Mississippi student moms share their stories

Shurnita

Every year, we receive stories from all over the country of parenting students and their incredible successes on campus. These young moms and dads work hard to care for their children and achieve their degrees. We are proud to share with you these parenting student success stories provided by Students for Life student group leaders in Mississippi.

Shurnita: “My life has a purpose.”

This school year, Shurnita, a junior in Wildlife at Mississippi State University became unexpectedly pregnant. Her on-campus counselor let her know that there is a group on campus that has a program called the Pregnant on Campus Initiative. She contacted MSU Students for Life for help continuing her education while pregnant. Although being pregnant and taking challenging classes proved to be an intense balance, Shurnita had a community of students at her school willing to find baby items, job listings, and classes for new moms. As she prepared for her baby boy in the spring semester, she had a team of friends making sure that she had everything that she needed to succeed as a mother and a student. Not only did she survive pregnancy on campus– she thrived. Shurnita achieved the best grades that she has had in her entire college career.

Shurnita and Adrean

She attributes her academic success to two things: “I have to succeed in order for my son to have everything he needs. Being pregnant helped me realize that my life has a purpose and someone needs me and will always love me. That helps me continue to strive for success.”

Shurnita also shared: “Students for Life’s Pregnant on Campus helped me realize that I’m not alone and that someone will always be there if I need help. They helped me prepare for my son.”

Adrean was born this May to a loving mother and a supportive Students for Life family. Shurnita will return to school as a senior in the fall.

 

Jalissa: “I’m proud of my decision.”

Jalissa

Jalissa, a senior at Mississippi State University studying Psychology, found herself in a difficult spot. She was a mom to a brand new baby girl and was a full time student. Her on-campus advisor referred her to Students for Life’s Pregnant on Campus Initiative. She soon realized that she had a group of peers more than willing to help her find resources, job listings, babysitting, daycare information, and emotional support. Jalissa described the support she has received: “[Pregnant on Campus] has provided resources for me that I absolutely didn’t know existed. The group also goes a little further than expected to help and that is amazing!”

Jalissa and Baby

Hannah Loper (the President of the Students for Life group at Jalissa’s school) described working together with student mothers: “I’ve loved working with our student moms! It’s opened my eyes to struggles that I never would have thought about when I had not met them. These moms have given us a chance to walk the walk and show that we want to see them and their babies do life well. That experience means the world to me!”

Jalissa is expected to graduate this December and to pursue a career in counseling. Her daughter, Jordyn, continues to bless her. Jalissa wants to share with the world, “I’m proud of my decision to stay in school while being a mom!”

“I’m a mom, and I stay up all night and still go to class and graduate in December!”

Amber: “It’s empowering.”

Amber, a sophomore in Anthropology at Mississippi State University, became unexpectedly pregnant during the school year. Her church referred her to her campus’ Students for Life Pregnant on Campus Initiative for the aid that she needed. Since coming to SFL’s events, she has experienced an outpouring of support from the community of peers and individuals who want to see her succeed as a mom and as a student.

Vice President of the group, Maggie Thomas, describes her own involvement this way: “Getting the opportunity to work with student parents made me realize how strong these parents are. They work so hard to make sure that they and their children have the best future possible. It’s inspiring to see them balance so many roles and be successful. They are not only role models for their children, but for me and those that get to work with them.”

Amber and Riley

Amber described the empowerment she felt since being supported by the group. “Before, I walked around campus so embarrassed because I’m not married and I’m young. I didn’t know how many women on campus were in my position, and it’s empowering to have a group of women beside you through it. It’s like a little community. It’s great, and everyone is so helpful. If I needed something for my son, I could just ask!” Amber attended her campus baby shower hosted by MSU Students for Life and received several items from members of the community that SFL was happy to deliver to her. By the time her son was born, she had everything ready for him!

Amber also has a passion for other young pregnant and parenting students, and she is always eager to help. Her son Riley was born in May, and she shared that she loves “talking to him about everything!” She hopes to pursue a career in Biblical Archaeology after graduation. She shared, “We are determined to graduate so our children will have the best lives possible!”

 

Aysia: Determined to succeed

Aysia and group

Aysia, a senior in Biomedical Engineering at Mississippi State University, discovered that she was pregnant before returning to school in the fall. She remained determined to carry her baby and return to school. She saw the Students for Life table at her school’s Club Fair on the first week of school. It was her first week as a pregnant student right when she saw the sign-up sheet. Aysia attended the Interest Meeting and decided to become a member as a pregnant, pro-life student.Throughout her pregnancy, her school’s Students for Life came together to throw her a baby shower, refer parent classes, babysit, and build lasting relationships. Aysia attended almost every Students for Life event during her pregnancy, worked night shifts on campus, and walked from her apartment to class every day.Fearlessly, she even joined her school’s archery team.According to former President of MSU SFL, “She never complained. She only insisted on persisting.”  

Aysia

Unexpectedly, Aysia needed to give birth a month early right in the midst of finals week. Rushing to her unplanned doctor and hospital, she prepared herself for a premature birth. Her boyfriend, Roderick, immediately came to be with her through delivery. Friends she made at Students for Life were able to visit the hospital to give her things her and her baby needed.

Her baby girl, Evalyn, is a gift to the whole MSU Students for Life team. Mama, baby, and dad are often at Students for Life events on campus and have a made a habit of always giving as much as they receive. Aysia plans to be an optometrist after graduation.

“I’m continuing my education and caring for a four-month-old.”

 

 

Thank you to student leader Anja Scheib for collecting these powerful stories! All images and quotes were provided at the consent of the named parenting students. If you have a story to share, contact Beth Rahal at brahal@studentsforlife.org

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.

No words for how blessed I am

Claire- 4I came from a great family. My parents have made mistakes, just like they all do, but they have always provided me with everything I’ve ever needed. My dad even set up a college fund for me when I was a baby. I’ve always lived in good neighborhoods. I drove a nice car and went to a good school. With that being said, when I got pregnant, I had nobody. I made choices prior to getting pregnant that put me in that situation. I couldn’t even actually believe that I was pregnant. (That’s why you see so many positive tests in my Flipgram slideshow!)

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

My baby’s dad and I had a rough relationship, and it only got rougher. But he was all I had. We eventually broke up when I was about 7 months pregnant. Even without a job, car, or money, I knew that I wanted to keep my baby, and I was going to work as hard as I had to to make sure that happened. “Where there’s a will, theres a way” was my favorite thing to say to people when questioned.

There were so many days when I cried my eyes out, thought, and sometimes said I should just get (or have gotten) an abortion. I begged God to help me. My pregnancy sparked the most beautiful friendship with Anja (a pro-life student leader at Mississippi State), and when I was 11 weeks 6 days pregnant, she took me to the Center for Pregnancy Choices, and they gave me a free sonogram. (CPC is such an amazing place!) I saw my little bitty baby. I saw its heart beat. I did my nervous laugh, attempting to hold back my tears, as I watched my tiny baby jump and dance around. That’s when I knew that I was going to do this, whatever it took.

“Out of the hottest fire comes the purest gold.”

And yet, I still doubted myself daily. I dropped out of college and lost my two jobs when I was 5 months pregnant, still not knowing what I was going to do or how I was going to provide for my baby boy with only a little bit of savings. I prayed that God would lead me to do what was best for my son.

I’m ashamed to admit it now, but I’m going to be real. I still had times where I wished that I had aborted my baby. Through it all, Anja was there: therapist, mother, boyfriend, baby daddy, whatever I needed her to be. She loved me and loved my baby. And I felt that love every time that I called or texted her, crying for help.

I told my mom when I was 16 weeks, after I found out that I was having a baby boy. My still tiny, growing baby boy sparked a brand new, better than ever relationship with my mom which we desperately needed. What a blessing it was when my mom decided to let me move back in with her on my 18th birthday; I was 8 months pregnant. My mom bought my sweet Taylan his first blankets, burp cloths, onesies, etc. It took a long time, but she finally accepted my pregnancy and was officially excited to be a grandmother for the first time. My aunt threw me a baby shower, and I was so thankful! I finally knew that my baby was accepted and loved.

“The pain you’re feeling now is nothing compared to the joy that’s coming.” (Romans 8:18)

On July 30th, Taylan was born. It was so hard. So terrifying. Every second. It was all unknown, and that’s my biggest fear- the unknown. I remember the first time my mom left me alone with Taylan. I called Anja; I was crying. And she just talked to me and calmed me down.

Taylan is almost 3 months old now, and it’s easier. There are still challenges and hard moments, but my life without him would be nothing. I’m sharing this because I don’t know what others are going through, and I know so many pregnant women. Everybody has a different story, especially every young mom, and some aren’t as lucky to get out of such a bad situation and into a better one before the birth of their baby. But maybe hearing about how it’s been for me will give somebody that ounce of hope they need to make it through today.

My pregnancy was filled with some of the hardest times of my life, but it’s had the best outcome. I do about 98% of it on my own with little help. But it’s so worth it. I’ve never loved my life so much.

“The pain you’re feeling now is nothing compared to the joy that’s coming.” (Romans 8:18)

 

We thank Claire for her courage to share her pregnancy and parenting story. If you have a story that you would like to share, please contact Beth Rahal at brahal@studentsforlife.org

MUW students partner with PRC to support women

MUW Group PhotoMUW Students for Life understands the importance of building a relationship with and supporting their local pregnancy resource center. They want to help women on and off their campus receive helpful, supportive resources to address their pregnancy and parenting needs. These students aren’t sitting back and waiting for resources to magically appear on campus. No. They are taking initiative and bringing the resources to campus!

MUW Tabling- 2The first step was contacting their local pregnancy resource center. Getting in contact with their local pregnancy resource center, Life Choices Pregnancy Care Center, was easy. The center was looking to expand their efforts to campus, and they greatly supported the students efforts to partner. After some emails and visits to the center, the group began pushing forward advertising efforts on campus.  In February, Students for Life hosted a successful baby shower for the center. They also displayed the center’s brochures and actively worked to spread their name around campus by tabling at their school’s health fair and by flyering on campus.

MUW DonationsThe Students for Life group even received a flattering shoutout from their campus newspaper, The Spectator. The article highlighted the group’s efforts to support and educate students on campus, and it noted the group’s partnership with Life Choices. The writer accurately summed up the group’s mission:  “Students for Life hopes to open eyes, change minds and touch hearts. The ultimate goal of Students for Life is to save lives.

MUW TablingMUW Students for Life appreciates the growing relationship that they’ve developed with Life Choices, and they’ve watched how this partnership has benefitted their group and their peers on campus. President Joanna Frye said, “It has only been less than 6 months…the relationship has grown rapidly. They have really embraced us and enjoy working with the group. They give us materials and offer any help that we may need. They have invited for us to speak with them at local churches.”

When asked “Why is it important for student groups to work with and support pregnancy resource centers?” the group responded:

“It is important to have an relationship with your local center because they are also trying to impact the college age groups on campus too. You are both going for the same goal to save lives,  and provide help to those women/fathers/families who need resources to raise a child. It is vital to have a partner and a support system. So, why do it alone?”

Great job, MUW Students for Life! We hope that more student groups take the initiative to reach out to their local pregnancy resource centers. If you need help connecting with your local centers or you need support brainstorming and planning events, please contact the SFLA team! We look forward to working with you.

 

This post was contributed by Beth Rahal, Pregnant on Campus Coordinator. To share your story or to get more involved with the Pregnant on Campus Initiative, please email Beth at brahal@studentsforlife.org.