Teen parents

Teenage parents comment on the challenges and rewards of their young parenthood

Adrian’s mom

Adrian’s mom

She gently removes the crying baby from his mother Kristine’s lap and begins rocking nine-month-old Adrian, murmuring soothing sounds. Within minutes, the child is asleep against her chest.

Kyra Nelson is a mother herself and knows how to comfort the tired infant.

She’s 16 years old.

Both women are teenage moms; Kristine is 17. They both attend McNaughton Centre and are determined to finish school despite the challenges.

“I was surprised when I found out I was pregnant. I was 14,” Nelson said.

“I had no idea what I would do. I was scared of my parents’ reaction and was worried someone (anyone) would suggest abortion. I’m against it.”

She admitted the future, as a very young parent, was daunting, but she also knew she wanted to keep the baby. Jaremiah was born last summer and is now a happy eight-month-old. Right now he’s away on a family visit with Nelson’s mother and Kyra spoke sadly of how much she missed him and can’t wait to hold her son again.

Kristine Clayton said she wasn’t scared when she found out she was pregnant.

“I was kind of happy,” she said.

“But I was scared of how my father would react.”

Nelson said it was tough in the beginning. She was already attending McNaughton when she found out she was pregnant and she suffered through the name-calling and condemnation of some of the students.

“But also many supported me,” she said.

For Clayton, who was attending Correlieu, it was very difficult.

“I lost my friends and felt I had to drop out,” she said ruefully.

“I stayed home but the last two months of school, I went back.

“Everyone stared at me, but I didn’t care, I had to get it done.”

Nelson agreed. As the pregnancy went on, she said, she had a few problems with other students.

“I almost quit and my mom wanted to pull me out,” she said.

“But I want to graduate as fast as possible.”

Both teen moms told stories of other students who took great risks trying to get rid of their pregnancy.

“If you do that, you’re lucky if you miscarry. Babies can be born with serious issues because moms drank, or did worse trying, to get rid of the pregnancy,” Nelson said.

“If you really don’t want the baby, abortions aren’t that hard to get.”

Clayton went back to Correlieu in September 2011 after Adrian was born and stayed in school until February of this year, when she transferred to McNaughton.

“There wasn’t the willingness to accommodate parents,” she said.

“I was the only one with a child at the time.”

Nelson came back to McNaughton just two weeks after Jaremiah was born.

“I wanted to be back right away. I was breast feeding and trying to pump but after three months my milk dried up,” she said.

“They said my body was too young.”

Clayton breast fed Adrian for about two weeks.

Both say they have good support from their families, however, neither still has a relationship with the biological fathers of their babies.

Once Clayton’s mother went back to work, Kristine began bringing Adrian to school and although parenting and classwork are tiring, she’s determined to graduate.

For Nelson, she finds it difficult to concentrate with Jaremiah away with her mother.

Kyra and Kristine are happy to have their sons and love being moms.

“I wouldn’t change it,” Nelson said.

Kristine will graduate in 2013 and Kyra hopes to graduate within the next year as well.

Kyra hopes to eventually have three children and Kristine wants one more, but not for a few years.

“I need to graduate, get a job and support Adrian,” Kristine said.

Trent Heinzelman is 17 years old, a student at McNaughton Centre and the father of Lyric, his 14-week-old son. He spoke glowingly of being there when his son was born, cutting the cord and how amazing the birth was.

Both Trent and his girlfriend Taylor Peterson were surprised by the pregnancy but determined to go through with it.

“We were nervous, but we’re a pretty good team,” he said.

Taylor is currently at home with Lyric on maternity leave and with the help of both their parents, the couple is learning to be good parents.

“I really like being a dad,” Trent said.

“I want to graduate then go to Fort St. John and begin an apprenticeship.”

The new parents have already faced many challenges. Possibly the most challenging has been growing up, leaving the partying behind and coming to terms with parenting.

“Taylor lost the grad fun stuff last year,” he said.

“I feel different from other students, I’m more dedicated to graduating and getting on with a career.”

Both Taylor and Trent would like more kids but not right now.

“I would encourage other expectant fathers to do it,” he said.

“It’s your responsibility, but it’s also very rewarding.”

Chelsea Hardaker is just 16 years old and expecting her first child. She said both her and the baby’s dad were surprised and somewhat shocked when they found out.

“We considered abortion but it’s not for me,” Hardaker said.

“And I couldn’t give the baby up.”

She confessed, at first, most of her friends fell away.

“I was lonely, upset and angry but now I feel more self-reliant,” she said.

Hardaker has suffered much of the same criticism and ridicule as Nelson and Clayton and feels it isn’t justified.

“With the openness towards sex and teenagers, I don’t understand why people act like I’m a bad girl, it can happen to a lot of teens I know. Most are just as much at risk as I was,” she said.

She spends most of her time at home and has started to gather what she’ll need for the baby.

The biological dad has moved to Alberta and Hardaker is living with her mother, who is very supportive of her finishing her education and her impending parenthood.

“I don’t know exactly what I’ll do but I’m interested in a medical technician field or maybe working with animals.”

But for now she’s attending the Pregnancy Outreach Program and McNaughton Centre.

“I never imagined being a teen mom. I figured it wouldn’t happen to me,” she said.

“I even tried the morning after pill but it failed. I’m nervous about being a parent.”

McNaughton principal Dennis Hawkins-Bogle said the reality is their students have children and it’s important to support the students and that means supporting the children as well.

Currently three students bring their children from time to time.

“Adrian is a bit of a regular,” he said.

Having the children at school allows the parents to be with their children throughout the day.

“And whenever there’s a baby in the school the atmosphere is calm as can be,” Hawkins-Bogle said.

“Some of the other students babysit for the parents on occasion.”

He added students, when they’re with their children, show empathy and compassion and they don’t see enough of that in the students.

“It’s a magical moment,” he said.

The school teaches students realistically how to not become parents, but Hawkins-Bogle said, “it happens.”

“We teach all the safe sex things you’d expect from a school.”

“However, when a young girl comes to me and tells me she’s pregnant, I have books to help her navigate the process. The first thing we discuss, though, is what the student wants to do regarding her pregnancy.”

Hawkins-Bogle said they also offer parenting workshops.

“These students are juggling their teen years with being a parent and that just can’t be easy,” he said.