Pregnant teenagers may not be taking their situation seriously enough
By TANYA ENBERG (external - login to view)
Everywhere you look, women are either sporting the magical glow that's said to go along with the big belly, or they're already carting about their little bundles of joy.
By everywhere, I mean Hollywood, where incidentally all things cool (whether manufactured like the season's must-have "it" bag, or something natural like child rearing) are spawned.
But it isn't the baby-on-board belly of actress Halle Berry that's causing the greatest stir at the moment, though she's very much pregnant and remains at the top of her game as far as landing magazine covers go.
That she's a little past her best-before date for motherhood doesn't much matter. She's 41, but 40-something women donning maternity wear is now as common as the daily tracking of Britney's antics, which leads me to the person who has really got our tongues wagging.
At just 16, Britney's little sister Jamie Lynn Spears, star of Nickelodeon kids' series Zoey 101, will soon be lugging around an inflated tummy of her own.
While Jamie Lynn's certainly not the first sweet 16 to get pregnant before attending senior prom, she's arguably the most famous.
Now I am tempted to write that Jamie Lynn will do just fine as a mother because of the wealth and privilege that comes with fame, but time has proven that cash alone cannot safeguard one against recklessness or stupidity, nor does money offer the one thing it ought to be able to buy -- birth control.
But there's really no point in bad-mouthing the kid.
Accidents happen, even to the rich and famous, the young and fresh-faced, and to those who also happen to be youth role models.
Nancy Peters, executive director of the Toronto-based Massey Centre, which provides resources for pregnant teens, believes young girls understand the importance of practising safe sex, but that doesn't mean they always follow the rules.
"From my experience, they know what they're supposed to do," she says.
"The real issue is not always being prepared. We don't hear anyone saying 'I didn't know what to do.' "
While teens are not typically high-income earners and most lack invaluable life experience, Peters notes that despite these factors, young moms can succeed.
"They can do very well, but they can't if they don't have the means to support themselves."
For Jamie Lynn, since her announcement last month, the actress with the girl-next-door face has been crowned the poster child for the prevention of teen pregnancy.
Says Bill Albert, deputy director of the U.S.-based National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy in a release posted on the group's website: "We hope that Jamie's pregnancy encourages her young fans to think carefully about sex and contraception, the possibility of pregnancy, and the lifelong challenges of being a parent."
Sadly, the teen's status may have the opposite effect.
That teen pregnancy should become even remotely cool with the kids is a worse-case scenario sort of take, but it's also entirely possible, what with our cultural obsession with all things celebrity.
"It might happen," observes Canadian youth expert Karyn Gordon.
"It's still a pretty big stigma ... but that could change in five or six years," Gordon notes.
In fact, in less time than you might think, we could be spotting pimply-faced girls out on a Friday night thumbing through chic maternity garb and think it's normal.
After all, we've all seen how quickly trends can spread.
Think of Demi Moore, who stirred the controversial pot in 1991 by posing nude and pregnant on the cover of Vanity Fair. Now it's a must-do photoshoot among the Hollywood set.
Social norms transform and, much in the same way, Jamie Lynn's jaw-dropping news could turn teen mothering into something more hip than Lululemon yoga wear.
"Now, having a baby in Hollywood is almost like a fashion accessory," observes Gordon.
"I think it takes more than one celebrity to have a major impact, but this could be a start ... it will be interesting to see what happens," she says.
With films such as Juno, starring Canadian actress Ellen Page playing a teen who unexpectedly finds herself expecting, the seed of change may already be planted.
"What concerns me is that they're (teenagers) not really that concerned or scared if they do get pregnant," says Gordon.