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.