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I have grown weary of the horror-ridden tone taken whenever the spectacle that is teenage motherhood is discussed.

 Irresponsible sluts who only want to have children so they can be loved (Older people have children for entirely un-selfish reasons, you know so they can be, um, loved, so they can have someone who looks just like them, so junior can inherit the farm, the company, the family name, so someone will take care of them when they are old, because they are bored, because years of birth control failed one wine-filled evening – all much more mature reasons for having babies than those awful hormone-ridden teenager girls…)

Teenage girls only have sex to get approval from boys you know, which is in direct opposition to what some women over 20 do, who never seek approval from their partners, no – that’s what botox and plastic surgery is for. 

I’ll pause here to disclose two things. First that this post was inspired by an innocent guest post at  Girl w/Pen by Joie Jager-Hyman, a writer and doctoral student at Harvard Graduate School. In responding to the popularity of the movie, Juno, she wrote: On the flip side, I’ve worked with girls in low and lower-middle income schools who decided to carry their pregnancies to term. And they always kept their babies. None of them were like Juno–mature enough to realize that they weren’t ready for motherhood AND strong enough to go through with an adoption.

 Second disclosure: I placed my first daughter for adoption when I was 19, based on the belief that keeping my baby was selfish, that all the stats showed that the life of a single mom and her child would be terrible (I didn’t then take into account that those stats were the result of a lack of support or concern on the part of society), the idea, taught in high school health classes, that teenage mothers were the scourge of the earth, that I wouldn’t be a good enough mother. And, more practically, that I had no support, no mother, sister, father or even friend who would help me out. I’d graduated high-school while living on my own in a basement apartment, relying on a boyfriend to bring me food because all the money from my part time job went to rent. And, I ended up pregnant.

 My beef is this: how exactly is it the height of ‘maturity’ for a young woman to believe that she can’t be a mother, even if she wants to ‘be responsible’ as we might exhort young fathers to be.

(I am not saying it is immature either: many women do conclude they aren’t ready. But why do we applaud these women, why are they the heroes of the story, why are women who decide to love and hold their children somehow too selfish for words?)

 Why can’t a young woman be ‘mature’ if she decides she has what it takes to be a mother in this awful world after all?

 And how exactly is it that a woman is raised to a pedestal for being “strong enough” for choosing to part with her own child, so that the child may be fed and clothed properly, leaving the mother to find her own damn way out of poverty.

 But the child will have a better life, you say. Perhaps, but only because we as a society refuse, refuse to care for women and children, to guarantee that everybody has a place to live and a food to eat and a chance to further education, to get out of poverty. (Don’t even bother to bring welfare up, it lives up to no standard of humanity or help I believe in.)

 When we say a teenage mother isn’t ready to parent and assume that a married couple with stable jobs are, we are essentially saying we as a society aren’t ready to financially support motherhood outside of marriage. Which means, we would rather separate mother and child than help them grow together.

So here’s the rub. Who’s to say the adopting family is better equipped to bring up a child?

Let’s say the adopting family is screwed up. Don’t people over 20 have just as much a probability for being awful as any teenage mother? What if the adopting father ends up sexually abusing the adopted child: perhaps a single teenage mother might have looked better then? What if the adopting mother ends up having, say, bouts of depression which leave her unable to properly care for or love a child. What if they yell and shout to solve problems? What then?

I chose open adoption. I chose a family that looked good at first, a family I didn’t know very well. Thirteen years later, I do not like the way my daughter was raised. The scenarios I listed above did not happen, I simply do not agree with their four-car, white, upper-class, privileged, ignorant, consuming, weight-obsessed, unaffectionate, and rather red-neck, yelling to resolve disputes and crude way of life that served Britney and Barbie to my oldest daughter uncritically. Honestly, for all the money and comfort my first daughter’s adopted family has, her adopted older sister is flunking out of high school this year. My oldest daughter is, well, not exactly over performing. And unless she has a brush with the kind of insecure future she may have without good education, she probably isn’t headed for education beyond high school…

I look back now and see that I could not give my daughter everything, but I could have given her some of the vital things she would have needed to negotiate life, the same things I am giving to the two daughters I have now. The two daughters who will not be gettingeverything either, but are getting the best I can give them right now.

 No my first daughter would not have the financial ease she has now, but she would have had something else: me, a thoughtful, strong, independent, feminist (even then) counter-culture mother. Who is to weigh one kind of motherhood, of family, against the other?

So perhaps some teenagers aren’t ready for motherhood: some forty-year-olds aren’t. Perhaps some teenagers engage in questionable sexual practices: some forty-year-olds do. But why en masse do we condemn the teenage pregnancy and the abilities of the mother, the individual, who, like everybody else, can learn and grow and make mistakes and become better, given half a chance, with every year?

My story is not a bitter one; it is still unfolding.

In fact, my oldest daughter is up visiting me for the first time, (I would visit her about once a year since she was born) for three weeks.

And I adore her: she is funny and quirky and lovely.

But she is not receiving the guidance I would like her to have in order to get through the adolescent minefields I know are ahead for her: her adoptive parents are not ‘mature’ enough to understand what the world is like for her and what popular culture in general does to girls.

 Still she was and is loved by them and that comes through. I am living this life I have now and I have, for three weeks, my three daughters with me.

 That speaks so loudly, I will write no more.


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