By Shantel Moua

Being a teenage mother in the Hmong culture is actually quite common. If a Hmong girl was to already be married the Hmong way, then in a sense, getting pregnant would be okay. But in the American way, it is frowned upon.

Traditionally, if a girl is not pregnant and the teenage couple wanted to get married, the boy would “kidnap” the girl and take her to his house. Then the boy would have to get his relatives to call the girl’s family and tell them that she is going to get married. The relatives would also have to go the girl’s family house and offer them a gift and thank  the parents for the girl.

Then both the couple’s parents would have a meeting to discuss the cost of the girl and the marriage ceremony. The marriage ceremony lasts for two days, with lots of food, drinks and beer. In the end they would be officially married, and the new wife would go live with her new husband, although they are not considered being legally married by the United States. Because the girl is already married, her parents would not mind when she gets pregnant even if she’s just a teen.

But getting married due to a pregnancy is more common. In this case the parents can react quite harshly. Many Asian parents care about their status and dignity and for a girl to get pregnant without getting married causes them to “lose their reputation” and they arrange wedding plans. This causes the teenage couple to get a forced marriage and the girl has to stay at the boy’s house. And if the boy refuses to get married or the girl doesn’t know who the father is, she is unable to live with her parents after the baby is born for thirty days. She has to live outside of her parents and relatives house until the baby is a full month.

But either way, teenage pregnancy is really tough for young women. I know many girls who don’t want to spend their lives taking care of their baby.