By Amy Kramer of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy
When Nicole appeared on "16 & Pregnant," she and her boyfriend, Tyler, didn't really have a plan for where they would live or how they would support themselves in light of their new situation. They went back and forth between family members' homes while Tyler, who dropped out of school at 13, tried to go back for his GED. Some family members were helpful, but you could tell -- even before their daughter, Brooklyn, was born -- that life would be an uphill battle moving forward.
A lot has changed for Nicole since those early struggles, and in the MTV.com exclusive follow-up special below, we can see that her daughter has grown into a precocious, happy three-year-old. Sadly, Tyler is no longer in the picture and Nicole doesn't have a lot of stability in her life, so she granted Brooklyn's paternal great-grandmother, Nell, full custody in an attempt to give Brooklyn the best shot at a loving and positive environment.
In the special, Nicole says that while she was pregnant she thought she was ready to be a mom, but after Brooklyn was born and she and Tyler split, partying became more important than parenting. She's not the only young mom who struggles with substance abuse issues -- in the 10 years after they give birth, teen moms are twice as likely to use illegal drugs than other women their age.
Nicole's difficult choice to grant custody to Nell turned out to be a smart one, and Brooklyn is thriving in Nell's care, but not all children of teen moms are as fortunate: Children born to teens are more likely than other kids to grow up in poverty and be victims of abuse and neglect.
Like the vast majority of teen moms, Nicole wasn't planning to get pregnant. She was on the birth control pill but didn't take it regularly and, like she says, "that's what happens" when you don't take it properly. If you're sexually active, and remembering to take a pill every day isn't realistic for you, there are other more low-maintenance birth control options, such as an implant or an IUD, that can protect you for years unless you change your mind and have your doctor remove it.
Nicole says she hopes to regain custody of Brooklyn one day when she finishes school, has a steady job and her life is more stable. Her advice to other teenagers is to stay a teenager, and to wait to become a parent until you're truly ready. In order to do that, find the birth control method that best fits your lifestyle at Bedsider.org.
Check out the video below to catch up with Nicole, plus watch more "16 & Pregnant: Where Are They Now?" exclusives to find out how some of the other young moms are faring.
See Nicole's original "16 and Pregnant" episode.