Parents, 18, finish high school

June 05, 1994|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Sun Staff Writer

"Daddy's home!" the young mother tells her child. "Where's daddy?"

The words send 19-month-old Nicholas Wise racing to the top of the foyer, where he bounces impatiently on his toes, waiting for ++ his father's afternoon hug.

What's unusual about this scene in Cape St. Claire is that Nicholas' father, Steven Davenport Jr., and his mother, Kiersten Wise -- both 18 -- became parents when they were juniors at Broadneck High School, and both have just graduated.

"Everyone was really surprised it was me," said Kiersten, a good student who had never been in trouble. "I found out I was pregnant when I was four months along. I was 16 and in the 10th grade when I found out."

Nicholas was born in December of Steve and Kiersten's junior year. Instead of the usual teen-age thrills, their daily routine involved diaper-changing, trips to the baby sitter and making formula.

Kiersten and Nicholas live with Kiersten's parents. Steve lives with his parents but spends as much time as possible with Kiersten and his son.

The couple have been sweethearts since the ninth grade -- Dec. 9, 1990, says Steve, who is the keeper of the dates.

They practiced "safe sex," but their method of birth control failed.

When Kiersten first suspected she was pregnant, she asked a trusted neighbor to buy her a home pregnancy test. After a positive reading, she braced herself to tell her mother.

"My mom mostly cried, but the next day we went to the doctor," Kiersten recalled. "My dad wrote me a letter, but he didn't really say a lot. And then there was my protective older brother. It was fun telling him."

When Steve found out, his top priority became making sure Kiersten graduated from high school. He didn't want her to become the stereotypical teen mother who drops out.

"I'd rather have had her go through school and graduate than me," said Steve. "I could have gotten a job now, and I could have gotten a GED [a high school equivalency certificate] easily. But with the baby, it would have been harder for her to go to night school."

The baby was born healthy, and "no one in the family hated us," said Kiersten. Steve made it clear to all that he wanted to help raise his son.

"The question of leaving never entered my mind," Steve said. "It would be unfair. I love her, and I wasn't going to leave her, even if Nicholas wasn't born."

Both attribute their success to the support they have received from each other and their parents.

"For instance, Kiersten's mom would get up with the baby in the middle of the night, because she knew Kiersten needed a good night's sleep to go to school," Steve said.

And there has been some support from the government. Kiersten and Nicholas are in the Supplemental Feeding Program for Women, Infants and Children, which provides baby food. Kiersten also gets coupons to cover baby-sitting costs while she is in school. The aid comes through a state program designed to help teen mothers stay in school and will continue while Kiersten is in college.

In some respects, their senior year was typical: dances, proms, caps and gowns. They'll spend a week at the beach to celebrate graduation.

School gave Kiersten a chance to get away from the house, focus on her studies and her music. She was in the school orchestra and the Chesapeake Youth Symphony Orchestra, and played violin with the Baltimore Symphony in "Side by Side" concerts.

Not everyone supported the young couple.

"A lot of my friends disappeared," said Kiersten, though her closest friend did not desert her. "It was as if people were afraid to ask us to go anywhere," she said. "After Nick was born, some friends came back, but some friends, well, we don't communicate at all."

She said Steve's friends were generally more supportive.

"My friends became her friends," Steve said. "Some of my friends, well, I really call them associates, won't even talk to me; they just ask about Nick."

Kiersten wasn't the only student to get pregnant at Broadneck. Ten other girls became pregnant during her time there. They joined to form a support group. At a teacher's urging, Steve wrote an article for the student newspaper, the Tribruin. He wanted students to understand what it is like to go through a teen-age pregnancy.

"At one time," Steve wrote, "Kiersten had a part-time job. But [she] had to quit because of the stress school, work and having a baby put on her."

Steve and Kiersten hope to become engaged this summer. Kiersten has earned a full four-year scholarship at Towson State University, where she will study music education.

Steve will study computer science at Anne Arundel Community College. Both will work at least part time. They hope to marry after college, sooner if they can afford it. They don't plan to have another child soon.

"I don't think I'd want to reverse time," Kiersten said. "I wouldn't want to go back to the 10th grade. No matter how much I missed my friends, I can't imagine not having Nicholas. I had a lot of fun in the ninth grade, and I can remember that."

They agreed to be interviewed to let others know having a baby in your teens isn't the end of the world, they said.

"It's not at all what the movies make it out to be," said Kiersten, who said she was insulted by school posters that try to discourage teens from having sex or becoming pregnant. "Those posters do a lot to hurt the self-esteem of someone in my situation. I wasn't a nothing or a nobody. You could be the richest person, or have all the brains in the world, but it can happen to anyone."

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