Pregnant for a Project

In a Washington high school, a 17-year-old girl pretended to be pregnant for 6 ½ months while doing research on the statistics, rumors, and stereotypes that accompany teen pregnancy. The only people who knew the truth were her parents, the boyfriend, her best friend, and the school principal. The aspiring social worker had to lie to everyone else, including the boyfriend’s parents who were now expecting a grandson.

She only revealed this was a hoax at the end of the pregnancy by removing her faux belly during an assembly in front of her school. Of course, the real purpose behind this research was to widen the eyes of the students, adults, and peers on the discrimination of teen parents. Emotional messages were shared with the school as she endured months of judgment and discrimination from her peers. She reminded everyone that she had not changed, only others’ perceptions of her.

How do I feel about this? I find this girl extremely courageous to sacrifice her entire senior year for a research project whilst wearing a faux belly. I admire her commitment to the project. As a social worker that wants to help teen moms in the future, having that understanding of young parenthood will help her relate well with them.

As much as I would like to sit here and praise her decision, there are just certain things that do not sit well with me. Firstly, there are teen parents out there facing real and extreme stress because of their struggle through high school. Rarely are they recognized for their achievement in graduation and/or furthering their education. My admiration for someone pretending to be pregnant and graduating with an awesome grade on her research project is MUCH less than for the young parents who actually have to feel these emotions while they carry a real baby through the halls.

Teen mothers were being mocked so I wonder how she behaved as a pregnant teen. As we know through research, experience clashes with expectations to create cognitive dissonance. As she pretended to be a pregnant teen, she faced judgment and treatment for her “physical” changes. This causes an uncomfortable feeling within someone. Along with the self-confliction, the other people in these cases are affected too. During this process of emotional battle, did she help form new opinions – positive or negative – within her community on teen pregnancy?

Acquiring information about how teens experience discrimination during pregnancy is becoming easier. Off the top of my head, I can name 10 former teen mom’s experiences in school that are shared via web. You can literally google “teen moms in high school” and find a ton of quotable information from teen moms. This is a high school research project right? I do not see why live interviews and research that didn’t involve hundreds of human guinea pigs would not have sufficed.

As a former teen parent, I just find it wrong in so many ways to do what she did. I can’t say I support her for trying to understand how my shoes fit or what my life was like because those 6 ½ months were some of my easiest. Not having to undergo the realness of being kicked out of your home, needing to make it to doctor’s appointments, the physical changes, the emotional battle, and the financial struggles changes the way a teen pregnancy is portrayed. I’m assuming she had a supportive mother, boyfriend and principal through this process.

I would feel a bit offended as a teen mom in that school. There was a connection of trust and support within the group of young parents in my high school. Being betrayed through mockery would have offended me in so many ways. My life was being imitated for a senior research project.

I wouldn’t paint my skin, fake a handicap, claim to be a crack addict, pretend to be gay, or mislead people into thinking I’m someone I’m not for a research project.

Was it worth it though? What do you think?


As a teen parent, I am not offended. If one teen can experience all the emotions without making the sacrifice of becoming a parent but realize what change needs to happen, then kuddos to whoever can pull it off. Actually, I would be more likely to work with this woman as a social worker who has the knowledge and understanding of what I went through than a woman who didn't. I bet when she revealed the truth people began kicking themselves asking themselves, "Did I treat this girl poorly?" Because now that they know she's not actually pregnant, they feel ashamed from treating a person like that in the first place. In fact, I wish more people knew how it felt. I know girls who wanted to be pregnant at a young age while I had already dropped out of high school and a had infant in my arms screaming her lungs out in the grocery store. If only there was a way for them to know how stupid that decision would be. I'm happy someone had the guts to do this. The more info people can have on this subject, the better.

I usually applaud when I see stories like this because it involves putting yourself in someone else's shoes. A friend of mine took a class about disability (can't remember the title) and they did a project where they used a wheelchair for a semester. They discovered just how unwheelchair-friendly the campus was, how people rarely held doors open, how a crack in the sidewalk could literally mess up your day, etc. I don't necessarily want to compare that project to this one, but I think if eyes are opened as a result, then it's a good thing. As Sarah said, I'm hoping people thought about their reactions to her, and think twice before heaping judgment on other young mothers they may encounter.

Natasha. I think you have this spot on. In a way it's great that people recognize how pregnant teens are treated (especially those who were considered to have had 'potential'!) but HELLO???? Are there not enough teen parents telling this story every day? Why cant they be listened to and respected? My dissertation supervisor told me to take any reference of discrimination against younger parents out of my dissertation, as he didn't believe I was being objective (he said it was the same for mums of any age, implying I was just paranoid!). When this was the person marking my work it leaves you feeling a bit helpless! I hope the findings of this student's report get shared and taken on board, but is this the right way to get teen parent voices heard? No way!!!

I have to say I agree with you particular about the betrayal I would've felt as a "real" teen mom. There truly is a bond that is made among teen moms...heck, one of my very best friends, in fact the only friend I trust WHOLEHEARTEDLY with my daughter, became my friend when we went through our pregnancies together during school. I can't imagine how the other moms must've felt when this young lady removed her faux belly, during an assembly no less, to reveal that she, unlike them, would NOT be bound by the negative implications of teen pregnancy/motherhood. We all know that teen moms can be treated poorly, talked about, dismissed, given up on, etc...this project didn't prove or uncover anything we didn't already know. And I doubt it will change anyone's views on how they react to or treat them.

I'm pretty indifferent with what she did. I understand the arguments of both sides but I'm more inclined to praise what she did. Yes, there are people who are actually experiencing these things but if this project ultimately led people to re-evaluate the assumptions they made about her, then isn't that enough of a positive impact? I don't think she was out to be THE voice on teen pregnancy. She was out to be A voice. Unfortunately, as with any marginalized groups we assume that advocates for that group have to emerge from within the group. This is great but it's limiting. Civil rights in the 60s would not have progressed without the contributions of white people (generally speaking, lol). LGBT advocacy would not succeed without the support of straight allies. Teen pregnancy cannot be a cause solely championed by teen parents. The impact of these groups extend beyond their own silos, which means that any successful initiative fosters inclusion - bringing in people like her who are willing to try on some other shoes and add insight to what the experience meant for her. Hopefully highlighting and emphasizing what teen pregnancy actually means for those that really experience it. We encounter people with differences on a daily basis, whether in race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. and how often do we actively seek to put ourselves in their shoes? To experience life as they experience it? From my experience, rarely do we seek those opportunities because they lend themselves to us experiencing a level of discomfort we're not used to. More power to those people who wish to see life as another sees it, even if it's only for a moment, a minute, a few months. At the end of the day, they've enhanced their understanding and that in itself informs their behavior, with hopes that it ripples outward affecting others.

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