By Darlene Pham
Like most teenagers, junior Anna Redmond had been free-spirited with no one to look after but herself. On September 14, 2008, however, the day after her sophomore Homecoming, Redmond received a phone call that would change the course of her life.
“(The father) called me and was like, ‘I think you’re pregnant’, and I was, like, ‘I don’t know about that,’ “she said. “(The pregnancy test) was positive, but it took a while to really understand it.”
Anna’s situation is far from unusual. According to a January report from the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research group in New York, the pregnancy rate among teenage girls has jumped for the first time after more than a decade of decline. The numbers have started to increase more than 3 percent in the mid-2000s after a period of decrease since the 1990s.
“We’re not sure if this is an increase or just a blip. The numbers have increased by 3 percent, and the fact that it has increased, though, is significant,” Margaret Lawrence Banning, vice president of Public Policy and Education for Planned Parenthood of Indiana, said.
According to school psychologist Jane Wildman there are about five cases here that she knows about. She said that she has seen an increase of teen pregnancy cases here that she knows about. “I’m more aware of it now. Sometimes people don’t tell us,” she said.
For Anna, whose son, Carter, was born in June 2009, discovering she was pregnant was just the beginning. “I was really scared about everything, like what I was going to do and everything,” she said. “I was definitely shocked, but it didn’t really hit me for a while.”
According to Banning, the first step for any pregnant teenage girl should be to talk to her parents and her partner.
Anna said she waited until she was four months pregnant to tell her parents. “I work out in my basement and stuff. At first, when I started showing, my mom would come down and I’d be like I just ate a lot or something, so she wouldn’t know,” Anna said.
It wasn’t until Anna talked to a friend’s mother that she decided to tell her parents. “My dad came to pick me up and they weren’t mad at all,” she said. “I think they were still in shock, but they were extremely supportive. I went to the doctor’s the next day and everything was great and really healthy.”
Anna’s mother, Jackie Redmond, said that while she was shocked, the next step was to make sure both Anna and the baby were okay. For Mrs. Redmond, it was just as hard to share the news.
“I was just a little stressed about telling family, even though I knew they would be supportive,” she said. “I told my parents, Anna’s grandparents, and they were amazingly comforting, supporting and accepting.”
While her family was understanding, Anna said the situation was different at school.. She said there were many rumors going around. “A lot of (people) just didn’t know what to think and a lot of them wouldn’t talk to me for a while because they thought I was making it up or whatever,” Anna said. “So, I just let it go, I didn’t care.”
Wildman said that this is not an unusual reaction for students. “I think we tend to judge people too quickly,” she said. “Until you can walk in someone else’s shoes, you should not judge them, and since you can never walk in their shoes, who are you to judge?”
To help these girls, Wildman said that the school tries to encourage (the girls) in believing in themselves and not let other people’s opinions control them on how they feel and act.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, nearly 10 percent of all births are to teenage girls. About half (46 percent) of all teens ranging from the ages 15 to 19 have had sex at least once. These significant numbers are not just evident on paper, however. The media, especially, has included more fare featuring the issue of teen pregnancy with movies, like “Juno”, and shows, such as “The Secret Life of an American Teenager” and “Teen Mom”.
While Banning said that it was too early to tell if the teen pregnancy rates were actually increasing or not, she said that the media could have an influence. Banning said, “The media affects how young people look at themselves, how they see each other, how they relate to each other. You see stars now wearing more provocative clothing and acting more and more in a provocative manner. Younger and younger children then look to them as role models.”
Mrs. Redmond said she agrees that the media heavily influences the teen pregnancy rates. “It’s not glamorous and the media tends to glamorize it,” she said.
Anna said that she hates shows like “The Secret Life of an American Teenager” because they do not portray what being a mother is really like. “I just think (that show) is so dumb. Not only because the acting is so bad, but because of how (the main character) acts like it’s no big deal, like it’s all fun and it will be taken care of and all these people will want to marry you and be your baby’s daddy and help raise him. No boy would choose to be a father at this age, if they had a choice. It’s definitely different,” she said.
In Anna’s situation, Carter’s father is no longer part of the picture. According to Anna, he moved away and has never seen Carter.
Even with the media’s glamorization and influence on the view of teen pregnancy, for Anna, hers was a different story.
“I bought a ring from Claire’s and put it on my ring finger to make it look like I was married and I was older,” she said. “I was so self-conscious about walking around anywhere, like the mall. I hated going to the mall because everyone would stare and it was awkward.”
Mrs. Redmond said that, for her, the biggest fear was how Anna’s life would change. “Anna had to give up a lot of activities. Obviously, school is most important and Anna is doing a good job. She really cares for Carter,” she said.
Anna said that having Carter changed her life in a way she couldn’t imagine. “No matter what, I have to put (Carter) first. There’s nothing I do without thinking, like, how this will affect Carter. If I’m out having fun, there’s that half of me wishing I were home because I miss Carter already. I have no more free-spirit, like do whatever,” she said. “Since I’ve had him, I’m actually happier. I feel complete because I have Carter and I’m crazy in love with him.”
While she can no longer live the carefree life of a normal teenager, Anna said having a baby is not the end for her. Mrs. Redmond said she agrees with her daughter.
“It’s not the end of your life,” Mrs. Redmond said. “With any decision, there are its difficulties, but also the blessings.”