How the “pregnancy pact” was sold

The Gloucester teen who got $200 for pain, suffering and international infamy.

Topics: Family, Broadsheet, Pregnancy, Motherhood,

Last summer, as you may have heard, a group of pregnant but otherwise unremarkable high school girls in a tiny Massachusetts fishing village became temporary repositories for our collective ire on teen sexuality, taking over for Ellen Page and Jamie Lynn Spears before ceding ground once again to girls more accustomed to the public eye — like, say, the daughter of a vice-presidential candidate.

If you’ve every wondered what it’s like to be young, vulnerable and an international political symbol of teenage depravity, check out this article in Boston magazine, in which reporter Rachel Baker takes a look at Gloucester’s “season of infamy” through the eyes of 17-year-old Kaila Simpson and her best friend, Alivia.

In an amusing twist, both girls first heard of the so-called pregnancy pact from reporters camped out at their local McDonald’s – a pact that “they, being girls of Gloucester High, found totally bizarre.” Shortly thereafter, Kaila, pushing a baby stroller, made her network debut. When asked what parents could do about the pregnancy “epidemic,” Kaila, “clutching a cigarette,” replied: “Get into their kids’ lives. Half the parents here have no clue what’s going on with their kids.”

But here’s the funny part: Kaila is not, in point of fact, a teen mother. (The kid in the stroller was her niece, Kaycie.) As Baker puts it:

Her real role in the whole drama was as her pregnant friends’ spokeswoman. She had always been the popular girl within her crowd, the kind of kid who sets the nightly social agenda and orchestrates the matchmaking between her friends and the older boys. Why shouldn’t she also be a quasi-agent when the press came calling? Her friends had enough to deal with. This was how she could help. Plus, the way she saw it, she could share the limelight without actually being saddled with a kid of her own. “I know how they are and how they think and everything,” Kaila says. “I basically say what they’re feeling about things because I know them so well.”

In the summer of ’08, “Spokeswoman for Pregnant Teenagers” appeared to be quite the lucrative career move. When reporters from the National Enquirer parachute into town, literally lugging a “backpack full of cash,” Kaila takes $200 to hook them up with her pregnant best friend, Alivia (who is “thrilled” that her friend “hooked her up with the kind of opportunity [she] never could have brokered for herself” — though she ends up with her picture plastered beneath the headline: “WE WANTED TO BE LIKE JAMIE LYNN”). She fields offers from NBC to fly her to New York (along with “as many pregnant and teenage-mom friends as she could help them find”) but holds out for a dream offer from her heroine, Tyra Banks, only to have her hopes dashed when Alivia’s aunt backstabs her by offering her own exclusive to Dr. Drew (“Kaila couldn’t help but feel resentful — she had been there for her friend in a way that she felt Alivia’s aunt never had.”)

You Might Also Like

With her cigarettes and her “real-looking faux Chanel bag,” Kaila brings to mind the stereotype of the cigar-chomping producer, and I suppose you have to admire the kind of entrepreneurial moxie it takes to stage-manage your friends’ private lives for fun and profit. But while I suspect Kaila may have a better sense of how her friends “feel” than, say, the high school principal, who, in my opinion, sold them out to save his ass politically, I’m still a little bothered by the way she holds herself up as role model — “I’m 17, and no babies!” — while simultaneously dishing up the most personal details of her friends’ lives to an audience who manifestly does not have their best interests at heart.

When this story first broke, I questioned whether the idea of a pregnancy pact was really such a terrible idea. Not the kind in which girls make a pact to get pregnant, mind you, but rather the kind in which girls already pregnant band together with their friends to help each other out. One of the least astonishing — and saddest — revelations in this piece comes when Alivia, now back at Gloucester High (Kaila dropped out after her first semester of sophomore year), admits she “doesn’t want to be associated with other teen moms” lest they be seen as “some kind of clique.” She does, however, depend on her best friend to help her raise her son, Xavier. “The girls joke that Kaila is Xavier’s father,” writes Baker, and, less than six months after the original story broke, it seems that most of the girls are already getting more support from their girlfriends than the fathers of their children:

On her wall at home, Kaila has put up photos of Xavier alongside pictures of her niece, Kaycie. Sometimes Kaila and Kaycie meet up at McDonald’s or Burnham’s Field with Alivia and Xavier, as well as Meaghan and her baby boy, Jayden. Then they stroll the Boulevard together, the way they always talked about.

Amy Benfer is a freelance writer in Brooklyn, N.Y.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    DAYA  
    Young Daya has yet to become entirely jaded, but she has the character's trademark skeptical pout down pat. And with a piece-of-work mother like Aleida -- who oscillates between jealousy and scorn for her creatively gifted daughter, chucking out the artwork she brings home from summer camp -- who can blame her?

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    MORELLO   
    With her marriage to prison penpal Vince Muccio, Lorna finally got to wear the white veil she has fantasized about since childhood (even if it was made of toilet paper).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CINDY   
    Cindy's embrace of Judaism makes sense when we see her childhood, lived under the fist of a terrifying father who preached a fire-and-brimstone version of Christianity. As she put it: "I was raised in a church where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad, I’d go to hell."

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CAPUTO   
    Joey Caputo has always tried to be a good guy, whether it's offering to fight a disabled wrestler at a high school wrestling event or giving up his musical ambitions to raise another man's child. But trying to be a nice guy never exactly worked out for him -- which might explain why he decides to take the selfish route in the Season 3 finale.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    BOO   
    In one of the season's more moving flashbacks, we see a young Boo -- who rejected the traditional trappings of femininity from a young age -- clashing with her mother over what to wear. Later, she makes the decision not to visit her mother on her deathbed if it means pretending to be something she's not. As she puts it, "I refuse to be invisible, Daddy. Not for you, not for Mom, not for anybody.”

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    SOSO
    We still don't know what landed Brooke Soso in the slammer, but a late-season flashback suggests that some seriously overbearing parenting may have been the impetus for her downward spiral.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    POUSSEY
    We already know a little about Poussey's relationship with her military father, but this season we saw a softer side of the spunky fan-favorite, who still pines for the loving mom that she lost too young.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    PENNSATUCKY
    Pennsatucky had something of a redemption arc this season, and glimpses of her childhood only serve to increase viewer sympathy for the character, whose mother forced her to chug Mountain Dew outside the Social Security Administration office and stripped her of her sexual agency before she was even old enough to comprehend it.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CHANG
    This season, we got an intense look at the teenage life of one of Litchfield's most isolated and underexplored inmates. Rebuffed and scorned by her suitor at an arranged marriage, the young Chinese immigrant stored up a grudge, and ultimately exacted a merciless revenge.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    HEALY
    It's difficult to sympathize with the racist, misogynist CO Sam Healy, but the snippets we get of his childhood -- raised by a mentally ill mother, vomited on by a homeless man he mistakes for Jesus when he runs to the church for help -- certainly help us understand him better.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NORMA
    This season, we learned a lot about one of Litchfield's biggest enigmas, as we saw the roots of Norma's silence (a childhood stutter) and the reason for her incarceration (killing the oppressive cult leader she followed for decades).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NICKI
    While Nicki's mother certainly isn't entirely to blame for her daughter's struggles with addiction, an early childhood flashback -- of an adorable young Nicki being rebuffed on Mother's Day -- certainly helps us understand the roots of Nicki's scarred psyche.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>