“You always tell me you want to break the cycle of teenage pregnancy and poverty that has been going on in your family for generations,” I mentioned to Rochelle at the beginning of our last meeting. She had been successfully working to improve her financial situation since we had begun our interviews a year and a half ago; last April she got hired by a good company with opportunities for advancement, but it had been quite a while since we had discussed the teenage pregnancy situation that had helped cause her poverty. Teenage pregnancy was the norm in her extended family; how did she plan on preventing the cycle from repeating in her children’s generation? Her eldest daughter, Kalinda, is now 11. I had thought she was 12 because she is tall and looks older, but she won’t turn 12 until the summer. Rochelle has not talked to Kalinda about sex yet. “ I think maybe 7th grade is a good time,” she had told me about a year ago. Kalinda is now in 6th grade; she mixes with 7th and 8th graders in her junior high school; Rochelle’s eldest sister got pregnant in junior high at 13. “She is around older girls and I’m sure they are discussing sex,” I said. “If your sister can get pregnant at 13, it could happen to your daughter just as well. What do you think prevents young girls from going down that path? What will prevent your daughter from becoming pregnant?” I asked.
“Well, I think the parent needs to be home or to have the kids supervised when you aren’t there,” Rochelle said. “When I was growing up there was no adult around. My sisters brought boys home and I saw all that. My mother brought men home all the time as well. We weren’t supervised at all. When I got pregnant I just went into denial and told no one. Never went to the doctor. But then, of course, I had to go to the hospital when I went into labor. Being in denial didn’t keep the baby from coming.” I told Rochelle that supervision was needed but it took more than that to prevent teen pregnancies. “Did you ever think about how a child would change your life or about how much money and effort is involved in raising a child?” I asked her. “No,” she said, “I was totally unprepared.”
“If Kalinda has a child as a teenager it will also become your problem,” I suggested. “It will be a huge change for Kalinda, but it will also be a huge change for you because that baby will be in your house. It is your responsibility to share all this with your daughter; to tell her how hard your life became because of a pregnancy at 16. She didn’t make it hard for you, but being 16 at the time did. You need to talk to her about all this and to talk to her about sex and contraception as well. Kids grow up fast. You grew up fast. You need to find the time to talk to her; the sooner you do it the better for both of you,” I said emphatically. I knew she had a lot going on, but without her moving forward in the education of her daughter, the same cycle will repeat and repeat sooner than she may think.
“Did you have any future plans for your life when you were in high school?” I asked Rochelle. At her job, during the recent interview for a promotion, she had been asked what her five-year plan was. No one had ever asked her that before. I told her it was a common job interview question. Luckily she was successful in her interview and is now promoted to a first level supervisor over cashiers. She starts training this week. The company has asked her to elaborate in writing about various things, one being her goals for five years from now regardless of whether she is still with the company. “If you had had long term goals in your life do you think you might have thought more seriously about preventing a pregnancy when you were 16?” I asked. “Yes, I love my kids, but my life stopped when I got pregnant,” she told me. “You need Kalinda to have goals and to see what can happen to them if she becomes a teenage, single parent,” I said. “I do,” Rochelle said, “I sure do.”