Kassel shares experience as teen mom throughout high school

Kassel shares experience as teen mom throughout high school

For most, New Year’s Day is associated  with resolutions, new habits, and plans for  the future. On Jan. 1, 2021, however, OHS senior Sarah Kassel received news that would  alter her plans not only for the new year, but  for the rest of her life. Come July 29, 2021, at  the age of 14, Sarah Kassel would give birth  to her first daughter, Phoenix Kassel.  

Since her freshman year, Sarah Kassel  has balanced being a student, employee,  friend, and mother. Her journey has been  nothing short of tumultuous, but she has  faced every new adversity with positivity  and grace. In addition to being pregnant  as a teen, Sarah Kassel also had to face the  challenges that came with being pregnant  during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“When I found out I was pregnant I had  COVID,” Sarah Kassel said. “I took a COVID  test and I ended up having it and I thought  that’s why I was feeling sick. It actually ended up being morning sickness. I could also  only have one person in the delivery room with me when I was in labor because of restrictions. So I was stressing out the whole pregnancy of whether that would be my  mom or my boyfriend.” 

Sarah Kassel thought her whole life  was over when she first found out the news.  Luckily, her family was willing to help her  through this unplanned pregnancy. 

“I was on zoom with my boyfriend  when I found out,” Sarah Kassel said. “I just  showed it to him and he tried not to cry. We  were both 14. He didn’t tell his parents for  months, so he was forced to hide all of his  emotions about it. When I first found out, I  went downstairs, told my mom, and we both  started crying. My mom had kind of already  had a negative reaction when she first found  out I was doing things that could get you  pregnant, but she obviously was like ‘I’m  gonna help you out.’ I thought my whole  life was over. I was flipping out. I called my  best friend and she started making jokes. I  thought that there was no way this could be  happening to me in the ninth grade. I was  scared to have kids because at the time I didn’t want kids because I knew it was going  to be painful. I was just devastated.”

Since then, Sarah Kassel has warmed up  to the idea of being a parent. While being a  teen mom has forced Sarah Kassel to grow  up a little bit quicker than her peers, she enjoys getting to combine the traditional high  school experience with the highlights of  motherhood.  

“It is so fun to take her places,” Sarah  Kassel said. “When I did the OHS pageant  she screamed out when I came on the stage  and it was hilarious. It’s really cool to just be  able to raise someone to be a good person. I  like knowing that at least one person in the  world is going to be a good person because  of me.” 

Having so many responsibilities on her  plate has immensely affected Sarah Kassel’s  daily routines. 

“In middle school I had nearly perfect  attendance,” Sarah Kassel said. “This past  year I think I had like 100-something absences and 80 tardies. Obviously I don’t  have time to do my work at home because  now that Phoenix is two, she moves around  a lot more.” 

Sarah Kassel attributes a lot of her  success as a mother and student throughout high school to her support system. Her  mother has played a huge role in helping  Sarah Kassel raise her daughter. 

“You may think you’re gonna wake up  when your baby cries in the middle of the  night but I’m a really deep sleeper,” Sarah Kassel said. “It’s been two years and my  mom has always woken up in the middle of  the night and helped her. Because I work  too, my mom had to quit her job to watch  my kid.”  

Along with her mother, the rest of Sarah  Kassel’s immediate family was supportive of  her through this process as well. 

“My dad was really happy,” Sarah Kassel  said. “He was like ‘I knew you were gonna be  the first one to have a kid. I just didn’t think  it’d be this early.’ My brothers were shocked  at first, but they really like kids too.” 

Another person who has played an integral role in Sarah Kassel’s motherhood is her  best friend, Nikki Eubanks.  

“Nikki planned the gender reveal, the baby shower, and everything even though  she was only 14 too,” Sarah Kassel said. Eubanks was with Sarah Kassel up until  the hours before she went into labor. “Her water actually broke at my house  when she was spending the night,” Eubanks  said. “I woke up and she was gone from my  house but I didn’t think much of it. All of a  sudden, I got a call that the baby had been  born and I couldn’t believe it. She was so cute and tiny.” 

Others did not have such positive reactions towards the news of Sarah Kassel’s  pregnancy.  

“I told my Personal Finance class  through two truths and a lie game,” Sarah  Kassel said. “Everyone thought that obviously the lie was that I was pregnant and then  I had to tell them. They wanted to throw a  baby shower for me but one of the parents  got involved and said that we couldn’t be cause it would be ‘a waste’ of class time.” 

Phoenix Kassel’s father unfortunately  has not been a huge part of her life so far.  Sarah Kassel and her child’s father dated on  and off for roughly two and a half years. 

“Maybe a month after I had Phoenix, I  broke up with him,” Sarah Kassel said. “We  have not been together since and I’m with  somebody else now. Everybody knows he’s  a bad person. He completely dropped out of  school. His mom isn’t really the best care taker. She kind of is an alcoholic so we took  her to rehab. He stayed with his sister’s dad  for a while, but never really stayed in one  place so he just kind of quit school. Then  he ended up stealing money from my family  so that explains how helpful he is. He’ll just  randomly ask me now ‘when can I see my  daughter’ and I’m like ‘no way.’ Once I had  her I knew I didn’t need him anymore.” 

One of the most exciting parts about  pregnancy is getting to pick out a name for  one’s child. Sarah Kassel believes that her  age at the time of her pregnancy had an  effect on the name that she picked for her  daughter. 

“During the time I was pregnant, I was  watching a lot of Minecraft series on YouTube,” Sarah Kassel said. My favorite one  was called ‘Phoenix Drop.’ She’s not named  after Phoenix, Arizona, not Pheonix like the bird, but the Phoenix Minecraft series. Her  middle name, Lynn, came from her father’s  grandma. That was her middle name and it  also turned out to be my best friend’s middle  name too. She has my last name of course  because he was in Chattanooga when she  was born, so he couldn’t sign the birth certificate.” 

Despite not having a traditional high  school experience, Sarah Kassel still has exciting plans to continue her education in the  future.  

“I’m probably going to end up going to  either Northwest or Ole Miss,” Sarah Kassel  said. “I really want to go to Ole Miss.” 

Over the past few years, it has become  evident to Sarah Kassel and the people in  her life how bad the stigma around teen  pregnancy is. 

“I believe that there’s a negative stigma  around teen pregnancy,” Eubanks said. “Life  happens so fast and is so unpredictable that  I feel like others shouldn’t be so concerned  with other peoples’ lives and should worry  about themselves first. At the end of the day  all you have is yourself.” 

Sarah Kassel has learned a great deal  through this experience. While she may not  necessarily recommend getting pregnant as  young as she did, she has made the best of  her circumstances. 

“If you find yourself in a situation like  this, there’s no point in hiding,” Sarah Kassel said. “Even if you decide to give up for  adoption you still have to go through the  whole pregnancy. My first thought was that  I should get an abortion because at the time  it was legal and I thought that there was no  way I could raise a kid. If you’re ever considering adoption or abortion I would consider  keeping the kid because I know I’m really  happy I did. I wouldn’t say I encourage people to have kids in high school, but it is a fun  experience. If you end up in that situation, I would tell people to just enjoy the moment.”

After having Phoenix Kassel, Sarah Kassel is open to the possibility of having another child. 

“Obviously I’m not gonna have any more kids right now,” Sarah Kassel said. “I  think it would be nice to start my own family  though once I am married and way older.” 

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