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Teen couple happily expecting birth of child though they know of potential difficulties
In Apr. 3-9 issue
By Kim Graham
Times Journal Reporter


There are two area teenagers who face daily the consequences of their choice to have sex at a young age. They are expecting a son in a couple of months.

"It's not a wise choice to have sex before you're married," said the expectant young mother. "It's wrong and I knew that."

She says the pregnancy was accidental and the couple did try to prevent pregnancy by using a contraceptive.

The father attends an area high school, as does the expectant mother.
Like many teenage girls who learn they are going to have a baby, she was apprehensive about the news.

"I was completely confused and scared," she said. "I worried about our relationship and how we were going to make it with a baby."

The prospective father had similar anxiety about the news and the consequences he faced.

"I was kind of excited and kind of worried not knowing what to do and not knowing how to tell my mom," he said.

There are a number of studies on the subject nationally and though the findings don't apply to every teen pregnancy there are conclusions in general that sociologists and policy makers are following.

Pregnant teens are confronted with many important issues regarding the health and the future of their children. Studies show children born to teenage parents are more likely to suffer health, social, and a whole range of difficulties, including a higher rate of mistreatment and abuse.

Research suggests that many teen mothers are less educated and have fewer job skills. As a result, many children of teens are raised in poverty.

These are the tests that are faced by the teen parent, generally it is the young mother and the infant that face the bulk of the negative impacts.

"Some of these girls are very glad to be pregnant," said Shirley Roberson, Community Health Educator with the Lake Cumberland District Health Department in Jamestown. "They are so needy for love in their lives they don't realize the reality of financial support and emotional issues. That is what leads to neglect and abuse."

Studies also have shown that a girl is more likely to become a teenage parent if her mother also gave birth in her teens.

The expectant teen's mother, understanding the bigger picture and the challenges of adolescent childbearing first hand, expressed her worries about the pregnancy.

"My mom was really upset because it happened to her, too," the teen said. "She was concerned that I didn't know what I was getting myself into."

Her mother took her to the Adair Russell Casey Pregnancy Center (ARC) at Key Village in Russell Springs. The Center provides guidance and assistance free of charge to expectant mothers and fathers.

"It was really nice," she remembers. "(The center's staff) could relate to me and she said if I needed anything to let her know."

The teen father's mother also had an emotional response to the news her son would be a father soon.

"My mom thought I was joking at first," he recalled. "She started crying and said she'd be there if I needed help."

Having a strong family support system helps improve the odds for some teen parents when early pregnancy becomes much more than a statistic. It hits home.

"Definitely my mom has been the most helpful. We've gotten a lot closer," said the young mother-to-be. "For a while, I was kind of a troubled child but I think I've grown up a little bit."

"We've seen a huge increase of teen pregnancy in Russell County," said the ARC's Roberson. "Teenage pregnancy is more accepted among students at the high school than years before."

In 2006, there were 441,832 children born to teen parents in the US. Teen pregnancy is becoming an everyday occurrence and there are much more tolerant, non-judgmental views in society.

Roberson says the health department doesn't keep statistics on the number of teen mothers they serve but the school system does have information on the number of pregnant teens attending Russell County Schools.

"People at the high school are accustomed to (teen pregnancy) now and they're not treating me any differently," the teen mom-to-be said.

This is something of a reversal of fortunes. In the 14 years leading up to 2005 the number of teen pregnancies in the nation had been on the decrease, by about 33 percent, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. However, a 2006 report showed numbers rising with an increase of 3 percent.

At a Leadership Russell County class in January, Loy said there is a teenage pregnancy support group that meets once each month. He said about 25 to 30 pregnant teens and teen moms participated in the support group at that time.

Sandy Ellis, of the ARC Pregnancy Center, said when she last visited RCHS in January there were 22 pregnant teenagers attending school in Russell County.

"It's almost a right of passage," said Ellis. "It seems to be more accepted in the community but there is a good side to that because they tend to keep their babies and not have abortions."

She said the main goal of the ARC Pregnancy Support Center is to promote the welfare and protection of pre-born children and promote public awareness of the sanctity of human life.

With the cooperation of the Youth Services Center and Russell County Schools, Ellis also gives parenting classes at the teen pregnancy support group at RCHS. She says she recently covered subjects such as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and Shaken Baby Syndrome.

"The Youth Services Center is doing a great job and has been very supportive of the pregnancy center," Ellis said. "After all, we're all in this for the same reason. We want to help teen parents. We want to educate them so they can take care of themselves and their babies."

While some teen parents drop out of school and give up on their dreams, others are motivated by the experience and push themselves toward their goals.

The teen father plans to attend a community college for two years then transfer to a university.

"It's going to be a little harder because we have a baby," he said. "I plan to make as much money as I can to support her, myself and my baby. We'll probably get married when she gets out of school."

Before the teenage student got pregnant, she wanted to work in the medical profession. She continues to plan toward achieving that goal.
"I'm still going to college and try to be successful," she said. "It's just going to be a little harder."

The young man shared his thoughts regarding other teen parents.

"Try to stay together because you don't realize how much you need each other," he said. "Stay in school, get a job and save as much money as you can because you'll be better off in the long run."
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