I Became A Teen Mom And A Widow At 18

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“We met through mutual friends and fell in love fast. Jake went to a different high school, but was friends with almost everyone at my school. We did everything together. He was 20 minutes away and I would wait at my school for him to come pick me up so we could spend the rest of the day together. Some days we’d skip school because we just wanted to be together. Other days we would wait until his parents left for work and go back to his house. We’d lay in his bed and talk for hours. We talked about the future. How we hadn’t known each other long but still felt a strong connection.

He said ‘I love you’ first. I knew he meant it because I felt the same way. We continued to spend more time together and grew even closer.

Courtesy of Katherine Besch

Let’s skip ahead a few months.

One evening we were in his basement talking and I mentioned how I noticed earlier my boobs were sensitive and I was crying about everything. I mentioned to him, ‘It could mean I’m pregnant.’ We honestly didn’t think it could happen to us. Before he took me home, we stopped by Kroger and got a test. To be honest, it had been a few months of being careless and nothing had happened, so it became a continuous habit of not being careful… stupid, I know!

It was getting closer to my curfew so we headed to my house but stopped at the store. I went in and bought the test, took it, and ran back out to the car. There was a plus sign. Faint, but it was there. We just sat in the car for a while, not knowing what to do. We agreed I would take the second one in the morning like the box said to do for best results.

The next morning, I took the second test before school and it was the same. Positive. We decided we should know for sure before telling our parents. I’d go to the nurse and ask for information on somewhere I could go to find out my options. We were clueless, and I didn’t know what to do. In our minds this was our next step.

He was at his school 20 minutes away. I was so scared. As I was about to go to the nurse, I remembered I knew someone in the school who was pregnant. I told her what was going on and showed her the test in the bathroom. I wanted her to go with me but not make it obvious. She went to the nurse before me saying she was feeling sick and I went in a little after saying, ‘I have a headache.’ I sat on the bed behind the curtain trying to come up with the courage to go to the nurse and say the words, ‘I need help, I think I’m pregnant.’ The nurse left the room for a minute and my friend said, ‘Just go up to her when she comes back in and ask!’ I knew I had to do something and couldn’t put it off.

The nurse walked into the room and asked me how I was feeling. I got my stuff and walked to her desk. I said, ‘Do you have any brochures or anything for like Planned Parenthood?’ She stopped immediately what she was doing and looked at me. ‘Is it for you?’ I started crying and she asked if I was pregnant and I told her about the test. She then proceeded to tell me the ‘school policy.’ I had 24 hours to tell my parents or she would. She said, ‘I can call your mom now and you can tell her on speaker or you can tell her this evening and have her call me.’ I was so confused why she was pressuring me. I was 17 and scared.

I told her to just call my mom. She dialed my mom’s number on speaker. ‘Hi Diane, this is the nurse at your daughter’s school. Katherine has something to tell you.’ Seriously lady? I got on the phone and my mom said, ‘What is she talking about? What is going on?’ I played dumb. ‘I don’t know.’

She said, ‘Are you okay?’ ‘Yes.’ Then she continued, ‘Tell me what’s going on right now!’ I repeated, ‘I don’t know.’ Then she got quiet and said, ‘Are you pregnant?’ To this day I remember my response, ‘Probably,’ in a smart ass tone. She gasped, ‘Oh my gosh, Katherine!’

Here’s the thing. At the time my grandfather, and my mom’s dad, was a pastor of a Baptist church in North Carolina. My parents had NO idea I was sexually active. We went to church every Sunday, grew up in a Christian home, were raised knowing right from wrong, and to save sex for marriage. This was a HUGE shock for them.

My mom immediately left work, came and got me and took me straight to my pediatrician. Yes, we saw my pediatrician to see if I was pregnant. In the car, she was on the phone with my dad and also talking to me. In my 17-year-old mind I wanted to text Jake and tell him I let my parents know, but I was scared to get my phone out of my purse because I didn’t want my mom to take my phone away. Little did I know, after getting pregnant at 17 there were bigger things to worry about than my phone being taken as a punishment.

Luckily, my mom said, ‘You better make sure Jake is at this appointment as it takes two to tango.’ Jake called his dad and he met him at his school. His dad didn’t take it well at all. They talked in the school parking lot in his truck. After, Jake met me at my appointment.

Later that evening, the doctor called my mom with the results. I was pregnant. I was going to be a teen mom in high school. I never thought after watching all those episodes of ’16 & pregnant’ and’ Teen Mom’ it would happen to me. But there I was, 17, junior year in high school, finding out I was pregnant. I called Jake and told him. He told his mom the news and she took it even worse than his dad. He luckily was 18 so he didn’t have to stay in their home if he didn’t want to. Jake and I never once questioned or thought about what we were going to do with the pregnancy other than keep it. We were pregnant. That was it. God gave this baby to us. I was going to carry it to term and we were going to raise him or her.

Courtesy of Katherine Besch

One night my parents came to me and told me if Jake and I had plans to marry and raise the baby together, we could live in their finished basement until we could afford our own place. They told me they would help us so we could save. Jake and I talked and decided it’s what we would do. It’s what was best. His parents were not supportive of us, but again, he was 18. He wanted to be with me and the baby so the best option was to live in my parents’ basement as a family for free.

Jake was a hard worker. He had his own landscaping company. Everyone in his town knew who he was and loved him. It was hard not to love him. But unfortunately, having that company, he didn’t have health insurance and in the winter it was not enough income. The company he loved and grew for years he decided to sell in order to have health insurance for himself and baby. He sold it to his best friend and started applying for full time jobs to provide for us. I was a high risk pregnancy and was on bed rest a lot, so I couldn’t work.

Throughout my pregnancy, we did not have much contact with his family. They were not supportive of the choice we made to keep the baby and raise it together as a family. We both graduated high school early with diplomas before the baby was born.

The morning of January 24, 2011, our daughter was born healthy and beautiful. His family was not at the hospital. Multiple events happened during my pregnancy which strained the relationship even more. Once our daughter was a little older, I suggested we try to meet in a mutual area. We met at a local restaurant. They seemed more interested in their son than their granddaughter. We met a few more times and again, they did not show much interest in the baby.

Courtesy of Katherine Besch
Courtesy of Katherine Besch

On June 16, 2012, Jake, our daughter and I went to the courthouse with each of our best friends, my mom and sister and got married.

March 7, 2012. Jake’s cousin moved into his house and invited us over to see it. Things with his family were still kind of rocky but we were fine with his cousin. This is where it’s gets blurry. I remember Jake telling me to drive as we were leaving their house. Jake drank a beer or two with his cousin. I got in the front and he put our baby in her seat. I have no memory of the rest of the night.

Jake died that night. I lost my husband, and I became a widow at 18. I became a single mom to a 13-month-old who would never remember what an amazing man her dad was. I lost my best friend, my high school sweetheart.

We were in a head-on collision. Jake wasn’t wearing his seatbelt. There was a nail in my front left tire which caused me to swerve left. I have no memory of it except for Jake telling me to drive and putting our daughter in her seat. He had her seatbelt on just right and it saved her life. The cops at the scene told my parents, ‘If he was wearing his seatbelt, he would have survived.’

Courtesy of Katherine Besch

I was flown to a different hospital from him and our daughter. I suffered a traumatic brain injury, bleeding on my brain in two different spots, a broken femur, and a broken upper left arm. We were SO blessed that someone stopped and checked on our baby and held her until paramedics arrived. She was only bruised. He made sure she was fine before getting her out of her carseat. I have been connected with him through our community here.

Courtesy of Katherine Besch

My family went to be by Jake’s side once they knew I was stable and my daughter was fine. Once at the hospital, they decided with his family, it was time to unplug the machines. He was pronounced brain dead on March 8, 2012. The people in the other car were fine.

A funeral was held by Jake’s family without me, my daughter, or my family in attendance. My family watched it on Skype and was able to get it recorded for me to have. A friend of ours told my parents it was being held and they had to find a way to be there. Due to the lack of no communication, Skype was the only way for my family. The church so kindly made it possible. My parents were able to find out burial information and made sure I was there before they put my husband in the ground. I had to stay several weeks in the hospital followed by rehab for my brain injury.

Thinking back on the the last couple weeks Jake and I had together, one conversation stuck out. Jake asked me, ‘How do I get to heaven?’ I remember the night specifically. He was the second person close to me I was able to share about Jesus. We went to church occasionally with my parents, but he grew up catholic. He was confused on what to do. I explained to him, you pray and ask Jesus for salvation and I told him the Bible story. He lay in bed that night and prayed next to me. I have no doubt in my mind my daughter and I will see Jake again in heaven. I find peace in knowing that.

Courtesy of Katherine Besch

It was a rough couple years following the car accident. I questioned a lot. I hate to admit it, but I questioned God. Why? Why would God have this plan for me? Why would he have me get pregnant and have a baby at 18, get married and take Jake from me? I struggled for a long time. My brain injury symptoms did not help mourning the loss of Jake. I will never know why this happened, but God does. When I finally learned to trust God’s plan I became happier. I had to keep going for my daughter. I had doubt at times I could recover and continue on, but I had the most amazing family behind me supporting me every step of the way, reminding me God was in control. I had best friends who babysat when I needed them and let me sit and just talk and cry to them when I needed.

I want everyone to know seatbelts are SO important! No matter who you are or how badass you think you are. You need a seatbelt. Two seconds down the road or two hours, ALWAYS wear one.

Carseats are so so important, too! I sometimes feel like I overstep when telling parents they need to correct their children’s seatbelts. I don’t care, though. It’s life or death. The pictures you see going around Facebook about your baby’s seatbelt tightness, no jackets, etc., TAKE IT SERIOUSLY! I was SO lucky my daughter only had bruising and nothing worse because she was in her seat properly.

Also, remember pregnancy CAN happen to you! Everyone’s story is different, but always be smart. You can get help if you are pregnant. There are places and people who want to help you in your pregnancy.

I miss Jake tremendously but God took him for a reason. Jake was an organ donor. He gave the gift of life after he was gone.

Today I am happily married with two more beautiful kids. Life is good again. I am happy, and I thank God daily for that. One day, we will see Jake again and we will forever be looking forward to that day.”

Courtesy of Katherine Besch

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Katherine Besch. Submit your own story here.

Read more touching stories about life after loss here:

‘Thank you for choosing me. Thank you for making me ‘Daddy’ to the most amazing kids on earth.’: Widower shares emotional thank you letter to late wife on Father’s Day

‘If I was in England, I’d go out with you!’ He messaged me instantly. My heart was beating across an ocean.’: Widow celebrates 8-year anniversary of meeting late husband, ‘He showed me what real happiness was’

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