‘I can han­dle han­dle anything’

Teen preg­nancy and a host of bad luck hasn’t stopped Amanda Chekowski from re­al­iz­ing her dreams

Edmonton Journal - - INSIGHT - Gemma Karstens- Smith gkarstens- smith@ed­mon­ton­jour­nal.com Twit­ter.com/gkarstens­smith

Amanda Chekowski knows a thing or two about beat­ing the odds.

At 15, she learned she was preg­nant and was told she’d never fin­ish high school. Many of the naysay­ers spoke from ex­pe­ri­ence: Chekowski’s mother, aunt and sis­ter had all been teen moth­ers.

“No­body doubted my ca­pa­bil­ity of do­ing it. They just thought that, be­cause I’m a teen par­ent, I wouldn’t do it,” said Chekowski, now 18.

When Chekowski’s daugh­ter, Janaya, was born, things got worse. Af­ter 24 hours of labour, Janaya came into the world without a pulse. Med­i­cal staff re­vived the new­born, but a few months later, the new mom was home alone with her daugh­ter when the baby had a seizure. An­other hos­pi­tal stay re­vealed that Janaya has hy­popi­tu­itarism, mean­ing her pi­tu­itary gland doesn’t re­lease hor­mones the way it should. Doc­tors said she would be legally blind and have learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties.

To­day, Janaya is an en­er­getic twoand-a-half year old with a lion’s mane of choco­late-coloured curls. While she’s small for her age, and has to take sev­eral med­i­ca­tions, Janaya is able to see and can count to 40 on her own.

“She took ev­ery­thing ev­ery­one said she was go­ing to be, crum­pled it up and threw it back at them,” Chekowski said.

So has Janaya’s young mother.

Chekowski en­rolled at Brae­mar School, which is part­nered with the Terra Pro­gram to help teen moth­ers make it through high school. She earned top marks while bal­anc­ing par­ent­ing and work­ing at a re­tail job part-time.

It all was nearly de­railed in late Fe­bru­ary, when she and a friend were hit by a car as they walked across a road at a cross­walk. The col­li­sion left Chekowski with torn knee lig­a­ments, and forced her to take two months off school.

She put away the crutches and fin­ished her course work just in time to walk across the grad­u­a­tion stage last week as Janaya cheered her on.

“I can’t even de­scribe how good it feels,” Chekowski said.

In Septem­ber, she will be the first woman in her fam­ily to at­tend univer­sity when she starts study­ing at MacE­wan Univer­sity to be­come a crime scene in­ves­ti­ga­tor.

It’s been a tough haul, but Chekowski says be­ing a teen par­ent has prepared her for her fu­ture.

“If I can han­dle a two-year-old, high school, work­ing, be­ing sin­gle and try­ing to fig­ure my life out, I can han­dle anything,” she said.

Hav­ing Janaya by her side makes it all worth­while.

“Ev­ery­thing I do now is en­joyed that much more be­cause I get to see her smil­ing.”

Chekowski

Mother and daugh­ter walk home from day­care af­ter school.

Chekowski works at her part time job in an Ed­mon­ton re­tail store.

Mother and

Amanda Chekowski re­ceives her high school diploma at a grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony held at Con­cor­dia Col­lege on Fri­day, June 22.

Mother and daugh­ter, Janaya, in match­ing dresses made by Chekowski’s mom, Tara, for her daugh­ter’s Grade 12 grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony.

Chekowski

In so­cial stud­ies class at Brae­mar

Chekowski shares a mo­ment with her daugh­ter dur­ing a meal with her fam­ily in their home with Amanda’s mom, Tara, and sis­ter, Ash­leigh, 6.

PHO­TOS by John Lu­cas, Ed­mon­ton Jour­nal

Janaya watches TV in the bed­room she shares with her mom in their Clare­view home.

Mother and daugh­ter stop for blood work af­ter an early morn­ing ap­point­ment at Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal.

A weary Chekowski sits in the bed­room she shares with her daugh­ter.

Chekowski makes a meal for the fam­ily, in their Clare­view home.

Pick up time at Janaya’s day­care

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