Book Review: "The Pregnancy Project" And The Power Of One High School Girl's Experiment
Why would anyone want to pretend to be pregnant in high school?
Gaby Rodriguez, a 17 year old high school senior student from Washington, decided to do just that and ended up becoming a national media sensation.
The memoir “The Pregnancy Project” is Rodriguez’s account of what she endured that school year, from support to gossip to being able to relax in her physical education class.
Rodriguez was raised by a single mother and is the youngest of eight children. All of her older siblings and her mother were teen parents.
Growing up, Rodriguez learned what kind of person she wanted to be – pretty much nothing like her siblings. She was determined to break the stereotype of being a young Hispanic woman who came from a family where teenage pregnancy was the norm. Many of her siblings did not graduate high school and none of them had attended college.
As a student who loved school, Rodriguez was in the top five percent of her graduating class, was in the ASB Leadership group and president of the school’s chapter of Moveimiento Estudiantil Xicano de Aztlan (M.E.Ch.A). So when she decided to pretend she was pregnant for six months for her final senior research project, most of her siblings were disappointed that she had “ruined her life.”
“I thought she had learned from our mistakes,” one of her brothers said, “She was supposed to be the one who was different and would make our mother proud. She’s so stupid.”
Rodriguez’s mother, her boyfriend Jorge, her sister Sonya, and her best friend Saida knew about her project, along with a couple of school administrators and experts who gave her advice on how to have a believable pregnancy.
Rodriguez writes, “My main goal was to make my peers take teen pregnancy seriously – if it could happen to me, it could happen to them – and encourage them to make responsible decisions about their bodies and sexuality.”
Rodriguez told the whole school about her fake pregnancy in April 2011, only to have book publishers, reporters, and film producers scrambling to tell her story.
During the school assembly where Rodriguez reveals that she isn’t really pregnant, she reads off gossip that some of her classmates said about her:
“Her family won’t make a big deal out of this because they’re used to teen moms.”
“She’s so dumb. Doesn’t she know she just ruined her life?”
“I think her boyfriend will bail, and then she’ll see what a big mistake she made.”
One of the key lessons Rodriguez tried to teach with her fake pregnancy was for young people to stop stereotyping one another and learn to help one another instead.
Even though in interviews Rodriguez doesn’t come across as very confident, her words read like a great inspirational speaker for a younger generation:
“Every single one of you has the power to go to college and graduate, and I challenge each of you to take this as an example. You have to fight for what you want in life. You can’t live your life under a stereotype.”
After her reveal, Rodriguez makes it clear that she did not complete her project to achieve fame. She runs from reporters and refuses to call back “Good Morning America” after they leave countless voicemails.
A funny part in “The Pregnancy Project” is when the first group of journalists descends upon Rodriguez for a first round of interviews, and they act territorial and possessive over her.
One journalist tells another, “She’s mine now. You had your time with her.”
Another journalist steals Rodriguez’s fake belly in order to film some shots with it, and another reporter peeks through blinds in order to eavesdrop on one of Rodriguez’s conversations.
“The Pregnancy Project,” the Lifetime original movie based on Rodriguez’s project, premiered on January 28, 2012.
The memoir “The Pregnancy Project” was released a week before her movie premiere on January 17, 2012.
As a young adult publication, “The Pregnancy Project” is a quick read. Rodriguez’s words are concise and conversational – like she’s sitting down with you telling her story.
After briefly describing her mother’s childhood and dramatic fight to win back custody of her seven children, Rodriguez seamlessly segues into her own childhood and what it was like to help raise her 31 nieces and nephews while still trying to be a child herself.
“The Pregnancy Project” is filled with statistics about teenage pregnancy for those younger readers who might not take the possibility of getting pregnant very seriously.
Statistics like “Eighty percent of teen dads don’t marry their baby’s mom” and teenage fathers “pay on average less than eight hundred dollars a year in child support” are sprinkled throughout Rodriguez’s story. They’re disappointing but believable statistics to hopefully make teenagers think twice about using birth control.
Even though Rodriguez’s main message is to avoid teenage pregnancy altogether, she still stands firm in her belief that getting pregnant as a teenager does not mean that the couple’s lives are over.
Rodriguez’s ASB Leadership club adviser tells her, “Well, I don’t see why you can’t be a leader and a mom.”
Rodriguez’s favorite teacher, her science teacher Mr. Myers, assured her, “You can still follow your dreams and have a good life; this just mean you have to work harder.”
For those young moms who don’t feel like it is possible to still graduate school or pursue a career, genuine advice like this could help give them hope that they could continue on with their dreams while still being a mother.
This is a great book to pass on to young people to learn about stereotypes and teenage pregnancy. And this memoir isn’t just for females – Rodriguez also provides words of encouragement for those young teenage fathers who might not feel they are ready to become fathers.
Personally, as a first-year graduate student who is expecting my first baby in three weeks, I couldn’t help but feel comforted and inspired by Gaby’s project.
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