Institute graduates teach a childbirth education class specifically tailored towards pregnant teens.
According to the Tennessean in September 2015, “the state [of TN] requires all school districts with a teen pregnancy rate exceeding 19.5 [per 1,000 females, ages 15-17] to create and implement a family life education program.” Davidson County (where Nashville is located) has a teen pregnancy rate of 20.9, and 37 counties [out of 95 total] across the state exceed the rate of 19.5. Teen pregnancies are happening, and often, creating a need to educate the young mothers and fathers of these precious babies.
Last fall, Nashville Youth For Christ (YFC) contacted G.O.D. Int’l to ask that some of our members would work as "local mission partners" helping them to educate teen moms. Currently, Nashville YFC has programming in 15 schools for pregnant teen girls and at-risk youth, including a Teen Moms ministry that “connects trained adults with teen moms in programs designed to help them make good choices and establish a solid foundation in their lives and the lives of their babies.”
Kendice Hartnell, Certified Childbirth Educator and NOVA Birth Services Charitable Services Coordinator, jumped at the chance to educate teen parents on birth and newborn care. In February, Hartnell (mother of two girls and pregnant with her third) was able to visit 4 schools and speak with a few dozen teen parents (mostly mothers). Her presentation included the benefits of childbirth education, and the role of a doula. Following each session, she surveyed the parents to gauge interest in taking a childbirth course and/or having a doula support them in labor, free services offered by NOVA educators and doulas for the teen parents.
Last month, Hartnell began a 5-week teen pregnancy class at NOVA Birth Services. For this initial session, a couple of teens have been able to attend consistently. (While a handful of parents were interested, their ability to attend is complicated by multiple factors, including schedules with school, watching siblings while their parents work, or working themselves.) The class is offered free of charge, including rides to and from when needed. Attendees will also receive free doula services from G.O.D. business partner NOVA Birth Services.
The parents attending are eager to learn and make good decisions for their babies. They are feeling empowered and more confident having been given education on childbirth and their rights in childbirth. Hartnell says, “Each week, I’m seeing their fears slowly melt away. They are finding their voices as parents. Any woman feels vulnerable as she transitions into motherhood, but especially one so young with so many other pressures during her adolescent years. Education and support for them is invaluable, and we are happy to offer it.”
Hartnell has been assisted by her co-worker Brittany Girton, who is learning to teach Childbirth Education courses herself. The parents’ eagerness to learn has impacted and encouraged her regarding the importance of the service. Girton’s own difficult experiences as a teenager contribute to the burden she feels for other teens in challenging situations. And her education in God’s Word has given her the understanding to confidently love and care for them the best she can, because God loves them and is near. “I’m excited for other opportunities to reach this demographic, because it’s not easy for them to reach out for help and education due to shame. I feel really thankful for the opportunity to show them this gesture of care. Empowerment, education, and celebration of new life needs to be extended to all mothers, but especially to teens. It’s already such an unstable season for a young woman, so if she isn’t supported in her journey to motherhood, it can have really detrimental effects on how confident she feels about mothering her child.”
We are thankful that NOVA Birth Services is able to provide education and also doulas who will offer consistency through pregnancy, labor and postpartum. And like Hartnell and Girton, we look forward to serving more teenage parents as they navigate pregnancy, labor and birth, and parenting their new babies.