Advice from a Pregnant on Campus student advocate

Anja Scheib with SignPregnant on Campus Initiative is where the pro-life talk meets the pro-life walk. If you’re a student yourself, you may not know where to begin when it comes to being there for student mothers. It’s a pretty heavy load, and it’s easy to feel lost when every situation is different. Here are a few tips to help navigate through the unknowns of starting and strengthening your group:

1. Be open and available

Be open to being contacted via call, text, or email at odd times and days. In the nature of pregnancies being unplanned, sometimes women need someone to talk to or be with at unplanned times or during unplanned days. This could be a busy day for you or a day when you’re not thinking about school work and club responsibilities. It must become practice to expect the unexpected. Remember, the women you’re building relationships with may feel shy to reach out or may be speaking with you because they feel they have no one else to speak with, so do your best to be there for them even when it’s not the best time for you. A good way to deal with this when you’re with friends is respect her confidentiality and say you need to slip out to be on the phone with a friend or student mother. If you can’t step out, it’s best to text when you think you can be on the phone next.

2. Research what you don’t know

Research to answer questions you don’t have the answers to on the top of your head. It’s completely normal to get questions that you might not have any personal experience with as a non-parent. The worst thing you can do is just say “I don’t know” and leave it at that. Admit that you don’t know but you’ll do some research. Use your favorite search engine to use key words and don’t be surprised when you have to read some pretty “science-y” things about pregnancy. (Some questions are really for doctors and their nurse on-call.) When it comes to finding local resources and referrals, search for articles and locations. When it comes to pregnancy and breastfeeding questions, try to find a person or a pregnancy resource center.

3. Build relationships in your community

Build relationships with people and places in your college town. There’s no way you and your group will always have all the answers and resources every woman needs. That’s okay. Community facilities such as Pregnancy Resource Centers, hospital classes, breastfeeding support groups, online mommy communities, food pantries, school administration and churches are just a few examples of who you should get to know. Asking families in the community where they go for certain needs and what groups would be willing to help is a great start. Many families will be willing to donate gently used goods or open up their connections to your group. If you have relationships with the people and places you refer women to, you can have confidence that they’ll be taken care of in the midst of a time of great need. If you can connect women with experience to a woman who has questions about nursing, birthing options, or other concerns, you’ve done more than any article can.

4. Pay attention

Pay attention to the needs and concerns of both the mother and yourself. Although it’s wonderful to try your absolute best, know your own limits. Sometimes you will need to get back to a mom with an answer and that’s okay too. If you don’t think you’ll be able to offer good emotional support in the moment, take a step back for a couple of hours. The question will still be there when you return. If you are giving rides to any resource center (which can be great support), don’t be afraid to say when you’re not comfortable picking up at certain locations. It’s always a good idea to have a friend know where you are going and best to get together during the day.

5. Enjoy the journey

Enjoy the pleasure of being with mother and child in some of the wildest times of their lives! There are battles whether it be in finding information, gathering resources, defending Title IX rights, providing emotional support, working with administration, or grieving with a mom. Trust me, nothing compares to the joy you will feel when meeting the little one and seeing mommy or daddy smile. You get to experience that child’s milestone and perhaps form a lifelong friendship. You don’t know how much you mean to the family you’ve helped.

Miss State Group Award

Do you want to help pregnant and parenting students on your campus? Contact your Regional Coordinator to get involved with efforts on your campus.

Britleigh: He’s counting on me

Britleigh and SonI was in a dead end relationship, not going anywhere in life, with a two year old I was basically raising alone. When his father and I split, I had two options: I either continue being stagnant and have no way to take care of my child, or I can pick myself up and do something with my life. I applied and was accepted to Athens Technical College, where everyone was and has been a blessing on my educational journey in ECE. I have met tons of other amazing moms and moms-to-be; so it makes it easier to handle knowing we are not alone. I am now a couple classes from being certified in my major, and plan to pursue my education to at least an Associate.
 
I admit there are times when it’s hard having a child and trying to handle school. I sometimes get frustrated when he wants to be loud or needy in the middle of an assignment or test at home; it breaks my heart in half when he has his “don’t leave me” days and blocks the door crying. It’s really, really hard on those days…but I just reassure both of us that I’m doing the right thing for us and that when I get done we can do something fun together (and actually do it).
 
I know that some women feel pressured to abort because they fear that children will get in the way of their goals and dreams. However, there are so many women like me who are able to parent and get our education. Women and men can continue with school and embrace parenting. People are too quick to give up and be selfish. Making excuses for why you “can’t” do something may be easier than owning up to your situation, but it does not make it right. Please do not let the fear of parenthood persuade you to make such a devastating choice as abortion. People are everywhere out there proving that parenting while in school can be done and done well.
 
I don’t regret having my child. I don’t regret going to college, even as a young mother. In a lot of ways, I think I am doing better than I would have because I know he’s counting on me, and cheering for me. He’s my reason to push on and never give up. He’s a blessing, like other children should be. I hope that my story will inspire others to look at a pregnancy as motivation rather than an end or a failure. I’m proof that no matter how bad a situation may be, no matter how far gone you think you are, you can make it better. You can still follow your dreams, go to school, get promotions, etc…but with your own personal cheerleader who loves you unconditionally. Now that…that is success.
 
I hope more people choose life because life is worth fighting for.
 
Thanks, Britleigh for sharing your story!
 
Do you have a college pregnancy or parenting story to share? Email our Coordinator, Beth, at pregnancyresources@studentsforlife.org 

Brooke: A better life for my family

We love stories from pregnant and parenting students, and we admire their courage and persistence in pursuing their education. Here’s a great testimony from Brooke Brinson, a parenting student at the University of Alabama.

Why have you decided to pursue a college education while also parenting?Brooke and Son

I was already in my Sophomore year of college when I found out that I was pregnant. To me, it felt like one of those times where I could either quit college and maybe decide to go back years later, or I could just try my best to finish as soon as possible. My school and my academic advisors were surprisingly very helpful and really wanted to help me finish getting my degree. My main reasoning, though, is that a college degree means better job opportunities, which will in turn mean a better life for my family once I have completed my education.

What are you studying? What are your career goals?

I am studying Business with a minor in Consumer Sciences. I am hoping to someday open my own business, but for now I would really like to take a management position in an existing company and hopefully utilize my knowledge of Consumer Sciences.

How have you been able to balance your education and your motherhood?

I am very lucky in this area of my life. My school has been very accommodating to my goals. I am completing my degree through the University of Alabama’s College of Continuing Studies, which is strictly online. This means I don’t have a set class time, so I don’t have to find childcare for my son. I get a lot of work done during his nap time, and I also rely on my husband to help out a little bit in the afternoons if I have an especially hard task. The only time that I have to find care for my son is to take exams at a public library (since my exams are proctored). This makes a world of difference to me since I don’t think that we could afford childcare full time while I went to school.

What challenges have you faced as a parenting student?

The biggest challenge, for me, is finding that balance between being a student and being a mom. There are times when it can be very stressful trying to get assignments done on time or studying for tests, but once you find that balance it can be pretty easy. I have found that I just have to treat my school work like a full-time job. Sometimes that means not having much of a social life or not getting an excess amount of sleep, but when I get my Bachelor’s degree next year, it will make it that much more meaningful to me.

What advice would you give to other college-aged moms?

The best piece of advice I can give is to apply for all of the grants and scholarships that you can. You’ll be surprised how much is there for you and how many resources are just waiting to be tapped into. Also, don’t be afraid to take some time off or maybe only go part time to save yourself from bad grades. I took a year off while pregnant to get through some extreme morning sickness and of course the birth of my son so that my grades wouldn’t suffer, and that was probably the best thing that I could’ve done for myself. The trick is starting back after your time off, though. Just keep in mind that you are now responsible for your child’s life as well as your own, and these few years of working hard will give you and your child a better life in the future.

Brooke- Parenting StudentThanks, Brooke! We hope that young women will be inspired to build a future for their families.

Do you have a story to share? Contact our Pregnant on Campus Coordinator, Beth, and we’ll work with you to share your story.