In the age of hit MTV shows like 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom, it may seem like teen pregnancy is at an epidemic high. What makes these stories so popular and yet controversial at the same time? Is there an underlying reason why some girls follow a path of teen motherhood, while others do not?
In her senior year of high school, Gaby Rodriguez embarked on a social experiment to discover what it felt like to be pregnant as a teenager. For her senior project, Gaby faked her own pregnancy – but did not let everyone in on the secret. Her story made national headlines and inspired her to publish her memoir, The Pregnancy Project, with cowriter Jenna Glatzer.
Gaby wanted to make a difference – not just with her senior project at Toppenish High School in Washington, but in her community as well. Before presenting her own story and the results of her project, Gaby gives us some background information about her mother and family.
Gaby’s mother had her first child as a teenager, and several of Gaby’s brothers and sisters had children in their teenage years as well. Gaby felt as though she was the last hope of her family – the one who would not get pregnant at an early age and also go on to be successful outside of her small town.
Gaby’s story is not just about teen pregnancy, however. Gaby is thoughtful and reflective as she describes Toppenish, which sits on an Indian reservation in the state of Washington. She can see the bigger picture of the sad cycle that affects her community – children having children before they have plans for themselves, working low-paying jobs with no hope for careers, all in a small town that has little entertainment or opportunity. There is a repeating pattern not only in her own family but in her community as well.
Gaby approached her administrators with an idea to fake a pregnancy for her senior project. Her idea was to collect information about stereotypes, statistics, and gauge reactions from her friends and family. After some serious thought, her project was approved and she was given the go-ahead to “get pregnant.”
As her project progresses throughout the book, we see Gaby experience a range of emotions – elation that her assignment was approved and that she might be able to pull off something great; fear as she begins to show her fake symptoms and worries that she might not be convincing; sadness and regret as she begins to understand what it feels like to really be a pregnant teenager; and finally, a sense of near-hopelessness toward the end of her senior year where she considers giving up the project in light of unexpected difficulties.
Gaby walks a fine line of understanding the issue of teenage pregnancy. Throughout the book there is a message of delicate sympathy. Gaby has been on both sides of teen pregnancy – she has been angry at her sister for assuming that Gaby would babysit her small child while her sister goes out to party. We then see the other side as she pretends to be pregnant and feels scrutinized, humiliated, and betrayed by her own family as she struggles to continue her life normally.
Gaby’s goal was not to glamourize teen pregnancy, or denounce it, or make fun of the girls in her school who were actually pregnant. What Gaby tried to do was gain an understanding of something she sees every day, and hopefully start conversations about a subject that can often be taboo.
I would have liked Gaby to go in to more detail about her different experiences during the actual project, and I felt there were times she became a little preachy. Overall though, I found her story fascinating and I share her optimism – if her story can help just one teenage girl facing these issues, then I believe it was all worth it.
ABC News Report: "Teen's Fake Pregnancy Fools School"
About the Author
Megan Garrett is the librarian at the Sugar Creek Branch of the Kansas City Public Library. She also writes book reviews for the Independence Examiner newspaper.