Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.” -Augustine
Many of us share the preconceived notion that a pregnant teen would have no interest in knowing her birth options. I shared this belief until I began working with my first baby planning client who just happens to be a teen! When I asked a few people how they thought I should approach this situation, the consensus was to try not to overwhelm Jill with too many options. This idea of protecting her from becoming overwhelmed sounded good- but not if it meant she was going to be ignorant. I made the decision to expose her to all of her options because she specifically asked to learn more about childbirth. I did cartwheels inside when she showed interest in this topic. This was a huge “Yay!” moment for me. I get to help her find her ideal birth style and give her the resources to make it happen!
As a result of my teen mom research, I’ve met a doula and a midwife who have a special place in their hearts for teen pregnancy. Though they are different professionals from different businesses, they offer discounts and free services for teen moms-to-be. The reason why they share the same cause is simple. They once were pregnant teens who felt uniformed and objectified of during their childbirths. Neither of them felt comfortable birthing outside of a hospital or objecting to hospital procedures. They didn’t know that labor induction causes labor to be significantly more painful. The risks of infection with each labor intervention were not discussed. As teens, they trusted their doctors to act in their best interests and the results of their uninformed births were life-changing. Now, as women, they empower young mothers to birth with strength and confidence through midwifery and birth coaching in the hopes that a few teens will avoid the pain they went through.
Going out on a limb, I invited Jill to a “Secrets to Natural Childbirth” workshop in our area. I did this because it is a healthy birth option. How can she choose the option that might be best for her if she knows nothing about it? Jill was very participatory in the class asking a lot of questions. Some of her questions demonstrated how little she knew for being 20 weeks along. The free classes for pregnant teens that she’s attended thus far did not prove very successful in providing her with information on her pregnant body or upcoming labor.
To put it simply, this teen mom-to-be went from fairly ignorant to knowing more than most adult women do about childbirth! I saw a few tears in her eyes when Andi, the midwife who taught the class, approached her afterward. She connected with Jill on a level that I could not with just six words. “I was a teen mom too.” They talked a little more and then I drove Jill home. She was very excited about what she had learned and thanked me several times for taking her. Was she overwhelmed? Sure. Any woman who learns about natural childbirth also learns how unnatural birthing often is in our country. It is heartbreaking. But now she was aware that her childbirth could be frightening or amazing.
Maybe the best way we can help pregnant teens is by providing them with all their options- regardless of how overwhelmed we think they may feel. Birth will indeed be overwhelming but wonderfully so if they have chosen their own path. What I’ve learned from working with Jill is this:
When you encounter a pregnant teen, don’t pity her. Don’t underestimate her either. Instead, empower her!