I definitely think that a lack of honesty about parenthood is partly to blame for young girls, young women, and their partners, having children before even thinking much about it. Actually, I know many of older women (and by older I don't mean old, but as in late 20's and beyond) who also have bought into the fantasies of motherhood and having children would be like. I have lost count of how many women I have seen or known who were in a rush to get married so they could start cracking out babies and even hoped for a honeymoon baby to point I wondered whether they wanted the marriage, or the baby. Heck, their parent friends will sell them on fantasies of "parenthood is AMAZING" while covered in spit up, having painful cracked nipples, a marriage on the rocks, and being severely sleep deprived to point of hallucinating. They somehow ignore that and see the picture moments. The babies with ridiculous sized bows on their heads. The toddler snuggling with the family dog. They see the "cute and well behaved kid" and assume their own would be the same, rather than seriously consider they may have a child with autism or who simply is more high needs.
Many of the fantasies absolutely revolve around having a "cute baby" and "cute toddler". Much like having a puppy or a kitten. How often do people talk about how cute and funny teenagers are, or how much unconditional love their nine-year old provides? I give a big side eye to people who claim parenthood is so much easier than people claimed, when their child is still an infant or toddler. Yeah, sleep deprivation is tough, but wait until the kid has more of a personality and really tests you.
While I do know some people who had some experience with children in a very close, long term way before deciding to have children, most I know don't. I do think there truly are some people who do find parenting a very meaningful experience. I also think there are just as many who are convincing themselves that they find it so as what can they do now that the kid is there except justify their decisions?
I got pregnant when I was 16. Birth control failed, without us knowing it at the time. I knew immediately I wanted an abortion. Not only because having a child did not work for my life at that time, but I was the oldest of a few other siblings, by a few years, and had seen and experienced for myself how difficult children could be. While I will never claim I "raised" them, I will say that due to circumstances I was very involved in caring for them much of the time and it was a headache and a half. Heck, I knew how difficult *I* was. I love my siblings, and I turned out pretty good in the end, but it was not all fun and games! My poor mother! I knew there was no freaking way that I wanted to dedicate my life, at 16, to raising a child! My best friend at the time also got pregnant as a teenager and gave her child up for adoption. But, we were some of the more rare ones. I knew SEVERAL girls in junior high and high school who really WANTED to get pregnant. Who actively sought to get pregnant. Who wanted a cute baby to dress in Doc Martens and that would love them (for feeding them, I guess?). Some of them were "successful" in their goal, and from what I have seen none of them quite had the results they were expecting.
I am fortunate in that during my years of procrastination I did have some very honest friends, and even honest strangers. I am not someone who makes a decision without putting some serious thought into it, and looked for myself as to what parenthood was like. I read both "child free" literature, neutral literature, literature written by regretful parents and happy parents, and even "pro-natalist" literature. I was a member on several forums that were not child-centred but did have many parents, and many non-parents. I lurked and spent time on forums that WERE child-centred as a voyeur into what was said when people thought they had people of like mind to listen. I listened carefully when complete strangers told my husband and I we were smart for not having any kids, and then tried to pass their teenagers off onto us. I paid attention when even relatively happy parents told us to really think about it and shared that while they loved children, and even enjoyed being parents, they also would not have felt empty if they had not had them. Or talked about how they loved parenthood until their second or third child came along and was a demon spawn. I paid attention to those who talked about adoring parenthood, while they were still on the highs of a newborn, and then turned around to talk to the parent of a teenage girl who remembers the newborn days with a "I had no idea back then!". I had the privilege of many years to absorb all this information, to learn who *I* am as an individual, to determine what I wanted in my life, to create my identity. I believe that many people never give themselves this chance, and deny themselves this chance when they rush to have kids to GIVE them an identity of sorts. If I had popped out kids at 16, or 20, I really would have missed out on over a decade of some pretty honest truths about parenthood. My life could have gone a very different path. It scares me to even think about that!
I would not say my sex education glorified parenthood though or indicated it was a "must". I don't even particularly recall any discussion of children being positive in a marriage and so on. I had some sex education teachers though who did not have children themselves though either, so perhaps that had something to do with it. I just look more at the overall societal pressures, the obsession with celebrity babies and how wonderful the mothers look (though perhaps Jessica Simpson will hit it home a bit more that not all mothers bounce back 2 weeks after birth?), the tendency for parents to glorify the "good" and gloss over the "bad". All these together tend to really affect those who feel insecure, lost, who are searching for an identity, a sense of self, a family, a community, a sense of belonging, an escape, a permanency, a "reason" for a boyfriend to stay, a reason to avoid making other decisions, and so on.