Another portrait of teen pregnancy & single parenthood

There’s Bristol Palin’s situation.

And then there’s Brynn Cameron, profiled in today’s New York Times. In part:

Cameron, 22, met Leinart as a freshman when he introduced himself during study hall. They shared a laugh about how they wore the same uniform number, 11. Cameron said she had been uneasy with Leinart’s celebrity but was won over by his charm and by the goofy sense of humor they shared.

They dated for more than a year but broke up near the end of Leinart’s senior season. Soon after, Cameron learned she was pregnant.

She said her once-strained relationship with Leinart has become amicable. During football season, Leinart flies to Los Angeles on Monday, his off day, to be with Cole, and he sees his son regularly in the off-season at his home in Manhattan Beach. Leinart did not return telephone calls seeking comment for this article.

“We still fight and disagree on things,” Cameron said. “We’re both on the same page now for what we want with our son. We’ll be in each other’s lives forever, so we may as well get along and make the most of it.”

News of Cameron’s pregnancy was too good for late-night comedy writers to pass up. For Cameron, there were the barbs calling her a gold digger, eager to tap the guaranteed $14 million that Leinart would receive from the Cardinals, not to mention his endorsements.

“I was already devastated that I was pregnant,” Cameron said. “Then being pregnant and having it so public, emotionally, I can’t deal with this. There were times when I would break down — why is this so public, why do people care? After a while, you learn to not listen, to not care.”

Cameron turned to her safest haven, her family. Her parents, Stan and Cathy Cameron, met as students at Brigham Young, where Stan played basketball. They married and had four children in five years. Because they moved en masse in those early years, the Cameron children became as close socially as they were in age.

But within that environment, the children were encouraged to think for themselves. When Brynn, a Mormon like the rest of her family, was turned off by a religiously tinged recruiting pitch from B.Y.U., her parents backed her decision to attend U.S.C.

So when Cameron told her parents that she was pregnant and intended to keep the baby, she knew which question would come next: Did she want to marry Leinart?

“I was young and a lot of people said, ‘Oh, it makes it easier to get married,’ ” Cameron said. “But I was 19, Matt was off doing his thing. We had completely different lifestyles, and I don’t think either of us were willing to change.”

She added: “I had so much support. I knew I could do it. I didn’t need a husband to make it O.K.”

Cameron gave birth to Cole in October 2006 and took the year off from U.S.C., moving back home with her parents in Newbury Park, a suburb 50 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. When Cameron returned to campus, her parents followed, renting a nearby apartment. They cook and baby-sit, and Cathy travels to all of U.S.C.’s away games so Brynn can bring Cole along.

I recommend reading the whole article.

One thing I do want to note: just as in Bristol Palin’s FOX interview, there’s not discussion of how it happened. How these teens who were dating did or didn’t take precautions, did or didn’t assess the consequences.

Why is this so verboten? That is exactly what other teens need to hear in order to recognize the real consequences.  Instead, while it is indeed a story of a family supporting one another, both the Palin and the Cameron stories show us the best case scenarios for white privileged intact families.

We know that these two portraits are not the only two images of teen pregnancy that need to be reflected.  How can we help reduce unwanted pregnancies if we never talk about or ask about or write about how they happen, how they can be avoided and all the possible permutations that result in the first place?

One thought on “Another portrait of teen pregnancy & single parenthood

  1. You’re right that ‘how did it happen?’ is such a key question. But I did feel for Bristol when she dodged it in her Fox News interview – if she was having unprotected sex and she admits that, she becomes even more of a target in the media and online as the dumb girl who symbolizes the failure of the abstinence only philosophy that her mom supports. And if she was using contraception and admits to a condom breaking or some other failure, it becomes ‘even Sarah Palin’s own daughter wasn’t buying her abstinence only crap’, and calls into question her mom’s ability to promote that aspect of the conservative agenda as a future candidate. She must have felt like there was no good way for her to answer that question, whatever the truth is.

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