Rejected by her family, teen mom finds help at the City of Refuge
When we first met Tiffany Kilgore in January, she was 15 years old and eight months pregnant. She agreed to let The Record-Courier follow her to document what it is like for a teen-age girl who becomes a mother.
Tiffany was living at the City of Refuge home for pregnant women who have no place to live. The refuge was started by Diane and David Gamble in 1993, and the shelter was built five miles out on Pine Nut Road #2 in 1995. The refuge is a non-profit, private Christian organization. The name comes from the old testament, Diane Gamble said. A city of refuge was a place a person who had committed a crime could go without fear of retribution and wait for a trial.
Tiffany Kilgore, like many people, didn’t think it would happen to her. But, at 15 years old, she got pregnant.
“I was in the process of getting kicked out of high school for never showing up,” she remembered. “I had been missing periods and putting on weight and was at a family member’s house with my stepsister, and because I didn’t want to drink, people figured out I might be pregnant.”
She and her stepsister walked to a store and asked people for quarters until they had enough for a pregnancy test. The test was positive.
The next day, Tiffany went to a doctor’s office. She had an ultrasound and determined she was 7-1/2 weeks pregnant.
Tiffany had to think about her options. She doesn’t believe in abortion and refused that option.
“I thought about adoption because I thought, ‘I’m 15 years old, there’s no way I can keep this baby.’ I was stuck on it for a while. I watched adoption videos and they didn’t affect me. But then I woke up one day and I just said, ‘I can’t give the baby up.’ You just feel so close to the baby even though it isn’t born,” Tiffany said.
The refuge is far out in the Pine Nut Mountains and is run by Diane and David Gamble. Tiffany’s mother knew about the refuge because she wanted Tiffany’s older sister to live there when she got pregnant just the year before.
– January 2000. Tiffany explains the details of her life since getting pregnant with little emotion; the full extent of the situation hasn’t sunk in.
“I just didn’t think it would happen to me,” she said.
She has been at City of Refuge for most of her pregnancy, since August. Her parents refuse to allow her to live with them if she wants to keep the baby. She has no idea where she is going to go after the baby is born.
Some people that she and the Gambles go to church with have offered to let her come live with them.
Tiffany said she doesn’t feel angry at her parents for rejecting her.
“I was pretty awful to them. I don’t have any hard feelings. I kinda understand,” she said.
Tiffany said she doesn’t want to go back to public school, so is trying to get her diploma through a home schooling program administered by Mt. Sierra Christian Academy in Alpine County.
She said she is thinking about her future more than before and is considering going to a community college to get an associate’s degree.
She is now more aware that being pregnant means she will soon be a mom because of an ultrasound she recently had.
“It sounds like a stampede of horses. I cried when I had my first sonogram at five months. I know there is a baby there, but looking at it made me cry. I don’t know if I was happy or sad,” she says. “You don’t believe it. It just doesn’t sink in.”
– February 21, 2000. Tiffany has two weeks until her due date. Yesterday she turned 16 and, despite being sick lately, is excited to have visitors at City of Refuge and is showing off her birthday presents.
She’s glad to have the “horrible” pregnancy almost over, she said. She has spent many nights wide awake and has caught just about every illness that came by.
A woman she met at Grace Community Church in Gardnerville, Debbie Mullarkey, has agreed to let her stay with her after the baby is born, so Tiffany is moving in this week.
“I just want this to be over. I am just now realizing it is really going to happen – the pregnancy is almost over,” she says. “Until now, I didn’t realize it’s almost over. Always I have thought of it as, ‘The baby’s at this stage or that stage.’ With dilating 1 centimeter, I thought, ‘Whoa! This kid’s going to come out!'”
She’s still not sure what role the baby’s father will play in their lives. When she talked to him on the phone recently, he said he might come visit after the birth.
– The birth. A week after her birthday, she begins feeling pain during dinner.
“I kind of knew I was in labor. At 10, I tried to go to sleep, but I couldn’t because it hurt so much. At 11, I came back out and sat in the living room and the pains weren’t going away, so at 12:30, I told (her labor coach) I wanted to go to the hospital.”
She arrives at Carson-Tahoe Hospital at about 1:30 a.m. and the nurses check her and find she is only dilated to 2 centimeters.
Because Tiffany lives so far away, the staff doesn’t send her home. The next couple of hours pass slowly. At 6 a.m., her water breaks.
“My water broke and I was pulling on the cord and I started throwing up. They got me back in the bed and I was like, ‘I have to push,” and the nurse was like, ‘No, you can’t do that.'”
They check her again and see she is fully dilated. The labor rapidly progresses from that point.
Elijah David Kilgore was born at 6:15 a.m. on Feb. 25. Tiffany says she gave him the middle name of David to honor Gamble, who provided her a home during her pregnancy.
“I’d probably be dead (if it wasn’t for City of Refuge). My life was pretty far out. It took me until I got to City of Refuge and to have all this drastic change until I realized it,” Tiffany said.
After Elijah is born, mother and son move in with Mullarkey and her daughter, Claire, 10, who live in the Ranchos.
However, Tiffany is feeling the pinch of having a baby and no job.
“It is definitely expensive to have a baby, because babies cost more than grown people do,” she says.
Tiffany said if she can stay on track, she will finish her home schooling work in June or July. Then she hopes to get a night job, because Debbie said she will watch Elijah when she is home.
Tiffany said she believes she has matured tenfold in the last nine months and has some advice for teen-agers that she admits she wouldn’t have listened to – sex isn’t worth it.
She said she wishes she would have been more prepared for motherhood.
“It’s really different. If you didn’t know how to take care of a baby, it can be scary. Sometimes he can scream for a long period of time and there’s nothing you can do about it. Sex can definitely wait. I intend to not have sex again until I am married. It is way different to be pregnant and alone. There are many stages where you are very lonely and you just need someone to hold you. Even if you are dating someone, it is not the same as when you are married and that person is supposed to be with you.”
– Aug. 7, 2000. Elijah is now a happy 5-1/2 month old baby with beautiful dark skin and soft, curly hair. Tiffany, who is worried he might have a little cold, said he is a very good baby as she feeds him. She said her life has changed dramatically because of him.
“Sometimes, I can’t picture my life without him. I shouldn’t have had him when I did, but there’s nothing I can do about that. There are no options anymore; he comes first,” Tiffany said.
There are other priorities that weren’t there before, Tiffany said. She feels much more confident now that God is in her life. She met her fiance at Grace Community Church. Josh Harmon, 19, and Tiffany plan to marry by October. Tiffany said Josh is very good to both Elijah and her. He helps her pay for baby food and clothing. She also said she is sticking to her commitment not to have sex until she is married.
Tiffany has very little contact with Elijah’s father. He sometimes sends them $50. Tiffany says she won’t break off contact with him because she wants Elijah to know his father.
She is still living with Mullarkey and says she couldn’t have made it through the last 5-1/2 months without her. After a trip home, even her parents have come to accept Elijah, she said.
Tiffany graduated in June and had a job working nights at Domino’s Pizza for a while, but quit after realizing how much she missed being away from Elijah.
“I didn’t like it at all. The more you are away from someone, the more you realize how much you miss him,” she said.
Soon, she will have to find another job in order for her and Josh to afford rent.
Things are still tight, but Tiffany said she is happier than she ever had been before Elijah came along.
She said she wouldn’t want to go through the pregnancy again, but Elijah has made her a different person.
“He totally put my life back on track. He made me realize there is more to life than guys,” she said, smiling at the giggling baby, who stared back at her as he chewed on a rubber duck.
“There are some times when it’s hard. Sometimes I think, ‘Do you know what I could be doing if I didn’t have a kid right now?’ He gives me purpose. His little smile makes me happy,” she said.
Tiffany said when Elijah is old enough, she will tell him that she made a mistake she hopes he won’t repeat.
“I will tell him I made a mistake when I was younger, but sometimes, good things come out of bad things. I hope to raise him in a godly home and to be a good role model and pray that God gives me strength to give him enough morals and faith in God so he won’t make the same mistakes.”