Oh, baby!

It’s a girl!

Jamie-Lynn Marie Spears has had her baby – Maddie Briann Aldridge, who was born on June 19, 2008. Before Miley Cyrus and Vanessa Hudgens ever posed for those photos, the teeny-boppers’ world was not quite turned topsy-turvy as merely tilted, when another of the junior celebrity heroines set them yet another bad example (or ought I to say precedent?). We all remember the hullabaloo about how she wanted the baby to have a “normal life”, and how, therefore, she was planning to raise the baby in her home-state of Louisiana, and was in fact house-hunting there.

Then there was the tiny question of how, in California at least, Ms Spears Junior was under the age of consent (in California, it is illegal for an adult to have intercourse with a person under the age of 18). Eventually, however, her boyfriend got off on a technicality because the accusation statutory rape only stuck if the ’victim’ was more than three years younger than the ‘perpetrator’.

The Department of Motor Vehicles of Mississippi had that Casey Aldridge, the boyfriend, was only a mite less than two years older than Spears. In conclusion, Casey’s Uncle, Pastor Odus Jackson, of the Galilee First Baptist Church in Gloster, Mississippi, was quoted as saying “…. I hope they will stick it out and get married for the child’s sake and their sake. But if they’re not in love and it was just a fantasy, they don’t need to make the same mistake twice.”

Meanwhile, it is reported that Spears Senior has somewhat softened his objection to the marriage. This, after getting Casey to sign papers a prenuptial agreement relinquishing any rights to Jamie Lynn’s money. Is this the modern version of the tune, the final line of which goes “on a cold and grey Chicago morning another little baby child was born…” Don’t we all know at least one child who had a child herself, and needed an adult to take care of both of them? The first time I heard of the “Glossta Men”(and women) of Gloucester, Massachusetts, was when I read of the tragedy in the North Atlantic fishing grounds, that had befallen the fishing crew of the Andrea Gail in October, 1991. This event was later turned into Wolfgang Petersen film The Perfect Storm, with Mark Wahlberg and George Clooney.

But this fishing town was lately in the news again when Mayor Carolyn Kirk said there was “no evidence” that the sudden increase in teen pregnancies in her jurisdiction could have been the result of a pregnancy-pact between teenagers. Her words sound rather hollow, considering that all the 17 girls attended Gloucester High School.

Many of them had been going for pregnancy tests at the school clinic, and expressing disappointment when the tests turned out negative, as Gloucester High School principal Joseph Sullivan told Time magazine. When the tests were positive, the girls made high-fives and began planning Baby Showers. Odd, if this were really a “coincidental” happening, I would say. Incidentally, it is illegal to have sex with anyone younger than 16 in Massachusetts; and none of the girls is older than that. So the fathers could be charged for having sex with minors.

To use a cliché, it is mostly the girl that is left holding the baby. And so, bearing in mind that it takes two to tango and that a pregnancy could well be an “accident” of timing or birth control methods – what makes “her” do it? Is it peer pressure? Or coercion by her partner? Is it a wish to feel grown up, or to have a tiny creature utterly dependent on one? Is it a plea for attention from girls who are bored, and lack self-esteem?

There was a time when friends of mine deliberately became pregnant so that they would have an excuse to leave home – and, as a corollary, a reason to be given a place to live by what was then the Housing Department. Alas, things did not always turn out that way.

There were some who thought they knew it all, because they had practically brought up younger siblings themselves. But they felt the difference between that and having one’s own child when there was not a safety-net of the family network upon which to depend.

Films like Juno, Knocked Up, and Waitress, all of which feature pregnancies that are unplanned, unwanted, or both, remind us of the cloying statement that “We respect Jamie Lynn’s decision to take responsibility in this sensitive and personal situation” issued by Nickelodeon, where Jamie Lynn was working at the time.

I hope I did not lose anything in the translation, but I got the feeling it meant “She’s keeping the baby, now isn’t that swell!”, as if by doing so, she had nullified the bad example she had given to children, with doing the right thing. Of course, the pro-choice people jumped on the three aforementioned films, saying that they were a blatant attempt by the pro-life lobby to brainwash the tinies against the benefits of abortion. They said that the increase in teenage pregnancies obtained because of this vogue for treating the topic in an optimistic manner, intimating that everything would be all right in the end.

What would have been risible were it not utterly pathetic was that two school health centre officials resigned, because according to them, the local hospital’s out to have “helped” by distributing contraceptives, even confidentially. They did not even think that prophylactics did not help if someone actually did want to conceive. Closer to home, (68 babies in the first three months of 2007), the problem is no less pressing in Malta. Vaccinating girls against HPV, and their popping the Pill as if it were Skittles, will not solve a problem that has far deeper roots than casual sex. This is now classified as an alternative means of “entertainment” more than it is a sign of “growing up”, with children who are listless and at a loose end.

Despite the umbrella excuse that “it is better to be safe than sorry”, parents might end up being sorry, anyhow. The free ‘rein’ they give their children might become the ‘rope’ with which they hang themselves.

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