Having to grow up early
If you like to sleep, don’t have a baby, a doe-eyed 19-year-old counseled her classmates Wednesday morning.
Katie Kummel cradled 9-month-old Mason as she sat at the front of a Silver Springs High School classroom with other teen mothers, answering some very personal questions.
“If you like having your mom take care of you when you’re sick as a dog, don’t have a baby,” Kummel told her classmates.
She and four other unmarried teen mothers participated on a panel Wednesday to mark National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Day. May is also National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month.
The girls volunteered to participate on the panel at the Grass Valley school to warn their peers about the pitfalls of unplanned parenthood.
Are you upset about pregnant so early? Andy Moore asked.
“I wouldn’t change it, but sometime when you see your friends …” Kummel began.
Why didn’t you choose to get rid of the baby? the girls were asked.
“I don’t believe in abortion,” said Gigi Abbott, 16, mother of 6-month-old Jeremiah. “I didn’t think it was the right thing to do.”
Megan Crane, 16, agreed.
“If you give up your baby for adoption, there’s always a part of you you don’t know,” Kummel said.
Did they use birth control?
“I was two weeks late for getting a (birth control) shot,” one girl said.
“I was too lazy,” another said.
“I missed two (birth control) pills,” another said.
Most of the babies’ fathers are not involved with raising the child and do little or nothing to support them financially.
“They have the choice not to grow up, and we don’t,” Abbott said.
The girls agree they wouldn’t trade their old life for their new baby.
“It doesn’t bother me because my old friends only want to drink and do drugs,” Jenifer Raymond, 17, said. “Half of us would be dead by now if not for our babies.”
Crane said the responsibility of having a baby “was not worth it. It’s two minutes of pleasure for hours of labor and then taking care of a baby,” she said.
The girls outlined the reality of raising a baby while trying to finish their high school education. Occasionally Kate Darby, case manager for the Young Parents Program at the school, interjected even bleaker news.
“Teens think, ‘It won’t happen to me,'” she said of pregnancy.
The old welfare system is gone, Darby warned. Benefits to unwed parents and others were reduced dramatically a few years ago in an overhaul of the welfare system. One young mother told classmates she receives $100 every three months from one government program. Some of the girls’ mothers receive welfare checks on their behalf since they are minors.
The rate of teen pregnancy in Nevada County has dropped dramatically in recent years. Currently there are 60 known pregnant teens or teen parents in Nevada County, Darby said.
“California is still pretty high,” she said. “Los Angeles is a hot spot.”
Planned Parenthood’s extended services program opened in Nevada County in April, said Laurel Knapp, director of Nevada Citizens for Choice, a nonprofit corporation.
The clinic is open Tuesdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Unitarian Church on South Church Street in Grass Valley.
Children 12 and over do not need a parent’s consent to be seen at Planned Parenthood clinics for birth control and testing for disease, Knapp said.
“In the U.S., we have a lot of people who feel that the only training and education in school ought to be abstinence, but that doesn’t cover everybody,” Knapp said. “As we know, that doesn’t prevent teen pregnancy.”
It’s mostly the girls who shoulder the responsibility, noted Gigi Abbott.
“It’s the hardest thing in the world,” she said of being a teen-age mother. “I can’t imagine anything harder.”
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