In her freshman year of high school, Brandi Matonich was a happy, busy, normal teenager. She held a part-time job at a local coffee shop, and played the clarinet in the high school band and Jazz Band. She looked forward to school each day.
“I love learning. It’s never been a chore for me, so I got good grades,” Brandi said. “It was fun wondering what I’d do after high school. I thought I’d probably going into nursing, but I also loved baking and decorating cakes. I figured I’d move far away—somewhere warmer like Texas where my grandpa is, or Kentucky where my dad is.”
Brandi and her boyfriend, Spencer, spent time together whenever they could squeeze it into their schedules. They hung out after school, went to the movies, and just enjoyed one another’s company.
Life, for the most part, was a breeze.
In November of Brandi’s sophomore year, that would all change.
When Brandi missed her monthly period, she bought some pregnancy tests on the way home from school, and quietly slipped them into her house that evening.
The next morning, she took a test. It was positive.
“No. This is wrong,” she said. “I was so scared. I really didn’t believe it.”
When she picked Spencer up for school that day, she told him about the positive test.
“He just stared at me for what seemed like five minutes. I thought, He’s gonna leave. That’s it. He won’t stick around now…”
After a few minutes, Spencer found the words of support Brandi desperately needed. He told her that he was in this with her, even though he, too, was terrified. The two went into school, and tried to carry out the motions of a normal day.
“I couldn’t concentrate at all,” Brandi said. “I bought some more tests after school and took another one the next morning. It was positive. I knew I had to tell my mom that night. My stepdad was sleeping because he was on night shift. I just came right out with it. She thought I was kidding. She thought I was doing it for a school project or something. I told her, ‘No, this is real.’ I couldn’t tell if she was mad or upset or what – I think she just didn’t know what to do.”
Brandi tried to sleep that night, but when her stepdad, Gary, woke up, she could hear him and her mom discussing the news for what seemed like hours. He didn’t go to work that night.
The next day, Brandi’s mom, Debbie, took her to the doctor for an official pregnancy test. The nurse called Brandi with the test results after she left the office.
“My mom and I didn’t talk,” Brandi said. “We couldn’t. We just drove home.”
For the first time in her life, Brandi was concerned about the future.
“I was terrified of all of it — being pregnant and people’s reactions, delivering a baby, being a mom, trying to finish high school and go to college – just all of it.”
A few days later, Debbie called Brandi’s dad, Todd, to inform him of the situation. “It was actually right after my little sister had been born,” Brandi said. “He cried, but he didn’t act angry with me.”
Other family members and friends, though, were not so supportive. A few important influences put pressure on Brandi to make the problem of pregnancy disappear.
“They didn’t want me to keep the baby because they didn’t think I would do anything else with my life. I had believed they would support me. I was so sad.”
Brandi, a shy, but driven, young woman, took a firm stand for herself and her child.
“I told my mom and Gary that no matter what others thought, it was my decision, and I was having this baby.”
Brandi continued attending school and working during the spring semester. She remained focused on her responsibilities, despite the distractions of her changing body and thoughts about the future.
“People didn’t say much at school, but everyone stared at me,” she said. “Of course it bothered me. I just felt older, like I didn’t belong there.”
Brandi enrolled in an Earn While You Learn program at Walk of Life Pregnancy Services, a local crisis pregnancy center. She received education on pregnancy, delivery, and becoming a parent, along with supplies for her baby.
“That was really helpful for me, especially the parenting lessons. They really eased my mind. I thought, I can do this.”
“Spencer was with me at every one of my appointments. At my twenty-week ultrasound, we both smiled through the whole thing. I was excited to find out the baby’s gender, but I also had that feeling that I shouldn’t be excited because we were so young. I knew the baby was going to be a boy. I just had a feeling. Spencer and I already had his name picked out before the appointment came around. Spencer was excited to have a boy too, but I think he would have been happy either way.”
That summer, Brandi took a trip to Kentucky to visit her dad and spend time with family before her baby was born. When she returned home, her mom had set up a crib in a room of their house, and decorated it as a nursery.
“It was such a nice surprise. I felt like I truly had the support I needed from the closest people in my life – my mom and Gary, my dad, and Spencer.
As summer vacation wound down and Brandi’s due date approached, she experienced a wide range of emotions.
“I loved feeling my baby inside of me. It was the neatest thing. I felt connected to him as a person. But I was getting more and more anxious about labor, and how my life would be after he was born.”
On the evening of August 15, 2012, after a healthy, full-term pregnancy, Brandi checked into the hospital for an induction, scheduled for the following morning. She went into labor that night.
“The cramps and contractions were awful. I was so scared. I wondered, How am I going to get through this if it gets a lot worse? I labored for 5 hours. My mom was with me, and Spencer came to the hospital at some point too – it’s all kind of a blur. The epidural wasn’t going to work at the right time, so I had some IV pain meds, and soon after that, he was born.”
The nurse placed the baby on Brandi’s chest, but then realized he was not breathing. She whisked him away immediately and the medical team began working on him.
Once again, Brandi was terrified.
“I couldn’t see what they were doing, but everyone was moving super fast. I was so worried. Then, I finally heard him start to cry. It was really quiet because of the oxygen mask, but I thought, Phew, he’s alright!”
Brandi’s baby was removed from her room for further testing. An hour or so later, he was returned to his mother’s arms.
“I was lying there, exhausted, and they brought him back to me. He was really tiny, only 6 lbs. 6 oz.! Bentley James. He looked EXACTLY like Spencer! I just held him close and stared at him.”
The next day, Brandi brought her baby boy home. It was time to put into action all she had read and learned about being a parent — time to trust her instincts as a mother.
“On the first day home, my mom left me at the house with Bentley and I was SO nervous! She told me to try to get some sleep, but of course I didn’t!”
Despite her nerves, Brandi put her energy and intentions into learning to mother her newborn son. She and Bentley bonded and established their nursing routine during those first weeks home. Brandi rested and prepared for the day, just a few weeks later, that she would return to school for her junior year of high school.
“I did NOT want to leave Bentley. I cried when I dropped him off with Spencer’s mom. I stopped by at lunch just to hold him.”
The first day back was the toughest for Brandi. Life as a student was much different now that she was a parent, with a new set of priorities and distractions.
Committed to breastfeeding Bentley for as long as possible, Brandi pumped milk in an empty shop room once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Although the door was locked and marked with a “Do not Disturb” sign, at one point, a staff member unlocked the door and walked into the room while Brandi was pumping.
“It was so embarrassing!” she said. “But I had to pump somewhere! I kept it up for almost six months. I was proud that I was able to nurse Bentley that long while going to school.”
Brandi found her rhythm as a mother and student, but it was not easy.
“I thought it was going okay — I knew I would graduate, but some days were really tough. On top of high school, I was enrolled in gen ed. classes at Bay College. I was just so tired in the morning from being up in the night with a baby. I didn’t want to get out of bed, but I knew I had to. If I was doing it for myself, I may have just stopped, but I was doing it for Bentley.
“My mom was so encouraging – ‘Just make it to three,’ she’d say, ‘and then you get to come home.’ She helped me a lot with Bentley in the evenings, and Gary played with him too when he was home.”
Along with the challenges of being a parent and student, Brandi experienced relationship conflict with Spencer.
“We were back and forth for a while there. We didn’t WANT to give up, but it was hard. There were misunderstandings and scheduling difficulties. We were just going through so much.”
In the midst of difficulties, Brandi remained focused on the future. She applied to nursing school at Bay College during her senior year of high school, and was accepted.
After graduation, she moved right onto college, and also began working every other weekend at a nursing and rehabilitation center.
“The hardest stretch of my life was the first semester at Bay. I had so many classes and then I picked up shifts at work and it was just CRAZY. Classwork was really different from high school — and it was stuff I hadn’t studied yet, like pharmacology. That was rough for me!
“I sometimes feel like I’m still trying to get the hang of things. Bentley gets up really early – before my alarm even goes off. I would like to study in the morning, but it’s impossible when he’s awake! I try to get to class early so I can study for 45 minutes to an hour.
“I pick him after class and he is so excited to see me! He always wants to play outside with Spencer and me, and then take a bath.
“He’s SO goofy. I just love it. He talks a lot — has full conversations with himself! He’s busy, but he’s a big snuggler too. He’ll be playing, and then all of a sudden he’ll say, ‘Mom, lay by me!’ And of course I say okay.”
If life goes as planned, Brandi will graduate in about four more years with a BSN degree and hopes of a career in a neonatal intensive care unit.
“I have a long way to go, but I HOPE that after I finish my schooling, life will be a little easier. I can work during the day, and then come home and just be a mom to Bentley.”
And what about the people who discouraged Brandi from becoming a mother? They, too, love and adore Bentley.
“I’ve let go of the things they said,” Brandi explains. “They were scared too.”
One would never guess after speaking with Brandi that she is only nineteen years old. Her path to maturity was laden with obstacles, yet she has faced them with determination and quiet confidence.
“I am much stronger now. After Bentley was born, I learned that I have to stick up for myself and for him too. I’m not as quiet anymore.”
Though the timing of her transition into motherhood was not what she had planned, Brandi approached her teenage pregnancy as an incredibly challenging circumstance, but never the termination of her dreams and goals.
“My advice to other pregnant teens or young moms is to just do your best to get through each day….don’t focus on the whole overwhelming picture. Four more years of school can sound really discouraging for me, so I just take it day by day. That’s what I do.
“And don’t ever give up. You will learn how to manage things. Being a mom is really hard, but it’s so worth it – so rewarding when they smile at you, when they snuggle with you. You will never regret it.”
When Brandi Matonich became pregnant as a young teenager, she revised plans for the future in order to make room for her child, while still holding space for the fulfillment of dreams and goals.
At the same time, those who knew Brandi found themselves revising their own views and expectations of her. She did not disappoint, even during intense trials– in fact, she likely taught many of them a lesson on the power of faith and perseverance.
A woman’s journey into motherhood is often as unpredictable as motherhood itself. Both can be laden with revisions, or flat-out rewrites! But one thing is certain– with its joys and hardships, delights and sacrifices, motherhood lends a depth and richness to life that is shared by all who embrace the calling.
If you enjoyed this story of overcoming, click here for more Grand Edits Guest Features.
With love, Stacy ❤