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LABOR PAINS : Two Teenage Athletes Faced a Common Ordeal With Pregnancies, but They Got Even Harsher Reality Checks After Giving Birth

May 30, 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."

Lubbock isn't the only high school athlete who has gotten pregnant. Her story simply seems more 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 might have been saved.

There are others. But Lubbock prays nightly it doesn't happen to anyone else.

PAGE LUBBOCK

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

Lubbock, 18, became pregnant while a sophomore at Calvary Chapel in Santa Ana. She hadn't begun 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 on Sept. 8, 1994, the first day of classes at Pacifica.

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 at 7 1/2 months. Doctors called it "near-DiGeorge" on the death certificate.

Lubbock's parents, Jack and Vicki McMahon, didn't want her 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 suffered nightly the final five months in the hospital, and Lubbock suffered alongside him until 10 every night. She slept at the hospital on weekends.

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

When Lubbock showed up after missing four weeks of practice and two weeks of school, it was 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 mother.

"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."

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

She lost faith in a lot of things, including love, and wonders how long it will be before she can be as close to someone as to her child's father, who left the relationship shortly after the birth.

But there are occasional moments when that faith is restored, when someone understands and reaches out.

Two Sundays ago, Lubbock received a message on her pager. It was from a teammate, Toni Mascarenas. It read, "Happy Mother's Day."

"It meant more to me," Lubbock says, "than Toni will ever know."

JESSICA WALKER

Lubbock was a naive 15-year-old who had never dated before she got pregnant. Jessica Walker wasn't.

She was 16 and "doing the wrong things: drugs, partying a lot. . . . I was good in school, good in softball, I was going to get a scholarship to college. Basically, everything that every parent wants. But I was having a lot of fun on the side."

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