Dec 072011
 
Authors: Eugene Daniels, Laura Esposito, Logan Martinez

A woman spends nine months walking around with a human being inside of her. Someone who can’t take care of his or her self and therefore must depend on the mother to supply everything the baby needs to survive. It’s the ultimate sign of trust –having to wait on someone else to eat, to receive nutrients, or protect you from any danger. It creates a bond –an unbreakable bond that even science can’t explain.

Naturally, when you think of someone balancing pregnancy with exams and essays, the first image that comes to mind is a co-ed in a maternity outfit. But it takes two to make a child.

The men (if they choose to do what society deems “the right thing” and stay around) are often forgotten –making their perspective
rarely heard. Wes White, a natural resources management major at Colorado State University, couldn’t agree more.

“People really do focus on the female role when it comes to children and don’t think about us males,” White said.

White and his wife of six years, Angela, have 2 children: 3-year-old Jordan and 18-month-old Eleanor. White found out he would be a father before he enrolled at CSU and says between the two of them it really works out. Not only is White a father, husband and student, but he also works an average of 25 hours per week at The Melting Pot.

“It’s definitely a juggling act. I never go to sleep at a decent hour and I’m up at 6:30 with the kids,” he said. His wife is a full-time therapist and when he’s not in class the duty of childcare falls on him.

The largest difference White finds between the treatment of mothers and fathers in society are the opportunities for aid in college. Even though White says the dads are a silent presence on campus.

“There are tons of scholarships for college mothers but there are none to help men,” he said. “It’s kind of frustrating at times because I’m doing the same amount of work as a mom would do.”

White says that the juggling does get to be a bit much sometimes when he needs a little relief and just wants an hour for a nap, but that almost never happens.

“Sometimes I feel guilty, like I’m not being the best father at times because school does demand a lot of time,” he said. “And it can feel like I’m not giving them the time they deserve. That’s hard on me.”

According to White, despite how hard it is to balance, it’s all worth it. “Every day I wake up, I remind myself I’m doing it to take care of my family and it makes it easier.”

When unplanned pregnancy comes into play, the idea of a balanced family can be easily shaken. Many times the shockwave that occurs after that little white stick reveals two lines instead of one can effect far more people than just the woman. There are parents of
pregnant women, employers, professors, even hopeful adoptive parents all hanging in the balance of what the woman decides to do next. All of these players are vulnerable to the “what now” of an unplanned pregnancy –a vulnerability that the media has become a master at targeting.

November was National Adoption Awareness month, but for the media the images of pregnancy are scattered over multiple media outlets. From TV shows to big screen, pregnancy is an image our society is used to seeing.

Questions about whether the media are adding to the popularity of unplanned
pregnancy are in constant circulation. However, in the case of a hopeful adoptive family, that plug from the media is something they rely on.

Since the release of “Juno” in 2007, there have been more than a half-dozen movies surrounding pregnancy including, “Baby Mama,” “The Back-up Plan” and “Away We Go.”

That doesn’t include the lengthy list of TV shows airing on multiple channels including ABC’s “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” TLC’s “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant,” MTV’s “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant” and NBC’s “The Baby Borrowers.”

While each show provides audiences with a different message, the inclusion of pregnancy remains the constant. Kurt North, communications and popular
culture instructor at CSU, explained that there is great debate over whether or not these shows glorify pregnancy.

“I know you can find stats on both sides saying that it is doing one thing or another,” North said. “Media effects are always the argument over scholars and cultural critics.”

Paige, a birth mother who chose adoption for her daughter after she found out she was pregnant, said that the shows might be reaching young adults even though they leave out key factors of pregnancy like Medicaid assistance and doctor appointments.

“They don’t miss a lot of details,” Paige said. “I actually love the fact that they have adoption as something they can do, but some of the teen moms are doing great and some are doing poorly.”

According to a study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, exposure to sexual content rather than pregnancy on TV predicted a woman’s probability of becoming pregnant.
The study showed that teens exposed to high amounts of sexual content on TV were twice as likely to experience a pregnancy in the following three years as opposed to a teen with a low exposure to sexual content.

“I can’t name one show, or commercial even, that doesn’t have some form of sexuality in it,” Paige said. “And that is because in today’s society, sex sells and everyone is doing it, so that won’t stop a teenager from getting pregnant.”

North utilizes that same sexual content on TV to ignite his class discussions.

“Mostly we think about it as not affecting me, but as affecting someone else – like younger crowds and teenagers,” North said. “That is who we are really worried about and who we want to regulate it for.”

Even though women may not believe it’s affecting them, there are other messages being passed around that may not draw viewers’ immediate attention.

“The shows have influenced American girls, spreading the message that it’s okay to get pregnant because MTV might fund it. One “Teen Mom” star stated in court that she makes $140,000 per season, not including endorsements and appearances,” Shontel Stewart mentioned in her article “The Price of Teen Pregnancy and the Influence of Reality TV” on the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange website.

But not all critics agree that the shows are encouraging youths to experience pregnancy.

“As far as I’m concerned, they are among the most effective teen-pregnancy prevention PSAs ever made,” Bill Albert, chief program officer of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy in Washington, D.C., said in a National Post article, “Teen Moms on TV — The New Birth Control?” by Tamsin McMahon. “Anyone who has watched the show knows it shows a very gritty reality of teen pregnancy. There’s nothing glamorous about those young people’s lives.”

The organization also released survey statistics that stated of teens who viewed the 2009 season of 16 and Pregnant, 87 percent agreed that it helped to educate them about teen parenthood more than anything else.

Glorified or not, audiences are being bombarded with images of pregnancy. Many of these popular TV shows and movies are then underlined with a multitude of messages from ethical shame to single-mom bliss.

“What they are trying to say is that you are going to have long nights, you are going to have difficult times with the father, with parents, with trying to figure out school, and it is going to be really rough,” North said.

“From what I understand they do show that to an extent, but at the same time you are making teen idols out of these moms.”

Paige says she sees TV’s incorporation of pregnancy in both lights. “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant” can go either way,” Paige said. “If younger girls are listening to the message, I feel it can help prevent teen pregnancy. But some younger girls don’t listen to the message.”

North sees media as a complement to other life experiences for young people, rather than the leading cause for unplanned
pregnancies.

“Teenage rates of pregnancy overall are down,” North said. “Although, I guess sex rates are probably up right now. How much can we attribute that to media, as opposed to single parent households or the preponderance of drugs and alcohol for teenagers?”

Though the cause for unplanned pregnancy may not be attributable solely to TV, unplanned pregnancy is enveloping several teen-based channels that North said were used to drive ratings.

“TV caters to a teenage market and [pregnancy] is something that is
happening for teenagers,” North said. “There certainly is a large population of teens that get pregnant and it certainly is a big worry for teenagers so they are just appealing to their
demographic.”

The amount of messages that demographic has to decipher is almost as overwhelming as the amount of choices in the variety of entertainment outlets.

“No two teens who become pregnant share the same experience,” Stewart said. “This is easy to forget with the stories portrayed on MTV’s so-called reality shows. It’s hard to see past the glamorized magazine covers, a good paycheck and, of
course, fame.”

Though the glamorization of pregnancy on TV is easy to believe, young parents-to-be make their own choices about their next move after discovering they are pregnant.

“The first couple of days after I found out I didn’t know what to do,” Paige said.

While Paige was trying to decide what her next move would be with her
pregnancy, she went to a pregnant friend for advice and was given an adoption agency’s
phone number.

“I was still feeling very sad and emotional about the whole thing for about two weeks into it,” Paige said. “I went to talk to the agency and met my adoption counselor. I then knew, after discussing every option, that an open adoption was the best thing for me.”

Through Paige’s choice she found her child’s new home with a family she loves and is still able to experience her child’s development.

“The adoption process has been very open,” Paige said. “I get to see her all the time. I get pictures. I get to watch her grow up every month and it brings joy to my life –just knowing she is happy and getting everything she needs.”

Paige chose adoption because she knew it would be the best chance at giving her child the life she wanted her to have.

“I wasn’t in school and was working a fast food job, which made it nearly impossible to be a single mother,” Paige explained.

Though Paige chose adoption, she still encourages other young parents to make their own choices about pregnancy.

“I love the life I have now,” Paige said. “I wanted to just let girls know that
regardless of what you do, make sure its the right choice for you.”

 Posted by at 9:16 am

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