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Teen moms: Alberni teens talk about life as teen mothers
* In April, VIHA released a report showing that Port Alberni has the highest number of teen moms per capita in B.C. In a multi-part series, the News examines who some of the teen moms are, how they are supported and how there is more to them than just a number.
On Monday morning Janine Thompson awoke and tended to her daughter Madison then prepared breakfast for the two of them.
Thompson dressed her daughter, packed her things, gathered her keys and books then left to drop her daughter off at Hummingbird Child Care Centre while she attended school at VAST.
It may have seemed like an ordinary day but it wasn’t.
Thompson, 18, is a teen mom who lives in the Alberni Valley. She is trying to make a better life for herself and her daughter. She graduated from VAST last June and is set to attend North Island College this fall.
Thompson and other young moms are part of a growing number of teen mothers in the Alberni Valley.
According to a Local Area Health Profile from the Vancouver Island Health Authority, Port Alberni has more teen moms (104 per 1,000) than either the B.C. (30 per 1,000) or the Island (43 per 1,000) average.
At Hummingbird, Thompson said she was aware of the report’s finding but says there are mothers’ lives behind the lifeless number.
“It’s not an easy life because as a mom you’re responsible for two lives,” she said. “We might be teen moms, but we have hopes, dreams and goals just like everyone else and we’re working towards them.”
Thompson was 17 and living with her boyfriend at the time when she noticed back pain and weight gain. She took a home pregnancy test and it was positive—she was pregnant. An appointment with a doctor at the clinic confirmed she was five months along.
“I was confused and worried about what would happen. But at the same time I was happy,” Thompson said. “Before I knew people said I looked like I was glowing.”
Thompson was going to bed one night near her due date when she felt a cramp and knew she had to go to the hospital. She was in labour for nine hours before giving birth to Madison.
“My boyfriend and I cried when we saw and heard her for the first time,” she said. “It happened so fast but after she was born I knew that our lives had changed forever.”
Thompson, her boyfriend and new daughter lived at her mother’s residence until October when she got her own apartment. She’s since become a single mother, she said.
Thompson went to Alberni District Secondary School in the fall but later moved to VAST.
Thompson’s life is no different from other mothers: late nights with baby or sometimes early mornings and sleep when you can.
Thompson is one of four siblings. The second eldest, she was already used to helping with her younger siblings, so she is better prepared for parenthood, she said.
She sees former high school classmates from time to time and while they are pursuing their own lives independently she isn’t envious.
“I have friends who don’t have kids. Having a child might change what you do every day but it doesn’t change who you are,” Thompson said. “We’re just normal people and we’re still young. It’s just that we have children.”
Living a normal life is something Darla Larocque, 22, is thankful for.
The mother of two graduated from VAST last June and took a break from North Island College in December to give birth to her son Parker, who is five months old. Her daughter Channelle is three.
Larocque is up early to make breakfast for her children and husband Josh before he heads to work and she to daycare then school.
VAST teachers bring math classes to Larocque three times a week, visiting her at home. But she still takes Chanelle to daycare then back home where the cycle starts again. “It just never ends,” she says with a laugh.
Going to school and becoming a mother has its challenges for Larocque. But her struggles with parenthood and studies pale in comparison to what she’s overcome.
Formerly of Victoria, Larocque dropped out of high school in Grade 8, got into trouble with the law and was in and out of juvenile corrections facilities by age 16. She started using drugs and alcohol as a teen, and the drug use escalated into her young adulthood.
She and Josh were living in Port Alberni and struggling with drug issues when she felt something different happening with her body.
“I took a home pregnancy test but I already knew,” she said. “I was excited that we’d started something new, that I had a new life.”
The pregnancy forced Larocque and Josh to reckon with their lifestyle. “We had something to live for and a reason to better our lives,” she said. “I didn’t want our baby to have the kind of life that we did.”
The pregnancy was difficult, she said. “I was really sick for the first half of it [with morning sickness] but I was all right after that.”
Her daughter was born on the morning of her due date and on the first snowfall of the year. “I was a little scared but I was excited about living a new life.”
Larocque and her small family got a boost in the form of settlement money from a car accident she’d been in years before. But it wasn’t party time, like it might have been in the past.
“We paid off fines, got a place and filled it with what we needed,” she said. “It really got us on our feet.”
Larocque says she sees other 22-year-olds who don’t have kids and admits that she sometimes envies their freedom.
“Sometimes, I feel like I’m 22, have two kids and stay at home. I feel like I’m 30—I feel so old,” she said. “But at school I get to act my age with other mothers who are my age.”
Larocque and Thompson had goals and dreams before they had children, and they haven’t surrendered them just because they’ve become mothers.
Larocque wants to become a youth worker and work with youth who are high risk and have addiction and behavioural issues.
Thompson, meanwhile, is determined to become a human service worker and is set to attend North Island College to achieve her goal.
“I don’t want to live on reserve and be just a stay-at-home mom. I want more for us than that,” she said. “I know that having an education will help us.”
*Next week, a look at services for teen moms in the Alberni Valley, including VAST and Hummingbird.