Wednesday, September 22, 2010

No Wedding. No Womb. Our Daughters Deserve Better

Shanon and Jeneba are taking part in a phenomenal campaign today, No Wedding No Womb (NWNW) where over 100 Bloggers are collectively, and in tandem, writing posts addressing the pandemic of out-of-wedlock births in the African American Community. The purpose is not to chastise those who have had children out-of -wedlock, but to acknowledge the problem and focus on breaking the cycle.  In 2010, approximately 70% percent of black children are born out of wedlock. That statistic is startling. 
Below is Jeneba's contribution to this effort started by author Christelyn Karazin’s pro-marriage initiative.
This post will be made available on her other Blog homes: and Politics of Raising Children and so that the readers of each of those blog communities can hear the message and share it with others in hopes that the cycle is eventually broken and these sad statistics are reversed.
This past weekend, my husband and I were chauffeuring my children and niece about to weekend activities and the kids were in the back seats chatting. At some point, my 6 year old niece announced that she was going to be a mommy when she grew up. Just then my 8-year old spoke up and said, “no, you’re going to get married first and then you and your husband are going to have a baby.”  My husband and I looked at each other, shocked, but still pleasantly surprised and proud of the maturity of our son’s statement.
But then, that is his reality and that is all he knows.
For others, who have grown up in fatherless households, that is not necessary the reality of their home and of their friends and others in their community.
My son’s response is juxtaposed with another encounter I had with a young girl years earlier when I was in college.  I was waiting for a bus to collect me and take me to campus one afternoon. Waiting in the same bus terminal was a couple of young black teenage girls. I vividly recall hearing one girl say to the other, “yeah, so he wants me to have his baby” and the other girl replying, “really, wow! That’s great!”
Wow. I was stunned. Speechless. Disappointed. Saddened. Troubled. Dismayed. Distraught. — that she was honestly considering purposefully getting pregnant in her teenage years for a boy or man who I assumed she was not married to at the time.
I wish I was brave enough back then to butt in and say something. It would have been a risk, of course, because even back then, interjecting yourself unsolicited into another person’s private conversation was the type of thing that could get you cursed out. Still, though I was not a mother back then, I was an older sister to my younger siblings and I knew that someone needed to tell that girl that she deserved so much better.
I think it was that moment back in the mid-1990s that I realized what one of the primary causes was for planned teenage pregnancy: young girls’ lack of self esteem. I can understand unplanned pregnancies, but planned ones at such an early age just blew away my mind.  I was so taken aback at the idea that a child- and that is what you are when you are an impressionable immature teenager-would consider 1. putting her body through 40 weeks of stressful changes; 2. sacrificing her youth; and 3. doing something so life altering.
If she valued her body, her future, her life, she wouldn’t even entertain the idea. It was beyond my comprehension.
It was certainly not a concept that would even float across my psyche at any time at such a young age.
I grew up with African immigrant parents who used to tell me and my younger sisters “your books are your boyfriend” and would warn us if we get pregnant for certain we could expect the father of our baby to abandon us for the next pretty girl who is thin and not with child. We would be the one left to care for the child alone. We took their words seriously. But we grew up in a two-parent household and did not have to suffer the effects of father abandonment as is the case with many low income single family African American households.
Somewhere along the way, girls stopped believing that they could be bigger than the circumstances they came from and there was another way to live.

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