannot wait. Adam, unfortunately does not have the vacation time but I get to take off and be with them! Double Yay! And, guess what we are going to do…a chinese fire drill.

Anyways, last weekend my little brother was in town for some wedding planning and he was in the car in front of us with some of his friends and we were at a red light and he decided to do a drill. Out he comes and at the same time the light goes a’ green. In hindsight he says he heard his friend say as he was getting out of the car “hey, this is a really short light!”. Jesse decided to make this particular drill a double and was heading back to also run around our car and I was pointing at the light saying it’s green, it’s green~so what does he do? Opens my door and decided to squish in with me. All 6’4 ” 250lbs of him folding up into some odd contortion on top of me. And, imagine Adam just happened to have his camera:

A different reality

This is a photo of Adam’s Dad buying me a bottle of water at a gas station after Mom’s graduation.  You see, they live in the Delta which is a very high-crime area. Inside was a totally normal convenience store….potato chips, cookies, sodas in coolers, etc and he had to go up to the window and point to what he wanted and she went and got it and he paid and voila!

And, here I am…taking a picutre out the side of my window…lucky I didn’t get shot! Ha!