Raquel’s story is so similar to mine that I just want to scoop her up and give her a big hug. Not only did we both experience unexpected pregnancies during our senior years of college at the ripe ol’ age of 21, share the same Catholic faith, and are writing a book on our experience, but our daughters’ names are even similar–she named her beautiful little girl Ava Marie. I’m so glad to have *met* Raquel and I’m so honored to be helping her take her book to publication–she’s currently a student in my writing class! Thanks so much for sharing your story Raquel!
Tell us about yourself:
My name is Raquel, I’m 21 (almost 22). I just graduated from the University of Northern Colorado this past December with an undergraduate BA in Psychology. I’m a crazy Catholic and love everything about my faith. I also LOVE basketball! I used to be on the University women’s basketball practice squad before I got pregnant, so I used to be in pretty good shape. Ha. I currently work at a pregnancy resource center part time. Obviously I’m a mother! My daughter is almost 3 months old; her name is AvaMarie Rose and she is an angel. Aside from being a mom and working, I love “pinteresting” and crafting, attempting to exercise, reading, watching sports, and drinking coffee.
What was your reaction to finding out you were pregnant? Horror. Panic. Denial. Absolute shock. Embarrassment. Shame –to name a few. At that moment in my life I felt like I was trapped in complete darkness, like I was suffocating; and I was alone. I was a senior in college, just turned 21, getting ready to apply for grad school, a practice member of a D1 basketball team, I was in the best shape of my life, was going to graduate with honors, was a branch manager at my job, was involved in leadership with the Catholic campus ministry group, and a regular bible study member; I had a lot going for me. So, as you can imagine, I had big dreams and plans, but having a baby out of wedlock was not a part of that plan. Now I wish that I could tell you this awesome, inspiring story of how optimistic I was when I found out I was pregnant and how well I handled the adversity, but my reaction was not pretty. Despite my beliefs and self-proclaimed pro-life stances, probably the second thing that popped into my head when I saw those tiny blue lines telling me I was pregnant, you know, after the horror, panic, etc. was ‘I need to get an abortion’. I felt dirty, and unlovable, and ashamed beyond belief. I felt like such a hypocrite, and that if anyone knew, they would abandon me. So, I chose not to tell a single soul and schedule an abortion. I chose to be selfish and protect my reputation and future. Thank God, literally, a week before that abortion the Lord pierced my heart with his unconditional love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness. He did this at mass, through the Eucharist and gave me the courage to cancel my abortion, tell my family and friends I was pregnant, and, well the rest is history and now I have a beautiful little girl to love forever.
Did you bond with your baby during your pregnancy?
I strangely tried not to bond very much with my baby because I was set on adoption for the majority of my pregnancy. Because of this I really refrained from reading any baby books, thinking of names, shopping for baby stuff – I didn’t do any of that. However, I ended up bonding with her more than I expected when I would pray. Every day I prayed a rosary. I prayed for the intercession of Mary because I needed guidance on what I should do. This prayer really bonded me to my daughter because when I prayed, I prayed for her. I prayed for her health, her future, and her salvation. I prayed that I would make the right decision for her. That is what bonded me with her without me even realizing it.
What stigmas and stereotypes did you encounter as an unwed mother?
I didn’t have many people openly say anything to me, but if looks could kill, I would be dead. People stare. Ugly stares are enough to make a girl cry though. I’m pretty sure I was the only pregnant girl on my college campus, so I got a lot of looks. For an already broken, very self-conscious girl, having dozens of people looking at you constantly is not enjoyable. I wouldn’t say people were openly rude to me, but they definitely treated me a little different. I really noticed it when I was around a couple friends of mine that were pregnant. Only, these two friends of mine were married. They got pregnant the right way. People were a little more excited for them; there was more joy about their pregnancy. Mine was hush hush. People were awkward around me. It was as if I was an elephant in the room (almost literally by my 3rd trimester).
What is the hardest part about being a student parent?
The hardest part about being a student parent is that you have completely different priorities from the other students. In general, the typical college student is focused on himself/herself. College is about finding “yourself” and doing what “you” want to do. The life of a mom is all about your baby and tending to them around the clock. Of course it’s good to take time for yourself, but your baby is such a huge priority, if not your #1 priority. Because of that responsibility, motherhood doesn’t exactly mesh with the typical college lifestyle. You can’t just spontaneously hang out with friends, go out to the bars, sleep in, or even procrastinate on homework. On the bright side, while everyone is complaining about pulling all-nighters for finals week, you have way more confidence in performing off of little sleep because you’ve been waking up every 3 hours at night for the past several months!
How do you deal with the rude people?
Ignore them. I wish I had the guts to just tell someone off once in a while, but no – the best thing to do is ignore them. After so many “you’re so young” comments you almost become numb to it. Don’t get me wrong, the first few times hearing that, I cried. The comments don’t sound mean, but the looks in people’s faces say it all. “You’re so young” really means “you are way too young to be a mother, you must have been irresponsible and gotten knocked up”. I remember one dumb guy in one of my classes asked me what I was having. When I told him she was a girl he said, “dang, why didn’t you get an abortion?” I remember being so shocked that anyone would ever say such a horrible thing that I couldn’t even reply. However, it was in that moment that I realized that this culture does NOT love and it is NOT honoring of life and I was NOT going to live by this screwed up culture’s standards. That is when I went to the chapel and cried. That’s how I would deal with the rude people. I would cry until there was nothing left and give everything to the silent presence of Jesus.