An Observational Blog:
Greetings, my family and friends, from the lungs of the Earth.
Recently at work a few co-workers and I engaged in a conversation regarding teen pregnancy, a very common phenomenon in Ecuador, and subsequent marriage at a very young age. In many places, including some back in the United States, teen pregnancy carries a negative connotation, but I ask that you, the reader, please keep your mind open and unbiased during this reading. I do not intend express my opinions on teen pregnancy, “solve” the teen pregnancy problem, justify or minimalize it, or change your opinion on the matter. I only wish to share (objectively, I hope) a few things in our conversation that stuck out to me as memorable. My coworkers, in the end, allowed me to share their stories under condition of anonymity.
It all started a few weeks ago as we prepared lunch for guests at San Isidro. With my minimal cooking abilities, I was surely washing dishes or slicing a vegetable to be cooked as my coworkers, known henceforth as “the ladies,” took on the greater culinary tasks. From our somewhat regular, jesting conversation on ploys to get me married into one of their families and forever-connected to Cosanga, I brought up marriage on a serious note. Out of curiosity I moved from one lady to another asking when she married, when she had a child, and questions regarding her feelings/support/family/etc. during this time (note: when the conversation jovially began, I requested permission to go deeper and more personal into this aspect of their lives. I am grateful that they accepted). Excerpts from their stories, as they called them, are as follows: Note, again: My coworkers do not speak English, so the following quotes are translated, and simply, at that. I would like to point out that my coworkers dictated their stories to me in more complext terms, but, for the sake of this blog, I have simplified the diction while trying my best to preserve the original meaning of their words. Person A: pregnant at 17, married at 18; “At 16, I knew I wanted to marry the man I was dating. I told him that I could not go to ask my father if we could get married; he would have to do it. So he did. My father said no, but my boyfriend said yes (laughs), and I said yes (laughs), so I stayed with him that night. He lacked the proper documents because he is a Colombian, so we could not marry yet, but we waited.” They eventually married after two more years.
“I never told my mom that I was pregnant. I had been staying with her because he was working in a city about an hour away the day I found out. I was at home and told my mom about my stomach pains and how nauseous I felt. I told her I was sick, but she said, ‘No, you’re pregnant.’ So I went into town to a clinic, and I was two months pregnant. I was very scared because of the pain I had heard comes from childbirth. “I was in high school at the time that I had my baby, but I could not attend in the day. My husband lived and worked in Tena (2 hours away) and I lived with my mom in Cosanga, so she helped me with the time management. I went to school at night while she kept the baby company. It was very difficult.” I mentioned at one point the option of abortions in the United States, and if she ever considered that as an option. She replied: “It is illegal here to abort a baby. And I could not kill the baby in my stomach, my baby, my son.” As she said this, she rubbed her stomach.
Person B: pregnant at 18, married at 18; “At 18 I was in high school. I was dating a guy, but I didn’t know that he was the one I wanted to marry. I found out I was pregnant from a (for my lack of knowledge of the proper word(s) in English) home pregnancy test. But I didn’t tell my parents or anyone other than my boyfriend because the high schools can kick you out if you’re pregnant. So I stayed in school and waited to say anything until I graduated. When I graduated, I told married my boyfriend and I told my parents. They didn’t say anything when I told them. It was very hard when I had the baby. We lived in a neighboring town from the ones where my parents lived, and, four months after my baby was born, my husband still did not have a job. My younger brother was attending high school in our town and staying with us, so my dad paid us in food to house and feed him. Then the mother of one of my nephews paid us with food to watch him during the day.”
“For six years now we have lived in Cosanga where my parents also live. We moved because of my work, and it has been easier than before.” In my same comment about abortions in the states and if she ever considered that a viable option, she only replied, “It was very expensive to have done and illegal in this country.” After more than 20 years, Person A now has two children. The first is in the university studying to become a mechanic and other, president of her high school, will graduate in one year. She is married to the same husband. Person B, after almost a decade, still lives near family in Cosanga because of work. Her son attends a middle school equivalent in a neighboring town during the days, and returns in the night to pass time with his best friend, his cousin. She is also married to the same man.
In what became the end of our conversation, I brought up the somewhat negative connotation that surrounds having children and marrying so young in the USA. That having a baby, marrying, and addressing the psychological, emotional, and physical decisions that come with marriage and babies at this age, some argue can be extremely overwhelming and more difficult than when addressed at a later stage in life. When asked where they stood on their own situations, and whether or not they thought they were the rule or the exception, they replied: “We want our children, we tell our children not to do what we did. Because we married and started families, we could not go to study in the university and get jobs to make money before this. We are lucky. We found good jobs, and we (our husbands and ourselves) stayed together and live in communities near our families, people we can depend on. It is hard, but harder for many other people.”