16&P: Health problems, growing up sans father, yearning for teen normalcy

Last night’s episode of 16 and Pregnant was a rollercoaster — 17-year-old Leah had sex with 19-year-old Corey and got pregnant after knowing him for one month. Corey was a rebound fling after Leah and long-time boyfriend Robbie broke up. Leah was not only having a baby with someone she barely knew, but she was having two babies.

Tonight’s extra-long episode had a lot of different topics: the seriousness of health problems while pregnant, growing up without a father, and the attractions of life without responsibility/the constant struggle between wanting to be a normal teen. Let’s dive right in, shall we?

[Spoilers below!]

1. Health problems of pregnancy. There haven’t been too many episodes that discuss the health problems that can come along with pregnancy — there have been some premature babies, aching backs, and lots of contractions, but Leah’s pregnancy especially higlighted the physical toll of pregnancy.

Leah explained that the babies’ heads often rested on her sciatic nerve, which is the largest nerve in the human body and begins in the lower back and continues through the legs. Because they essentially pinched the nerve from the womb, Leah’s legs would grow numb and/or painful while she slept. Leah also suffered from what sounded like varicose veins, because the uterus puts pressure on large veins in your body and causes extra blood pressure in the veisn themselves.  

Aside from not sleeping through the night and having veiny legs, I think Leah is the first teen to be put on bedrest. After experiencing contractions at only six months and three days of doctors trying to stop the labor, Leah finally was able to go home (on bedrest) and skirted labor for another month and a half. With pregnancy comes lots of unknown or not-talked-about health problems, which only are more serious when you’re young because your body hasn’t fully developed and prepared itself for child-bearing.

2. Growing up without a father. Leah’s dad left her family when she was little, so she has grown up without a father. Because of this, I found it interesting that she was so reluctant to let Corey spend time with the kids after they split. Corey wanted to take Aleeah and Aliannah for the night — he is definitely capable, as he took care of the kids by himself when Leah went to school or went out — yet Leah refused. And gave no explanation why.

My friend and fellow 16 and Pregnant fan, Emily, pointed out to me that she thought Leah had trust issues with men. I think this is a really important observation, because her dad leaving her at such a young age really could be affecting not only how she deals with Corey, but how she views fatherhood in general. Her personal experience is that a father is someone who leaves his kids, so perhaps the supervised visitation is literally because she is nervous he will try to leave them.

Regardless, considering how uninvolved some fathers on 16 and Pregnant have been, it was refreshing that Corey was so worried about not being involved enough in their lives. Yeah, men love their children differently, but it’s not the Ryan-extent (re: Maci) that Dr. Drew tried to explain on the reunion, enabling Ryan’s lack of interest by saying men just love their children in a different way. Corey loved them and actually wanted to see them a lot.

3. Escaping the responsiblity. We’ve seen this on several episodes: Farrah, Jenelle, Nicole, etc. — they all just want to act their age and be teenagers. It’s a tough situation, because you watch everyone else go to school dances, football games, parties, and you feel like you have to get a taste of that before giving in to responsibility.

It’s a harsh saying, but it’s illustrative: If you think you’re mature enough to have sex, you should be mature enough to deal with the consequences. It’s not that these teens don’t know that having sex makes babies, it’s that they are banking that their having sex doesn’t make babies. I understand not wanting to miss out on normal teenage things, but you have to sacrifice some teenage normalcy for parenthood.

For Leah, her escape was her ex-boyfriend, Robbie. He was a symbol of her past life, life without kids, teenage normalcy, having no responsibility, being care-free — this is why she developed feelings for him again and wanted to be around him. I don’t think it was him that she wanted, it was the freedom she wanted. She wanted that normalcy again, and she admitted later in the episode that he was an escape from her responsiblities.

I think this is what tore her and Corey apart — I don’t think she hated Corey, I think Corey was constantly connected to her responsibility as a mother. Corey was a reminder of her responsibility, and she preferred Robbie (teenage normalcy) to Corey (premature responsibility). Once she realized that Robbie was both an escape and immature to boot, she realized that she missed Corey as a person — not as that symbol of looming responsibility.

Of course you want to be your own age — if you’re a teen parent, you didn’t have sex with the intention of throwing away your responsibility-free years. Until you are done with college, you pretty much have society’s blessing to make mistakes, act immature, and not take things too seriously. Then you have a baby, and you are responsible for a human life that needs constant attention. It’s a fast transition.

But where do you draw the line? Are you a Chelsea who stays home and takes care of baby Aubree and rarely goes out, or are you a Jenelle who leaves her baby with her mom and threatens to take baby Jace away forever if her mom doesn’t follow orders? I think a happy medium involves compromise — realizing that you are not a “normal teen” anymore and have added responsibilities, yet (if you can find a baby-sitter) doing “normal” things when feasible.

People make mistakes, they have regrets, but you also need to have a sense of accountability and personal responsibility. I think part of the problem is that these teens are not mature yet, so some of them don’t think it’s wrong to just want to go out, party, etc. and leave their baby with family. Leah was the first one to leave her babies with their father so she could go out, but her actions strongly showed how much she yearned for and missed the care-free teenage life she used to have.

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