Mandy McConaha (Western Kentucky University)
Award of Excellence
Morning light shines through the dingy windows as Jamie Norwood, 14, of Louisville Ky., rolls out of the bed she has shared with her mother her entire life. So as not to wake her mother, she quietly pulls her honey colored hair back with a pink headband while tugging her sweatshirt self-consciously over her rounded stomach. She pulls up her favorite pair of pink Tinkerbelle sweatpants and runs out the door to catch the bus, as she clutches a pop tart in one hand and prenatal vitamins in the other. Jamie's adolescent body is blossoming prematurely into womanhood as the growing shape of Ethan Allen Norwood creates quite a splash in her middle school classroom. Lunchroom conversations now consist of the adult topics of stretch marks, due dates, and prenatal checkups. Every once in a while Jamie will show off her ever-expanding milky smooth stomach to her friends, as the baby grows one half pound every week. Jamie will love her baby even if she did not choose him. She is a 14 year-old girl who over the next few months will make the journey from middle school to motherhood.
"She thinks she's big, but she's not because when it's time for bed she's right there with her momma," said Jamie's mother, Rae Norwood. "We are close, really close," said Rae Norwood. "She's stuck to me like glue, she goes everywhere with me." Jamie didn't tell her mom that she was pregnant until she was 31 weeks along because she was afraid that her mom would be mad at her and that her older brother would beat him up for laying a hand on his sister. "She texted me that she was pregnant while she was at school, that was pretty shocking," said Rae. By the time they found out it was too late. "I always knew Jamie would get pregnant before Jessica (her sister)," said Rae. "I always knew she would I thought it would be at maybe 16 not 14."
"It felt like butterflies jumping around in my stomach," said Jamie. "It was kind a weird because in a way it tickled and sometimes it hurt." Jamie realized that she was pregnant when she felt the baby move for the first time. The strange feeling in her stomach both scared and worried her, she dug out an old human anatomy book from her older sister's closet and realized if what the book said was true that she was not only pregnant but farther along than even she had thought. At the age of 13 years, Jamie had already had two sexual partners. "You can't tell kids to stop having sex because they're going to do what they want to," said Jamie. In the U.S., nearly half (48%) of all high school students in 2007 reported having sexual intercourse and this age group is more likely to not use protection than any other age group. "In my middle school class of like 15 girls, maybe 10 of them were having sex," said Jamie. "It is crazy, but I can't say nothing about them because that was me too."
Jamie, 8-months pregnant, swings on her favorite swing set as the evening glow of the sunset fades in the distance. "I don't know how I got pregnant," said Jamie. "I mean I know how I got pregnant I didn't do nothing special or anything though." Ask and she will tell you that she thought she knew how to protect herself because everyone at school talked about it. She just never thought getting pregnant would happen to her.
Jamie holds festive balloons and waits on the porch surrounded by her family as they prepare to leave for her baby shower.
Jamie stares at her screaming 6 year-old brother, Matthew Norwood, through her own reflection in the car window. After going to the day care to pick him up for her mom, Matthew threw a temper tantrum and refused to voluntarily get out of the car. In only a few months, Jamie will have her own baby boy to take care of.
At 17 years-old, Scotty isn't prepared for the responsibility of being a parent. "I don't know if Scotty will be a good role model to the baby," said Jamie. "I don't think he is ready for the baby to come, but I am, so I don't really care what he thinks or not because if he don't want to be here he don't have to because I can do it with my mom."
Jamie sends shy glances towards Scotty, her cheeks flushed and her giggles ringing contagiously. Jamie has known Scotty for a little over a year and when he walks in the door her mood immediately improves. "I never loved him," Jamie said talking about Scotty, 17, the baby's father. "We're just good friends and I like how he treats me, that's why I decided to mess with him, but he is not my boyfriend and I never loved him." At 17 years-old, Scotty isn't prepared for the responsibility of being a parent. "I don't know if Scotty will be a good role model to the baby," said Jamie. "I don't think he is ready for the baby to come, but I am, so I don't really care what he thinks or not because if he don't want to be here he don't have to because I can do it with my mom."
"Now I"m nine months and the baby should be here," said Jamie as she takes a break on the couch after cleaning up the house while waiting for Scotty. "I'm not scared of going into labor or having him. I'm just ready to go and see what it's like and just get him here and get it over with. But I'm not scared at all, I don't think it could be that bad." Rae Norwood grimaces as her 14-year-old daughter squeezes her hand during a hard contraction."Can I just call it quits Mom, and just go home," wailed Jamie Norwood during labor.
Jamie Norwood stares emotionlessly at her baby minutes after giving birth. "I don't know, it just didn't register that he was mine right after he was born," said Jamie.
Scotty runs with a rough crowd and plays a game he calls, "Hustling," to make extra spending money. How it works is he has a network of individuals who contact him through Jamies phone for drugs. He gives them Jamie's number so that the police cannot trace it back to him, they tell him what they want and he gets it and charges twice as much as what its worth. Jamie and Scotty sit side by side on the living room couch after he got into an intense fight with Jamie's sister after he took advantage of her with one of his shady deals. "If I could do it over again and not pick him as the baby's dad then sometimes I don't think I want him to be," said Jamie. "Scotty he's crazy sometimes and I don't know how he's going to act with the baby because he's not that mature."
Ethan lays unattended on the couch four days after his birth. Life has pushed Jamie ahead, she is no longer a careless 14 year-old girl. She is a mother and her life now consist of late night feedings and dirty diapers. "Jamie sleeps with me every night," said Jamie's mother Rae Norwood. "She thinks she's big, but she's not because when it's time for bed she's right there with her momma and now her baby is right there in between us every night. Scotty won't last very long, it will be just me and Jamie."