Teen Pregnancy: A Multi-Generational Perspective

By: Kimberly Brown Email
By: Kimberly Brown Email

STATELINE (WIFR) -- "I was nervous and scared," Liz Smith said.

"I was pretty sad. I didn't know how to tell my parents," Sofia Ochoa said.

It was once rarely talked about. Now, it's on the cover of magazines and even has its own shows, but being a teen mom is more real for these girls than what's seen on reality TV.

"I think they kind of glamorize it more because they don't show the hardships like that really happen," Smith said.

Meet Liz. She's eight months pregnant. She's also a 16-year-old sophomore at Belvidere North. Her parents and boyfriend are supporting her.

"My future - I know it's going to change. It's gotten harder I guess, but it hasn't really changed too much, yet," Smith said.

But a lot has changed for Sofia Ochoa. She had to drop out of high school at East to stay at home with her son Benjamin, who's now four months old. Her family and boyfriend are also helping her raise him.

"My whole plan of graduating, going to college and all that - just had to put a big pause on it and just wait for me to start all over again," Ochoa said.

These moms say they've noticed more girls their age having babies too young. They also think the numbers are growing, but state statistics show teen pregnancy has remained the same throughout the last few years. That trend continues as far back as 1993.

And while the stats haven't changed, some think our culture accepts the issue. But for those who lived it 20 years ago like Yolanda Cruz - she remembers it differently.

"I was scared. I mean it's a scary place. I was 17 years old and 6 months pregnant what are you gonna do," Cruz said.

Back then, she wasn't supported by her parents. It left her pregnant, scared and homeless. Yolanda had to move into a community shelter and work her way up, but she did get help from ‘MELD’ which supports young parents. It's what she credits to her newfound success. She mentors other young moms trying to make it, but she spent most of her time warning her own daughters about the cycle.

"My daughter who I was pregnant with at MELD is now graduating high school and is going to college. And if I hadn't gotten that guidance from MELD, she would probably be pregnant and ready to move into the housing project," Cruz said.

After that 20 year struggle, Yolanda has a college degree and just started a new job.

Liz still has a while to go. She's due in June.

TV

The Parents Television Council is a non-partisan group advocating for responsible entertainment. 23 News contacted them about what they think about the social stigma surrounding teen pregnancy. No research has been done by the group, however, reps for the group think while pop culture media recognizes the epidemic; they say it also makes the issue seem more accepting.

"Just the fact that we have so many young girls that are being made into celebrities for having accomplished nothing with their lives other than becoming a teen mom it does make it seem more acceptable. And I think we've heard a number of news stories over the last few years about pregnancy pacts in high schools and things like that and it's being treated as something rather inconsequential," PTC Communications Director, Melissa Henson said.

Rose Romero says she was one of two girls in her high school pregnant. She thinks the shows don’t portray teen mom life accurately.

"I'm not a big fan of any of those t-v shows but I never see any of them work. Everybody kind of sits on the couch with their significant others."

One teen mom tells us she thinks the shows accurately paint a picture of what it’s like to be a teenage mother by showing some responsibilities.

Learning From the Past

One Rockford teen mom, Marilu Teran, tells us she warns other girls at school about the importance of using protection. She hopes they learn from her mistake.

"I think some girls just think it's just cool. They just think that getting pregnant is getting pregnant. But they don't realize that it's getting up in the middle of the night when they're newborn's," Teran said.

Teran will graduate in a few days from East High School. She plans to go to school and improve she and her daughter’s lives.


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