A former teen mom reacts to MTV's new show, which premieres tonight.
Tammie Amoroso, a former teen mother, hopes MTV's new show, "16 and Pregnant," will teach teenagers what teen pregnancy is really like -- the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Momlogic: At what age did you get pregnant? And what were the circumstances surrounding your pregnancy?
Tammie Amoroso: I became pregnant at 17. It was with my boyfriend, who I was dating. He was 4 years older than I was. At the time, we dated for about 2 years. I gave birth on June 4th, 1986, when I was 18.
ML: What was your reaction when you learned you were pregnant?
Tammie: I was scared. I didn't know how to tell my mom or dad. My son's father was very happy and supportive (in the beginning).
ML: Was your family supportive?
Tammie: My father never liked my boyfriend because he was older. My mom was a teen mom, so she thought I was following in her footsteps, and she did not approve of me having a baby at such a young age. My mom was 17 when she had me. She wanted better for me. I always wanted to have the baby. My mom suggested alternatives, but ultimately it was my decision to have my son. My mom turned around and supported me, but it took a long time for my father to come around. He didn't support me during the pregnancy and he finally held my son for the first time 3 months after he was born.
ML: As a pregnant teen and teen mom, did you face any obstacles or challenges? If so, what were they?
Tammie: At first, my boyfriend was supportive, but at about 4 months along, he started seeing someone else behind my back and cheated on me. Then, I remember going into the school bathroom one day. I was spotting and had to go to the emergency room. It was scary and I thought I was losing the baby. My grandfather had to take me, and my boyfriend never showed up. At the time, I was living in New York City. My boyfriend moved down to Maryland. He was happy about the baby, but not the responsibilities of really being a father. He didn't know how to do that. In addition, I never went out socially. I left school, left college, and went to an alternative school for pregnant teens or teens with children. There, I learned how to do a resume, how to apply for jobs, and I was able to bring my son to school. I had my son with me all the time -- at home, at school, it was a lot.
The hardest part of being a teen mom for me was that I didn't know how to be a parent. I was 17 and still growing. My baby was like a brother to me more than a son. We both grew together since we were both young. I remember when he started nursery school at 3 or 4, the teacher came to me and said my son wasn't socializing with the other kids and mostly spent time with the teachers -- he felt older because he spent so much time with his mom (I was about 20 at this time) and 17-year-old uncle.
It was a struggle. I still suffer from low self-esteem from having a child at such a young age. My son's father left us when he was 2. I dated guys who weren't positive role models to my son and then moved back in with my mom when he was 5. When my son was a teen, I started dating a man who is now my husband.
ML: Did you have help and/or support from your baby's father, family, etc.?
Tammie: Through the court, his father paid child support, but even then, he fought me about it. I was only getting about $50 a week, which is not much at all.
ML: Can you paint the picture of what being a teen mom was like for you?
Tammie: My mom supported me, so I got by, but I never finished college. My son had ADHD so I had to find placement for him in a special education program. As a young parent, I didn't have a lot of resources and didn't know where to look, how to handle his emotional issues, and then on top of it, I didn't have a positive male role model in his life.
ML: Did you fear he'd be a teen parent? And if so, how would you have felt?
Tammie: No. When he turned 18, I told him about my struggles being a teen parent and I spoke to him about my hopes for him and his future. I gave him condoms because not only did I not want him to be a teen parent, I didn't want him to catch any STDs.
ML: MTV is premiering a new reality show on June 11th entitled "16 & Pregnant." The show follows 6 pregnant teens, showing the "real life" of a pregnant American teen. There has been some controversy surrounding the show ... some say it's good to see what teens go through while others say it's glorifying teen pregnancy. As a former teen mom, how do you feel about this show? Do you think it's a positive or negative concept?
Tammie: I think it's a positive concept if they are showing real-life struggles because it would deter teens from having a child at a young age. I don't see it as glorifying teen pregnancy unless they are living in a fancy house and things are fine with them. There are a lot of emotional things teen parents go through as far as coping skills. It's stressful to be woken up by a baby at all hours, but even more so as a teen parent. I think the show can work if it follows the teens from the time they get pregnant, to having morning sickness, some of them will be left by their baby's father, the struggle to get medical insurance, and if they're still in high school -- showing how hard it is to finish school and provide day care for your baby.
One of the reasons teen pregnancy is on the rise is because the media glorified Sarah Palin's daughter having a baby, Solange Knowles, and Jamie Lynn Spears. These teens have had a baby and things are fine, so teens think they can have babies and things will be fine too. If the teens on MTV think they are having a baby and will be a reality TV star, then it's not going to work and teen pregnancy will continue to be on the rise.
ML: As a former teen mom, what have you been doing to give back to pregnant teens?
Tammie: I started an organization called "Mentor, Encourage, Life, and Love," which is dedicated to my son. As a teen parent, I didn't have a lot of resources to provide for him and for him to be a successful adult. I wanted to provide resources to other teen moms. We give them baby clothing, information on jobs, we teach leadership skills, self-esteem skills, we do parent/child bonding activities, and we try to help teens with emotional issues they're going through with their boyfriends, children, or within themselves. Some of the teen moms don't have their children because the court took them away. I started this organization over a year ago. It's also known as MELL, Inc., which stands for my son's name, Jamell.What do you think about the show "16 and Pregnant"? Comment below.