International students find pregnancy support at ASU

xun-and-wife-and-jackie-asuWhile many students will be “far from home” as they pursue their college education, “far from home” takes on new meaning to an international student. Coming to the United States for college may mean mastering a second language, acclimating to a different culture, and tackling all the challenges of young adulthood without family nearby.

But what happens when an international student (or their wife or girlfriend) becomes pregnant? Who is there to help them? Thankfully, at Arizona State, international student, Xun, and his wife found the support that they needed through ASU Students for Life.

Read what ASU Students for Life had to share below (found here, Oct. 21st):

“With permission from the parents, ASU Pregnant on Campus is OVERJOYED to share the story of Xun and his wife…and their unborn baby girl due this December!

A few years ago, Xun, an international student, noticed the ASU Pregnant on Campus table while walking through campus. He immediately thought, “I guess some students may need services like that.” Little did he know that in his last year of college he would be one of them!

He brought his wife from China to the United States, and they became pregnant without any insurance to cover prenatal care or their baby’s delivery. Their parents pressured them to abort, but Xun and his wife knew they did not want that. Despite the odds, they wanted to have their child.

wife-xun-arizona-stateRemembering the POC table he had seen years before, Xun wondered if our initiative was still around. With a quick Google search he was able to find our website and contact us to explain his situation.

Our chairwoman at the time linked him with Aid to Women Center (ATWC), a low-cost prenatal care provider for women without insurance, and also supported him through determining eligibility for AHCCCS state health insurance to cover the cost of delivery. Xun and his wife were impressed with ATWC and are still receiving care there, and they have been approved for insurance too. Their baby girl is due this December.

It was a joyful emotional moment for our chairwoman to meet them face to face for the first time this week! They are so grateful for all the help they have received and said that without ASU Pregnant on Campus, they could not have gotten this far in their pregnancy.”

 

This post is shared with permission from Xun’s family and ASU Students for Life. See more Pregnant on Campus efforts at Arizona State University here. To share your story, contact Beth Rahal, brahal@studentsforlife.org 

Taking the Test

Credit: Fox 5 DC

Credit: Fox 5 DC

On Thursday, November 12th, Tommitrise was getting ready to welcome her baby girl into this world, but even as she prepared for labor, she couldn’t quite sit back and “enjoy” labor. She still had a college psychology test to take!

“It took me 4-5 hours after the opening of the test to try to put the pain to the side and do it so I wouldn’t have to do it later and I could enjoy my newborn.”  About an hour and 30 minutes, Tommitrise finished the two-hour exam and received a B! The Middle Georgia State University student boasts a 3.6 GPA, and she will be graduating with a  bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice next December.

Capturing the moment and sharing it with the world, her sister, Shanell, posted on Facebook: “This is what you call ‘Strong Priorities’. Contractions 3 minutes apart and still takes her Psychology Test! You are going to be a great mom baby sis!”

At 9:19pm, Tommitrise welcomed her baby girl, Tyler Elise.

“She is my life now, and the way I look at it is she will always have me to depend on so my goals will not be put on hold. I don’t want to just barely make it by. I want my child to live comfortably, and I want to show people that just because I am considered a young mother doesn’t mean I have to be considered a bad mother.”

What about students’ rights?

Tommitrise’s story is awesome, impressive, and bold! She should most certainly be applauded for her strength and commitment. At the same time, her story should cause us to pause and wonder why a woman about to meet her newborn feels pressured to complete an exam rather than focus on labor.

All federally funded schools are required to abide by Title IX rules (which protect pregnant and parenting students from discrimination and unfair classroom policies). However, it seems that our schools have failed to educate staff and to inform students of what accommodations are appropriate in these cases. In our work assisting students through our Pregnant on Campus Initiative, I have encountered a widespread confusion among both university staff and students regarding the rights of pregnant and parenting students. Common questions that we have encountered include:

  • Can I be excused for labor and recovery?
  • I’m in a high risk pregnancy. What happens if I need to miss class?
  • Can I keep my scholarship?
  • Do I have to quit my sport’s team?
  • My school is encouraging me to drop out. What do I do?

When I read Tommitrise’s story, I’m inspired but also troubled. I see two possible violations of Title IX:

  • If a student misses class due to pregnancy, childbirth, or other related conditions, the school must allow the student to make up the missed work and provide the appropriate information to complete assignments.
  • If a doctor has provided a note deeming a student’s pregnancy-related absence as medically necessary (such as in the cases of bed rest, childbirth, or recovery), that student cannot be punished for missing class or another school activity (e.g. lose points for class attendance) regardless of the school’s or professor’s classroom absence (or attendance) policies.

making our own choices

Tommitrise very well may have addressed these issues and instead opted to complete the exam. (Note: Her aforementioned quote about not wanting to do it later and wanting to enjoy her newborn.) However, I hope that other women do not feel pressured to do the same. Students should be allowed a reasonable period to make up that exam rather than feel forced to answer questions between contractions.

Pregnant students need to be encouraged in their educational pursuits, but also protected from putting their health or the health of their child at risk. As student advocates, we need to continue to educate our campuses about these rights and to encourage pregnant and parenting students to openly discuss their concerns and needs with their professors.

 

This post was contributed by Beth Rahal, Pregnant on Campus Coordinator. If you have questions regarding your Title IX rights, please see our “Students’ Rights” page, or contact Beth Rahal with your specific case.

 

 

Pro-Life & Pregnant: Lessons from an Unplanned Pregnancy

I am for Life- Online for LifeI came to college with a mission. I was a Jesus-lovin’, baby-savin’, praise-music-beltin’ Mother Teresa in training. Of course, I was naïve and a little silly, but my intention was to share the joy that had blossomed in my heart with a world that desperately needs it. Though I’ve matured and mellowed, I still want to do just that. But, you know, a little less… jangly.

About 30 seconds into freshman year, I found the college’s pro-life club and signed up. By my sophomore year, I was the president. I think that this is due more to accidents of circumstance than my administrative ability, but it was a position that I relished and a cause that I cared about deeply. My now-husband and I spent our free time together doing pro-life work, performing praise and worship music for college events, and playing intramural sports. I got good grades, I didn’t have a drink until I was 21, and I served as an officer of various honor societies, clubs and councils.

And then, I got pregnant.

I stared into my future with dread. I imagined myself looking forward to a life of shattered dreams. My wonderful life, my successes, and a promising future were seemingly ruined by one stupid decision. There was never, ever a possibility that we would abort. But the pain and fear of young lives crippled were very, very real. We were cornered, and I was doomed.

The first thing I realized as the fog lifted on those first few weeks was how arrogant I’d been. I had no idea what a cataclysmic event an unplanned pregnancy can be, even under relatively happy circumstances (e.g. a healthy, committed relationship, family support, a college education). I knew that it was often panic which drives mothers and fathers to the terrible “relief” of abortion, but experiencing an unplanned pregnancy showed me how much empathy I’d been lacking and how essential pro-mother programs (like the Pregnant on Campus Initiative) are.

Next, I got to experience firsthand just how real, how human, how precious the unborn child is. Feeling my son grow within me caused me overwhelming joy. It also brought profound sorrow when I reflected on the legally sanctioned, actively promoted practice of violently destroying these wonderful creatures within their mothers’ own wombs. This strengthened my resolve to see this barbaric crime exposed for what it is and utterly eradicated.

But lastly, and most importantly, I came to understand this, which you have heard before: There is more to pro-life than anti-abortion. There is a reason we use this term, and it is not simply rhetorical. A pro-life person does not simply save the baby; she loves the whole family. She doesn’t stop at not-killing the child, but insists on the child’s inherent dignity and worth. She protects and defends life not just because killing is evil, but because living—just being—is good.

I had heard these things, and I believed them, but accepting them anew, on this side of unplanned pregnancy, changed everything. Reaffirming my pro-life principles meant abandoning my melancholy and embracing joy. Yes, there were struggles. Yes, there was mourning of the plans that I didn’t get to fulfill. Yes, there were arrangements to made, bills to pay, and a whole new life of marriage and parenting to somehow figure out without missing a step. But these things did, and do, hold little weight against the immeasurable good that is a single human life.

The notion that accepting a child at a difficult time would bring about my ruin is an ugly lie. It so permeates our culture that it came to me—me!—in this hour of great distress, and its phantom still creeps into my mind on some endless, sleepless nights. This lie could have destroyed our future, had we accepted it, and locked us inside our own regret. It was the witness of the pro-life community that affirmed our decision to give our child life and encouraged us that it was a beautiful one, filled with hope. Without the conviction that this single life was worthy of making so many demands on us, the challenge would seem utterly impossible.

When we stand for life, we must do so in a way that celebrates all of it. The unexpectedly expecting parents find themselves looking not just at nine months, but a lifetime of living with the decision that they make. Not only must we denounce abortion, but we must extol the beauty of humanity. A mother is little comforted by thinking, “I didn’t do that terrible thing.” Instead, I find great peace in knowing that all of this struggle is for something inexpressibly good.

* This post was contributed by Jillian. Jillian is the mother of Joseph Benedict. She hopes that her experience empowers women to embrace the glorious struggle of motherhood and to reject the lies of the culture of death. To share your story, contact Beth at bomalley@studentsforlife.org.

My friend’s pregnant! What do I do?

Pregnancy TestBreathe. Yes, it can definitely be overwhelming to be confronted by a friend seeking your help- especially in a situation as important as pregnancy. You may feel pressured to know all the answers, and maybe you fear that if you don’t know all the answers, you may negatively impact her decision.

Keep calm. You may not know all the answers, but do your best. Your friend is already overwhelmed, and you need to be a strong, calm voice of hope and love for her. Yes, you may be as shocked as she is. However, maintain a balance of empathy and calm. If she is crying, comfort her. If she is upset, let her vent. If she is shocked, remain level-headed.

Be aware that not all girls are comforted by hugs. She may come running into your arms, or she may need a little space. You know your friend. Consider what would make her most comfortable and comforted.

Now, here are some practical steps for helping your friend:

1. Listen very carefully. She may talk a lot, or she may not have much to say at all. No matter what, she needs someone who will simply listen to her without feeling judged, criticized, or pressured to do something she does not want to do. She may be very scared of what people will tell her, especially family members or her partner.

2. Ask questions as needed. She may be an open book, or she may hesitate to reveal her needs. Gently asking questions will help you better understand her situation and what she needs help with. Do not rapid fire questions. Be patient, and give her time to answer.

  • How are you feeling?
  • When was your last period?
  • Have you taken a pregnancy test?
  • Have you told anyone that you think you may be pregnant?
  • Have you told the dad?
  • What do you think he would say about this?
  • Would he help raise his kid?
  • Have you told your parents?
  • What you do think they’d say?
  • What kind of options are you considering?

3. Suggest help. Assure her that there are countless resources to offer her. Offer her the world! Even if you are unsure about what is available, let her know that you are ready to find whatever resource she needs. You may not even know if it exists, but don’t let that discourage you. Offer the information that you have available, and then talk to your pro-life group, your PRC contacts, local pro-life contacts, church community, etc. about where you can find the resources that you do not currently have. Contact your SFLA Regional Coordinator if you are unsure about how to find help for your friend.

Not sure about how to suggest resources? Here are some ways to start the conversation about available help and support:

  • Would you mind if I talked with you about what you can do next?
  • I know someone who understands what you are going through. Do you mind if I connect you with (name)?
  • There is this program/organization that helps women who have been through this. It’s called ____. I have information about it if you would like to check them out.

Remember: When offering resources, try to focus first on the needs that she identifies. She may need other resources later, but right now, you need to take one step at a time.

Are you prepared to help a friend in an unplanned pregnancy situation?

Do your homework.

  • Take time to research the resources available on your campus and in your community. Consider school policies, counseling services, pregnancy resources, parenting support, adoption resources, etc. Use the FFL/SFLA survey to help you determine resources on campus and in the community.
  • Tour local pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) to familiarize yourself with the services and programs that each offers, and build relationships with the staff. You should also be aware of the operating hours. With these steps, you will be confident in the organizations that you recommend! Find your local PRC here: www.optionline.org
  • Keep phone numbers in your phone for PRCs, counselors, or other helpful contacts. This will allow you to immediately connect with the help that your friend or peer needs.
  • If you are sidewalk counseling or hosting a potentially controversial event, notify these aforementioned contacts. Make them aware of your events so that they know to be available if someone approaches you for help.
  • Create a resource guide or brochures. This will be a helpful tool to distribute on campus and to have available at your pro-life student group events. Download and customize our resource guide for pregnant and parenting students here.

Love is GreaterYou can do this!

Your love and support may be crucial to helping your friend to make a life-affirming choice. You may be the only one showing her the love that she needs to be courageous. Be there for her. Support her. Guide her through this process as best you can. Be the friend who willing to walk through fire and rain. Love is always greater than judgement.

 

 

 

This post was written by Beth O’Malley. If you are interested in pursuing pregnancy resource projects on your campus, contact Beth for ideas and support.

 

Post-Baby Beauty

As young women, we are often too critical of our appearances. Although young and beautiful, we tend to obsess over an endless list of “flaws.” We give ourselves too little praise for the beauty that we possess. As women enter motherhood, a new challenge arises– accepting the post-baby body. Stretch marks. Wider hips. Scars. Extra weight. All this and more are right around the corner waiting to “ruin” that body that you already critique! Too many women fear motherhood because of these physical changes, and we need to be reminded of the greater joy and beauty that awaits.

In a blogpost entitled “Babies Ruin Bodies,” a young mother, N’tima, reflected on the changes that her body underwent after carrying and giving birth to her baby girl.

“I have dark pools under my eyes. A valley where my belly button once was. Hips with a new amplitude that my teenage self wouldn’t recognize. I have lines mapped across the mountains of stretched skin left over on my midsection. Lightening bolts on my sides proving I once was too small to contain all of the love that filled me. Lines indicating that my daughter once lived inside of me.”

Credit: "We Seek Joy" blog, N'Tima

Credit: “We Seek Joy” blog, N’Tima

Despite these changes to her physical appearance, N’tima refuses to compare herself to society’s often unreasonable expectations of beauty, and instead she chooses to focus on the joys of motherhood. What she has created is so much greater, and she has gracefully embraced her new body.

“Every limb, finger, toe… her heart, even, developed near the very place my own heart beats inside of my chest. Those mountains of skin are all I have left to prove that we were once one and not two. How can I be ashamed of that? …My body grew that. Not everybody has that privilege… I am not something flawless in the eyes of society, or even close to what I once was physically, but my perfect girl sees me for who I am. To her, I hang the moon. She knows my heart. She knew it long before we met. And she loves me for it. I cannot tell you how much worth and validation I feel because of that truth. My body is only a vessel for my spirit. An incredible vessel. It is strong, well, abled, and undefeated. My body is full of life. My body is powerful. My body made me a mother.”

N’Tima’s reflection is a great reminder about the challenges and joys of motherhood. If you are a mom or an expectant mom worried about your post-baby body, here are 3 things to remember:

  1. You are strong. Through morning sickness, people’s stares, labor pains, and crazy nights of no sleep, you have shown great strength in carrying and caring for your child.
  2. You are awe-inspiring. It is truly miraculous what you have done. You have sheltered the life of a whole, new person! No art, no book, and no building on Earth has more value than the precious life that you now hold in your arms.
  3. You are beautiful. Embrace the physical changes as signs of your strength and love. Take care of yourself- physically and emotionally. Remind yourself that you are beautiful, and be confident in the new you!
  •  Read N’Tima’s reflection, Babies Ruin Bodies, and visit her blog, We Seek Joy.
  • Are you pregnant? Not sure what to expect? Check out this video by Talya Rose. (She has great points about body image at 9:40!):

About the Writer: Beth (O’Malley) Rahal is the Pregnant on Campus Coordinator for Students for Life of America. To learn more about the Pregnant on Campus Initiative, or to start a new pro-life student group, contact Beth at brahal@studenstforlife.org.

High school bans student photo: Is this discrimination?

Caitlin Tiller- Banned40% of teen moms do not complete their high school education, and by age 30, less than 2% of these mothers will achieve a college degree.

Graduating high school is an incredible accomplishment for young teen moms. It represents sacrifice, commitment, and courage in the face of criticism and daunting statistics. While many will acknowledge the difficulty of this achievement,  there remains disagreement on how this issue is to be presented to the students and to the community. Should schools allow for the baby to be upheld as an inspiration for this young woman’s successes? Or is it better to applaud her accomplishments– but leave the baby out of the picture?

Meet Caitlin Tiller, a soon-to be graduate of Wheatmore High School (NC) and the proud mother of 1-year-old Leelin. This May, school faculty and administration notified Caitlin that her graduation photo would not be accepted in the school yearbook. While Caitlin claims that the situation “feels like discrimination,” the school has upheld their decision despite local and national pressure.

Superintendant Donald Andrews stated:

  • “The practice at Wheatmore High School regarding yearbook pictures for seniors has been to include only graduating students in the senior section, and to permit family members and friends to be featured with our seniors in the ad section of the yearbook,” he said. “We offered this option to Ms. Tiller. We regret that this practice was not made clearer to her earlier in the yearbook development process and we will do a better job going forward with explaining our yearbook practices.”

With the support of her family and her child’s father, Caitlin has been able to care for both her child and herself. As she has stated, “having a baby is not easy,” and yet she continued with her education knowing that her baby needed her. After finding out that she was pregnant, Caitlin doubled her course work in order to graduate early. In December, Caitlin was named an honor roll student, and in January, she has began taking courses at Archdale Center of Randolph Community College. On top off all of this, she works part-time!

Despite the challenges of being a teen mom, Caitlin has embraced both her education and her motherhood, and she has certainly made an impressive effort to do the best for herself and her child. Caitlin will be graduating on June 7th and continuing her pursuit of an Associates degree in medical assistance.

 

What do you think? Is this discrimination? Post comments below!

 

Additional Media

  • Read national and local news about Caitlin Tiller’s story here and here.
  • Pregnant and parenting students are granted certain rights under Title IX. If you believe that you are being discriminated against as a pregnant or parenting student, contact National Women’s Law Center at info@nwlc.org.