I thought I was pregnant once when I was 17. I have no idea why I was so paranoid – I think my period was only 2 days late; plus, I was on the pill. Still, there were about 24 hours that I was convinced that I must somehow be pregnant. I was terrified. Terrified and miserable. I saw my whole life stop dead in its tracks. I was passionately in love with my boyfriend; and he loved me, he really did. Yet I knew I was too young for motherhood.
Nearly a year earlier, when I visited Planned Parenthood to obtain birth control pills, the doctor requested a letter from my cardiologist. So I had to involve my mother. She was open minded, loving, and she was a good friend. She told me she worried that I would be hurt – emotionally – if I began having sex with my high school sweetheart. We talked about the risk of disease. She made it clear that she preferred that I wait. Until marriage. But as we continued our long talk, she accepted the fact that it was really out of her control. She made me feel loved, even though she was concerned about my decision.
At the end of the conversation, I asked her not to tell Dad. I could talk to her about this stuff, but I was mortified for my father to know. It was bad enough having him drive us home from the mall, years earlier, the day we purchased my first bra. I may have even begged, “Please don’t tell him, Mom.” I’ll always remember what she said:
“I share everything with your father.”
One simple statement. Such a huge lesson: this is the strong bond of a healthy marriage.
It was probably a good 10 days before I could look my dad in the eyes again. But I was consciously secure knowing that my parents were a unit.
As that first relationship ran its course – we were together for five years in total – a lot of our friends encouraged us to get married. I was 21, he was 23. We talked about it. We were in love. We said, “Well, we’re either getting married, or we’re breaking up.” Why break up? To see the world . . . to see what it’s like to fall in love again . . . to let each other grow up independently. I needed to face my fear of being alone. And face it I did. And survive it, I did. I’m so grateful for the years of growth and education I’ve had since that time in my life. I’ve cultivated the resources and energy to contribute positively to my community.
I think about Bristol and Levi and how different their paths are from mine. I’m sad for Bristol and her sisters that their mother isn’t more like my mom was. To be 17, pregnant, and suddenly a very public pawn of the RNC, is unthinkable. The platitudes make it sound simple: “There’s a new life coming into the world,” “Two families uniting in marriage.”
Don’t you suspect that Bristol and Levi might have chosen something different for themselves?
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09/14/08 UPDATE: To any teens out there who may not be able to speak to their parents on the topic of sex – I encourage you to seek out Planned Parenthood. The time to learn how to take care of your body is BEFORE you begin a physical relationship with another person. Those who promote “abstinence only education” have forgotten what it’s like to be young. If you’re left to educate yourself, you’re not alone: Planned Parenthood, will help.
What Planned Parenthood may not teach you is how to make sure you’re selecting a sexual partner who is worthy of your attention, how to figure out the difference between real-mutual-love and infatuation, and how to think highly enough of yourself to take charge of your own pleasure. These are important questions. Whoever you are, I hope you’re in a position to be able to hold out for real love with a caring partner.