Are Young Moms Irresponsible For “Letting Themselves” Get Pregnant?

So CNN picked up one of the pieces I wrote for Parenting.com, which is awesome. It's the one I wrote in response to the many media outlets labeling the unprecedented number of unmarried 20-something moms a dangerous epidemic, equating it with the horror that is teen pregnancy. And, as expected, the comments started rolling in about how irresponsible and life-ruining it is to be a young, unmarried mother — how we force taxpayers to carry the burden of our mistakes, and how "unfair" it is to the child. The lack of a marriage certificate is a slippery slope to the welfare office, folks.  AND THIS IS FACT. I actually welcome these kinds of comments because it reminds me how ignorant and hurtful people can be, and it puts me right back in my 22-year-old shoes: pregnant, without a ring on my finger, thinking that my life was over.

Well my friend Chaunie from Tiny Blue Lines — a young-mom advocate and OB nurse — instantly sent me an email responding to a certain (consistent) comment that irked her. And it irked me too. I'll be responding to it on Parenting.com this week, but until then, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the topic.

Take it away, Chaunie....

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As I read Michelle's piece, "Are 20-something unwed mothers the new teen moms?" on CNN today, one thing in particular struck me in the blast of comments that followed.

Everyone blames the mother.

I got it all the time when I was pregnant. (I had an unexpected pregnancy with my committed boyfriend of four years during my senior year of college.) One woman, a close friend of mine even, chided me gently over lunch one day:

“I just don’t understand how in this day and age, with all the birth control options out there, women allow themselves to get pregnant,” she said.

If only it were that easy.

I would like to know how everyone thinks it’s such an easy equation. As if 1 + 1 can automatically not equal baby if you’re careful enough. Like the commenter (ironically, titled Mr. Rational Thought) who said, “It is simple to plan on having children.”

The truth is you can do everything to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. You can be on birth control, and use a condom and spermicide. You can use a diaphragm and use the pull out and pray method. You can even, in some cases I’ve seen as an OB nurse, have a vasectomy and a tubal ligation.

But you can still get pregnant.

We’ve all seen Jurassic Park, haven’t way? Nature always finds a way. It’s kind of important to our survival as a human race, so why do we act so shocked when it happens?

I just don’t understand what point or purpose it serves for us to go around blaming women for “letting” themselves get pregnant. First of all, isn’t it a woman’s right to choose what kind of birth control she wants to use? Second of all, it’s not exactly like she did the deed alone — why is it her fault? We’ve come a long way since demanding that sex if for procreation only, so do we really expect women to focus on having sex every single time with the sole purpose of baby making?

Call me crazy, but I just don’t think it’s anyone else’s business what kind of birth control I choose to use. The birth control is not the point. The point is that pregnancy happens, in planned and unplanned circumstances, in loving and unloving ways, in protected or unprotected methods.

And it’s time — instead of constantly blaming and berating women for “letting” themselves get pregnant and expecting the rest of the world to pick up the pieces — that we acknowledge that unplanned pregnancy does happen. That it’s not always a horrible, end-of-the-world moment when she’s going to immediately run to the nearest welfare office and milk the system for the rest of her life.

Maybe, just maybe, if we stopped criticizing women and demanding that we plan babies to happen in just the right circumstances, with just the right color eyes, with just the right amount of bank accounts, something unexpected could happen.

We could stop pointing fingers at who is more "irresponsible" and start building up better communities, schools, and workplaces to support mothers, fathers, and families.

How's that for planning?

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Read more from Chaunie at Tiny Blue Lines.
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