TALKING SEX: Turning 15 and pregnant
At the Barbados Family Planning Association, we think the voices of young people need to be heard. Following is a testimonial of a young mother from our adolescent and young mothers programme funded with support from the Maria Holder Trust and the Caribbean Policy Development Centre.
“I WAS TAUGHT from a young age to have Christian values. I knew that having sex was something that my mother had warned me to avoid. But, I wanted to fit in and all the other girls at school seemed to be having sex.
I had a boyfriend when I was 14 and we had sex. The first time was strange and fast as it was his first time too. We had to sneak away to do it without getting caught. He was 15 and could not get a condom every time so he used to pull out.
The gas stations would sell without questions but we lived far from a station. Not surprisingly, now that I look back, I got pregnant within three months. Everybody in my neighbourhood said they knew that I would get pregnant because I was an “upstart” with myself.
When I first found out I was pregnant several things crossed my mind such as “How do I tell my mother?”, “How would I finish school?” and “How am I going to take care of a newborn baby?”
I felt so horrible that I brought so much shame to my mother. I knew my mother was counting on me to finish secondary school so I could work and help her with my little brothers and sisters and of course pay bills. My mother also hoped that one day I could eventually work and put myself through university.
People called me all sorts of degrading names in the neighbourhood. I had to leave secondary school to have my baby and I told my mother that I am not going back because the children at school will tease me.
As a teen mother I ran into financial difficulties because I lacked the necessary skills and qualifications to obtain a job and I was too young to be hired. As a teenager with a baby I also had no social life. This is because the people I thought were my friends just disappeared when they heard the news.
I felt sad and alone with no one to whom I could turn to in order to share my desires, dreams, complaints and goals. This gave me emotional stress because I felt like the world was against me. My ex-boyfriend told me he loved me but when he found out I was pregnant he said that he was not the father and to never speak to him again. From that moment onwards I felt like I was living a nightmare.
I never planned on being a single mother at 15 years old. However, I consider myself lucky because my mom took me to the Barbados Family Planning Association (BFPA) because she knew I was hurting inside and didn’t know how to cope with my situation.
The BFPA has a programme called the “Adolescent and Young Mothers’ programme”. It gives you counselling sessions but you can be exposed to educational opportunities as well and practical skills like dressmaking and cosmetology. You must complete a minimum of two CXC’s ranging from mathematics to English A.
The programme teaches us self- empowerment, budgeting and financial management, parenthood, sexual and reproductive health and nutrition. It prepared me for the world of work, how to do resumes, how to write application letters, how to dress appropriately and how to conduct myself in a working environment.
I strongly believe that no teenage mother in Barbados should have share the burden of a teenage pregnancy alone. The BFPA will be there to help them to build not only life skills but also give that individual another chance at life. People and companies need to support us in this programme.”
Juliette Bynoe-Sutherland is the executive director at the BFPA. The health clinic can be reached at 427-2027 or [email protected]