Not all teen pregnancies are unplanned
It's easy to assume that all adolescent pregnancies are unplanned. But some teenagers do plan to become pregnant. Instead of worrying about birth control or abstinence, these teenagers actually try to conceive. And they have high hopes that a child will bring more love and meaning into their lives.
Twenty-one-year-old Tawney Morris is trying to make the best of a hot day with her two-year-old son, Chaz. She sets up a slide and kiddie pool outside their apartment in Traverse City.
Morris is trying to make warm memories and connections with her son – something she no longer has with her own parents.
“I haven’t talked to my mom in 11 years. Me and my dad – our relationship goes back and forth. I moved out when I was 17 for more than one reason,” said Morris.
She wanted badly to be a part of a loving family. So when she was 18, she decided to have a child. “I was with somebody, I was engaged. I just decided that I wanted to have my own. I wanted to create my own family, something that would be close, close to my heart,” she said.
Morris felt ready to be a parent. But at the time she wasn’t in good place. “I smoked a lot of marijuana and did a lot of bad things – drinking, underage drinking, and underage driving when I was drinking,” she says.
There hasn’t been a lot of research done on teenagers who plan to become pregnant.
Kristen Montgomery is one of the few researchers who has studied this phenomenon. She’s a nurse midwife. And when she started working with adolescents, her assumptions about teenage pregnancy changed.
Montgomery said, “Oftentimes I had patients say things like, 'I waited till I was 17.'”
Of course, most teenage pregnancies are not intentional. According to the Journal of Pediatric Health Care, 15% of all teenage pregnancies are planned. And according to Montgomery, it’s possible these teenagers want something more in their lives.
“They wanted to be loved and they wanted something to take of. They wanted to be seen as adults, someone who could take care of themselves. They felt like having a baby was one way to do that."
Montgomery understands why some young women may want to have children. But she does not encourage it.
“My goal was to come up with interventions to help delay pregnancy, and so I was looking to learn what some of those contributing factors were to why women plan to get pregnant so I could come up with ways to fuel those passions into something else,” said Montgomery.
Back at the kiddie pool in Traverse City, Morris says that she does not regret getting pregnant and having a son. But she doesn’t over-romanticize teenage pregnancy either. It’s been really difficult. Her son’s father cheated on her. They broke up. For a while she had no support. And no job.
“My work told me to either leave and find day care or not come back. Obviously, I didn’t have day care at the time so I left,” explains Morris.
Now Morris lives with her current boyfriend and works part-time at a pet store. She’s on food assistance and gets other types of support from the Department of Human Services. One day, she hopes she’ll be able to provide for her son without any help. But for now, she enjoys just spending time with him.
“He listens like he’s a smart little boy. And when he knows mom’s upset, he always gives me hugs and kisses.”
In some respects, Morris did get what she had wanted: to be a part of a loving family.
Note: This piece was produced by Renee Gross in the summer of 2014. Since then, Tawney Morris married her boyfriend, Don. They had a child together, a son, who is now four weeks old.