As a healthcare provider, it is apparently mandatory you get 17 emails each day filled with medical updates, journal articles, new drug alerts/warnings, etc. Recently, one particular article caught my eye about how the teen pregnancy rate in the US of A is the lowest it has been in decades. This is good news, of course, but as you read further on, it highlights we still have the highest percentage (by far) among developed nations and almost triple the next country in line (I think it was Poland…or Bulgaria…I don’t remember). I want to be positive and applaud the progress, but there were still a lot of disappointing, startling statistics. As someone who sees teen moms and babies of teen moms almost daily, I witness and am often heartbroken by the hardships, frustrations and expenses they incur.
Let me step aside for a brief moment and point out I have many family members, friends, patients and acquaintances who procreated at a young age – planned or not – and they make wonderful parents and make wonderful babies. So please don’t think I’m putting all teen moms or dads in a box labeled ‘haphazard parents’ or ‘society burden,’ because I don’t feel that way at all.
That being said, there are still a LOT of less than ideal (I’m being generous here) teen pregnancy situations. Sure schools have “Sex Ed,” but really…isn’t it kind of a joke? I think it was mentioned in my freshman year health class by our completely non-sexist male instructor – *cough* – who basically said “don’t do drugs, don’t have sex” and we muttered and giggled stuff under our breath for a few minutes. And…..that was about it. Other schools have more intensive programs, I’m sure (I hope), but clearly the talk of abstinence and ‘wrapping it up’ could go further because there are still a lot of babies having babies. Given my current knocked-up state and my always altruistic nature – *cough, cough* – I have come up with some groundbreaking methods to prevent teen pregnancies. You’re welcome, world.
#1: Send in the Motherload.
To clarify, the Motherload =ME. I am a prime example that pregnancy isn’t always pretty. Seriously. It seems many preggos I’ve known were glowing and radiant and look like adorable twigs with a perfectly round, attached bump under their sweaters that one day – voila! – popped out and they were back to their skinny jeans and heels. I have to admit I
hate resent envy them. I know so many women that talk about how they felt prettiest when they were pregnant. Well guess what? That ain’t me. I’m really not complaining because I am more than happy to spend a couple years of my life looking subhuman if it means I get babies out of the bargain. And I’m not looking for sympathy, well-intentioned lies compliments or condolences. I’m just being honest – I am not a pretty pregnant lady. Baby bump? Sure…plus add in all around puffiness and baby hips and baby butt and baby lovehandles. Glowing skin? Try raging hormonal pregnancy acne that despite every intervention – natural, prescription, dietary or otherwise – only seems to get worse.
I’m ranting, but the point is if most young ladies saw the not-so-cute effects of pregnancy, they might be a little more cautious. Send in my waddling, bloating, blemish-y self at 36 weeks and I’ll single-handedly drop the unintended pregnancy rate. Have you seen the show “Scared Straight” where they send unruly kids to jails or prisons and the inmates get in their faces? THAT WILL BE ME. I’ll be nose to nose, saying “Is THIS what you want, sucker?” IS THIS HOW YOU WANT TO LIVE YOUR LIFE?? I’ll have to get some scary tattoos beforehand so they can see the effects of skin stretching on body ink, too. That’ll get ‘em. And then I’ll play video of me trying to sleep – up every hour to pee, the 4 minute+ excruciating process to roll over in bed, calf cramps, middle of the night hunger/vomiting/Tums binges (depends on the phase of the moon and my after-dinner snack). I’ll pause the video in different spots and for dramatic effect point to them one by one calling out, “Keep it up and THIS COULD BE YOU!” And I’ll probably have to have an alias because Erin isn’t very intimidating, so I’m thinking…Ogre. Just call me “Ogre.”
#2: Labor and Delivery videos
WHYYYYY is this not being done? Or is it being done and I’m not aware? I’m sure some parents would complain and maybe a kid or two would get PTSD, but it is necessary. Even with health or sex ed and a basic description of anatomy and the process of childbirth, it’s not the same as SEEING a baby crowning or witnessing an agonizing labor that concludes with a dear woman pushing a melon out her lady bits.
During my second year of grad school, one of our required rotations included a month of OB/GYN. I actually enjoyed catching babies – in fact, I loved it. But I’ll never forget the first childbirth in which I assisted. By all standards it was a great delivery – healthy mom, healthy baby, no complications. But you know what? It was also a gory mess. The mom’s yells and groans and the stretching and the blood and the baby plopping out into my arms and the suctioning and the stitches gave me
nightmares a new appreciation for moms of the world. Upon following the doctor out to do his dictation, tears welled up in my eyes. He smiled, squeezed my shoulder, and said, “Isn’t childbirth a beautiful miracle?” Yes, of course it was. But the real reason I was crying was result of the trauma I had just witnessed and the realization that it was more scary and more painful than I had previously imagined. I feared for the mother’s future bladder control and a myriad of other concerns. Fortunately it wasn’t long and a couple more cases before I was desensitized, but I don’t doubt this experience pushed back my own baby-making a good three years (time heals all).
#3: Tour OB Unit
So when the punks in “Scared Straight” don’t straighten up, then the poo hits the fan and they visit the prison and I think they even lock them in a cell…or something. The same would apply here. For the gigglepants in the back of health class that isn’t affected by #1 or #2, off to the OB floor they go. I want them to be present for every minute of the 4, 12, 24+ hour labors. And for the fellas – because it takes two to tango and because I think they get off way too easy in the whole reproduction thing – I want them to sub in for the fathers during the active labor. I want them to get their hand bones/arms/whatever reachable limb or appendage is available crushed during the heat of contractions by an epidural/drug-free momma’s death grip. I want them to hold the leg when she’s pushing. I want them to take the verbal abuse that accompanies many childbirths. And if a cesarean is necessary, as it was in my case, get in those scrubs, get over your fear of blood, sit by her head and say nice things…or else. They are not to leave at any point to eat or pee or flee because that is cheating. Besides, if he was hungry when he walked in, I would be surprised if he still has an appetite when the dust settles. And if he does…fine…but spoonfeed the mother first because she just brought a life into this world, for Pete’s sake.
And…there you have it. If the CDC or WHO calls me up and asks for my expert opinion, I will propose the preceding 3 steps to prevent teen pregnancies. I’ve just got to decide what to wear when the president calls me up and invites me to dinner to thank me for my ingenious ideas. I might employ similar tactics in our own parenting. What tells your kids you love them and want the best for them more than instilling fear? And when our kids are at the age they start asking questions, Plan B is to go into seclusion. By becoming a family of recluses, we will ultimately prevent them from outside influence, media and temptation and it will make parenting much easier.
I’ll probably be starting my parenting advice column any day now.