Ask Mary Jo

Questions about pregnancy

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Q. My best friend is pregnant. It’s for real my friend, not me. I know how people think when kids say their friend did something, they mean it’s really them. My little brother came home from first grade telling us that his friend got into trouble when it was really him, but that’s not what’s happening here. It’s not me. My friend is the same age as I am. Her family knows and my family knows, but since it’s so close to Christmas break, she’s trying to keep things quiet until we come back to school. I have two questions because she’s pregnant. The first one is pretty easy, and I think I know your answer, but it will help me if you back me up in the paper (hint, hint). The second one is really tough.


First question: When I told my mom, she said I should stop hanging out with my friend. She said people would judge me because my friend was pregnant. Something about guilt by association. I told my mom no. She’s my friend. We’ve been friends since first grade, and I’m not going to abandon her now when she needs me. I told my mom she’s just worried that I’ll have sex, too. I won’t. I made a promise and I’m going to wait. It’s my choice. Just like it’s my choice to support her. Am I right, or is my mom right? Will people judge me if I remain her friend? Should I still be her friend?


My second question is really hard. What if she didn’t want to have sex? Her mom has a boyfriend who is really creepy. He’s always hanging out with us when I’m at her house. And he will put his arm around my friend and sometimes act like she’s his girlfriend, you know? Just writing this to you is a huge deal. It would be horrible if I accused him of something like that when he didn’t do anything. It would be more horrible if what I’m afraid of is true. I don’t get why my friend wouldn’t tell me if that was happening. It’s just so messed up. She told me the father of the baby is some 16-year-old she met at the mall. I don’t get how I’m just hearing about this 16-year-old now. We share everything, but she doesn’t bother to tell me about this guy?


What do I do?


14-year-old


Mary Jo’s response: How blessed your friend is to have you in her life!


You and your mom are both correct. Yes, there are people who may judge you because your friend is pregnant. There are also people who may want to hang out with you. I know it may sound weird, but I’ve seen both kinds of reactions. Young parents share honestly with me. They tell me some adults and teens are judgmental when pregnancies are discovered, yet other teens treat a pregnant teen as if she’s more popular now. I believe you’re strong enough to stand for who you are no matter how you’re treated.


As a parent, your mom’s job is to protect you. It sounds as if you and your mom are close and talk openly. I’m glad. I don’t believe you’ll have sex just because your friend is pregnant.


I also believe you when you say it’s your friend’s pregnancy, not yours, although a lot of young people are like your little brother and try to dodge problems.


Friendship is important. Your friend needs your support. She also needs your family’s support. Keep talking with your mom and ask her to help you and your friend. Her pregnancy should not change your friendship.


Your second question is very serious. I’m worked with survivors of sexual abuse for a long time. Few young women immediately disclose abuse when it results in a pregnancy. In time, the truth is usually revealed. I’ve known teens whose pregnancies were the result of nonconsensual sex. At times, the abuser was a member of the young woman’s household or family. It is very, very difficult to reveal abuse. Too often, a young person is afraid or feels shame or guilt. Abuse is never a young person’s fault.


When I train professionals, I remind them to look beyond the superficial. In other words, teen pregnancy may be a symptom of problems like poverty, abuse, a culture of early childbearing, low self-worth and abandonment. I encourage adults to avoid judgment and support young parents. Things are not always what they seem. You are wise beyond your years.


Your instincts may be correct, but you are not able to handle this situation alone. Do not approach anyone in your friend’s family. Please tell your mom your fears right now. If you are unable to tell your mom for any reason, please tell your guidance counselor at school. I will help you speak with your mom or another trusted adult and help you share your thoughts. Adults at Children and Youth Services are trained to respond to challenging situations. Your friend may need help.


Our Teen Outreach supports young people during pregnancy, birth, postpartum and parenting. I’d like to connect with your friend as soon as possible.


You are a courageous young person and a good friend. Let’s meet before break.


Q.I had sex three days ago, and now my belly is sticking out. Could I be pregnant?


15-year-old


Mary Jo’s response: Your belly sticking out is not a sign of pregnancy three days after sex. Did you have vaginal sex without protection before this encounter? If you had unprotected sex, you could be pregnant, but you’ll need a positive pregnancy test to know for certain. I suggest you speak with a parent or trusted adult and share your concerns. I can meet with you if you wish.


If you’re not pregnant, I’d still like to meet with you. Let’s talk about relationships, pregnancy and lowering risk. Your choices are important. You’re a person of worth. I can meet at our office during school break.


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