I was 20 years old, just over the threshold of my teenage years, but I still remember the judgment from people who told me to my face that I was unfit to parent, solely because I looked young. It stung, and turned what should have been one of the most joyful times of my life into something I was ashamed of.
This is one of the main reasons I make it a point to be respectful to teen mothers. They are living their lives, going to school, figuring out their lives as best they can. The shame from others they undoubtedly receive complicates things, and it's completely unnecessary. The baby is already on the way or already born. Shame isn't an effective form of birth control.
I've seen firsthand how the supportive approach makes a difference. Last year, I was a guest speaker at a teen mom support group, when a pregnant teen shyly came into the room after we had already gotten started. She sat quietly at a back table and looked pensive. Within a few minutes, we took a break and the other moms turned toward the new girl. "How far along are you?" they asked.
She looked startled that someone was speaking to her. "Almost seven months."
One of the girls reached out her hand toward new girl's small baby bump. "Can I rub your belly?"
She nodded. The other moms began showering her with compliments and questions. "Your bump is so cute. Have you thought of names? I like your hair. Do you know if it's a boy or a girl?"
Slowly, the new girl began to come alive, right in front of my eyes. She giggled a bit, answered questions, and generally looked more at ease among this supportive group. I do not know how the rest of her pregnancy went, but I saw her guard come down. I saw her smile when thinking of her baby on the way. That kindness made a difference.
That's all it takes. A simple smile, a sincere "congratulations" — those things matter more than you think. So the next time you see a pregnant teenager or a teen mom, reserve your judgment. She doesn't need it.
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