Four weeks into my senior year of college, I was feeling pretty darn good about life. I was skinny for the first time in my life, enjoying my newfound ability to legally drink a glass of wine in the evenings while studying for class, and dreaming about switching my major to my true passion of writing.
I can remember the feeling of jumping up in my boyfriend’s truck one morning when he picked me up, my coffee cup in hand and my giant hoop earrings swinging proud. I felt good. I felt like an adult, ready to embark on an exciting new start to life.
Little did I know that my new life would start at 3 o’clock in the morning a week later when I would stare down and scream at the positive pregnancy test sitting on my kitchen table.
They day after I found I was pregnant, I went looking for help, in the first place that I thought of, the place where I spent most of life—on campus.
I walked into the health center on my college campus, searching, both subconsciously and consciously, for answers, direction, and most of all, I think, confirmation. For someone to tell me that this was real and that, in the end, it would be ok.
I didn’t find that.
Instead, the director of the health center refused to look me in the eye, asked me how I expected to tell my parents, told me she wasn’t aware of any resources that could help me get through school as a pregnant student, and then, when I started crying (oh, the hormones!), she literally walked out on me, leaving me alone in her office without so much as a tissue.
It was a bit shocking to me and more than that, it was a revelation to me as a student; in a world where every other accommodation is made on college campuses, where students take education as a basic right, where awareness about safe sex is promoted all through orientation—why on earth was I treated like an outcast for being a pregnant student? Why on earth should I have to fight for my right to an education, simply because I was pregnant?
I didn’t find the answers I was looking for that day, and unfortunately, I didn’t find them as my pregnancy progressed. The simple fact was that, overwhelmingly, pregnant and parenting students don’t feel supported on college campuses across the nation. In fact, a 2008 study done by the group Feminists for Life of America found that across the board, resources for pregnant and parenting students at college simply don’t exist, or students aren’t aware they exist.
For young women like me, unexpectedly pregnant at a young age, still in school, it feels like a self-defeating circle; without resources and support to get through a pregnancy that comes a bit sooner than expected, it can be hard to go on to graduate and live the life we want—which leads to feeling “stuck,” landing in jobs we need to support our families, and ultimately, fueling the cycle of women feeling like they have to choose between family life and work.
It’s hard for me, knowing the reality of it often means to tell women they can have it all, when having it all involves getting pregnant at 21, but the truth is, it can be done. And I fully, fully believe that if more young women spoke up about some of the truths about being pregnant in school, we could change a lot—for us and for the future.
Which is why, in a few months, I’m excited to share that my first book, Tiny Blue Lines, will be released in bookstores and online everywhere. I’ll be sharing my experiences, providing tips and advice from other young mothers, and encouraging pregnant and parenting students with the ways that I was able to change my own school for the better. (Sign up for my blog’s email list or join me on Facebook or Twitter to get a chance to win a free copy of my book!)
But until then, if there are any young moms, pregnant or parenting students in the house, here are few resources to get you started on the new school year:
- National Pregnant & Parenting College Resources Directory: This is a nice, state-searchable directory of campuses by resources that you may be looking for, i.e. campuses that have childcare or on-campus housing available. The directory is not completed, but if you have a school in your area, you can add it to the database for other student parents.
- FAFSA: If you haven’t already done so, make sure you updated your FAFSA to include your child as a dependent; doing so can help give you more financial aid, such as the PELL Grant, which doesn’t to be paid back.
- Medicaid/Child Insurance: If you or your child needs health insurance, a good place to learn about federal insurance is here: http://www.medicaid.gov/index.html. Or you can find out about the state laws for insuring your child here: http://www.insurekidsnow.gov/state/index.html
- Help with Housing: If you don’t have access to on-campus housing or are kicked off for being pregnant, The Department of Housing has an assistance program to help partially or fully fund eligible families for housing. Find out more here.
- The Higher Education Alliance Association of Students with Children (HEAASC) frequently updates their webpage with resources for student parents that I’ve found helpful.
- Child Care Resources: Child Care Aware can help connect you to child care in your area.
- Temporary Cash Assistance: If you are in need of temporary, emergency cash assistance, you may be eligible to apply for it here.
- OptionLine is a national directory of pregnancy centers across the nation that can help you practical resources or connect you to other student parents in your area. I like the option through them because you can anonymously chat online or call if you are in need of help.
Favorite Young Mom Blogs: Just a few of my favorite young mom blog haunts. These are all moms that inspire me, make me laugh, and remind me that I’m not alone in this young mom journey. I have a full list on my own blog of course. 😉 www.tinybluelines.com.
- The Young Mommy Life: http://www.theyoungmommylife.com/
- B Sides: Life of An Amateur: http://thoughtsofanamateur.wordpress.com/category/life/
- The Story of Our Rookie Years: http://www.knewlywifed.com/