By Sade Patterson, SFLA Correspondent
I was finishing my sophomore year of college when I found out I was pregnant. My husband and I had only been married for 11 months, but we were unsure about the future of our relationship at that point.
Getting pregnant while in college was not part of my plan and it certainly wasn’t in the plan at that point in our marriage either. Like many young adults, I hoped to finish my undergraduate education and start a family after working for a couple of years and traveling.
“Do you need to talk about abortion?”
I remember the day I found out I was expecting: I was in the Student Health Center on campus getting a checkup after a cold, when the nurse walked in and told me, “Well, you’re pregnant.”
It was as if she was speaking a foreign language; I couldn’t comprehend what she was saying. How could this happen? This was the worst possible time to bring a child into what seemed to be my broken little world.
At the time, I was a member of Students for Life (SFL) at the University of New Mexico (UNM) and had received training on the scientific proof that pointed to the humanity of the unborn. I knew at that moment that I was carrying a child – my child – and that it deserved life, but the words from my nurse became more clear as I woke from my daze of confusion, “Do you need to talk about abortion?”
Living my words
For a moment I considered it. It seemed like an abortion would solve my issues for just a moment. But then I remembered the women I spoke to that semester who came up to our Pregnant on Campus Initiative table and said they were pregnant.
They came to me with fear after facing an unplanned pregnancy and I told them they were strong. I told them they could continue their education, and that they had support to be a successful parent. I realized I lacked the same hope for myself that I had for these women. I too could be strong. I too could continue my education, and had the same support to be a successful parent. “No, I’m keeping my baby,” I told her, and she walked out of the examination room and never returned.
I choose life and accepted help
Most people expect the struggles to resolve after a mother chooses life over an abortion, but it was hard to be pregnant and continue my education. I faced discrimination on campus, which made me doubt my ability to excel in school, and my young age brought insecurities of my ability to be a good mother.
Despite my doubts, I had a wealth of support on campus – members of SFL who advocated for me when I faced discrimination. Through Pregnant on Campus, I was referred to a local pregnancy resource center where I could receive tools on parenting and baby items I needed. Members bought me maternity clothes, took me out for lunch, got me a crib, and most importantly became my family.
Pregnant on Campus was always there
The struggles grew after I had Daniel, as did the support I received and the strength I acquired. Over the next two years I led Students for Life at UNM as President, became a Wilberforce Fellow, began working as a client advocate at the same pregnancy center that assisted me, and was appointed to be a senator on my campus, which gave me ample opportunity to pass five pieces of legislation such as parental leave for students and other initiatives that support pregnant and parenting students on my campus.
In the midst of what seemed like accomplishments, I faced hardships along the way, but I realize that each trial made me a stronger and a more empowered individual. I had to figure out how to juggle school, several jobs, leadership positions, and a family life, while overcoming my recent diagnosis of depression and PTSD.
The honest truth is that I never figured out how to juggle everything, but I did figure out how to ask for help, and how to prioritize what was important in my life, and I owe a lot of that to Pregnant on Campus and the members of Students for Life.
The resources we offer students through Pregnant on Campus who face pregnancies and are parents on campus are not only physical needs. They include emotional support, a shoulder to cry on, a friend to call late at night, a pep talk, a shopping trip, a glass on wine (after the pregnancy of course), and someone to remind you that you are capable and strong even when you fail to see it yourself.
I remember myself two-and-a-half years when I found out I was pregnant, and thought my world was turned upside down. I didn’t know what I needed at the time, but what I received was support, empowerment, and friendship from Students for Life of America’s Pregnant on Campus Initiative. My struggles are not gone; sometimes they come stronger than most days. But what I do know now that I didn’t before is that I have support through those struggles.
You can be this support on your own campus. There are women like myself and many who don’t have half the support I did. As we start a new year, commit to seeking out these students and offering the support I was offered. You have the tools; now share them.