“It makes me more motivated,”

Said junior Autumn Brinker, who is expecting a baby girl in March.


Quincey Epley

Junior Autumn Brinker in the nursery for her baby, Athena, to be born in March.

According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a total of 229,715 babies were born to women aged 15–19 years old in 2015, for a birth rate of 22.3 babies per 1,000 women in this age group. This is considered a record low for teens in America. However, teen pregnancy still occurs.

Right before the 2017-18 school year started, Autumn Brinker was preparing for her junior year, which is often labeled as the most important year of high school, when she discovered that she would be expecting a baby in March.

When she missed her period, she didn’t think much of it at first. Brinker then began recognizing more and more symptoms, like certain scents, specifically cigarette smoke, were suddenly making her feel sick to her stomach and some of her favorite foods no longer looked appealing. “The first sign that I really noticed was feeling extremely physically tired,” she said. After several days, she really started to worry. “I literally had this deep, gut wrenching feeling, like the pit of my stomach was ice,” Brinker said. “So, I went and got a test, I took two or three, and they all came out positive.”

“I was in shock,” Brinker said. “My grandpa didn’t talk to me for a couple days afterwards. My grandma was incredibly depressed and crying all the time about it.” Soon after, Brinker and her family went to the doctor’s office where they confirmed her pregnancy and set up future appointments. Her fiancé, Jon Spalding, was also shocked but happy too when he found out.

In the beginning, her grandparents suggested that Brinker should consider giving her baby up for adoption. “I told them I would research it,” she said. Brinker attends Parent Life at North Platte High, and uses it as an opportunity to ask many questions, and the program helped inform her about adoption services. “Once you actually feel the baby move and hear the heartbeat and see it on the ultrasound, well, I told them that I couldn’t do it,” she said.

After having some time to think and adjust, Brinker grew to be very excited. “No matter how young you are, it’s an exciting thing. Like, you’re about to become a parent,” she said. Brinker found out the gender of her baby at 12 weeks through a blood test that can check for any abnormalities in the baby.
The next step was to pick a name. “Jon and I went through a whole bunch of names, and I wanted a name that wasn’t super common,” Brinker said. “I’m really into mythology, so we decided on Athena. My grandparents don’t like it, but I’m not going to change it.”

While this is an exciting time for Brinker, it can be worrisome too, especially when it comes to school. But, she’s staying positive. “I kind of came in with the mindset that everyone is going to have their opinions, and it doesn’t matter because it already happened, and there’s nothing that I can do to change it,” she said.

“I was surprised by how my peers still treated me, they were more [curious] than they were judgemental about it,” she said. Brinker said some of her teachers have been really great too, but not all of them. “I do have teachers that pretend like [my pregnancy] doesn’t exist. But, the nurses are super nice. I definitely know if I ever have any problems with teachers treating me differently, I can go talk to them about it.”

When it comes to her school work and grades, Brinker is exceptionally optimistic. “I’m a pretty good student, so I don’t think I’m going to get too far behind [in school] but a little bit is kind of expected,” she said. “I’m going to be really dependent on my teachers working with me.” Brinker is hoping to graduate after the first semester her senior year, that way she can stay home and take care of Athena.

Brinker’s goals don’t stop after that, though. “I’m still planning on going to college,” she said. “My mom went back to college when I was 12, but before that we were really, really low income and everything kind of sucked, and I don’t want that for my daughter.” She believes Athena is already motivating her to do great things. “I see this more as just a challenge, and there’s nothing that’s going to stop me [from succeeding.]”

“It’s really, really surreal when I’m 21, I’m going to have a 3-year-old,” Brinker said. “I kind of see this as any other pregnancy, it’s a miracle and it’s something people take for granted.”