It’s hard to believe it has been four years since Juno arrived, covered in all its Diablo Cody-ness, and spawned a certifiable cultural mania over teen pregnancy. The fear of high school girls forming preggers pacts and Jamie-Lynn Spears becoming a newly minted role model pretty naturally led to the MTV series Sixteen and Pregnant, which then earned its own spin-off Teen Mom and, eventually, Teen Mom 2.
Given the fact MTV had mostly been dealing with teen girls in the nightmarish, inside-of-a-bubble show My Super Sweet 16, it marked a less freakish moment for the network — even if some of the pregnant teens featured on the shows have gone on to become tabloid fodder. At its root, the show can create a keyhole glimpse into the life of somewhat average American teenagers as they tackle the final stages of pregnancy and the jarring jolt of life after their baby’s birth.
For the show's third season premiere, we met Jordan Ward, who lives in St. Louis, Missouri, with her grandparents and twin sister, Jessica. The two left school at 15 to model until Jordan met her boyfriend Brian and became pregnant. As a sidenote, perhaps the many Us Weekly covers devoted to the ugly domestic violence between former Teen Mom Amber Portwood and her ex-boyfriend led to not picking a pregnant teen struggling against intense family dysfunction and poverty right off the bat for this season.
While their grandparents adopted the twins at a young age because of absent parents, their grandmother Aleta seemed loving, frustrated, and supporting in the moments she should have. In fact, bickering and tension arose from a less expected place: the awkwardness caused by Brian trying to wedge in between his pregnant girlfriend and her incredibly close twin.
The uncomfortable dynamic between the three caused much heartache leading up to the birth of baby Noah, namely because Brian asked Jordan to keep her sister out of the delivery room in order to have a first family moment. Naturally, it didn’t go over well with Jessica, who boiled over with neediness and outright jealousy over Brian so seamlessly entering their lives (eventually moving into the grandparents home to be closer).
There’s pity for Jordan, who tackled new motherhood while balancing two easily bruised egos desperately vying for her time — not to mention a baby who quickly arrived and needed, well, everything. But one of the more surprising aspects of the episode was the sincere way Brian attempted to handle his responsibility as a new father. All too often the show's teen dads have made your skin crawl with their inability to help care for their pregnant girlfriends or even understand much of the situation at hand, though there certainly have been exceptions.
While Brian and Jordan are incredibly young, they also seemed to care a great deal for each other and had an impressive network to support them, including Jessica, when she wasn’t sulking about being edged out of the picture. And Jordan navigated the tension between her sibling and baby’s father well, deciding she wanted her sister in the delivery room, after all. After the teary birth, where everyone seems utterly terrified by the reality of the situation, there was even a sweet moment where Brian kindly asked Jessica if she’d like to hold the newborn and handed off Noah as a nice baby-as-olive-branch gesture.
Lest you think the show would focus only on the bridge building a new baby can provide, they kept the cameras around for the sleep-deprived days and weeks after bringing him home. After five weeks of nearly non-stop crying, Brian and Jordan finally learned their baby had awful acid reflux and needed hospitalization to get well, though he’d probably remain a difficult baby for some time.
We’re meant to see that this is tough stuff, for the most part. Even with family, a nice home, and a calming partner for midnight feedings, it became nearly breakdown inducing for young Jordan. Those moments help the show feel like an honest depiction of less Juno-like, teenage lives, even if they do end up on a tabloid cover down the road when the spotlight of celebrity hits them.