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Module 2 Draft - Pregnant at Uni - Where's the support ? Before and after.

I was pregnant with my first child while studying at university. My mother was pregnant in Uni. My sister was pregnant in Uni. A number of my friends were also pregnant in uni. My daughter is 8 now.
I had just turned 21 when I gave birth to her. I had always looked forward to my 21st. To have the big party that we always talked about and the dreams that we had for when we turned 21 - the “When I turn 21, I’m going to…”. I also had always looked forward to going to uni - to finally move out from home, the independence and the stepping stone to becoming a successful career person.

Yes, I did gain my independence and moved out from home, but little did I know that in less than 2 years I was going to become a mother.
At 21, I never had that great party I looked forward to, instead I had a baby and was in my 2nd year of Uni, in a relationship and wanted still so much to achieve my goals and dreams.

Breaking the news to my parents was the hardest thing I had ever had to do in my life up to that point. I was scared. My parents wanted the best for me, wanted me to succeed and I felt I had just let them down.
I wanted to get rid of the child. The fear of facing my parents with the news was too much. I was ashamed. How do I tell them? What was going to happen to me? Do I still stay in Uni? My plans? My dreams? What was going to happen? Attempts for abortion failed. The year was coming to an end and pretty soon I would have to face my fears and face my parents - my dad especially. I didn’t know what to expect or where my life was headed; all I knew was I was having a baby and had to deal with it.

Building up the courage to tell my mum was much easier. Knowing that she had also been in the same situation, I guess I hoped that she would be more understanding-- and she was. She was very supportive. My dad (not my biological dad, but my mum’s brother who raised me up, who is the father figure in my life) - he was the one I feared most as I knew he always wanted me to be the best and he always gave me the best. Breaking the news to him was hard and he let his anger out, in words. Told me that I was to pull out of uni and stay at home, since having a child was what I wanted to do instead of getting an education. I cried and begged, saying that I wanted to continue going to Uni. He finally subsided.

I told myself that I was going to prove to him that I could do it.
I continued Uni and had to keep my head up at all times despite the stares and talk that came from other students seeing my bulge. But with the support of my friends, my mum, my partner at the time and my aunty who took me in--where we stayed while I took care of my baby and went to school--I was able to complete Uni, achieving my degree with merits and be the only female in my course that year to graduate.

Though maybe my life may have been different, I have no regrets. I have a lovely daughter which I love dearly. I also have a great career. But maybe if there were better counseling services, programs, support groups available which provided better direction, I would have delayed the pregnancy. I only encourage other young females to graduate before getting pregnant. Achieve and enjoy your single, young years before motherhood.

This is my story. My mother has her story and so does my sister, my friends and other young women who became pregnant while at Uni: their fears, their feelings, the pain and struggle that they also went through.

Every year, in universities in Papua New Guinea, approximately 15 young women become pregnant. The women are allowed to continue their education during pregnancy and after, but once the child is born, they lose boarding privileges and must make their own living arrangements to continue. In some cases, the female and her partner, if married, move to the Married Students Accommodation; for most cases, if there is good family support, the female leaves the child with the parents, aunty, or guardian to take care of the child while she continues uni; and for others, they simply quit uni.

In Papua New Guinea, it is considered taboo to discuss sex in family groups or anything related to it. It is not discussed openly and depending on the background that you come from, many times it is not discussed at all.
Thus when it comes to a situation where a young female becomes pregnant, all it brings is shame to the family and to the female, and all the negativity towards the situation becomes greater.
Yet, once the baby is born, despite all the struggles faced and challenges that will be faced with having a baby, most often the family rejoices and welcomes the baby as a blessing and the joy of having a new member in the family - be it the daughter, grandchild, niece/nephew, is always is far greater and overcomes all the initial anger and pressures that had begun.

University years is the most vulnerable time in a young female’s life as it is during this time that she is being prepped for life; the career path, the social group, the clubs/associations that build up your individuality and interests and it is also during this time that relationships become more adhesive and more intense. It is especially during this time that life issues support groups and services are available to advise and counsel young people in their lives choices - but yet that is a great lack of it.

In the universities, there is a health clinic. This is the only form of service available to students that is related to health and life issues. Contraceptives are available but students are not being told in advance that these are available, let alone, what contraceptives are and how they can be used to prevent pregnancies.
Counselling services and support mechanisms are close to zero and the Uni counsellor is more subject to counselling on studies than life issues.
Upon googling on the topic “Pregnancies in Universities” a lot of articles tell stories of young females and their experiences, but more so the availability of services and support groups that are available in universities in developed countries. In one article, it talks about how universities have set rules for what happens when female students fall pregnant. - for some it is facing disciplinary action, expulsion and for others there is greater support.

Taken from: http://www.observer.ug/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=10713&I...
Catherine Kanabahita, who heads the gender mainstreaming division at Makerere University, believes universities should not take punitive action against students who become pregnant.
“What they need is to offer support mechanisms to prevent pregnancy through counseling and family planning methods,” she says.
However, she acknowledges that in IUIU’s case, there is little to do since the university informs students in advance that pregnancy outside marriage is not allowed. But she warns that it’s time to look at things differently since there may be negative consequences.
“With all due respect they have their right to impose regulations but they need to realise that with the female student already in a disadvantaged position, especially if it is an unwanted pregnancy, she may never get another chance at a university education. So who is the beneficiary?”
I always wonder now, if I had been informed before going to Uni or during Orientation week about the consequences of pregnancy in Uni, if contraceptives were available, if the issue was treated more seriously, I would have taken it more seriously, and maybe it would have prevented me from falling pregnant in Uni. Maybe it would prevent most pregnancies in Uni.
If only my mother had shared with me her experiences. If only in High school there was sex education being taught, and / or guidance and counselling classes or support groups and services that a young female could go to.

While at Uni, there were no good support mechanisms and little was shared with new intakes with guidance and counseling as to prevention of pregnancies along with other issues such as alcohol and drug related.

I feel that these services should be made available at all universities and also to the public, lifelines, counseling services , support groups to help people make more informed decisions in their lives.
Schools should also include sex education as part of the curricular and stress on social issues including pregnancies to prevent unwanted pregnancies, and young relationships, which later lead to separations and divorces due to wrong life choices in people’s younger years.

Young people only learn from what they see on tv, in books and from other peers. They themselves end up learning by being in the situation, such which could be prevented.

Today, with more awareness being carried out with HIV/AIDS campaign on the media, pregnancies in universities have dropped in numbers as young men and women are being informed and are more wary of being infected by the virus but as it is, counseling and support services are minimal.
It is also up to us, parents who have been through these experiences and know of these situations to break the taboo and make it our obligation to talk to our children and youths on the consequences of early pregnancies and life choices.

Comments

vivian's picture

I quite appreciate the angle

I quite appreciate the angle of your piece. I am happy to read your story and to learn that you got support from your family, mum and aunty. Family support is a great moving force a young girl with unwanted pregnancy can recieve at the time. I am also happy to learn that you took a good decision to keep the baby and continue your education. As lest today you can teach others from your life experience.

Well done

Vivian

''Every woman have a story at every stage of Life''

lindalubin's picture

An Important Subject

Carole, you chose to focus on a subject that is of vital concern to women everywhere: family planning. It was only very recently in human history that the means to do so was available. Now, the customs, patterns, and thinking about this can be changed, though it takes time and effort. Raising awareness, and increasing the empowerment of young women to take control of their lives and make the decisions of child bearing - this is something that perhaps you will engage in for others. Your article has a nice balance of writing of your own personal experience, and then widening your focus to how this issue impacts young women in your country. Thank you for your valuable contribution to our understanding.

Linda

Emie Zozobrado's picture

Hi Carole!

Oh yes, sister! The world will find it hard to shed off the taboo on child-bearing outside wedlock and pre-marital sex, and the burden always fall on women. In such situations, society scoffs much more on women than their partners. It's unfair, yes, and that's why we have to help each other. We need to foster awareness in our own circle. Somehow, you can talk about your experience, and others can talk as witnesses. I have a sister who got pregnant while in university, too , and I can share a lot of our experience as her family. The important thing is really to share - the difficulties, the lessons learned, some advises ...

It's really very courageous of you to come forward and write this piece ... many of our sisters can relate to your life, your experience, and it helps a lot to talk about it in the open, because we know it can only lead us to something better. All the best...

Always,
Emie Zozobrado

warona's picture

my friend

Dear friend,

This is a very powerful piece,you have touched the core thing,right in the heart of every woman.I was actually thrown out the house, and told never to come back home because i was told that i broke the laws and am a shame to the family,and how are they going to accept the sons of a bastard.I went to the hospital to try ending that preganancy they instead councilled me to accept my condition.Knowing how my untie would respond i sought to destroy that pregnancy. I met some village who seemed to be experts in taking out preganancy.With the history i know from the time i was young,how those girls died,the pain from poisonous substances they drunk,can you imagine these girls will drink these corrosive substances that caused wounds throughout the alimentary canal.I quited that game,i began to accept that am preganant. And i remembered the Doctor's words he said may be this child will be our next President or something in this country why do you want to kill it.i repented and I really thank God.

Today my daughter is everything to me,how i love her.Child bearing is no joke,better for you,you had your relatives to support you through it all.As for as i was a young mother i just want to thank God for his love me.I made it not on my own strength but God.Anyway let me not talk to much these things they sometimes make me sick.

Thank you my dear for injecting us with this kind of piece,taking us back to remember our days of torture,and sensetize us about our communities more especially girl child/young mothers.These teen girls.

Greateful

Warona

"success will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time " And when confronted conquer with love

martha llano's picture

Wow

Auch, You touched my heart as this is very similar to what is going on in Colombia. Thanks for sharing it.

Con afecto

Martha

Con afecto

Martha Llano
selva@sentir.org
marthallano.wix.com/serna

HAGA ALGO........ lo que lo haga feliz!
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