“I would not go back and undo anything. It’s really hard being a teen mom, but I love Oli so much I could not imagine life without him.” -Maddie Kenny
Many of today’s teens have developed a “it couldn’t happen to me” mindset. However, for two ONW students, their realities were set into place by a plastic stick with a small but unmistakeable plus sign. Sophomore Maddie Kenny and junior Mackenzie Shutz have embarked on a difficult but highly rewarding journey commonly known as parenthood. Although the girls are young and having a baby wasn’t ideal at the time, they have fought every battle that has come with being a teen mom and continue to pursue their goals and finish high school, and they have helped each other tremendously throughout the experience.
“I’ve had to give up my normal teenage years almost completely. It’s a job I’ve taken on that you can’t clock out of, and my son is always on my mind above everything,” Shutz said. “There is no time for sports or clubs or anything that normal teenagers get to do.” Despite the adversity and the heartbreak of losing much of her youth, Schutz would never take it back.
“Cooper is almost nine months old and I couldn’t imagine life without him. I just made the best out of an untimely pregnancy and I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Although Schutz, like many other teen moms, lost friends because of her pregnancy, she has ultimately realized who her true friends are and has learned to value her family through her experience. With her family by her side along with the Olathe Northwest staff and her good friend Maddie, Schutz’s journey to a quick adulthood has been manageable.
“I’ve gained so many real friends. I didn’t even know Maddie before I got pregnant. I’ve met so many incredible people that I wouldn’t be close with today if I had not become pregnant,” Schutz said. “It is really hard to balance being a single mom and going to school, and I’m so lucky that my mom helps me out when I need to get homework done.”
Schutz as well as other past and current teen moms has relied on Mrs. McRoberts, who runs the TAPS (Teens as Parents) class first hour, and the program has kept Mackenzie and other girls in similar situations coming to school and remaining eager to learn and willing to work hard.
“Life goes on but there are days I wish I could live a normal life and have Cooper when I’m grown up and I have things figured out,” Schutz said. At first, her unexpected pregnancy was devastating, forcing her to quit the ONW dance team and give up normal teenage activities, but she always remains optimistic no matter what life throws at her.
“To any girls in the same situation: It’s not the end of the world! Your journey isn’t over, you’ve just taken a little detour.”
Schutz plans on working hard to finish high school, and afterwards she plans on attending a university and getting the education she needs while taking care of her son. Together, her and Maddie have faced the challenges of teen pregnancy and have helped each other get through the most difficult aspects of their situation.
“Maddie is awesome, because really, being a teen mom is impossible to understand unless you’ve been through it. We vent to each other about everything, and it’s awesome to have a friend that completely understands. It helps me when I feel really alone to know that there are other girls that are going through the same thing.”
Kenny’s pregnancy also threw her into a whirlwind of heartbreak, hardships, and more importantly, a sense of pride and purpose after giving birth to her son Oliver. Along with Schutz, Kenny has struggled with the challenges of motherhood and balancing school with having a full time job as a single mom. Through her experience she has learned that it is important to not depend on anyone but herself as well as her supportive family.
“The most rewarding thing about being a mom is having someone that loves you and depends on you completely. I love how a lot of the time I’m the only one that can make Oliver smile,” Kenny said. Despite the adversity of becoming a mom at a young age, bringing her son into the world has inspired her to continue to pursue her dreams. “I’m giving up a lot of my teenage life to raise him, but I don’t even care because I love him so much, and in the long run what really matters is him.”
After becoming pregnant, Kenny’s eyes were opened to how much effort caring for a baby requires, and she gained a new appreciation for her own mother and the effort she had put into raising her. Along with a renewed sense of appreciation for herself, her family, and her true friends, she also realized that sometimes it’s okay to love yourself.
“It can get very frustrating if you never get a moment to yourself. I always think that sometimes you have to take care of yourself a little bit before you can take care of someone else,” Kenny said. “I often find myself debating between getting a good night’s rest after a long day or attempting to do my homework. For some reason it’s just so difficult once you’re in the position I’m in. You don’t realize how much time you have to put into a newborn baby.”
Despite her exhausting new lifestyle, Kenny continues to stay determined to do well in school and reach her goals after high school. Along with Schutz, Kenny has been blessed with a reliable support group and is also active in the TAPs program, in which she has learned the necessary skills to take care of her baby and balance her schoolwork.
“Mackenzie helped me a lot during my pregnancy. We talk about anything and everything, and there’s really nothing we don’t say to each other. We’re basically like sisters,” Kenny said. “It’s really nice having other people that are in the same situation as you. It’s nice to now you’re not alone because a lot of the time it seems like you are.”
Together, the girls have conquered life’s challenges and have gained an entirely new insight to the world and what is truly important. Becoming teen moms has not stopped them from living their lives how they aspire to live them, and having a baby has only made them both stronger as well as bringing them together to form an unbreakable friendship.
Very few teen pregnancies are intended, and teen mothers are accountable for 11% of births every year. Three quarters of a million teens will become pregnant between the ages of 15 and 19. Anyone who is not ready to take on the challenges that Maddie and Mackenzie have had to endure should take good care to practice safe sex EVERY time, or simply abstain from sex until a more ideal time to take the risk if contraceptives are not available before then. While Schutz and Kenny both have made the best of unexpected pregnancies, it is still important to keep in mind that getting pregnant at a young age is completely avoidable.
“It’s a bond and love that you can’t describe until you become a mom.” -Mackenzie Schutz