Teen moms struggle with conflicting roles of mother and student


by Destiny Smith

Because she is pregnant and 15, the future may be different for Reyna Rodriguez. In September, she is expecting a girl.

Unlike many pregnant teens, Reyna said she and her boyfriend, 16, had planned to have a baby, though not necessarily so soon.

She said her parents were disappointed. Her birth father suggested she have an abortion. Her stepfather and her mother offered to keep the child if Reyna did not.

Reyna is an upcoming sophomore at U.S. Grant High School in Oklahoma City.

At nearby Capitol Hill High, Alex Souza, principal for five years, has witnessed teen moms assuming the roles of mother and student.

“Most of these girls don’t dream of being a teen mom,” he said.

Souza said the teen pregnancy rate at his school has increased for five consecutive years and affects the dropout rate. “My biggest concern is the teen mother is not interested in school or focused on her responsibilities,” he said.

He added that young men “run away because they’re not financially stable or don’t want to take care of the baby.”

In Oklahoma City, he said, the northeastern and southwestern areas have high birth rates. Reyna’s school is in the latter area.

A study by the Guttmacher Institute, which researches sexual and reproductive health and rights, indicates that teen pregnancy rates have been declining. But in 2010, Oklahoma ranked sixth among the states, according to livescience.com.

Despite sex education classes at Capitol, Souza said students “will do what they want.”

Tyonna Davis, 17, an upcoming senior at U.S. Grant, has a 3-month-old girl whose father, a classmate, doesn’t live with them.

How is motherhood? “Stressful,” she said.

Her major fear and challenges, she said, are how to provide for her child for years because she doesn’t know if she can depend on the father.

Although stressed, she said being a mother is fun. “You’re always going to love them [your child] unconditionally.”

Daughters of teen mothers are three times more likely to become teen moms, and sons of teen mothers are twice as likely to end up in a prison.

Souza said self-esteem has much to do with such outcomes.

Reyna agreed “most girls get pregnant to make the guy stay.”

“But that’s not my reason,” she said.

“I made an adult decision,” she said. “Now, it’s time for me to step up and take care of my kid.”