Originally created 11/19/96

Pregnant pause



Some of Harlem High schooler Roselyn Lupoe's textbook covers have two boys' names written on them: her boyfriend and her son.

The phrase "Roselyn and Mark 4-ever" refers to the 18-year-old Thomson resident who is the father of her baby. The name Cameron belongs to her 3-week-old son, Cameron Terell Brown.

Roselyn and Mark met two years ago, became good friends, then started to date. After 11 months, they had unprotected sex and she got pregnant, she said.

"I was shocked because I didn't have any idea (I would get pregnant)," the Harlem High School junior said. "I felt bad because I thought I had disappointed my family. I think they expected more of me."

Although teen pregnancy rates are slowly falling, pregnant teens are a common sight at several Augusta-Aiken-area high schools and even in middle schools.

Roselyn walked slowly and barely fit into her desks, but the 17-year-old attended school right up to the time she went into labor with Cameron. Now she's back in class, and relatives are watching the baby.

Other pregnant girls choose to drop out, or are kicked out of private high schools.

Amy Fenton, now a 25-year-old teen counselor at Augusta's Care Pregnancy Center, got pregnant at 16. Her boyfriend, who was four years older than she, told her he wanted to marry her and they were trying to conceive a child.

When her parents found out, they didn't let her see him and she was lonely.

"It felt like all eyes were on me and my big tummy," she said, describing how she felt when in public.

Because she had to drop out of school, she missed seeing her friends and took a general equivalency diploma. She was in labor for 34 hours with her daughter, Ashley.

"That night (I came home from the hospital), I remember going home and crying. I just bawled my eyes out," said Ms. Fenton, who now is married to 1st Lt. Russ Fenton and lives at Fort Gordon.

"It just felt like my life had totally changed. It wasn't me anymore. It was me and this baby."

For Roselyn, the toughest part of being pregnant was feeling tired, sick and not knowing how to feel better.

"You get tired. Your stomach hurts, and you sit in class and there's nothing you can do about it," she said.

Stacy Junkins, a senior at Evans High School, said her teachers and classmates called to check on her whenever she had to miss school.

"I was real worried about how people would think of me," said Stacy, 17, who gave birth to her daughter, Taylor, five months ago. "But I never had anything mean said to me."

Stacy and Chris, also a senior at Evans, dated a year and a half and had sex for about two months before she got pregnant. In March, they were married and now live with Chris' parents. They alternate living with his and her parents every six months.

"I don't think we could have done it without the support of our friends and parents," said Stacy, holding a grinning Taylor. "We had talked about getting married, but we just kind of got started real early."

They still have found time to be involved in school events, like hanging out with friends and even going to the prom when Stacey was seven months pregnant. When they graduate, they both plan to attend Augusta State University - she during the day and he at night after working full-time during the day.

"We both knew (sex) was wrong, but we both did it anyway. It's just a bad decision we decided to make," she said. "But I don't think either of us would take it back now."

Stacy and Chris' friends were shocked when they found out the two were going to become parents.

"Chris and I are both pretty smart, and we make good grades," she said. "Girls that get pregnant are kind of stereotyped as bad girls."

Many teens view pregnant classmates in a negative light.

"My first opinion is that they are fast," said Harlem sophomore Joe Collins, 16, pausing and looking over to Roselyn, "or it was just that person she wants to be with."

Harlem freshman Christy James, 14, said it's a big deal to see other girls her age who are already pregnant and not married.

"The rest of their life is decided by this thing they've created. They don't think about it till it's there," she said.

If Roselyn hears those comments, she ignores them.

Other students ask her what it's like to be pregnant, and one friend told her she wanted to get pregnant and asked Roselyn what she thought.

"I told her she was stupid," Roselyn said.

The girl ended up pregnant, and she joins the small group of mothers-to-be at Harlem. Pregnant teens don't have to notify the school, but they aren't usually allowed extra absences.

Often, they can't be as involved in school activities. Roselyn would have tried out for the school's cheerleading or dance team if she hadn't gotten pregnant. Stacy had to quit being a majorette at Evans, but she's still involved in the National Honor Society and Student Council.

"I thought (being pregnant) was going to be extremely hard, horrible and really stressful. It's a hard thing to go through, and I don't encourage anybody to do it," Stacy said. "I was just lucky that Chris loved me enough to stay with me."

Some of the stats

Eighty-five percent of teen pregnancies are unplanned, accounting for 25 percent of all accidental pregnancies annually.

Among sexually experienced teens, about 8 percent of 14-year-olds, 18 percent of 15-to-17-year-olds and 22 percent of 18-to-19-year-olds become pregnant each year.

Thirteen percent of all U.S. births are to teens.

Seven in 10 teen mothers complete high school, but they are less likely to go to college than women who delay childbearing.

SOURCE: The Alan Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit corporation that monitors teen pregnancies.