HOUSTON – At 17, Lakyn Shempert’s plans for the future seemed to be coming together smoothly.
The Houston senior had been scouted by community college softball coaches and planned to attend Northeast Mississippi Community College and either cheer or play ball.
When she found out she was pregnant, all her plans went on hold.
“I was scared,” Shempert said. “Everything stopped. It wasn’t just about me anymore. It wasn’t just that I wouldn’t be able to play or cheer. I wondered if I would even get to go to college.”
Shempert found herself in places she never thought she would, not only the doctor’s office but also the Department of Human Services, signing up for Medicaid.
“It was hard,” Shempert said. “I never would have thought I’d be there.”
Telling her parents was hard, too.
“I didn’t know what their reaction would be,” Shempert said. “I didn’t know if they would help me or if they would kick me out. I felt like they’d be behind me, but I didn’t know how much.”
After the initial shock of learning their teen was pregnant, Shempert’s parents did stand behind and beside her, offering love and support.
“I was very lucky,” Shempert said.
After high school graduation, she did attend college, but not the way she had planned. She took classes at Itawamba Community College on the Tupelo campus and got into the Medical Laboratory Technician program at Northeast. But instead of living in the dormoritory with her peers, Shempert commuted every day so she could be at home with Tucker at night.
“My grandmother, Jerri Shempert, kept him throughout all of it,” Shempert said. “And I also worked, so my mother would pick him up and keep him.”
Although she was home with her son every night, sleep was not on the short list of priorities.
“It was hard to find time,” she laughed. “After supper and bath and getting bottles ready and picking up, then I had to study some time.”
Living in the family home and having their support made it possible to keep up with her school work.
“There were many nights, as bad as I wanted to, I had to leave him downstairs and go upstairs and study,” Shempert said.
Now, having completed her degree, she is employed part-time at Oktibbeha County Hospital and hoping to move into a full-time capacity.
She has a good relationship with Tucker’s father who works with her on scheduling for the nights and weekends she is at the hospital, but she said her family – parents, grandparents and brother – have been the rocks she leaned on from day one.
“Without my family, I couldn’t have done it,” Shempert said. “There is just no way I could have done this.”
She is well aware of the changes Tucker brought into her life.
“Without him, I probably wouldn’t have my college degree,” Shempert said. “I’d probably still be in college, partying and having a good time. I had to grow up at 17. It was hard to give it all up and to miss out. But, at the same time, I wouldn’t change it, playing Ninja Turtles with him. The way you look at things can change quick.”
This is the second week of stories in a five week series on Teen Pregnancy being published by the Chickasaw Journal. Additional copies are available at our offices at 225 East Madison Street.
• THE FACTS OF LIFE: Today’s stories jump into the broader picture and digs into the numbers. What are the trends in teen pregnancy at the national, state and local level? What are the numbers for our community?
• MOM AND THE BABY: These stories will deal with what a girl faces when she finds out she is pregnant. Who can she talk to? What hurdles does she and her baby face?
• A FATHER’S ROLE: This series on will examine a man’s responsibility in fathering a child. What does the law say about paternity? Where can a teenage boy go to learn parenting skills?
• FAMILY: These stories will talk about the role of grandparents, siblings and community in raising a new baby.
• SOLUTIONS: This final series of stories will consider options and solutions to addressing teen pregnancy. What are and what can our schools do? What resources are lacking in Chickasaw County?
The Chickasaw Journal urges the community to write a Letter to the Editor with their views and possible solutions to teen pregnancy in Chickasaw County.