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An unexpected addition

For many, junior year is characterized by college visits and juggling a difficult class load. However, for Noah Breitbach ’19 and Liberty student Sydney Johnston ’19, junior year presented a more unique challenge—a baby.

Sydney+Johnston+%E2%80%9919+and+Noah+Breitbach+%E2%80%9919+hold+their+six-month-old+daughter+Stella+Mae+Breitbach+while+sitting+in+the+living+room+in+Sydney%E2%80%99s+house.
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An unexpected addition

Sydney Johnston ’19 and Noah Breitbach ’19 hold their six-month-old daughter Stella Mae Breitbach while sitting in the living room in Sydney’s house.

Sydney Johnston ’19 and Noah Breitbach ’19 hold their six-month-old daughter Stella Mae Breitbach while sitting in the living room in Sydney’s house.

Anjali Huynh

Sydney Johnston ’19 and Noah Breitbach ’19 hold their six-month-old daughter Stella Mae Breitbach while sitting in the living room in Sydney’s house.

Anjali Huynh

Anjali Huynh

Sydney Johnston ’19 and Noah Breitbach ’19 hold their six-month-old daughter Stella Mae Breitbach while sitting in the living room in Sydney’s house.

By Jessica Moonjely, West High School

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They knew something was wrong when she couldn’t eat her burger.

On Oct. 21, 2017, their one year anniversary, Noah and Sydney sat down like any other teenage couple to eat at Chili’s. However, after taking a few bites of her food, Sydney felt that something was different. Everything tasted disgusting. A week later, she knew for sure.

Prior to this incident, Sydney had missed her period, so the couple suspected something was unusual. Chili’s was the defining moment; Sydney knew she needed to get tested. Right before Noah’s football playoff game, Sydney took a pregnancy test. After waiting an agonizing three minutes, her suspicions were confirmed: she was pregnant.

I felt completely different. I was thinking I have to be [pregnant] but I can’t imagine myself. It didn’t register for me.”

— Sydney Johnston '19

“I didn’t believe it,” Sydney said. “But I felt completely different. I was thinking I have to be [pregnant] but I can’t imagine myself. It didn’t register for me.”

As Noah approached her after the game, he knew instantly, saying, “She just gave me the look, and I was like ‘You’re pregnant.’”

After that, the couple took time to figure out what to do.

“Based on my faith and my views, I wasn’t going to give [the baby] up,” Noah said. “But Syd had the bigger decision to make, because it’s her body … It was her choice, ultimately.”

The day after taking the test, Sydney texted her mother saying that she might be pregnant. Shocked, Colleen Johnston immediately picked up the phone to call her daughter.

[Sydney] was a little nervous about what people would think: finances, the future, … but I told her that we would support her.”

— Colleen Johnston

“I told her that it must be in God’s plan for her,” Colleen said. “I know she wanted to keep the baby. She was a little nervous about what people would think: finances, the future, … but I told her that we would support her.”

For Noah, however, it took more time to process this information.

“It took me probably weeks to tell my parents, because I thought I was going to be kicked out of the house,” Noah said. “It was one of the harder things I’ve had to do in my life.”

According to Noah’s father, counselor Paul Breitbach, he and his wife suspected something had happened. Although the process of telling his family was stressful, Noah’s parents said they would always support him.

“My wife knew right away it was one of two things: either he had broken up with his girlfriend or she was pregnant,” Paul said. “We told him that we’re not mad at him. … Though it was hard, I think it was a relief for him to be able to tell us.”

The next course of action was for both families to meet and figure out a plan. A priority for both families was that both Noah and Sydney finish high school. However, there were still many unknowns. Because Paul had experience working with other teen parents and knew the resources they could turn to, the planning stage went more smoothly.

“I kind of wore two hats. I put my counselor hat on and talked to them about this. And then I put my dad hat on,” Paul said. “But, of course, it all blends together when it’s my son.”

While telling their parents was a big step, facing the rest of the world was yet another challenge.

“We kept it kind of close-knit for a while and then [word] got out somehow … The whole school blew up like wildfire,” Noah said. “I had people talk about me when I was in class.”

While Sydney’s pregnancy bump elicited stares, she never directly experienced anything negative. One teacher even reassured her that everything would be okay, telling Sydney that she had her daughter at just 19. Still, both Noah and Sydney agree that they wished more people asked them questions instead of spreading rumors.

“We know [others] have been talking about us,” Noah said. “For them to come to us face to face, it shows maturity and that you can have an adult conversation, and you don’t have to hide behind someone’s back.”

For [others] to come to us face to face, it shows maturity and that you can have an adult conversation, and you don’t have to hide behind someone’s back.”

— Noah Breitbach '19

The first trimester proved to be the most difficult; Sydney threw up often, and there were days where she just couldn’t get out of bed. However, she still fully participated in PE at school, even running the pacer and getting hit in the stomach by a soccer ball.

However, little things like feeling the baby move around put things into perspective.

“She would roll across my stomach and I was able to see the imprint of her foot,” Sydney said. “It was amazing to see how she grew. I didn’t think it was normal for her to kick that much. I didn’t know what was normal and what was not. It was a weird but fulfilling experience.”

Although a full-term pregnancy typically lasts 40 weeks, Sydney went to her Friday doctor’s appointment during week 41 still pregnant. She expected to schedule an induction for the following Monday. Instead, the doctor came in and said, “We’re going to have a baby tonight.”

Caught off guard, Sydney initially objected, but Noah and her family vowed their support. As she began to push, doctors gave her oxygen to stabilize the baby’s heart rate and set up a mirror so Sydney could see the whole process. On June 22 at 10:57 p.m., Stella Mae Breitbach was born.

“When they laid her on my chest, it was crazy,” Sydney said. “My life changed right that second.”

Noah shared a similar sentiment, saying, “It’s the most rewarding feeling to be in that room, no matter the situation, … the day that you’re officially a parent, and you get to see your child for the first time.”

Despite the joy they felt, the first three days after the birth were the hardest.

“It hits you right there,” Noah said. “She’s up and crying. You got to feed her. You’ve got to change diapers now … There’s not time for sleep anymore.”

Now, six months later, sleep is still one of the biggest challenges Noah and Sydney face. They often wake up multiple times in the night, sometimes only getting two to four-hour increments of uninterrupted sleep.

Noah and Sydney live together, so they alternate who gets up. To spend time with both families, the three live at Sydney’s parents’ home from Monday through Wednesday and with the Breitbach family from Thursday through Sunday.

Another challenge is finding time to still be regular teenagers.

“Sometimes you think, ‘What would I be doing right now if I didn’t have her?’” Sydney said.

However, with determination and parental support, the couple is making it work.

“Doesn’t matter what age you are, being a parent is stressful,” Paul said. “But they’ve done a good job of handling the pressure.”

Despite the challenges, Noah and Sydney say that watching Stella grow up makes it worthwhile, as there is something new every week.

“She just makes us laugh all the time. We’ll wake up in the morning at like 6:30, and she’ll be sitting in her crib just laughing at herself,” Noah said. “It’s awesome … to wake up to someone smiling and happy every morning.”

As Stella has grown, Noah and Sydney realize they have matured along with her. For Noah, this means a heightened sense of adulthood and for Sydney, a greater maternal instinct.

It’s strengthened us as a family. And you can never have too strong of bonds with the people you love.”

— Paul Breitbach

“I think it’s brought our family closer together,” Paul said. “It’s strengthened us as a family. And you can never have too strong of bonds with the people you love.”

Despite the stigma against teen pregnancy, the couple hopes that people understand that teen parents are not necessarily bad people. As they grow up with Stella, their goals remain to stay positive and continue overcoming any obstacles that come their way.

“Obviously we didn’t plan it, but no baby is ever a mistake in my eyes,” Noah said. “I don’t have any regrets of what’s going on here. Life goes on. The sun comes up the next day, and you move forward.”

This story was originally published on West Side Story on December 26, 2018.

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