Creative ways to address pregnant & parenting students’ needs

Meeting the needs of pregnant and parenting sometimes leads us to unexpected projects! Often student leaders discover needs that go beyond what they may have expected or discover a niche that simply isn’t addressed by campus or local resources.

First we plan…

When considering new projects, here are some ways to approach your brainstorming:

  • Ask students what they need. This may sound silly, but sometimes we jump into action without pausing to consider what is actually needed on campus. Ask around. If you have a pregnant friend or know a parenting student or professor, ask them what they would find helpful.
  • Survey your campus: Take time to survey the resources that are currently available on campus and in the community. Once you know what is available, you can plan on what to better advertise and determine what is missing. Use our Resource Survey or Checklist (found here) to guide your group’s research.
  • Review your group efforts: Review current and past Pregnant on Campus projects and goals. Were there any projects that you proposed but never got to? Did you discuss some campus problems but never came up with a plan to fix them? What worked? What didn’t work? Sometimes the perfect project is right there– waiting to be rediscovered.

Then we get creative!

No matter the size or expenses of your project, there are plenty of ways to make your effort stand out and to helpfully impact your campus. Here are some creative projects to inspire your efforts:

  • Transportation solutions: Many parenting students have to commute to campus due to off-campus housing situations. They also have other additional transportation demands, like driving their kids to child care and appointments. The student group at Portland Community College responded to this issue by partnering with a local car shop to provide free oil changes, filters and gaskets, and safety checks. Your group may also consider offering transportation services, like driving students to doctor’s appointments or to the local pregnancy resource center. If your school is in the city, fundraise for Metro Cards!
  • Advertise big: Students often don’t look for pregnancy and parenting resources on campus until they find themselves unexpectedly pregnant. Like the the University of Michigan Students for Life have designed and printed huge ads on campus, and they have even sponsored local bus ads. Other universities, like Georgetown, post pregnancy support services stickers in the bathroom stalls around campus.
  • Fundraiser fun: Scholarships are a huge help– even as little as $500 can go a long way. The fun part? Coming up with clever ways to raise the money! We’ve seen groups do crazy, awesome stuff, like inviting in a local petting zoo to campus, hosting a masquerade ball, and organizing a 5k run or  fun glow run. OR if you’re really up for a little bit of crazy, how about “Pie a Pro-Lifer”? Go out of your comfort zone– and bring in the $$$.
  • Collecting the BIG items: New mamas have so much to prepare for, and a baby comes with a surprising amount of gear. Get your group together to fundraise for big items (like a car seat, Pack n’ Play, or bouncer), or ask local organizations to pitch in and donate. If you have a local baby supplies manufacturer or store, ask if they’d be willing to donate these items.
  • Beneficial partnerships: SLU Pregnant and Parenting Student Assistance Committee partnered with the university bookstore to offer a book borrowing program for pregnant and parenting students. Other groups have partnered with Residence Life and even Greek organizations on campus to team up on events and projects.
  • Show your support: Sometimes, all a girl needs is some encouragement and support. Easy, fun ways to do this include: passing out flowers with pregnancy support information, going around campus with “I Support” photo frames, or organizing a quick and easy poster demonstration.

Seek advice and support

Newbies and veterans alike should ask for advice and support. Whether you need a fresh pair of eyes to review your campus proposal or a brainstorming partner, you can call on your SFLA Regional Coordinator for help! Your Coordinator might also connect you with other campus groups around the country who have done similar projects so that you can learn from their experiences.

 

This post was contributed by Beth Rahal, Pregnant On Campus Coordinator. For help and support with your projects, contact your SFLA Regional Coordinator or Beth, brahal@studentsforlife.org

Nausea, fatigue, pregnancy struggles: We have tips for you!

PregnMorning Sicknessancy is tough on the body, and some days, it feels so much easier to stay in bed than to force yourself up for class. But girl, you can do this. These classes are one step closer to your degree, and your hard work will be worth it!

Now, today may be tough, but you can plan and prepare to make tomorrow better. Check out these tips and try a few! You got this.

Treat your body well

Morning sickness (or all day nausea!) can be incredibly frustrating and interfere with your efforts to get to class, focus on your assignments, or simply keep any food down. If you are really struggling, you can talk to your doctor about ways to manage the symptoms. In the meantime, you can take measures to treat your body well and reduce some of your pregnancy symptoms and reactions. Here are a few ideas:

  • Eat often and eat well: Pack your purse or bag with quick snacks (e.g. crackers, trail mix, granola bars) to snack on during the day. Even more importantly, get in good, nutritional meals. You may choose to switch to 5 smaller meals rather than the standard breakfast-lunch-dinner trio.
  • Night-time snacks: Keep some light snacks (e.g. crackers or trail mix) next to your bed. If you wake up hungry, grab a quick snack instead of stumbling to the fridge to binge on Ben & Jerry’s! A snack first thing in the morning may also help relieve your morning sickness– or it will at least get something in your belly (post-gross-morning-toilet-hugging) that won’t return to haunt you later.
  • Hydrate all day, every day: Pack water bottles (or even your favorite sports drink) in your purse or school bag to drink throughout the day. This will keep you well hydrated and hopefully relieve some nausea and dizziness. Refill and restock after classes so that you are ready for the next day.
  • Sweet treats: Your classmates may not realize just how bad they smell post-workout or be conscious of the potency of their lunch. A fresh peppermint, piece of gum, or sucker candy can help distract you from the smells and avoid a dramatic sprint to the nearest bin.

Schedule your time well

The first trimester- and even the second trimester- can be especially tough on mamas. Most women feel fatigued in the first trimester, and many will experience nausea, heightened sense of smell, frequent urination, breathlessness, and all that other good stuff. (So much fun, right?!) While good nutrition, sleep, and hydration may help with some of these issues, you can also schedule your time to make the days and tasks more manageable:

  • Opt for flexible class options:  If available, schedule online classes and even night classes to help spread out your classes to accommodate for more naps, snack breaks, etc. Talk to the school registrar or professor(s) about transferring to another class option (e.g. online or another time) if your semester is already underway.
  • Buffer room: Make sure that you give yourself a good amount of time before class (or work) to deal with the inevitable pregnancy dilemmas (e.g. morning sickness). A little extra morning time will allow you that extra 30 minutes or even an hour to start the day off better. Get up slowly, eat, and let the nausea subside a little before rushing off to your first class. Set several alarms if you need to!
  • Pomodoro Technique: For class assignments, try the Pomodoro Technique. This method utilizes bursts of productivity and quick breaks to stay focused. It’s perfect for a tired mama who needs extra snacks and bathroom breaks! First, take 10-15 minutes to plan what steps you need to take to get your assignment done. (Example: For a paper, you might need to do an outline, research, write, create a bibliography, and review.) Break it down. Schedule time blocks of 20-25 minutes of totally focused work– knocking out each step rather than multitasking. After each block, take a 5 minute break to get up, stretch, snack, etc. Repeat, repeat, repeat until done!

Ask about class accommodations

Pregnancy is considered a temporary disability. If you are experiencing difficult or even debilitating pregnancy symptoms, you may be able to receive special classroom and exam accommodations. Contact a representative from your school’s Office of Student Disabilities or Student Accessibility Services to discuss your options. You may be required to present a doctor’s note (if the school requires other disabled students to present similar verifications).

  • Appropriate Accommodations: Depending on your condition, you may be allowed such accommodations as permission to snack during class, permission to get up and use the bathroom frequently, extended exam times, a separate exam time with added break allowances, or even a larger desk to accommodate your baby belly (See The Pregnant Scholar handout here.)
  • You are excused: Remember, necessary pregnancy-related absences are excused regardless of the professor’s or school’s classroom attendance policies. Review your Title IX rights so that you can protect yourself from classroom discrimination, and contact your advisor or Title IX Coordinator to address issues.

Rest, rest, and rest some more

Prioritize your health. While it is so easy to waste time on Netflix or on social media, you need to rest. Look at your schedule and find times where you can sneak in some extra Zzz’s, and plan your days accordingly so that you get to bed.

  • Not-so-sneaky power naps: Hey, there is no shame in taking a little power nap! You’re growing a human– you deserve a nap! Find a quiet space in the library or an empty couch. Set an alarm so that you don’t pass out for too long! You might even want to pack a travel pillow or a sweatshirt to fold and rest on.
  • Get to bed early: Yes, Netflix and internet surfing can seem appealing after a long day of waddling around campus. But trust me, you need all the Zzzz’s you can get! Plan a reasonable bedtime (whether that be 9:30pm or 11pm), and stick to it. Netflix can wait.

 

This post was contributed by Beth Rahal, Pregnant on Campus Coordinator. For assistance finding pregnancy and parenting resources on campus, contact Beth at brahal@studentsforlife.org. For other tips on balancing college and parenthood, please see: “Practical Advice for Student Moms.”

Georgetown can do better

Pregnant on Campus tabling display in Red Square

Pregnant on Campus tabling display in Red Square

This week, Georgetown University’s campus was abuzz with the controversial arrival of Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Invited by the undergraduate student group The Lecture Fund (known for bringing diverse and sometimes radical speakers to campus), her presence on campus brought mixed reactions. During the day, the student group Georgetown Right to Life provided a large pro-life display (including flags to represent the 3,000+ lives lost to abortion each day in the US) and an evening lecture by Abby Johnson, former Planned Parenthood director turned pro-life advocate and founder of And Then There Were None. The group was supported on campus by local activists and pro-life organizations, like Students for Life of America (who presented alternative healthcare resources and our Pregnant on Campus Initiative). Other students, like H*yas for Choice (a student group that is “financially and ideologically independent organization” yet an active presence on campus), tabled in Red Square with representatives from Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington Action Fund.

Amid all the chaos and chatter , my 8-month-old son and I spent the day talking to students about the Pregnant on Campus Initiative and the resources available at Georgetown. I wanted to find out what students knew about the available pregnancy and parenting resources and what they thought would be helpful solutions to making a Georgetown education more accessible to pregnant and parenting students.

At the heart of it all

Pregnancy and Sexual Assault Informational Stickers

Stickers identifying pregnancy resources found on the bathroom stall doors

To be clear, the Pregnant on Campus Initiative is committed to expanding and referring to resources that are helpful, compassionate, and non-violent. We believe that women are strong and capable, and  that no woman should be forced to choose between the life of her child and her goals. Pregnancy and parenthood doesn’t have to change her goals. With the right support and resources to address her unique needs, she can make a life-affirming choice for her child (i.e. parenting or adoption) and achieve her personal, educational, and career goals.

At the heart of it all, the question that we all want to answer is: How do we best support women? Despite varying positions on abortion, we can all agree that we should support pregnant and parenting students and that there should be an active effort to expand pregnancy and parenting resources on campus. With more support and resources on campus, education can actually be accessible to parenting students and not just wishful thinking. This is an issue where we all can work together to make Georgetown University (or any college or university) a place where women feel supported by their community and where they can achieve their educational goals– regardless of parenting status.

What does Georgetown offer?

So what does Georgetown offer pregnant and parenting students? I investigated Georgetown’s pregnancy and parenting resources, and here are some of the items that I found:

Other departments on campus are available to support pregnant students needs. For example, the Title IX Coordinator and the Academic Resource Center could work with pregnant students to inform professors of students’ Title IX rights and appropriate accommodations for pregnancy-related issues that may affect work or classroom performance. Campus Ministry could also provide guidance for students who wish for spiritual support.

Local resources that students may take advantage of include (but are not limited to):

  • Multiple pregnancy resource centers (including The Northwest Center, Centro Tepeyac Silver Spring Women’s Center, Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center, HOPE in Northern Virginia, and Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center) that offer free, confidential resources and support such as pregnancy support and counseling, ultrasounds, material aid (e.g. baby items, maternity clothes), adoption services, after abortion support, housing, community referrals, parenting classes, prenatal classes, etc.

Room for improvement

As with any university, Georgetown has room for improvement. As I spoke to students and other passers-by in Red Square, I received some of the following feedback:

  • Students do want to discuss these needs and to work together to provide more resources and support on campus.
  • The Hoya Kids Learning Center is not a viable option for students. A parenting student stated that it is too expensive ($1,150+ per month depending on child’s age). It also does not offer infant care, and the waiting list would be a deterrent for parenting students. (“Families should expect to be on the Hoya Kids waiting list for 18 to 24 months or more.“)
  • The availability of flexible class options (e.g. online and night classes) may affect some parenting students who need to schedule classes to accommodate a full schedule of child care, working hours, and/or other family needs.
  • Transportation might be a concern for a parenting student who needs to get to-and-from campus quickly to pick up her child from child care or to relieve a babysitter.
  • The overall expenses of a Georgetown education and the expenses of raising a young child may pose pressure on a student to leave Georgetown or consider abortion.

I found that most students whom I spoke with (including a currently parenting student who had her child while studying at Georgetown) were surprised by the above-listed available resources. Several people stated that while these resources were helpful, they weren’t enough to meet the real financial and child care demands of a parenting student.

In furthering exploring this issue, I made a visit to the Intercultural Center to see one of the lactation rooms (Mother’s Rooms) on campus. While the room was locked, I was surprised to see that the entrance had cement stairs which would limit stroller access into the room and would be problematic for new moms who may struggle with some mobility issues after a c-section or difficult labor/delivery. I was also surprised that the women’s bathroom nearest this Mother’s Room lacked a diaper deck or even a counter space that could accommodate diaper changing needs. That being said, I want to note that on a previous campus visit, I was easily accommodated with access to another Mother’s Room on campus which was stroller accessible, comfortable, and well equipped.

Georgetown can do better

Georgetown has made a good faith effort to address the needs of pregnant and parenting students. (In fact, they’ve done a lot more than many of the private colleges I’ve reviewed.) However, it is clear that students on campus remain concerned and even distressed about the lack of some resources. Georgetown can do better.

How can we better support students - PonCThe Georgetown community can and should work together to continue to address this issue. To make Georgetown truly accessible to pregnant and parenting students, continued efforts must be made on campus to make Georgetown more “family friendly” and to decrease the financial burden of parenting students (e.g. by adding more diaper decks on campus, expanding campus child care programs, increasing aid opportunities for parenting students). Such efforts would not only benefit students but also working mothers and visitors. Even more so, these improvements would boast a true commitment to the Jesuit value of “Cura Personalis.”

This post was contributed by Beth Rahal, Pregnant on Campus Coordinator. If you are interested in expanding pregnancy and parenting resources on your campus, please contact your SFLA Regional Coordinator or email pregnancyresources@studentsforlife.org.

Book borrowing program saves SLU mamas $$$

TextbooksSometimes great resources can appear in places we don’t always think to look. What is your biggest unexpected expense every semester? For me, it’s always textbooks. I try to look up my class materials and budget ahead of time, but inevitably, there is that one professor who adds a costly book during the first week. Or, I change classes, and the new class has more expensive books. My textbook costs usually end up double my initial budgeted amount. I work and get some help from my parents; so I am able to cover the increase in costs, but if I had a child, I can see how that ever increasing cost would be difficult to absorb.

At Saint Louis University (SLU), pregnant and parenting students have the option of applying for financial aid from the Virginia D. Murphy Endowment. An offshoot of SLU Students for Life, the Pregnant and Parenting Student Assistance (PPSA) Committee, fundraises for the Endowment and advocates to improve the campus environment for pregnant and parenting students. In the initial phases of the development of the PPSA and the Endowment, the University Bookstore offered an incredible resource: a book borrowing program. A student presented on the Endowment and the PPSA to a meeting of University Division Leadership personnel, and afterward, the owner of the bookstore approached the student and offered to help by providing free book rentals to pregnant and parenting students. An agreement was formalized where the PPSA can offer free rental textbooks through the University bookstore to a few students each semester. When students apply for aid through the PPSA, the textbook rental offers are distributed at the same time as monetary aid. Students sign a contract agreeing to returSLU PPSAn the books, and then have use of the books for the entire semester, just as they would a rental, at no cost.

The book-borrowing program saves pregnant and parenting students hundreds of dollars on school expenses, and it didn’t even require fundraising to make it possible. Monetary aid is, of course, always helpful, but sometimes just getting textbooks covered can be a huge hand up.

 

This post was contributed by Ashley Johann, a student leader at Saint Louis University. To learn more about SLU’s Pregnant and Parenting Assistance programs, check out their PPSA Facebook page and PPSA website, or email the group at ppsa@slu.edu