CHARLOTTESVILLE — Aliyah Christine Butler was born Oct. 20, 2014, at Major Hospital in Shelbyville. The baby girl weighed seven pounds, five ounces. She was 19¾ inches long.
Her birth changed the lives of her parents, 17-year-old Peyton Neisler and 19-year-old Chris Butler, forever.
Peyton wakes up at 5 a.m. every day, but not for the first time.
The Eastern Hancock softball senior also usually gets up around 1 a.m. and again at 3 a.m. to feed her growing girl.
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Peyton spends the first 40 minutes of the early 5 a.m. hour getting herself ready. She showers, gets dressed, packs her backpack, then readies milk for Aliyah to drink throughout the day.
The next half-hour or so is spent getting Aliyah ready. She needs to be changed, fed and have her bags packed for a day with grandma and grandpa.
The pair usually depart Peyton’s parents’ house around 6:30 a.m. and make the five-minute drive to the home of Ron and Joan Estes, Peyton’s grandparents and the parents of Peyton’s mom, Christy Neisler.
There, Peyton spends a few minutes with her family before taking off for vocational school at Henry County Hospital in New Castle. She spends around four hours there, getting hands-on experience in pursuit of her CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) license.
Peyton has known she wants to work in the medical field her whole life. She, like her mom, will become a nurse. Later, Peyton hopes, she will train to become a doctor.
When her clinical rotation at the hospital ends, Peyton makes a brief stop back at her grandparents’ house to check in on Aliyah. Then it’s on to Eastern Hancock, where she finishes out her school day and then plays in a Royals softball game or practice.
If it’s a game day, her grandparents usually bring Aliyah to the park to watch her mom and the Royals play. If there’s no game, Peyton leaves the practice field around 6:30 p.m., heads over to her grandparents’ house and picks up Aliyah.
From there, it’s back home to make dinner and do homework. By the time she’s finished, it’s almost time for bed. Aliyah’s head hits the pillow around 9 or 9:30 p.m. By the time Chris Butler, Aliyah’s father and Peyton’s live-in boyfriend, gets home around midnight, Peyton has been asleep for hours.
She needs a good night’s sleep. She’ll be up again in a few hours to start the whole process over again.
“She makes it look really easy,” said Peyton’s teammate, Brooke Walden. “She’s so organized and responsible. A lot of girls on this team look up to her.”
Peyton might make teen parenting look easy, her mom said, but it is not. There are so many challenges, so many sacrifices.
One of the sacrifices has been time with Chris, her boyfriend of two years. When the 19-year-old Eastern Hancock graduate found out Peyton was pregnant, he put aside his goal of working toward a criminal justice degree and secured two part-time jobs. He now works full time in shipping and receiving at the Cambria plant in Mount Comfort and uses his paycheck to pay for food, diapers and whatever else Aliyah needs.
“They lost a lot of those things you take for granted,” Christy Neisler said. “Peyton can’t just study anytime she wants. If the baby is fussy or upset, she can’t just ignore her and study. She’ll have to stay up late.
“She can’t just get in a car and go someplace. She can’t be (spontaneous) or go out with her friends. Everything has to be planned with a baby.”
The list goes on.
Yet Peyton assumes her responsibilities fully.
“Tonight, she pitched, and she wasn’t even feeling good,” Royals softball coach Sue Anderson said after a game a few weeks ago. “You never hear her complain. As a mom, I know that when you’re nursing you don’t sleep very much, but I’ve never heard her say she’s tired. It’s part of what makes her a great leader and great role model on this team.”
Anderson has not had to make any special accommodations for Peyton this year, other than letting her ride home with Aliyah after some away games instead of taking the team bus.
Peyton has never once asked to be let out of practice early. She has never once said she was too tired or too sick to play.
At home, Christy Neisler said it’s sometimes a struggle for her and her husband, Marty, to score time with their granddaughter, because Peyton is almost always at home, spending time with Aliyah.
“She really relies on no one,” Christy Neisler said.
It takes a village
The days after Aliyah’s birth were hard. And not just on Peyton.
Some of those closest to her struggled to cope with the rapid change in direction her life had taken.
“The first few months were difficult on him,” Christy Neisler said of her husband. “That was his baby girl, and she was a daddy’s girl. He would do anything for her. Now (his) little girl was gone. For the first few months, he grieved the loss of his daughter.”
Peyton’s grandparents mourned, too. They had watched their daughter, Christy Neisler, go through the trials of teen motherhood and were saddened their granddaughter would endure a similar fate.
Yet, no one abandoned her.
In fact, Christy Neisler said, no one has been prouder than Marty Neisler of Peyton’s development into a mom, something he gets to see every day because he and his wife have allowed Peyton, Aliyah and Chris to live in their home.
Peyton’s grandparents adjusted quickly as well, falling in love with Aliyah and becoming re-energized by the their role in her life, Christy Neisler said. They volunteered to watch their great-granddaughter every day while Peyton went to school.
Between Peyton, Chris and their friends and family, Aliyah never lacks for anything. Before and after Aliyah’s birth, she has been showered with gifts from everyone in her life.
“All Peyton has to do is drop a hint around Aliyah’s grandparents and her aunts, uncles, and she’s got it,” Christy Neisler said with a laugh.
Even Peyton’s softball teammates contribute.
They haven’t shied away from Peyton since she had the baby. In fact, they fight over who gets to hold Aliyah after games and volunteer to babysit. They constantly invite Peyton to hang out with them, and though most of the time she can’t, they always encourage her to bring Aliyah along.
Having a baby at 17 years old was not something Peyton planned or something she advocates. She knew the choice she made would not be easy.
From now on, Aliyah will be part of every decision Peyton makes. She’s no longer just a teenage girl; she’s a mom. And that’s OK with Peyton, who refuses to run from the scary realities of life. She works hard to inspire her daughter but along the way inspires those around her.
“Peyton made a choice,” Anderson said. “In some people’s opinion, it was a bad choice. But she didn’t take that bad choice and let it crush her. (Instead), she rolled with it and took control of her life. I think that’s what makes what she is doing so admirable to everyone else.
“She’s being the adult we all hope our kids are by the time they get through high school.”
She’s being the adult that we all hope our kids are by the time they get through high school. — Eastern Hancock head softball coach Sue Anderson