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Teen moms hang out, get help

A support group, Teen MOPS, helps guide young women with a lifetime duty.

By BY EBONY WINDOM
Published July 5, 2007


WESLEY CHAPEL - Katrina Bordwell is not proud of her rowdy teen years. She was arrested at school once.

And, by her senior year, Katrina was already expecting her first child.

Now 19, she says she's changing things, and her actions back that up. She has earned her high school diploma. And in May, she married her high school sweetheart.

Katrina also says she's getting the hang of being a mom -- thanks in part to a support group geared toward helping young mothers like her.

Once a month, a handful of girls gather at CrossPointe Church in Wesley Chapel for Teen MOPS. It's a spinoff of "classic" MOPS -- Mothers Of PreSchoolers - an international Christian ministry for mothers of all ages.

But, the CrossPointe Teen MOPS is for the younger set.

"We all know your teen years are really difficult," said Vicki Gommier, 36, who heads the group at CrossPointe. "And when you place the responsibility of parenthood on top of that, it just creates a number of challenges for these young moms."

The CrossPointe group is small but growing. It's one of only three Teen MOPS groups in the state. Last fall, Gommier helped launch the ministry at her church to "help (teens) be the best mom that they can be from here on out," she said.

But the group is not a Bible study or time for sermonizing. Many of the young moms don't attend church services. The group instead offers a time for the girls to mingle and share. They can chat about whatever is on their minds. Sometimes they talk about abstinence.

Katrina is the sole married mom in the bunch. One girl is not even old enough to drive and is expecting her second baby. At least one teen mom shares a home with her child's dad. Other fathers are not in the picture. And some of the Teen MOPs members have quit school.

So, Gommier and other church volunteers try to help steer the young moms back on the right path.

Gommier has become a mentor of sorts, Katrina said.

Some of the Teen MOPS members have strained relationships with their own families.

"For many of them ... they don't really understand what it's like to be a mother because they don't have those role models in their home," said Gommier, who lives in Wesley Chapel.

So, sometimes the girls call "Miss Vicki" with parenting questions. Like the time one toddler fell and hurt her foot.

Gommier is always collecting tiny baby clothes, breast pumps and cradles to pass along.

Gommier even shuttles the girls and their babies to doctor appointments in her gray mini-van.

When one baby had to have surgery on his skull, Gommier showed up at the hospital carrying a basket stuffed with snacks and crossword puzzles for the mother.

No doubt, teen motherhood has changed their lives.

They have grownup responsibilities now, Katrina said. So, social life is on hold.

For Katrina that means not tuning in to her favorite MTV shows as often.

"I watch cartoons," she said, with a laugh.

She knows about the image of teen mothers. She said she was in Wal-Mart toting her baby girl, Zoey, and an elderly couple gave her a dirty look. The couple must have thought Katrina was just a baby herself, she figured.

But "I'm perfectly capable of taking care of a child," Katrina said matter-of-factly. "I hate how older people think that just because I'm 19, I don't know how to take care of a child."

"People just shun ... teenage mothers," Gommier said. "We are not here to judge them and shake our fingers at them and go 'shame on you.' "

At CrossPointe, the aim is to encourage and support each teen mom. Never judge them, said the Rev. Bruce Moore, senior pastor of CrossPointe. "Everybody needs a fresh start."

And Gommier knows all about second chances. It's no secret, she was a rebellious teen, too, she said. And she's open and honest with the group about her past mistakes. Now, Gommier is married and a stay-at-home mother of four boys.

And her heart is in the Teen MOPS ministry, she said.

"Being a mother is a forever and ever obligation," Gommier said.

"If I can impact one (mom) and they change their path and make a good life for the child that they're raising, then I'm doing what I've been called to do."

Fast Facts:

If you go

Teen Mothers of Preschoolers meets 6:30-8 p.m. the first Monday of every month at CrossPointe Church, 27137 Foamflower Drive in Wesley Chapel. The group is open to the public. For information, call the church at (813) 973-8393 or visit www.myspace.com/crosspointeteenmops.