I recently read a posting concerning pregnancy and unwed couples in the Black community titled “How Do You Get Pregnant By Accident (It’s Your Fault)” and felt like I, as someone who fits into this group of unwed mothers, needed to respond to what I feel are many assumptions and inaccuracies the author makes.
I understand not everyone is going to read the article, but it basically asserts that with as many options available for birth control and contraception that laziness is the only reason for women to have unplanned pregnancies. The posting also, in the vein of the typical older Black religious opinion, suggests that marriage out of wedlock is something that should be shunned.
I knew upon telling my parents (devout Christians, although me and my siblings have for the most part strayed away from our Baptist upbringing) that after their initial shock and disappointment the next logical step for them would be to suggest marriage. While B and I have been in a committed relationship for nearly 4 years I knew that there were a few reasons that I was going to add to the disappointment and not yield to their wishes of getting married. I did not want to be rushed/forced into marriage because I was pregnant. If it wasn’t an option that we were considering before pregnancy I don’t know why we would rush into it simply because of a child. Secondly (and this is purely a selfish reason,) while I don’t dream of an extravagant fancy wedding I do have some sort of idea of a ceremony that I have fantasized about planning since I was a little girl. Having a wedding ceremony that I envisioned is just not possible now and I definitely would not feel as beautiful as I think a bride should while attempting to hide a baby bump.
While I won’t go so far as others to say that the institution of marriage is antiquated, especially for Americans with high divorce rates, I would rather be 100% sure of my decision. I constantly feel the weight of this decision–most recently at our birthing class when the instructor kept referring to B as my husband and then one session noticed my lack of wedding ring and as a devout Catholic felt the need to cluck her disapproval. I shrugged it off, but it is a common judgement people often make. While I do agree with poster “Da Throne” about teen pregnancy needing to be made less acceptable I do not feel that trying to embarrass or placing the “scarlet letter” on unwed mothers is the way to go about it.
I do think that with the prevalence of contraceptives and birth control there needs to be a higher accountability for BOTH men and women. Many pregnancies are due to negligence of BOTH men and women, single motherhood however is less about negligence than accountability for men (completely separate post though). Pregnancy is not a one way street! But as a former teacher who has seen young parents birth children who in turn become young parents it should be obvious that children need to be informed and educated about sex and their various options. I know this is treading into murky and controversial waters, but in many communities (low income and otherwise) proper knowledge of sexual protection and contraception is often not addressed in the home. As a teenager sex was a taboo subject in my household and I had to have a quick learning curve when I got to college.
While I was indeed on birth control when I got pregnant, as was my older sister when she got pregnant, I apparently either am part of the 0.00000001% who birth control fails or inadvertently took my pill incorrectly. (My mother seems to think as a family we are particularly fertile, although I don’t know the validity of this claim.) Regardless, I refuse to be embarrassed of the fact that I am an unwed expectant mother. I have made that choice consciously. While I consider myself to be different than many of the typical characterizations of unwed pregnant women, I think the general “shame on you” condescending tone of the man writing the post is unnecessary. I agree that the rate of teenage mothers needs to be curbed, but I think that shaming and embarrassing young women is the least productive way to go about accomplishing this.