Life as a teenager is often overwhelming. There can be so much to balance between school, jobs, social responsibilities, and your family. If you are a teenager and have found yourself in an unplanned pregnancy, the stress of life has likely just multiplied exponentially. While unplanned pregnancies happen often, it is usually more rare that they happen in teenagers. You might feel alone and out of place. We want to help you and provide information for you to help you make a decision on how to move forward.
Facts About Teen Pregnancy
The most recent study about teen pregnancy was done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2017. This study showed that women ages 15-19 years gave birth to 194, 377 babies. Teen birth rates are falling in the United States between 6% – 10% in women ages 15-19 years old. According to the Pew Research Center, this is the lowest it has ever been since the country started collecting this data in 1940 and that there are less than 18 births per 1,000 girls and women in the 15- to 19- year age range. While the numbers are decreasing nationwide, that still leaves you with an unexpected pregnancy and a lot of decisions to make.
According to recent research, the reason for a decrease in numbers is largely due to young women abstaining from sex and/or using appropriate birth control. To avoid future pregnancies, abstaining from sex is a great strategy. If that’s not something you are willing to do, birth control and the consistent use of contraceptives is very important.
If you are still reading this, it is likely that you are already pregnant, so talking about contraceptives after-the-fact is a little late. We want to share some of the options that you have available to you now that you know you are pregnant. First, you always have the option to choose to parent your child. You are the biological mother of your child. It’s important to remember that you are the main decision-maker for your unborn child. Taking care of a newborn and growing child is usually a lot of work. There are a few questions you might want to ask yourself to see if you are ready and able to raise a baby:
- What kind of support do you have? Think about the family and friends that will surround you and your child. With enough support, you can do anything. Are your parents supportive of the decision to keep the child? Will the baby’s father and/or his family be involved? Do you have friends that will be supportive and present in your life even after the baby is born?
- How will having a baby influence your future? So much of this has to do with the amount of support you have around you. Many times, teen moms aren’t able to finish high school in person and are hesitant to attend college. Will your educational and career goals be limited by having a child at such a young age?
- Are you prepared to sacrifice everything for your child? Being a parent is a huge responsibility. Each phase of a child’s development comes with different challenges, but the newborn stage is especially exhausting. Infants are up every few hours all day and night. They eat constantly, need regular diaper changes, and have a lot of doctor appointments in the first year of their life. Caring for a newborn is often a physically demanding job that requires time and energy. A good parent puts the needs of their child before their own and that can often mean limited time for yourself or others.
- Do you have the resources to care for a child? Some teen mothers have the support of their family and end up living with their parents, having their housing and food paid for, and have family members that are able to provide childcare either for free or at a very discounted price. Not everyone is that lucky. If you don’t have family support, do you have the resources to take care of your baby? You will need secure housing, regular food, baby supplies (diapers, formula, clothes, etc.), a car to drive to doctor appointments, and childcare so you can go to work to provide the basic necessities for you and your baby.
Experiencing an unplanned pregnancy is often a challenge, but it can be especially challenging when you are a teenager. It’s important to be surrounded by support if you make the decision to raise your child. If you don’t have the support you need, adoption for your child might be something you want to consider.
Adoption for Your Child
Regardless of how old you are, you are growing your baby inside of you. You are the child’s mother and as such, you can decide what is best for you and your baby. If you are considering adoption for your baby, there are a few questions you might want to reflect on:
- How do you feel about someone else raising my child? When you place your child for adoption, you will no longer be the parent of your child. Another family will be tucking your baby in every night, taking your child to school, and preparing him/her for his/her wedding day. While it’s likely that you will be involved in your child’s life if you have an open adoption, you won’t be the one responsible for raising and caring for your child.
- Will you be able to go through pregnancy and delivery to then place your child in another mother’s arms? I know this question sounds harsh, but that is the reality of it. You’ve carried your child inside of you for nine months. You will go through hard labor to bring that sweet baby into the world. After having a child, your hormones will likely be all over the place. You can be very emotional. Giving your child to someone else is likely to be very emotionally challenging and will likely require support to get through.
- Do you have support from your family and friends? As mentioned before, placing your child for adoption is often a very emotionally difficult thing to do. You may be sad for a long time. You may need a lot of support from your friends and family as your body and hormones heal from pregnancy/giving birth. You will probably need to have at least one support person to turn to as you work through a very difficult time.
Whichever decision you choose – to parent your child or place your child for adoption – you will know what is best for you and your child. Both situations have their own sets of challenges, but only you can know what is best. Think carefully, talk to people you trust, and really explore all of your options as you make your decision.
Example of Agency Support
In Texas, The Gladney Center for Adoption is a great example of an adoption agency that provides support and guidance for expecting mothers that are considering placing their children for adoption. While their services aren’t available to everyone in the United States, reviewing the services that they offer is a great resource to see what might be out there in your area and the types of adoption agencies you might want to seek out.
The Gladney Center for Adoption provides so much support for women who are pregnant and are working through the decision to place their children for adoption. They offer counseling, rest & respite, guidance on medical care, financial support, guidance on legal services, a program called Living at Home, direction on your next steps, and additional networking and support.
Gladney pairs you with an options counselor that can help you through so many different things. Something that is really impressive about The Gladney Center for Adoption is the support for others in your family. They say, “Counseling and support are also available to key people in your life, such as family members and the baby’s father”. If you already have a child and are overwhelmed and considering placing your child for adoption, their Rest & Respite program might be just what you need. They will provide you with some time away from your child to carefully think about your decision and weigh all of your options. Your child is safe and well-cared for while you take a few days to rest, research, and talk to your options counselor.
A strong adoption agency also helps you find local resources to support your basic necessities. If housing is a problem for you, you are short on food, or don’t know how to get connected with a doctor, a good agency should work with you and connect you with local resources to help you. Often, if you are a pregnant teen and are not on your parents’ insurance, you will qualify for government health care which is free. You might also qualify for food stamps and subsidized housing.
Look for an agency that’s main focus isn’t just finding babies for people to adopt. Look for an agency that is genuinely concerned for you, your child, and for the hopeful adoptive family.
The world of adoption can be a little complicated and has a lot of pieces and people that play important roles. We want to walk you through the adoption process so you are better prepared to navigate things. For a family to adopt, they have to pass their home study. A home study is an in-depth look into the family to make sure that they are emotionally, financially, and physically ready to care for a child. As part of the home study, hopeful adoptive families will answer a series of questions about their childhood, how the couple met, their values, jobs, religion, extended family, mental and medical history, and just about anything else you can think of. A licensed caseworker will meet with the hopeful adoptive family, discuss all of these questions with them, observe their home, and write a full report about the family. They will determine if the home is safe and has enough room for a child. They will also decide if the family is fit to adopt.
Hopeful adoptive families can also put together profile books, accounts, and/or adoption videos for expectant mothers to look through. Profile books are short books filled with pictures and information about the family. They can share all about themselves, what they like to do, their jobs, their love story, their traditions, and anything else they think might be important for you to know. This can be a great way for you to get to know different families before deciding on one or a few that you’d like to choose from. Some families have profiles on websites like Adoption.com where you can learn all about them and message them directly to get to know them a little better. Some families take it a step further and create a short video so you can see them and get a feeling for what they are like.
While you are looking for a family, remember that you can ask them anything you want. This is your child that you will be placing with them and it is your right to find out if they are the right family. Once you decide on a family to adopt your child, you will create an adoption plan. This is usually an informal plan that lays out what will happen when you deliver your child. Will you want the future adoptive parents in the delivery room? At the hospital? Or would you rather the caseworker place the child with the family? You will also decide how open you want your adoption to be. You can choose to have a closed adoption, where there is no contact between you and your child and the adoptive family, or you can have varying degrees of open adoption. Some people exchange emails with pictures and updates while some families have regular visits and video calls to stay connected.
Depending on the state where you live, there will be a waiting period from the time that the child is placed with the adoptive family and when the adoption is finalized. Make sure to talk with your adoption agency about the laws specific to your state so that you can be fully prepared.