Teens prepare for parenthood against all odds (video)
April 27, 2013 at midnight
Updated April 27, 2013 at 11:28 p.m.
Four hands, two hearts and a swollen belly waded through the halls of Victoria East High School as one.
Jeers and disapproving eyes trailed Michelle Lopez and Eric Taylor Jr. down the corridors.
But through it all, the pregnant teen couple have vowed to stay together until the end - despite the lack of income, a college degree and moral support from their peers and even a handful of teachers who have berated and shamed the high school sophomores since their pregnancy became public knowledge.
"There's no doubt we're going to be together the rest of our lives," said Eric, 16.
They first became aware of the pregnancy in November, when Michelle, 17, was going through a stressful time because of her grandfather's poor health.
"At first, I thought it was just stress," Michelle said.
Eric, 16, was playing defense on the varsity football team when he started to pick up on some signs of a possible pregnancy.
Michelle was working as a student trainer for the school's athletic department at the time.
"I kept noticing these little things about her," Eric said.
Time passed, and four pregnancy tests later, their suspicions were confirmed.
"I had always told myself I was going to finish school," Michelle said. "When I told my grandmother, it was hard, really hard because I knew I had let her down."
The first person Eric told about the pregnancy was his father, who died in a car explosion in March.
Eric moved to Victoria when he was 15 years old to be closer with his dad, who had been in and out of jail for substance abuse since Eric can remember.
His father's sudden death hit the high school sophomore hard, as he was already dealing with the pending responsibilities of fatherhood.
In his father's honor, the couple has decided to name their daughter Erica - whose due date is a day after Eric's father's birthday.
Michelle lost her mother when she was 4 years old.
Both Eric and Michelle lived with their grandparents and fathers. They had a lot in common, which was how their friendship initially grew.
When she first heard about the news, Eric's mother, Amanda Taylor, 35, made plans to move from Waco with her girlfriend to help raise the baby.
Michelle said she's looking forward to an upcoming Family Expo, where she and Eric hope to learn about the help area and state agencies can give for the baby.
The Victoria school district hopes the event will make students' home lives easier so they can focus more on succeeding academically, said Vickie Rabino, Victoria East High School assistant principal.
"We have a very mobile community," Rabino said. "We have people moving in and out all the time, so we want to make sure everybody in our community is aware of all the help that is out there."
Through it all, Eric and Michelle said they wouldn't have been able to get through the last few months without the guidance from their counselors Kim Motley and Karen Bigham.
Every four weeks, Michelle attends a teen parent meeting at VEHS, and Eric meets withMotley regularly to discuss his pending child and the recent loss of his father.
"She told me she was surprised that I was still in school and my grades are still good and that most kids give up," Eric said. "Growing up, I was taught to never give up no matter what the circumstance."
And since her pregnancy, Michelle said her grades have improved dramatically.
"This is just something that God has put in our lives for a reason," Michelle said. "He wouldn't have put in our lives if we couldn't handle it."
Eric's light brown hands brushed over Michelle's olive-colored fingers underneath a darkening sky in front of his mother's new home, brimming with the smell of fresh paint.
"We can do this," Eric said looking into Michelle's dark-lined eyes with deep determination. "It's not life or death."