MTV’s reality explosions, “Sixteen and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom,” sparked controversy and debate around the nation. Leading to speculation, judgment and even, at times, envy, these shows offered America a small glimpse into the lives of young, teenage mothers. But take away the lights, the camera, and the millions of viewers and wonder what it would actually be like to go through senior year of high school with a baby bump. Would you feel anxious and excited or alone and scared? Would your family and friends support you or leave you and your growing belly behind? Gaby Rodriguez, a student at Toppenish High, took it upon herself to find out the answers to these riveting questions.
With a looming senior project ahead of her, Gaby Rodriguez, a 17-year-old “A” Student, decided to fake her own pregnancy as a social experiment. Spending 6 ½ months of her senior year with a wire mesh and cotton quilt belly, Gaby tried to understand the stereotypes and rumors that go along with teenage pregnancy. She took careful notes of what was said not only to her face, but also behind her back. Only a handful of people knew the truth about her charade, including her best friend, boyfriend, mother and principle. The rest of her fellow students, siblings and teachers were left out in the dark with their criticism. Her boyfriend’s parents thought it was going to be a boy.
According to the Yakima Herald, the experiment came to a close during an emotional school assembly entitled, “Stereotypes, rumors, and statistics.” Here, quotes were read of what people actually said about her character throughout the experiment.
“In essence, she gave up her senior year,” one student read, “She sacrificed her senior year to find out what it would be like to be a potential teen mom.”
When Gaby took her of homemade, prosthetic belly, she was met with both confusion and nervous laughter. However, after the short question and answer portion of the assembly, there was a standing ovation.
“She fooled me. I never would’ve guessed it,” Vicente Villanueva tells the Yakima Herald, “I’m really surprised.”
“I didn’t know what to say. I just started crying,” adds Gaby’s niece, Angel Jalomo.
Gaby was relieved when it was all over and was even more thrilled that she didn’t have to wear her fake belly to prom. Instead, she wore a form-fitting mermaid gown and a sense of freedom from nasty rumors and hurtful speculations.