Teen moms struggle together

It is a teen gabfest, but these girls don't talk about parties, pimples or the latest fashions.

Instead, the topic of conversation centers on how to get rid of stretch marks and how it felt when 8-month-old Joey spilled something all over the computer at school that day.

"It's tough sometimes," said Valerie Moore, Joey's mother.

"But I wouldn't change it for anything."

Moore, 19, attends PASS (Positive Alternatives for Student Success), a high school program for high-risk students - held at Mohave Community College - where teens are allowed to bring their babies to school.

She is also one of 12 teen moms in the TEAM (Teens Early Acceptance of Motherhood) support group that has been meeting at St.

John's United Methodist Church since Oct.

23.

Robin Bently, whose 16-year-old daughter, Kelly Brown, gave birth just two weeks ago, said she started the group because she realized how important a support group is for teen moms.

"When my daughter got pregnant she had to make some tough decisions - everything from 'where do I go and what do I do,' so I got her involved in a support group in Phoenix, where we lived," Bently said.

When the family moved to Kingman a still-pregnant Brown enrolled in the PASS Program, and after listening to her daughter and other teen moms at PASS talk about their concerns, Bently realized they needed a support group.

Bently, a member of St.

John's, approached church officials about letting the girls meet at the church, but stated that the group has no religious affiliation.

"Not only did they offer a place for the girls to meet on Wednesday night, they invited them, and their families, to join other parishioners for the regular Wednesday night dinner at the church before the meeting," she said.

The facilitator of the group, Bently said pregnancy, mother/child bonding and child development are all topics of conversation, but it is also about bonding with each other.

"My life has changed drastically," Brown said.

"I don't have as many friends now, and the friends I do have are all moms, because other friends don't want to hang out with someone with a baby."

Brown used to party, she said, but now she spends most of her time caring for her new daughter, Tatiana, and is no longer with the father of the baby.

She also had to drop out of school - where she was on the Kingman Bulldogs Varsity Basketball Team - and gave up a basketball scholarship to Idaho State College.

"I want to go back to school and play basketball again," she said.

"It will be a lot harder, but I'll try.

I really love to play, but having a new baby takes up a lot of time.

I don't know if I can do it.

I'll just try to be a really good mom."

Moore, who is married to the 19-year-old father of her baby, said even with the support of her husband things can get tough.

"It helps to be able to talk to other girls without being looked down on," Moore said.

"A lot of people in the community look down on us.

They are very judgmental of teen moms.

They don't realize how much we have to do to be good mothers."

Moore said most of the girls go to school with their babies.

"I start my day at six in the morning with the baby," she said.

"After feeding, and playing with him I take him to school.

When I get home from school I feed him again, clean the house and make dinner for my family.

"After dinner I clean up, play with the baby some more and put him to bed.

Then I do my homework until 11.

The next day I start all over again."

Some days at school are worse then others, like the days Joey "throws up all over everyone, or I have to keep changing his diapers."

But she added that teen moms try harder, which is why they are often "better moms than some twice our age."

Moore's family was supportive, but disappointed, when she became pregnant.

"They said they wanted more than a daughter who was a teen mom," she said.

"I married because in my religion it is frowned on to be pregnant and not married."

Kristen Huynh was just 15 when she became pregnant.

Now the mother of 9-month-old Madisyn, Kristen decided to put school on hold for a while to devote herself full time to motherhood.

"The best thing about being a mom is it teaches you a lot about life, reality and responsibility," she said.

"It has been a wonderful experience."

But Kristen's mother, Tina, said there was a time when Kristen first became pregnant that the family faced some tough decisions.

"We gave her the alternatives to having the baby, including abortion, even though we don't really believe in abortion," Tina said.

"I was 15 when I had Kristen, and I knew what she would be giving up - her education and career.

She wanted to get into law, and was planning to go to college in Flagstaff."

Tina said the father of the baby is 19 and "in and out" of the baby's life, unable to support himself or the baby.

"He hasn't faced us since she became pregnant," she said.

"He doesn't realize that it takes more than physical and emotional love, you also have to be financially responsible."

Tina and her husband will continue to support Kristen and the baby - both emotionally and financially - until they can make a life for themselves, Tina added.

"I don't want her to think she has to run out and find a man to support her," she said.

"I would rather see her continue her education and make some wise choices in the future."

The teen moms are encouraged to attend group meetings where everything from nutrition to breastfeeding is discussed.

They earn "points" when they attend, which can be used to purchase diapers, baby clothes and baby furniture from a supply of items Bently keeps on hand in a closet at the church.

For more information about TEAM, or to donate baby items to the group, contact Bently at 692-5751 or call St.

John's United Methodist Church at 692-8828.