Pregnant Teens Talk About Life as Young Moms

Four girls talk about life as a pregnant teen in a GMA roundtable discussion.

ByABC News via via logo
February 26, 2009, 6:38 PM

Jan. 22, 2008 — -- The disbelief came first, followed quickly by a heart-palpitating panic, before the realization and acceptance arrived.

"I was shocked at first because I really wasn't expecting," said 17-year-old Janelle Stephens, who is two months pregnant. "If I had to choose a better time for this to happen, trust me I would have. But it happened."

The cheerleading captain is one of the 750,000 young women annually who has become pregnant at least once before age 20, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.

Despite millions spent on ad campaigns and abstinence-only programs, for the first time in 15 years the teen birthrate rose, according to government statistics for 2005 to 2006, the most recent numbers available.

Teen pregnancy's face got a lot more public when 16-year-old Jamie Lynn Spears, the Nickelodeon "Zoey 101" actress and sister to troubled pop star Britney Spears, announced in December she was expecting a child.

Her story was plastered across magazine covers, and along with pop-culture references like in the critically acclaimed movie "Juno" about a pregnant high schooler, reignited an age-old national debate about teen pregnancy.

In the last two decades, tweens and teens have been inundated with info and programs about sex and protecting themselves in a post-HIV world. Some wonder how a generation with access to so much information and so many contraceptives, unlike previous ones, can have a higher rate of pregnancies.

A group of expectant and teen mothers met with ABC News' Deborah Roberts to discuss the trials and tribulations of being a young parent.

The pregnant ladies defied stereotypes, like 18-year-old Teka Steward who already is in her second trimester. The straight-A student was a self-described "goody-two-shoes" before becoming impregnated.

"[I was] the goody-two-shoes whose mom worked in the school district and couldn't do anything because she'd find out. I was the captain of my golf team. … I was very involved in Young Life, a leader … involved in my church, went on mission trips," said Teka, who is six months along.

"It was just kind of an image and then temptations of doing stuff. I'm a regular teen. I fall sometimes … all the times," she added.

Teka had heard all the information on safe sex and said she practiced it. To her shock, it didn't prevent her pregnancy.

"We used protection and it just — I think it broke," she said. "You don't even know it's happening until it happened."

Her reaction upon learning the news was unsurprising.

"At first you're like, 'OK, this totally ruined my dreams,'" she said.

She feels differently now.

"You got to keep pushing forward. Keep pressing towards your dreams," Teka said.

Many pregnant teens, who find little support, end up in poverty and only 3 percent finish college before age 30.

Those numbers don't get Ashley Chapman down. She learned she was expecting at age 17.

"I think we should make new statistics," said the 18-year-old mother of 3-month-old Max.

"At first I thought I would just kind of take care of it. And then I realized I can't. I had sex and I have to be mature and deal with the consequences and grow up really fast," she said.

The days of her carefree teen life are behind her as she tends to Max's every need.

"It is totally different. It is because you can go shopping. You can do whatever you want and then when you have a baby. It's completely different," she said. "Everything is about them and feeding them and changing them and playing with them."

Besides the weight of an impending infant, pregnant teens also must deal with how society, family and friends view them.

"A lot of people are disappointed. They say, 'Oh, she's a waste' and you know, 'Her whole future's going down the drain,'" said Angela Gavieres, who learned she was expecting at 15 years old and was "freaking out."

"My future and my school, I was terrified," said Angela, who currently is five months pregnant.

Janelle has dealt with the same issue.

"In school I let a lot of the teachers down because they was expecting more from me," Janelle said.

"The other day — my friend — her little sister called me Jamie Lynn Spears," Janelle added. "I felt heartbroken because I was like, 'She used to look up to me.' And I felt like I let her down in some kind of way and I felt bad."

Both Janelle and Teka felt the negative press Jamie Lynn received had less to do with her pregnancy and more to do with her family.

"Honestly, I just feel like they're beating up on her — on Jamie Lynn — because of the simple fact that — one — Britney Spears is her sister," Janelle said.

Teka echoed Jamie Lynn Spears' statement on teenage pregnancy.

"I'm not going to encourage teens to have sex and get pregnant. But, I'm learning, you know, from this," she said.

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