EDITOR'S NOTE: Some of the names in this article have been changed to protect the
privacy of those interviewed.
Recently, The Post-Journal spoke with five women, ages 15 through 36, who were either about to become a teenage mother, or who had given birth when they were a teenager.
Each of these five women has her own unique story. However, when each shared her reactions, joys and sorrows of motherhood, many similarities were exposed.
Joyce, a 15-year-old, was five weeks away from giving birth to her first child when The Post-Journal spoke with her. She was filled with excitement for all that she hoped motherhood would bring.
At the time of her interview, 18-year-old Ashley was working toward graduating high school while caring for her 2-year-old son, Alex.
Meanwhile, Kaitlyn, age 19, had a goal of joining the Air Force reserves to create a better life for herself and 15-month-old daughter, Maddie.
Katie is now 22, and has a 5-year-old daughter, Jolinn. Katie reflected on the custody battle between her and Jolinn's father that the family has endured for more than a year.
Like Katie, 36-year-old Jennifer also had a lot to reflect upon over her life with 20-year-old son, Marcus.
"Looking back, if I could change it all and still have the same kid, I would. But, I know I wouldn't have been the same person. He wouldn't have been the same kid. It made us what we are," Jennifer said.
Of the five mothers, Katie and Jennifer both said that their own mothers also had their first children as teenagers. Often, the women had other members of their families who were also teenage mothers.
"My cousin had a baby young. My step-sister had a baby young. My sister had a baby young. I told them that they were all stupid, and that I would never make such a dumb choice," Katie said.
Broken homes were a characteristic for each of the five women. Joyce lives at home with her mother, brother and live-in boyfriend of four months, Rick.
Ashley's parents are also separated, and she and Alex live with her mother. Ashley also has a half-brother who has two children of his own.
Kaitlyn and Maddie had been living alone in an apartment for the three months before her interview. The road to the apartment, though, was a long one.
"I had to move here in November, because I moved out of my ex-fiancee, Mike's house. He is my baby-dad, we were with each other for five years. A lot has happened in that time with him. He got physical, so I got myself out of that situation. It took a lot, but I did it, and I went and stayed with the safe house for a while, for about a month before I found my apartment," Kaitlyn said.
Prior to moving in with Mike, Kaitlyn was living with her father, until she was 16.
"I talk to (my father) very rarely, not often. My mom, she hasn't been a part of my life since I was little, so, I mean, I talk to her. She's supportive, but not really there. I have my brother and my sister, but they're brother and sister, they're not much. I don't have very much help with anything," Kaitlyn said.
Like Kaitlyn, Katie also moved in with Jolinn's father, Jim.
"I moved out of my dad's house when Jolinn was about 8 weeks old, and (Jim and I) got our own place. It was harder. There were more responsibilities. Everything was our own responsibility. We didn't have our parents there to support us," Katie said.
Jennifer is one of 12 children. After telling her mother that she was pregnant, Jennifer knew that she was about to grow up very quickly.
"After I told (my mother), it was a long road from that point on. As far as having the baby and stuff, she never helped me, really. If I needed her help, I know she would've been there. But, I knew from that point on, I had to grow up," Jennifer said.
Shortly after Marcus was born, Jennifer moved in with her son's father, John.
"We got an apartment. I ended up getting help through the state, and I was able to go back to school. They paid for daycare and transportation. I was helped tremendously. If it wasn't for that, I wouldn't have finished school," Jennifer said.
BIRTH CONTROL FAILURE
Birth control failure is what all of the women point to as the reason behind their unplanned pregnancy. While each of the five women was using a form of birth control, various factors caused it to be ineffective.
"I wasn't expecting it, because I was on birth control and I was switching over, because I didn't want to be on the pill anymore. I wanted to get the shot. And it takes a while, and I didn't know that, so ... I got pregnant," Joyce said.
Kaitlyn and Mike began dating when she was 14 years old and he was 17. Several years into their relationship, Kaitlyn found out that she was pregnant.
"My birth control failed. I was on the birth control pill and it failed for me. So, I wasn't smart enough to use a condom as well, which I recommend you do, no matter what, don't rely on birth control, because it's not always 100 percent effective. You have to take it right, you have to take it on time. Any antibiotic can completely counter the birth control. There are a lot of things that can go wrong with birth control," Kaitlyn said.
Although she was also on a birth control pill, Katie believes that taking an antibiotic is what caused her birth control to fail.
"I was on the pill, but I kept missing it. I was on an antibiotic, and the clinic never told me that when you were on an antibiotic, that it's not 100 percent guaranteed," Katie said.
Jennifer had fibrocystic breast disease. In the early 1990s, Jennifer said, doctors believed that the caffeine was a trigger for the disease. Many types of birth control have caffeine in them.
"They did end up coming out with one that I was able to take, but as a teenager, you don't remember to take them when you're supposed to anyway, so I probably missed it," Jennifer said.
Each of the women agrees that telling their parents and their partner that they were pregnant was one of the most difficult things they had gone through up until that point.
Although she is now excited to be a mother, Joyce's first reaction wasn't one of excitement. When she first found out that she was pregnant, she was upset and afraid to tell her mother the news. She said that she found out in her school's health center. When they told her that she was pregnant, Joyce cried.
"Then I had to call my mom up. She started crying. I was really scared. I called her from school; I wasn't going to tell her to her face," Joyce said.
Joyce remembers that her mother came to the high school after receiving the shocking news, and the two of them cried together in the nurse's office. However, now that time has gone by, Joyce's mother is also looking forward to having a new baby in the house.
Like Joyce, Katie also learned about her pregnancy at school. At the age of 16, Katie began dating Jim, who was four years older than her, and already out of school. Four months into their relationship, Katie found out that she was pregnant.
Meanwhile, Ashley's mother worked at a store, so Ashley decided to tell her the news just minutes before the store was due to open, giving her mother less of a reaction time.
"She just said, 'We'll talk about it later,' and 'You better hope you're not.' She was a little angry, but there's nothing you can do after the fact," Ashley said.
Ashley's dad, however, was a different story altogether.
"My dad tried to make me get an abortion, either that or move out with no help from my mom or him. He had to pay my insurance, and he wasn't happy about it. He tried to force me to get emancipated and have an abortion, which really made my mom mad," Ashley said. "It was stressful. I was happy to have my mom. (My dad's) girlfriend was so against it, too. But, my grandma was on my side. If I had to do it on my own, I don't know how I would have gotten through it. It is really, really helpful to have family there to back you up, definitely when you have half of your family that is going against you with your decisions. My mom stuck up to my dad for the first time; I've never seen it happen before. They got into a really big fight over it."
Kaitlyn and Mike found out about her pregnancy during a trip to the hospital. Kaitlyn had been having stomach pains. While in the hospital, Kaitlyn first learned that she had a urinary tract infection.
"Then they told me that I'm pregnant. They had asked me before, and I told them that there was no chance that I was pregnant. Then, they were like, 'Well, you're pregnant.' I just started crying right there. Mike was just sitting there like, 'Oh, my God,'" Kaitlyn said.
The couple had thought that they were being safe, and that there was no chance of an unexpected pregnancy.
Immediately, Kaitlyn knew that she would be in for increased responsibility when it came to having a baby.
"It was scary, and I knew that I was in for a lot. I didn't know exactly, because obviously you don't really know until you have a baby. But, I knew that it was my fault. I knew that I had to take responsibility for my consequences. That's what my dad has always taught me. But, I was happy at the same time. It takes a while to actually feel the happiness of it, rather than, 'Why is this happening to me?'" Kaitlyn said.
Jennifer also learned that she was pregnant while she was in the hospital. She discovered that she was pregnant after passing out while getting out of the bathtub at her brother's house. Her brother took her to the hospital's emergency room, where she was given the news.
"They were so excited. The nursing crew was like, 'Oh, you're going to have a baby!' And, I remember thinking, 'Oh, my God, what do you mean I'm going to have a baby?' I was devastated," Jennifer said.
Telling her mom that she was pregnant was difficult for Jennifer.
"That was the worst. She was so disappointed. The hardest part of it was telling my mom. And, when I had to tell her, I remember taking her into her room, and I started crying, and of course she was just looking at me. Then, I finally told her that I was pregnant, and she's like, 'Well, if you're grown enough to do it, you're going to be grown enough to take care of this baby, then. I'll be here to help you and guide you, but I'm not taking care of that baby,'" Jennifer said.
BOYFRIENDS & BIO-DADS
None of the five women are currently with their child's biological father. Most of them do have someone that is in the fathering role in their child's life, though.
Joyce had been dating Rick for four months at the time of her interview, but he is not the baby's father. The biological father of her baby, Joyce said, does not believe the baby is his, and currently does not have a relationship with Joyce.
"(When I told him, he was) like, 'That's not mine. That's not my kid.'" Joyce said.
Once the baby is born, Joyce plans to get a paternity test, which she predicts will force the baby's biological father to step into her life.
After only four months of dating, though, Rick is already stepping up and into the father role. At age 19, Rick has been living on his own for about three years, and has had other experiences that have caused him to mature.
"(Rick) takes the daddy role. He already bought her stuff that says 'Daddy's Girl,' and he has a little sonogram picture of her, and it says 'My baby' on it," Joyce said. "He actually took care of his niece, from when she was, like, 6-weeks-old to when she was a year and a half, by himself. So, he knows what he's doing. He's been on his own since he was 16, and now he's 19."
Alex's father is not in his son's life at all. He was in Ashley's life for the first few months of her pregnancy, and then disappeared until Alex was 7 months old. Alex's father then found an out-of-state girlfriend and moved away.
"He didn't really care. He had a child before, he already had one child, now he has another one after me. He doesn't really care. I knew he wouldn't. We kind of talked about it. He was kind of happy about having a baby. I just didn't know he was going to leave," Ashley said.
When Jolinn was 2 years old, Katie and Jim broke up, and Jim moved completely out of both of their lives. For the last year, however, Katie and Jim have been braving a court battle for custody.
"We didn't actually go to court until about a year ago. So, he was out of her life for about a year, almost two years before we went to court. He was abusing drugs and alcohol, and I wanted some sort of custody there," Katie said.
Katie has had a support system of family, friends and current fiancee by her side for the last year. Jim was only granted supervised visits with Jolinn at first, because of his substance-abuse problems. However, in what was a devastating blow to Katie, Jim was recently granted unsupervised visits every other weekend with Jolinn.
Jennifer had been dating John for several years before she had Marcus. The two continued to date for several years after Marcus was born.
When Marcus was two, Jennifer and John broke up. Jennifer and Marcus moved on together and found a man named Scott, who Jennifer soon married and spent another 16 years and two more children with. Scott easily took on the fathering role to Marcus.
"Marcus was so young that whenever it came to Scott, he was drawn to him. It was OK. Scott knew we were a package deal. And, with Marcus growing up, Scott really took on the role of the father, so that really helped a lot. And, even to this day, Scott is still in Marcus' life. His father is in his life, but his father was never really in his life; I mean, he was there, but he wasn't. He visited him once in a while, but it wasn't a constant," Jennifer said.
After graduating high school, Jennifer opted to not continue on to college.
"I ended up meeting Scott when Marcus was like 2 . Within two years we were married, and we were together ever since. And now we've split up. We just grew apart, we were so young when we got married. I tried to make it work. I didn't want to be that mom with three kids by two different daddys. It made it hard," Jennifer said.
For more of each woman's story, see Page E8.