As she spoke to her three-year-old son Bentley on the phone, MTV “Teen Mom” star Maci Bookout brought tears to the eyes of many from the packed audience of supporters in the MPR Wednesday evening.
Hearing little Bentley’s sweet southern voice tell his mom “I love you” pulled on the heart strings of the SRU community, including many teenage mothers who came to get tips and advice from the inspiring and mature 20 year old.
Approximately twenty-five minutes before she took the stage and told SRU her story, Maci sat relaxed in a comfy chair backstage and reflected on her journey as a teen mom.
“It’s really been the most amazing experience ever,” she said. “It’s insane how much I love Bentley. I really don’t think anyone knows what true love is until they have a child.”
At the start of 2008, Bookout said she was just a normal 16 year old. She played softball and was a cheerleader for Ooltewah High School in Tennessee.
When she met her boyfriend Ryan during the summer after her sophomore year of high school, she was still a virgin. After four months of dating, they had sex and they didn’t use protection. After about a month of having sex with Ryan, Maci woke up one morning, got sick in the shower, and in the back of her mind was the burning thought that she might be pregnant. She took a birth control test and it came up positive.
MTV asked Maci to be on their upcoming show “16 and Pregnant” after her mother found a Craigslist ad for pregnant teens to film their pregnancy and show other girls what it was like to be in their situation.
In September of 2008, camera crews came to Maci’s home in Chattanooga, TN to start filming her day-to-day life. She gave birth to Bentley that October and her episode of “16 and Pregnant” aired on MTV in June 2009.
As a young mother, Maci missed out on many things including prom, sports, and graduation, but she realized that she made a decision and was going to handle the outcome like a mature adult.
“While I was pregnant, I missed out on a lot of the fun stuff you do as a junior and senior in high school,” she said. “At the time, it didn’t really bother me, because I accepted the fact that I needed to become an adult. Unfortunately, there were a lot of things that I missed out on, all because we were too stupid to use protection when we should have.”
In the summer of 2009, MTV asked Maci to be part of their upcoming spin-off series, “Teen Mom,” which would be a series that focused on the lives of four teenagers during the first few years of motherhood. Of course, the film crew was in her house constantly watching every move she made as they filmed the show.
“At first, it was extremely awkward having people constantly hanging around the house,” she said. “I’ve been getting more and more used to it. In the beginning, I didn’t understand what the big deal was, because I’m just Maci. I never thought I was that interesting.”
According to Maci, the show is very real and not exaggerated much at all, and that’s the reason she keeps doing it with MTV.
“The show does a really good job of documenting my day to day life and what actually goes on,” she said. “They do, however, want us to talk about what is going on in our relationship and how Bentley is doing more than I would if they weren’t there filming.”
After they split up two years ago, Ryan and Maci have been getting along much better.
“We’re still just kids,” she said. “It’s like we’re two children that have to get along with each other and raise a child. We both had to give up a lot, and we ended up resenting each other and blaming each other for the situation we got ourselves into. We obviously still have our disagreements but we have grown up a lot and realized that if we don’t respect each other, it’s going to hurt Bentley.”
The most difficult part of raising Bentley is splitting his time with Ryan, she said.
“The older Bentley gets, the more I realize that I’m only around him half of the time,” she said. “The biggest struggle is definitely having to share your child with someone else.”
Many supporters in the audience had the opportunity to ask Maci questions, including numerous young mothers who asked for any advice she had.
“Just remember what is important in your life,” she said. “Do what makes you happy, because if you aren’t happy, your kids won’t be happy. You really do want the best for your kids, and you’re not going to be able to give that to them if you’re not in a stable relationship or stable with yourself first.”