The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • Front.sculpt
    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
  • Front.tar.wide
    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
  • Front.pull
    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.homecoming Court
    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.

Fayette students 'Empathize" with their Pregnant Peers

Written by David Green.


What’s it like to be pregnant at a very young age?

A few students in Laura Leininger’s parenting class caught a glimpse Friday, when Jan Christenson from the Four County Career Center visited with her Empathy Belly, an elaborate garment used to simulate pregnancy.maternity.thang

Mrs. Christenson is a teacher for the Graduates, Reality, and Dual Skills (GRADS) program. It is designed to teach strategies for staying economically independent to students who are pregnant mothers and soon-to-be fathers. Instructors also aim to prevent unwanted teen pregnancy, which is one of the functions the Empathy Belly serves.

While no simulator can produce the exact biological changes that take place during an actual pregnancy, the Empathy Belly is more sophisticated than a harness with weights in the stomach area.

Before donning the apparatus, students raised their arms above their heads while Mrs. Christenson and Mrs. Leininger fastened a tight strap around their torsos just beneath the armpit area. The strap is intended to produce the labored breathing some pregnant mothers experience during the last three months of pregnancy.

“As the uterus expands, the stomach and intestines are pushed back and up, limiting the movement of the diaphragm,” Mrs. Christenson explained. “If you are asthmatic, you will probably have to spend this period lying flat on your back in bed.”

With the strap, she continued, students might feel like they have a bad cold.

Next came the Empathy Belly itself. Katie Borer, who had her name selected from a hat, was the the first student to wear the harness.

A bladder full of warm water—meant to simulate the warmth of the uterus—was the first major weight added to the belly. Then came two seven and a half-pound shot puts. Finally, the student placed a five-pound weight over her or his bladder. This was done to bring about another common side effect of pregnancy—frequent trips to the bathroom.

Katie’s final struggle to button up the Empathy Smock—a velcro-from-behind shirt that covers the belly—led her to use the forbidden word.

“I feel fat,” she said.

“She said the F-word!” cried Mrs. Christenson. “Never use the F-A-T word during pregnancy.”

Still, students couldn’t help lamenting the added weight and girth. Edwin Arroyo could barely get the Empathy Smock fastened, and struggled to complete the simple task of clothes from the washer to the dryer.

“My belly’s getting in the way,” he said.maternity_2

Another task involved students climbing to their feet from the prone position.

Mrs. Christenson relayed the story of an Evergreen High School all-state football center who just couldn’t get up. He needed the help of four classmates to rise to his feet.

Katie didn’t have as much trouble, but did suffer a noticeable lack of coordination when Mrs. Christenson jokingly yelled “Fire! Fire! The house is burning down! Get up!”

WORK AND SCHOOL—In a given year, about 150 students in the area are enrolled in the four-county GRADS program, although not all of them are pregnant women or fathers with children on the way. A good portion of the students have already had their children and attend the classes for further instruction, said Mrs. Christenson.

She has had students as old as seniors in high school, and some as young as 12-years-old.

To give Mrs. Leininger’s pupils an idea of the day-to-day situation these students face or have faced, Mrs. Christenson shepherded the class to a nearby stairwell, where petite Mara Raker, garbed in the Empathy Belly, was given a stack of four textbooks. Half of the class congregated at the bottom of the stairs, while the other half lined up on either side of the “pregnant” student.

The classmates were then instructed to walk up and down the stairs as if on their way to class, and Mara was bumped and jostled from one side of the stairway to the next. At one point she lost balance and tipped a shoulder into the wall.

On top of the physical stress, pregnant students also experience mental stress, sometimes in the form of an invasion of privacy.

Mrs. Christenson explained that the number one complaint she hears from pregnant students involves classmates whom they barely know touching or rubbing their stomachs without permission.

“Never, ever, touch a pregnant woman’s belly without her permission,” she said.

On top of it all, there is the question of finances. Many pregnant students are still under the umbrella of their parents’ insurance, but that insurance rarely extends to the newborn child.

Tests, inoculations and other state-required neo-natal medical procedures can cost hundreds of dollars, said Mrs. Christenson.

“Kids cost money,” she replied. “If you’re thinking of having kids, you better have a lot of change in your pocket or be ready to take on a significant debt.”

That’s the weight of unwanted teen pregnancy.

     – April 4, 2004

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2015