Gaby Rodriguez is the daughter, sister, and sister-in-law of teen mothers. Everyone expected that she would be one, too. Never mind that she was in honors classes, on track to go to college, and involved with extracurricular activities. As a young Latina living in near poverty, that’s what people expected of her.
But, unlike some Latinas who would buck the statistics by simply doing well in school and in life, Gaby went a step further. During her senior year of high school, each student was assigned an independent, year-long project. Gaby thought about shadowing a social worker or volunteering with needy kids, but in the end, she chose something a little more challenging and controversial: she decided to fake her own pregnancy to gauge reactions and understand the stereotypes and discrimination pregnant teens are faced with.
"Gaby’s story is vividly told with a strong voice and a great story arc that begins with her parents and ends with a call to other teens and adults to stop the cycle of teen pregnancy, motherhood and poverty."
Just in case you need to read that again: Gaby Rodriguez, a senior in high school, decided to tell her entire school that she was pregnant, for six months, just to see what would happen.
Brave much? As she researched her made-up symptoms and wore a fake belly to school, Gaby got to see firsthand how difficult it is physically, socially and emotionally to be pregnant and in high school. Teachers she thought supported her whispered about how she had thrown her life away. Her boyfriend’s family told him he was stuck with Gaby for life. Students Gaby didn’t even know stared at her in the hallways and made up rumors about her. And even though she knew she would be able to take the belly off, Gaby was struck by how much more difficult her life was, and how many people made assumptions about her based on just one thing.
Being a teen mom might seem glamorous thanks to MTV, but Gaby’s project revealed that the financial problems and stunted professional growth most non-famous teen moms face are compounded by the extreme sting of social stigmas while they are pregnant. In her project, Gaby revealed two major problems facing teens: they are faced with conflicting messages about sexual health and education, and people are unnecessarily cruel and unhelpful to teen moms-to-be.
THE PREGNANCY PROJECT isn’t just a dry retelling of a social experiment. Thanks to journalist Jenna Glatzer, Gaby’s story is vividly told with a strong voice and a great story arc that begins with her parents and ends with a call to other teens and adults to stop the cycle of teen pregnancy, motherhood and poverty. Gaby reminds us that, should you see a teen mother, it’s not your job to vilify or stereotype her. Everyone has a social responsibility, Gaby says, to provide teens with the resources they need to avoid getting pregnant and to continue to lend support if a pregnancy happens. THE PREGNANCY PROJECT is not just a good read, but an important one as well.
Reviewed by Sarah Hannah Gomez on February 29, 2012