Monday, December 17, 2007

Who's next?

From the time children can first talk, we hear “your turn,” “my turn,” or “whose turn?” Today “who's next?” took on new meaning as I chatted with the girls in the Arlington teen parenting program.

The concept of turn determines who is the next line leader, who will take the next eye exam, who gets to play next in a piano recital, who is next to get on the waiting school bus.

But today’s ordering had to do with who would be next to give birth. The girls all know each other’s due dates. The girl who is due next week and is next admitted to being scared. Who wouldn’t be scared to be giving birth for the first time at 16 or 17?

I’m coming to love all these girls who call all of us adults “Miss”, never either remembering or daring to use our first names.

I have to constantly remind myself that they are about 8 years younger than my daughter, whom I cannot yet picture as a mother.

I worked with Rosa today on her activity book for her baby. It turns out her baby was born prematurely 9 months ago. She told me how her focus has shifted away from her needs to his, how she gets him up at 6:30 each day so they can start their long day, how he’s standing up and trying to walk, how she still allows herself the luxury of getting her nails redone every 2 weeks at a cost of $25. She became quite proficient at sewing Velcro on the clown face parts for that page of the activity book. She threaded the needle repeatedly as she forgot to leave a long enough piece of thread on top.

There is nothing but positive energy coming out of this program, as skilled professionals help these young girls before and after their baby’s birth serving as surrogate parents. For many who live in families where there is little English, I’m sure this lifeline is extremely important.

I can’t wait to hear how each and every one of them fares in the birthing process. Their babies’ lives will be enriched by the things they are making and by the life skills this program imparts.


Blogger Richard said...

At one time, this would have been considered a relatively normal birthing age.

At one time in Quebec (maybe it is still on the books), girls as young as 12 were allowed to marry with their parents permission.

6:30 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

Have you ever read The Patron Saint of Liars? I do love that book, the story of unwed mothers and a married woman who identified more strongly with them than anybody else.

8:20 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Richard -- I get the sense that in many of these cases there is no father in the picture. It's scary enough to be going into parenthood with a partner, but all alone must be terrifying.

Kristin -- Thanks for the suggestion. I'll check it out. I'm learning a lot about the challenges young immigrants to this country face.

8:44 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Yes, I know, I was just looking at it from another perspective. In the past, these girls would have been cloistered away and the child given for adoption.

10:03 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Richard -- I quite agree. Not that long ago a pregnant girl under the age of 17 went to visit her grandmother or her aunt and came back no longer pregnant and with no baby.

There is no stigma about being pregnant for the girls in this program. It's not about blame, but rather about survival in a world that is often not easy.

11:53 PM  

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