Teenaged Pregnancy

Mamas on Bedrest: A Call for Compassion, Not Crucifixion

October 10th, 2012

On October 5, 2012 Jeanne Faulkner, R.N. posted on theFitPregnancy Blog about Tragic Teen Pregnancies. Seems yet another young teen aged girl hid her pregnancy and gave birth alone and scared in the bathroom. She subsequently killed the baby and disposed of it in a garbage bag. The baby was later discovered and the girl arrested.

From time to time we hear of such tragedies. I happen to know of one personally, and saw a few others working as a PA in a teen health clinic. It’s a really difficult situation. Those on the outside looking in are appalled by the young mothers’ actions.  The media is crucifying them. And many want them punished to the full extent of the law.

But I like Faulkner’ take on the situation. These are young girls, often as young as 14 or 15, having babies. Babies are having babies. For whatever reason, the girls choose not to tell their parents (a question for a whole other post!), friends or teachers. They hide their pregnancies, childishly hoping they’ll go away. But what can we expect-THEY ARE CHILDREN!!! I could go on and on about the first grievous mistake being that they are sexually active in the first place, why is this happening and where are the parents/guardians? But that is all water under the bridge. The more important question is how do we help young girls who are caught up in such situations get the (mental/emotional and physical) help that they need so that they can recover, grow up, become productive adults and eventually have children of their own?

Jennie Joseph, CPM, was quoted in the article and I think that her words bear repeating. Joseph describes “labor madness”, a trance-like state many women enter into during labor, a sort of primal defense mechanism from the pain and overwhelm of the situation.

“Women from all walks of life disappear into an inner place (during labor). They retreat from the fear and pain and the overwhelming nature of what their body is doing. They don’t really know what’s going on and without help some panic. When a woman is supported by a caring midwife, nurse, doctor, doula and family we can call her back from that place. We can support her, help her and get her through the experience. But when a woman is alone the terror, pain and hormones kick some women into autopilot where they panic and do whatever they have to do to save themselves from this life-threatening situation.”

“And if it’s a young teenage girl, all alone, in pain, not fully understanding what’s going on, terrified of what will happen when her parents find out…that’s a recipe for labor madness right there.”

Labor madness. I like that term and I believe that it is fitting. We all like to believe that pregnancy, labor and childbirth are these ethereal states in which a woman experiences her truest feminine self. This occurs for many women. But for many of us, pregnancy, labor and childbirth can be fraught with hellacious complications, fear, chaos and at their worst, catastrophic if not deadly complications.

As mamas on bed rest, we’re on the front lines of complicated pregnancy. Yet most of us are grown women. Many of us are married or at least with a partner in the picture and if not, we have family, friends and a support system. We’re on the internet, reading websites, chatting with other mamas and gathering information in order to best prepare ourselves for whatever may lay ahead. This is the difference between pregnancy in a woman and a girl. As women, if we don’t have a support system, we know how to find one.

Young girls aren’t necessarily that savvy. Yes, many have grown up women’s bodies, but not the wisdom of age. Think back to your teen years. Were you fully equipped to manage all the feelings and emotions you were experiencing? Now add pregnancy, and all its physiologic (hormonal) changes, and you can readily see that trainwreck poised to happen.

I am not saying that what this young girl did was right. It absolutely wasn’t. But there are so many levels at which things went wrong I would find it difficult to prosecute her for a crime. I highly doubt that her actions were premeditated or that she acted out of malice or guile. She was afraid. It’s that simple. And she’ll be further traumatized by the criminal justice system. Will she ever receive counseling? Will she ever heal? I mean really heal???

I see this story as another reminder that women of all ages need support and compassion during pregnancy. For young girls, they need not only support but also caring and compassionate guidance-preferably before they become pregnant but most certainly after-to help them understand the complex physical changes they’ll experience as well as the myriad of emotional changes. Oh what a different story this would have been if this young girl had been able to talk to someone about what was happening! Oh what a difference it makes forMamas on Bedrest to have this support network!

I don’t know what will be next for this young girl or others like her. What I do know is that rather than crucify her in the media, we all need to show her compassion. She needs help so that she can heal.  And we as a culture need to be thinking about what we can do to help end this type of tragedy in teen pregnancies.