Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Teen Issues: What does October 15th mean?

In Megan McCafferty’s dystopian world, everyone over the age of 18 is infertile due to a virus so teenage girls are paid to help bring new children into the world.  In the real world, teenage pregnancy is viewed much differently.  Popular Mtv shows 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom illustrate some of the complications in being a teenage mother, a topic often addressed in popular teen fiction.  But what happens when a teenager gets pregnant and decides either not to keep the baby and terminate the pregnancy or decides she does want to keep the baby and then loses the baby through miscarriage?

Most teen fiction focuses on a different scenario:  teens engage in sex, they get pregnant, they have baby and struggle.  Sometimes the teenage mom leaves and the teenage dad is left to take care of the baby, see First Part Last by Angela Johnson or Hanging on to Max by Margaret Bechard.  Sometimes the teens talk about getting an abortion or putting the baby up for adoption.  But often, the literature focuses on one or both parents struggling to raise a child on their own (sometimes with the help and support of their families).

And yet statistically we know that anywhere from 1 out of 5 to 1 out of 4 pregnancies ends in a loss.  And some babies are born sleeping, or stillborn.  So this has to be true for teen pregnancy, too.  About.com presents these statistics on teen pregnancy: 3/4 of a million teens become pregnant each year, 57% of these pregnancies result in birth, 29% of teen pregnancies are terminated and 14% end in miscarriage.

Many women carry the silent pain of miscarriage and stillbirth; but if it happens to you, you will start to hear the stories of women around you.  They will share with you about the child they lost and never knew.  They will tell you about how they wonder what that child would look like now, what his or her laugh would sound like, and so much more . . . It’s like miscarriage is a secret world that you don’t know much about until it happens to you and you get the grim invitation to join this secret, aching world.  But what happens to a pregnant teen who loses a baby in pregnancy, stillbirth or infant death?  Do her friends come out of the woodwork and begin to share their stories?  Do the adults in her life share their stories?

On the ABC Family show The Secret Life of an American Teenager, expectant couple Ben and Adrian’s baby was born sleeping.  This was amazing to me as it was the first time that I can recall a show dealing with subject of pregnancy loss in the life of teens. 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AL_rLJ7zWOk]

October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.  If you ever have the unfortunate event to work with a teenager who has lost a baby, know that this resource is out there.  Know, too, that they will go through all the same emotional stages of grief that any woman would go through when experiencing pregnancy loss.  Sometimes these emotions are complicated by guilt as they wrestled with whether or not they even wanted to keep the baby (also true of many women).  Know that their loss is real and painful.

There are many resources that you, as someone who may be put into a position of supporting a teen after loss, and your teen can turn to for support:

* Our Hope Place has a guide for helping someone with loss
* The blog Living Whole Again has a list of things to say (and not to say)
* There are places where teens share their stories of loss here, here, here and a poem here
* Here Oprah talks about her teen pregnancy loss
* And here is a good list of online sites that help those suffering from loss honor and remember their babies.

You probably know where your teen pregnancy books are in your collection, there are unfortunately not a lot of books dealing with teenage miscarriage and pregnancy loss.  However, they will find help in the nonfiction books dealing with miscarriage because regardless of age, it helps to read the stories of others.  Some nonfiction titles include Silent Grief, Empty Arms: Coping After Miscarriage, Grieving the Child I Never Knew and Our Stories of Miscarriage: Healing with Words.  In addition there is a good children’s book titles We Were Going to Have a Baby, But We Had an Angel instead by Pat Schweibert that may be comforting.  This book is actually written to comfort older siblings, but many find it comforting in itself.  Although not a good library book as it is a journal, you may recommend I’ll Hold You in Heaven Remembrance Book to those that it would be appropriate.  This is a journal that helps guide you through the emotions of the pregnancy and loss.

And thanks to all the teen librarians at the Yalsa-bk list, I have some teen fiction dealing with pregnancy loss that you can use for bibliotherapy:
A Swift Pure Cry by Siobhan Dowd
Lullaby by Jane Orcutt
After by Amy Efaw
Jumping Off Swings by Johanna Knowles
My Life as a Rhombus by Varian Johnson
Newes from the Dead by Mary Hooper
Six Rules of Maybe by Deb Caletti
Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen
Plan B by Charnon Simon
Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts
Plain Truth by Jodi Piccoult
Mr. and Mrs. Bojo Jones by Ann Head

LibraryThing has a good list of books about teen pregnancy in general

One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is to acknowledge their loss, their baby.  Acknowledge their pain.  Let them walk in it and hold their hand.  For me, as I experienced my loss in 2006, reading the stories of others was essential to my healing.  I needed to know that I was not alone and that others had felt the various things that I felt.  I needed to know that you could get to the other side of this pain.  I needed the words on the pages to hold my heart and help me along on my journey.  I believe in the power of words to help and to heal and I found this to be especially true during this time.

One of the complications of teen pregnancy loss is this: everyone in her life will tell her it was probably for the best.  It is true that teen pregnancy has dramatic and often negative consequences in their life – we know that it affects their schooling and is likely to put them at a greater risk of poverty for example – and yet when they lose that pregnancy, when their baby dies, there are still strong emotional feelings associatied with that loss.  Regardless of what we as a society may think regarding teen pregnancy, that teenager’s life will never be the same.  They will always from that moment forward be a woman (or a man) who has lost a child.

The goal of October 15th is to take away the silent stigma of pregnancy and infant loss, to give those grieving a voice.  I hope this October 15th you will join me in raising awareness about pregnancy loss and miscarriage in general, but also in the life of teens.  If you do even one simple little thing, such as simply share the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day site on October 15th on your library FB page or website, you may just give a grieving teen a resource they need.

Dedicated to the memory of Casey Lee . . .