Heather Kempskie

When 16-year-old Janet* got pregnant back in 1965 she had a tough choice to make.

“My mother told me I could go away and have the baby at some Catholic place and give it up or get married,” the now 61-year-old grandmother explains, “so, it was marriage for me. (My boyfriend) agreed also. Neither of us wanted to give up the baby, so we played house.”

Five sons later (her second born died of SIDS), the two legally divorced in 1977 after spending a tumultuous decade together. As Janet remembers, “this handsome guy came along and had a car. In a nutshell, I could not believe he liked me. He was so popular. I did not want to lose him and would, obviously, do anything to keep him.”

Young and pregnant. It's an all too-often familiar scenario that many teenagers fi nd themselves in. And even though the teen pregnancy rate has declined over the past few decades, the United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate of the Western industrialized world. In the 1960s, unplanned pregnancies usually resulted in young marriages and for better or worse, the couples were thrust into adult responsibilities with very little understanding from the greater public. Now during this generation's reality TV craze, popular shows like MTV's Teen Mom provide viewers with an intimate look inside the lives of young mothers. The show tracks four sets of parents as they navigate through the world of lost freedom, financial pressures and potty training. The series' pilot episode was the highest rated premiere on MTV in over a year with 2.1 million total viewers.

But is the show making teenage pregnancy more acceptable? Or less appealing?

We decided to ask the experts: three women, from three different generations, who faced the extreme emotional and fi nancial challenges of young motherhood. What was it like? What would they do differently? What advice do they have for other young moms?

Leah-Ann of Bellingham

Leah-Ann Mulry, 39, of Bellingham, lost her virginity and her childhood when she got pregnant at 17.

“When I found out I was pregnant I was happy and scared,” says Mulry, an avid watcher of Teen Mom. “Happy because I think there was something missing in my life, a sense of family that I could get with a baby of my own. I see it in other young teenage moms (on the show). I think if you have self-confi dence and good family values (pregnancy) wouldn't happen to you.”

Despite being asked not to attend high school graduation (her pregnancy was an embarrassment to the school) she walked across the stage, got her diploma and quickly readied for real life. Mulry describes her life as a young mom as drama, drama, drama. Her mom entered into an extreme depression, spending most days in bed and when the guilt become too much for Mulry to bear, she and her newborn son, Kenny, moved into her boyfriend's childhood home.

“I'm so different from the person I was back in 1998,” refl ects Mulry, who says she was physically threatened by her boyfriend on at least one occasion. “I would never allow someone to lay their hands on me now, but I so craved his family. I loved feeling like I was part of a family.”


Jana of Maynard

When 18-year-old Jana McLaughlin told her mom she was pregnant, she knew her mother would take it better than most.

“My mom had me and my brother when she was a teenager so she was a lot more understanding and couldn't judge me,” she says.

McLaughlin's ex-boyfriend has minimal contact with their now 5-year-old daughter. Her current boyfriend is father to her 3-year-old son. McLaughlin is going to school full-time to get a degree as a medical assistant. If she hadn't gotten pregnant at a young age, she says she'd probably still be living with her mom.

“Now I live by myself. The kids made me grow up fast, much faster than I ever anticipated,” she says. “I missed out on college, living in dorms and have only really dated two guys in my life. But if I look at that and compare it to what I have, two amazing kids, it's minimal.”

McLaughlin watches Teen Mom and thinks the show does a decent job of portraying the hardships of young parents.

“It makes it look terrible in some ways, which is true, and then it makes it look manageable too.”

“My advice for other teen moms is to not take time with their children for granted,” she says. “It's hard to enjoy them when they are young because you have so many things going on but you're never going to get that time back.”

“Teen pregnancy and teen marriage is never a good thing. It’s not that it is a bad thing,

Janet of Franklin

In her own words, Janet, who is now happily remarried and living in Franklin, says she was too stupid to realize she was pregnant.

“It was not until a friend of mine told me that I was gaining weight and asked me if I was pregnant,” says Janet. “I had my clothes laying on the bed one night because I was getting ready to go out and my mother saw that my zipper was broken and asked me. Of course I denied it. My ex told his parents and they went to my house and told me mother for me because I was afraid to.”

As a young bride, Janet admits to not knowing much about her and her new husband's fi nancial situation.

“His parents always told him to keep the money himself. He would give me only so much for food and that was it. I was not even allowed to have a car...being 16, I guess I just thought that's how it was.”

She and her husband went on to have more children because, as she remembers, it was the only time she felt loved and got attention from him. “I married the boy I loved and continued to love for 20 years and would never give back my sons, so I guess I am fi ne with how it all worked out.”

However, Janet says that if this article can save one child from going through this, it would all be worth it.

“Teen pregnancy and teen marriage is never a good thing. It's not that it is a bad thing, but it is the hardest thing I ever did in my life,” says Janet. “I don't go to class reunions or anything. I did not graduate; I have never been to a prom and had only gone to two high school dances in my life. I not only robbed myself, but it was not fair to the baby either.”

As for Leah-Ann Mulry, her relationship with her high school boyfriend quickly ended and she became a single mom, working as a nursing assistant and trying to do her best with Kenny. His father did not stay involved in their son's life.

“I didn't know any other moms. I was 22 when Kenny was in kindergarten. I think it was my own insecurity,” she remembers. “plus he was a horrendous child. I blame myself for that. He had no structure in his life. We were always coming and going.”

Mulry is now married with two more children Sam, 7 and Emma 6. Kenny, 22, lives with them and works for his uncle as a chimney technician.

“Kenny's childhood is like night and day compared to my two younger children,” says Mulry. “When he was young, I was consumed with things like how I was going to pay for gas to get to work. Now, I'm a soccer mom.”

Described as a sports lover and a guarded young man, she and her son rarely discuss their shared diffi cult past.

“If I had to do all over again, I would have defi nitely not gotten pregnant at 17,” refl ects Mulry. “I'd teeter on the idea of adoption. Should I have done that? Not for selfi sh reasons but to have given him a better life? Maybe.”

She pauses and adds, “My advice to teen moms would be to always think about the child fi rst. They didn't ask to be here. We brought them here, and they deserve the best we can give them.”

The Teen Mom Truth

  • Pregnant teens are less likely to complete high school and attend college than teenagers who avoid pregnancy.
  • Many teenage parents live below the poverty level and rely on welfare.
  • The children of teenage parents receive inadequate medical care, have more problems in school and spend more time in prison than children of adult parents.
  • The teenage marriage rate has declined in recent decades, leaving many  young mothers without a husband's financial support. Although the teenage pregnancy rate in the 1950s and 1960s was higher than today, the teenage marriage rate was also higher; in 1960 the percentage of unmarried teenage births was 15 percent, compared with 75 percent today.

* Name has been changed for privacy purposes

Top search
- 6 Ways To Have a Natural Miscarriage
- Foods That Cause Miscarriage
- Losing Weight In A Week With Honey
- Can You Eat Crab Meat During Pregnancy?
- Grape Is Pregnant Women’s Friend
- 4 Kinds Of Fruit That Can Increase Risk Of Miscarriage
- Some Drinks Pregnant Women Should Say No With
- Signs Proving You Have Boy Pregnancy
- Why Do Pregnant Women Have Stomachache When Eating?
- Top Foods That Pregnant Women Should Be Careful Of
- 6 Kinds Of Vegetable That Increase Risk Of Miscarriage
Top keywords
Miscarriage Pregnant Pregnancy Pregnancy day by day Pregnancy week by week Losing Weight Stress Placenta Makeup Collection
Top 5
- 5 Ways to Support Your Baby Development
- 5 Tips for Safe Exercise During Pregnancy
- Four Natural Ways Alternative Medicine Can Help You Get Pregnant (part 2)
- Four Natural Ways Alternative Medicine Can Help You Get Pregnant (part 1)
- Is Your Mental Health Causing You to Gain Weight (part 2) - Bipolar Disorder Associated with Weight Gain