By Michaela Gibson Morris
The reality of teen parenting is incredibly difficult, but 14-year-old Me’Kayla Medcalf and her family are determined to craft the best life they can for one-year old Aubree.
“It was tough, sometimes the work didn’t get done,” last year during eighth grade, the Lee County teen said. “I had a whole lot of catching up to do.”
There are plenty of smiles and play for Aubree as she orbits her mother at the kitchen table. She grabs at the colored pencils set out for Me’Kayla’s algebra homework and drops them on the ground with an expectant look at her mom who calmly picks them up and redirects the toddler.
“I wouldn’t trade our journey for anything,” said Me’Kayla’s mom Annette Stegall. “But it has been hard.”
Me’Kayla became pregnant in her seventh grade year during a turbulent period for her family. Her parents’ marriage was breaking up. Her mom was fighting depression.
“It was a rough period,” said Stegall, who remembers being focused on issues with Me’Kayla’s older and younger brothers during that period. “She really needed me, and I didn’t know it.”
Stegall found out she would be a grandmother just before spring break that year. Me’Kayla was five months pregnant.
“It was an unforgettable day,” Stegall said
Aubree was born in July, and Me’Kayla started eighth grade in August. At school, she endured the speculation over Aubree’s dad.
“It got ugly,” she said.
She battled depression on top of the fatigue that comes with caring for a newborn who doesn’t sleep through the night. As she starts ninth grade at Shannon High School, she optimistic she’s off to a good start toward her ambition to graduate and attend Grambling University. Aubree will go to kindergarten the year her mother becomes a college freshman.
Me’Kayla has a lot of support that many teen parents don’t. Her mom and step dad provide a home and hands-on coaching in parenting. Her godmother keeps Aubree while she’s at school.
While Me’Kayla and Aubree’s father aren’t a couple any more, they are pulling together to raise her. He and his family have started taking care of Aubree for a week at a time.
“It gives Me’Kayla time to be Me’Kayla,” Stegall said. It’s been part of what has allowed Me’Kayla to keep playing the saxophone in band.
Me’Kayla is determined to do a good job as a mother and a student.
“I want to do what I can to make a better life for her and me,” Me’Kayla said.