By Patrick Anderson
Wary of the challenges facing a 17-year-old mother, Gloucester High School sophomore Brianne Mackey's first reaction to learning she was pregnant last fall was to throw the plastic home pregnancy test kit in the trash.
"I was scared," Mackey said yesterday while holding Karlee, her 17-day-old infant girl. "It was an accident that I got pregnant. I cried and battled with what to do for weeks."
Mackey's reaction to the news she was pregnant, confirmed by a second test performed at the high school health clinic days later, contrasts with news reports about high-fives and exclamations from students celebrating the news they had were moms-to-be.
Unlike the joyous reaction some officials have said came from some girls when they received positive results, Mackey said the days following her positive test included meetings with her parents and the high school's student assistance program and hours of agonizing debate about what to do next.
Ultimately, Mackey said she couldn't stand the thought of having an abortion or putting her child up for adoption and decided to go through with the pregnancy.
"I never could imagine putting her up for adoption," Mackey said. "Of walking down the street and seeing kids and not knowing if it were mine."
Mackey said she had been taking birth control pills, but something must have gone wrong.
With summer vacation underway and her newborn baby, for now, quietly sleeping for much of the day, Mackey knows the challenges of being a teen mom have just begun.
To support his new daughter, Mackey's boyfriend of two years, Michael Mitchell, is working as a lobsterman and at a local bait supplier. Mitchell, also 17, graduated from Gloucester High School earlier this month and said that he is doing everything he can to support the new family.
"Right now, I am just working for the baby," Mitchell said. "It is definitely worth it to have something to take care of and come home to."
Splitting her time between her house and Mitchell's, Mackey, unlike some teen moms, is not without a support system.
She said when her mother first learned a baby might be on the way, she was upset, but now supports her daughter's decision.
Kim Mackey, Brianne's mother, said yesterday that she was dismayed by assumptions and opinions from people suggesting that all teen mothers come from broken homes or receive no support at home.
"What bothers me more than anything is when people say 'where were the families?'" Kim Mackey said. "We have a great relationship and I am always there for her. She came to me for birth control."
Kim Mackey, an emergency medical technician on the North Shore, described her daughter as mature, organized and not easily rattled by tough times.
Pregnancy at Gloucester High School has become a topic of intense discussion since officials reported around four times the average annual number of girls had become pregnant this year and a pact among students to have babies may be responsible for it.
Mackey said she was not a part of any pact and had never heard about it until it was reported in the news last week.
She said she is friends with two other girls at the school who have had babies and that, as far as she knows, neither of them knew about a pact.
"There are different types of people having children for different reasons," Mackey said. "Some tell everyone about it and want attention. Others, it just happens and they react to it."
This spring Mackey has been taking parenting classes at the high school and has secured a place for Karlee in the school day-care center run by Pathways for Children for next year.
Mackey said teachers and faculty at the high school have been supportive and said she didn't know anything else the school could have done to have stopped girls from becoming pregnant.
She said her immediate plans include finishing high school and studying to be a nurse.
Mackey said the only advice she has for other girls is to wait longer than she did before having a child.
"It definitely would have been easier being older," Mackey said.
Patrick Anderson can be reached at email@example.com