Welcome back, everyone, and thank you for being here! Now that Tuesdays are dedicated to #TrendingTuesday content, I figured we could go ahead and pin Thursday as a “food for thought” type of read. On Thursdays, I will provide you with content that makes you think a little harder than usual, but also provide insight to unique situations and other perspectives. Let’s dive in!
When you hear the words “teen pregnancy” what comes to mind?
Everyone surely thinks of something; maybe someone you know, maybe yourself, MTVs Teen Mom—something.
My point is that if you never experienced teen pregnancy yourself, you probably have a very generic idea of what it is like to actually experience; at least that is the case for me! I asked my cousin, Lauren Duff, to elaborate on the topic for me.
Lauren got pregnant her senior year of high school when she was 18-years-old. Ironically, I was the first person in the family that she told—she called me crying, terrified about what to do and how to tell her parents. Her boyfriend at the time, was satisfied with sweeping it under the rug and looking into the abortion route. Lauren, however, felt differently.
“You know, right from the beginning you’re scared because getting pregnant as a teenager is something that is still pretty socially frowned upon,” she said. “Then you add the layer of three options and three options only—abortion, adoption or raising the child.”
She battled internally for weeks that turned to months of her, still, not telling her parents. Lauren knew, deep down, that she wanted to keep her baby, she said.
“For anyone who is in that position now, I cannot stress enough to just do what you think is right for you and your situation,” she said. “There is no shame in being a teen mom as long as you accept that your whole world is going to turn upside down and now you have another life to take care of.
Lauren and her boyfriend decided to follow through with the pregnancy and, finally, told her parents. They were supportive, but did put the question of adoption into her head.
“They thought that would be the best route since I was enrolled in college already and preparing to start my freshman year,” she said. “But the decision was already made up.”
And it was.
Lauren gave birth to her first-born son, Lucas, on January 31, 2017 ( and I may be biased, but he is the sweetest, happiest little boy ever).
The story doesn’t end there, though. While five years have passed and she just gave birth to a baby girl in December, Lauren had a lot to learn starting that day in 2017.
“Nobody ever tells you the things about pregnancy that I wish I could have prepared myself for,” she said. “Like the morning after giving birth I felt like my innards fell to the floor.”
Along with physical pain, there is emotional pain and stress that goes into being a teen mom, she said, and your relationship with your partner is definitely one of them.
“I think it is important for other women to know that if your boyfriend is not supportive from the start, he likely won’t ever be,” she said. “It is not to shame him; we were young. But ultimately, I had to suck it up and stop waiting for something I knew would never change.”
Lauren and her boyfriend split up shortly after she gave birth to Lucas. He remains present in Lucas’ life, but Lauren is the sole caretaker. She has since dated again and married her now-husband, Jordan Duff, in August of 2020.
“For me at least, it came down to I didn’t have time to care about the loss of the relationship as much because I had to put energy into figuring out how to be a mom, and mostly, a single-mom,” she said.
Lauren was one semester into her freshman year of college when she gave birth to Lucas. Still living at home, she relied on her parents, Lucas’ grandparents, for a lot of help and guidance.
She appreciated the help from her parents, and still does, but not everything started out as a walk in the park, she said.
“There were a lot of times I doubted my own abilities because my parents seemed to know it all,” she said. “At the end of the day, though, whether you’re living with your parents or not; you have to do what you think is best for your child.”
Taking matters into your own hands as a single-teen-parent can be intimidating, confusing and embarrassing, Lauren said. Noting that she relied a lot of government assistance to be able to guarantee she and Lucas had food.
“Take advantage of that stuff! Pregnancy Medicaid is amazing,” she said. “And, something I honestly wish I could have used again for my second pregnancy but, the point is, you have to suck it up and get the assistance you need when you need it.”
In fact, one thing she mentioned that she wished she looked into sooner is the different daycare and childcare assistance programs that a lot of colleges and universities offer for students. She never took advantage of them because of lengthy waitlists, she said, but if she could do it over again, she’d look into it during the pregnancy.
“I would encourage any teen that is pregnant to finish whatever stage of school they are in currently,” she said. “Get your diploma, get your GED, get your Bachelor’s because no matter what, that shows that you took on a new responsibility, but finished another at the same time.”
As mentioned before, Lauren just gave birth to her second child, a baby girl named Octavia. Lucas turned 5-years-old in January and has been the best big brother to her. He is a happy little boy with a love for dinosaurs and math.
“If I could do it over again, I would change nothing,” Lauren said. “He is my pride and joy!”