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Nov 12 2013Family Matters: Thanks, Birth Control!
Working for an organization called The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and publicly asking my friends to participate in a day of saying "Thanks, Birth Control," I should not be surprised by dinner party conversation slipping into uncomfortable territory. I am used to learning about my friends' choice of birth control...their college boyfriends...their experiences with sex education. I am numb to it all. But then there are days like last week when my close friend Phoebe told me the story of her birth and adoption. Thank you Phoebe for spilling your heart and sharing your story to say "Thanks, Birth Control."
43 years ago--April 1st, 1970, to be exact--I was born to a preteen mother. I was put up for adoption. My very young birth parents' lives were clearly interrupted, shaken, and drastically changed forever as they entered their high school years. I have never met my birth mother and what I know about both of my birth parents does not fill an index card.
I cannot imagine the unbearable sadness of giving up a child and the unnecessary sacrifice my too-young-pregnant child-mother went through. All the fear, shame, loss of innocence, and confusion could have been avoided.
I was indeed adopted by wonderful parents and I have been given an incredible, even enviable life--and it certainly included and is due in no small part to birth control. When I was 12 years old, around the same time my birth mother got pregnant, I knew I wanted to become an architect. Everything I did after making this realization was to achieve that goal. This included extra weekend classes at local professional institutions and working intermittently within the design field throughout my high school years and college.
I was able to go on to graduate school and get my degree from an Ivy League university in my chosen discipline. I am so fortunate to have all the support of good family, friends, and the many privileges of western society. Among the most significant is clearly education. This again includes having been informed and having had access to birth control--providing me with the freedom to make my own decisions within my own timeline.
I have a small design firm that allows me to spend time with my family and hopefully make a small spatial improvement in other families' homes. My husband and I have two beautiful boys in grade school, and they were born when I was truly ready to be a parent.
I just went to save this file, wondering what folder in my desktop I should save it in. I put it in a folder I have titled "Family Matters," where I save all the various things concerning our family's day to day lives. Family matters!
Thanks, birth control.
Phoebe Cervigni Millon is the Principal of her own Residential Design Firm, Phoebe PCM by Design LLP, and a licensed DC Home Improvement Contractor. Phoebe is a classically trained architect with her masters in architectural design from MIT. She is the proud mother of two boys, Giovanni (11 yrs old) and Luca (7 yrs old).
Jan 14 2013Parenthood: Weep; Laugh; Discuss
Chances are, if you are a fan of NBC's Parenthood, you already have hankies at the ready when you watch. If you are not a fan, you have some explaining to do. Last week, just over 5 million people tuned in to one of the show's most powerful episodes. The mistake-making, fiercely-loving Braverman clan dealt with teen pregnancy, abortion, adoption, puberty, parent-teen truth-telling--not to mention budding romance, a hunky ex, teenage body odor, and a mother-in-law invasion. Oh and that grandfather/grandson talk about wet dreams while the family cooks dinner (sorry).
Even though there was a lot to love--and a lot to talk about--packed into this single episode, what I love the most is the impassioned conversation the show is generating in the Twitterverse, in the press, and most definitely among fans. Who are (rightfully) rabid. In fact, asking "do you watch Parenthood?" is a great way to find a new friend at a party. Try it.
Much of the discussion last week was about abortion: some heaped praise on NBC and the writers for going through with it at all, and for portraying it with compassion and seriousness and yet as a viable option even for a "good girl." Others accused the show of "serving up pro-abortion propaganda." And there was everything in between. For me, what came across loud and clear was that once there's a pregnancy, all roads ahead are hard. And not just for the girl who gets pregnant. I loved the way Drew's experience was explored--finally, a teenage boy on TV with deep and complicated feelings.
No matter what you believe about abortion or how Parenthood dealt with it, consider the huge value in the outpouring of feelings the show generated: when Parenthood asked its Facebook fans to share stories about their own efforts to talk with their teens about sex, more than 900 people commented in the first hour, and nearly 1,400 fans weighed in overnight. (Full disclosure: our Campaign has a long-standing partnership with the show and the network, and we had the opportunity to provide help and information on this episode and online). They expressed a range of opinions:
- [My daughter and I] have a very close and honest relationship... And even though I'd prefer for her to not have sex at all that's not what I push her for. She knows that if she ever decides to have sex that I'll get her the protection she needs with no questions asked and no negative opinions from me.
- Teach abstinence first, and give birth control options to both parties.
- I am 18 and my sister is 20 and my father very often and in random conversations still manages to slip in "always glove up!" Or "no glove no love!" It's became a joke in the family but it sure got the message through to me!
When TV shows tackle these topics, it really matters: 74% of parents of teens say they have talked about sex, love, and relationships because of something they saw in popular media, like TV shows. These parent-teen conversations are essential: teens say parents are the #1 influence on their decisions about sex. So, whether parents agree or disagree with the way TV shows depict these issues, what really matters is that shows like Parenthood make it difficult not to talk about them.
I'd love to know what you think and hear your own true tales about the parent-teen sex talk.
Mar 19 2012Teen Mom: Lessons Learned
MTV has announced that the upcoming fourth season of the original Teen Mom series will be the last one. Those final episodes won't air til later this year--giving everyone ample opportunity to reflect on what it all means--but I'd like to get the party started with my own Top Ten Lessons Learned from Teen Mom (so far):
1. Once there's a pregnancy, every road ahead is hard.
If Teen Mom has shown us anything, it's that pregnancy and parenting at a young age isn't easy and it isn't glamorous. We've seen these girls struggle in every way possible--within their families, in their relationships, financially, at school, socially, and more. That's not to say their lives would have been easy-peasy had they not gotten pregnant, but there is not a single episode of this show that has made it look like the life of a teen mother is anything but challenging.
2. Being a birthmother IS being a good mother.
Too often people assume that making an adoption plan is a cop-out, or an admission of failure, or proof that you don't love your baby. Catelynn's experience taught us otherwise and continues to be one of the most hopeful, heartfelt stories on all of television.
Sep 28 2011Teen Mom: Reunion Special with Dr. Drew (Part I)
Sep 21 2011Teen Mom: It's Never Easy
It was an emotional season finale to end this season of Teen Mom. Certainly big changes are in store for all the girls. Looking back, I'd say this season was all about the moms struggling to discover themselves as adults. They fought to find an identity outside of being a "teen mom." Ultimately, young motherhood is a role that cannot be escaped. Unplanned pregnancy changes self-identity to the core. Being a mother is a life-long role.
In this heart-wrenching finale, we saw how being a parent is one of the most difficult and demanding jobs in the world. The fear of disappointing your child or being a bad influence is constant. Deciding what is best for you, your baby, and your future is a never-ending balancing act. A teen mother often doesn't have the fundamental foundation of an education, career, partner, or even home to start with.