Before we graduate from college, most of us try to experience new and exciting things. We hope to live on our own, to meet amazing new friends, and maybe even find a boyfriend or two. But one goal many young women hope to avoid in four years of studies is having a baby.
And no, I don’t mean a plastic doll, like the kind they give you for play in family development courses. A real baby. A living, breathing, pooping and crying human being. The idea of pregnancy between the ages of 18 and 22 — the years that many young women struggle not only to get through their courses, but to learn to pay their own bills — is frightening to most, but many women our age are managing motherhood. Not only are they raising children, but they’re doing it well, and getting their degrees at the same time.
A Bundle of Joy?
For Cathryn Brooks, 22, finding out that she was pregnant during the end of her junior year at the University of Missouri brought her anything but joy.
“I cried my eyes out,” she says. “I cried and then I called my mom and told her that I was pregnant and she said, ‘Why are you lying to me?’”
But despite their shared shock, Cathryn’s mother was supportive of her situation, due to her sister’s similar circumstances. Her sister, 20 at the time, was six months pregnant by the time Cathryn was aware of her own pregnancy. Despite the effect that a child would have on Cathryn’s life, her mother encouraged her to finish school. “She said, ‘as long as you continue school and finish your degree, I'm not worried about it.’"
But for senior LaNita Williams, 22, the decision to keep her child was not as easy, especially since she became pregnant near the end of her freshman year. “I was trying to figure out whether or not to go ahead with the pregnancy,” Williams says. “I thought about it for a little while but I decided to go on with the pregnancy and carry my child. I was very blessed to have a good support system in her father.”
Eight months and only 10 pounds of baby weight later (gasp!), Mckenzie Powell came into Cathryn’s world and changed her lifestyle drastically. During her pregnancy, Cathryn says she slept more than she could even remember, but now, she’d kill for a decent nap.
“I don't ever think I hit R.E.M. sleep because I'm always tired,” she says. “She wakes me up right before I think I'm going to hit that deep sleep."
And in the morning, while most college students drool until their first class is slated to start and the bus is set to pull off without them, Cathryn finds herself up each morning around 8:30. She gets up whenever Mckenzie awakens to start her day, and when the baby fusses she often can’t get back to sleep.
Things were a tad bit easier for LaNita, because after the birth of her daughter, Karma Williams, she took a semester off at the beginning of her sophomore year.
“I’m really glad that I did because it definitely created our bond and I learned more about what being a parent is,” she says. “I had to learn who this little person was and learn what works for them.”