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It's No Game : Sports a Lower Priority for Three Girls Once They Take More Demanding Position of Mother

May 21, 1996|MARTIN HENDERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Page Lubbock is baring her reputation along with her soul. She's speaking passionately, tearfully. She has endured pain, heartache and joy in motherhood.

She is not alone.

Nationally, one in nine females ages 15-19 becomes pregnant; in California, it's about one in 14.

But she's here, for the world to see, because her softball coach, Rob Weil, thought she could do a lot of good by telling her story. Maybe she can, if anyone listens.

"I can't imagine something like this happening to someone and not wanting to keep it from happening to other people," she says. "I want to help."

There are other stories, too. Lubbock isn't the only high school athlete who has gotten pregnant. Hers, it seems, is just the most tragic. She was a sophomore at a Christian school when she got pregnant, and her life could have been ruined by the aftermath.

Jessica Walker was in the fast lane at Huntington Beach High, and her life could have been saved.

Tabby Cleveland was just floating along at Costa Mesa High, unsure of what she really wanted out of life until she became a mother.

There are others. At least two local athletes became mothers this school year. But Lubbock prays nightly it doesn't happen to anyone else.

Page Lubbock

Now a senior at Pacifica and playing on one of the Southern Section's best softball teams, Page Lubbock played last year, too, living a charade.

Lubbock, 18, became pregnant while a sophomore at Calvary Chapel. She still wasn't dating at the time, she was just hanging out with her boyfriend, and she didn't let anyone know until she was five months along.

She finished the last month of the school year studying at home and remained on restriction by her parents through the summer, until her son was born Sept. 8, 1994, the first day of classes at her new school, Pacifica High.

He was one of 2,880 children born to girls age 15-18 in Orange County that year.

Within a month, Levi McKesson Lubbock developed a skin condition, the first of several problems. A month later, he had swollen lymph nodes. The baby suffered from a condition similar to DiGeorge Syndrome, in which there is no thymus gland to regulate the immune system.

He died after five months in the hospital. Doctors called it "near-DiGeorge" on the death certificate.

Her parents, Jack and Vicki McMahon, didn't want Lubbock to be a celebrity for having a child, and so she kept the baby a secret from all but about a half-dozen people on Pacifica's campus.

Every day she dashed from school or practice to the baby, first at home, later to Children's Hospital of Orange County.

"After I lost the baby, I got a second chance to be a kid again," Lubbock said. "I hope to take advantage of it by learning from it and helping other people. And even though I'm not burdened with [the baby] anymore, not one day goes by that I don't wish that I still was.

"I should be an example. I don't want this to happen to any of my other friends, whether it's having a baby, or if the baby dies, or getting a scare that you're pregnant. I hope I'm an example, even if what happens to me scares them. That's one of the positive things that came out of this."

The baby lived 7 1/2 months and suffered nightly the final five, and Lubbock suffered alongside him in the oncology ward until 10 p.m. every night. She slept over at CHOC on the weekends.

During Levi's life, Lubbock took one Friday to watch a movie at a theater near the hospital. All the other nights, she watched over her baby.

Weil, Pacifica's softball coach, didn't know about this until the final month of the season, when Lubbock began missing practices daily. He bought black armbands for the team when Levi died, three weeks before the playoffs began.

Softball parents provided food for more than 100 after the funeral, and when Lubbock showed up after missing four weeks of practice and two weeks of school, it was quite therapeutic.

"I'll always remember the first day I came back to practice," Lubbock said. "We all sat down and Rob [Weil] said, 'Finally, we have our whole team back.' It meant that I was more important to him and the team than I thought."

Weil said a team to fall back on was important to Lubbock, and she agreed. So did her mom.

"It would have been very easy for us to say, 'You just drop out of softball,' " McMahon said. "My husband, Jack, comes from a sports family. He said she needed to be there for the camaraderie, for the distraction, for the physical activity. You're part of a team and you're like everybody else for the hour that you're there. Maybe adults can't do that, but kids can. You're expected to do that. You're given permission to not think about it and not be in the middle of all that pain."

Lubbock hopes to use sign language in her career, either as an interpreter or teacher. Her hopes of an athletic scholarship are long gone.

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