At age 13, Shannon Kimbrell was the pretty girl with the unlimited future. A cheerleader, she was the student with the straight As in school.
Then she became the one that people whispered about. The subject of the pointing, the cruelty, the judging. She was the girl pregnant at age 13.
“I didn’t even know what it meant, what it was,” Kimbrell said. “It wasn’t TV. I knew I had done something but I quite honestly didn’t think it was remotely enough to make a baby.”
The one time, the little bit, was enough.
Her cheerleader coach noticed the weight gain and told her mother. Her mother, Barbara, upset as mothers will be, picked up Shannon at school and drove straight to the drugstore. Shannon walked in, terrified, and bought a pregnancy test. They went home and into the bathroom.
Her life could have been a mess. She could have chosen an abortion, or to give the baby up for adoption. Her grandmother told her, “People make mistakes, but God doesn’t.”
Shannon Kimbrell had made a mistake but she did not make another. Tomorrow, on Mother’s Day, Shannon Kimbrell will celebrate with her 18-year-old son, Jordan. Jordan in a few weeks will graduate from Rock Hill High School.
Incredibly, Jordan is not alone. State health statistics show 12 children were born to unwed mothers under age 15 in York County in 1995.
But in 1995, Shannon thought she was all alone. She was terrified and clueless when she found out she was pregnant. Her father was upset, her mother, too. The father of the baby, not much older than her, was kept away by his family.
“We just said right then that she would have that baby and I would help her and we would get through it,” said Shannon’s mother, Barbara.
Shannon was so young, so unworldly, that she didn’t know she was pregnant until she was 6 months into the term. She left school and was home schooled. She moved to Rock Hill to be with her mother’s family.
“I hid,” Shannon said. “But people knew. And some who shouldn’t have been mean were horrible. It happened at church and among people I knew and my family knew. I was very much ashamed of myself.”
Jordan arrived, a fast delivery, and all of a sudden, at age 13, Shannon was a mother holding her son. That moment changed her forever.
“My mind was not mature, I was a child myself, but at that moment I knew I would do all I could for him,” Shannon recalled. “I had a responsibility and I would honor it the best i could, with all the love I had.”
Shannon raced through high school, bagging groceries at Winn-Dixie, and graduated from Rock Hill High at age 16. She immediately started working full-time at a day care where she could take Jordan, and attending York Technical College at night. The boy grew, she found an apartment with her work money, did all the things that must be done.
Even a car wreck at age 15 where she flew through the windshield and needed 300 stitches - Jordan was, incredibly, just bruised - did not stop her.
Jordan started school. He was 5. His mother was 18.
“Nobody believed me, they thought maybe I was a sister posing as a parent,” Shannon said. “They stared at me.”
Shannon remained tough.
“I knew people were calculating the ages and it would register how young I was when he was born,” Shannon said. “It was the truth so I had to deal with it.”
In 2000 she started a relationship with Dustin Thompson, and has been together with him for 13 years. Shannon and Dustin later had a daughter, Jaedyn, now 5.
All through everything, she was the youngest of all young mothers when it came to her first child, Jordan.
“Some people brought it up, some would say how young my mom was and if she was really my mom,” Jordan said.
Shannon continued to work, hustle, take care of her family. Jordan’s birth father became a part of his life, with visitations and a relationship, when he was about 5 and continues to be.
Yet it is Shannon, that mother, who was always there since Jordan’s birth. She has worked at a law firm for 13 years, and still might become a lawyer someday.
Mostly, though, for 18 of her 31 years, Shannon Kimbrell has held the title of “Mom.”
When Jordan, a baseball player at Rock Hill High, would make a big catch in right field, or hammer a double or triple, the youngest mother of all would be cheering like crazy.
She talks frankly with her son and anyone else who will listen about sex and birth control. She does not advocate what she did herself, and how she had to work so hard as such a young mother.
It has been difficult to always be the young mother, the youngest by far, and the subject of so much scrutiny.
But Shannon Kimbrell does not apologize for being, “The best mother I can be for all these years.”
Jordan Kimbrell, the son, said he looks up to his mother. He is inspired by her. He keeps no secrets from her, and he sure has to listen when she talks, often, about being responsible and making good choices. He will head off to college in a few months.
“I am so proud of my mom,” Jordan said. “The youngest mom, yes, people know it, but she’s the greatest mom. The best.”