Jenni Lake gave birth to a baby boy the month before her 18th birthday, though she was not destined to become just another teenage mother.
That much, she knew.
While being admitted to the hospital, she pulled her nurse down to her at bed level and whispered into her ear. The nurse would later repeat the girl’s words to comfort her family, as their worst fears were realized a day after Jenni’s baby was born.
“She told the nurse, ‘I’m done, I did what I was supposed to. My baby is going to get here safe,’” said Diana Phillips, Jenni’s mother.
In photographs, the baby’s ruddy cheeks and healthy weight offer a stark contrast to the frail girl who gave birth to him. She holds the newborn tightly, kissing the top of his head. Jenni, at 5 feet and 4 inches tall, weighed only 108 pounds at the full term of her pregnancy.
A day after the Nov. 9 birth, Phillips learned that her daughter’s decision to forgo treatment for tumors on her brain and spine so she could carry the baby would have fatal repercussions. The cancer had marked too much territory. Nothing could be done, Phillips said.
It was only 12 days past the birth — half spent in the hospital and the other half at home — before Jenni was gone.
Even so, her family and friends insist her legacy is not one centered in tragedy, but rather in sacrifice.
This month, her family gathered at their ranch style home in Pocatello, where a Christmas tree in the living room was adorned with ornaments picked out just for Jenni, including one in bright lime green, her favorite color. She had passed away in a bedroom down the hall.
Recalling Jenni’s infectious laugh and a rebellious streak, her mother held the baby close, nuzzling his head, and said, “I want him to know everything about her, and what she did.”