Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve had my life planned out. I would go to college and study pre-law, and then head off to law school. I’d travel the world and then settle into a sophisticated career at a law firm. And I’d live in a gorgeous 27-story apartment building downtown Chicago, where I’d hop on the “L” in my heels and head to my powerful job with my hair done perfectly every day. Oh, and I would wait until I was at least at 30 before I had kids — if I had kids at all.
These dreams came to a screeching halt, though, when I found out I was a expecting a baby boy, one October day in my junior year of college. Through complete shock, I was told to expect him in June. I can hardly remember the millions of thoughts that went through my head as I tried to process this news, but I will never forget the two massive questions that seemed to be on a loop: “What am I going to do?” and “What are people going to think?”
Honestly it was the second question that scared me more than the first. I was in a relationship, but not a strong one, and wasn’t planning on getting married. I was an honors student on a full-tuition scholarship, I ran track, and I was involved in student clubs and organizations. I felt like I still had my whole life in front of me. Now, these dreams seemed to be suddenly sipping away.
I also felt terribly alone. This was surprising to me because I had some great girlfriends at my college, but suddenly there was nobody I could relate to. None of them were pregnant and they didn’t plan to be, certainly not anytime soon. I knew this news would definitely be the center of attention at my small school, and that was the last place I wanted to be.
I didn’t have the slightest clue what the rest of my life was going to look like and I was overcome with fear of the unknown. To be completely honest, part of me felt like I had died.
I knew I needed support. So just hours after finding out, I called my mom.
Even though I really, really didn’t want to talk about this, I knew I needed to lean on her. I wanted her guidance, and to know she still loved me. I knew my mom would be upset (to put it lightly), and shocked, and stressed, but I couldn’t move forward without her. I didn’t know what else to do.
I remember that first phone call and how we both cried—a lot. But getting it off my chest helped me feel better. I turned to her frequently on the tough days that followed. And I’m so grateful for her support—I couldn’t have made it through without her. She continually encouraged me to stay positive when I was full of negativity.
As I began to face the unknown future that lay ahead, my mom and I went through my options together.
For me, abortion was never really an option. Even though I was truly scared, and didn’t really “feel” pregnant yet, I knew that there was a real baby, MY baby, developing with a beating heart. So, any thoughts about this option were quickly put aside.
Adoption was another very real possible option, and a beautiful option for many women in my shoes. But I decided that if this was really happening, and I was going to actually have a baby, then I wanted to try to be his mom.
I just knew I’d need help to do so.
So, I talked it over more with my parents, and together we came up with a new plan for me to finish college and raise him as a single mom — despite the many challenges I knew would come with this.
Thankfully, they encouraged and supported me emotionally and financially throughout the remainder of my time in college. I realize not every woman in this situation has this much support and encouragement, and I’m so grateful for it. This was so critical. They continually reminded me that I could do this, during a time when I was really unsure of myself.
I’m also incredibly thankful for my faith, which was my guiding force during this time. I prayed a LOT more than I ever had in my life during the next 9 months. And as the months passed, I could feel my faith growing stronger.
When it came to continuing college, I made the decision to transfer to a state university, closer to home. So around Christmas break, I told only my close friends, and left, starting a new part of my life’s journey.
Even though I didn’t know very many people at my new college, I faced a lot of judgement, especially once I began to show. I did my best to cover it up, wearing oversized sweatshirts for months, but as the spring semester went on and I approached my due date, the judgement became more apparent and isolating.
It’s difficult to be the outsider. No one wants to feel judged. It’s so much more helpful—and effective—to be shown love and support. But even though I felt uncomfortable, I was determined to succeed in my classes.
Completing my degree was going to be critical for our future. So I tried my best to ignore the judgement around me and focus on school.
I wanted to set a good example for my son. I wanted to show him that it’s important never to back down from a challenge. There is no such thing as giving up.
During the summer between my junior and senior year of college, my son was born. And, at only 6 weeks old, I returned to finish my senior year with him, a tiny little one.
Amazingly, every single one of my classes had transferred, so I didn’t need to take an extra semester. I was considering applying to a physician assistant masters program after my undergraduate studies, so I took a number of more challenging courses like Organic Chemistry, Anatomy, and upper-level Political Science courses.
My son went to daycare during class and I did the best I could to take care of him while studying for exams and completing other assignments in the evenings.
It was hard, but I was doing okay, and, well, my life was no longer just about me. My son’s presence in my life brought on a new sense of purpose. I was becoming less focused on myself, and more focused on doing what was best for both of us.
In May 2013, I completed my undergraduate degree in Political Science and minored in Interdisciplinary Sciences.
Finishing my degree gave me tremendous confidence. I was so proud to have graduated while raising my son, despite how challenging that was, and I knew it was worth doing and that from here on out, I could tackle anything.
In the midst of all of this, one really amazing thing happened. I met my future husband.
He was my lab partner during that fateful junior year at my former college. I met him as I was planning to transfer out. He didn’t know I was pregnant at the time, but we became good friends. The day before I left, he took me out for coffee and we talked for three hours. And then we became long-distance friends.
Eventually he learned why I transferred, but he didn’t judge me. He gave me constant support and encouragement. He saw me for who I really was, and respected me more because I wouldn’t back down from this challenge. It was precisely because I was going through this experience, that we were able to grow in friendship and eventually, in love.
He is now the loving father of our children, as my husband legally adopted my son after we married. Since then we’ve welcomed a little girl into our lives, so we are now a family of four.
My story has a happy ending, but I know that many other moms don’t have the kind of support that I had. An unplanned pregnancy is something many women go through alone. So many feel judged, unsupported, and hopeless—or they’re told that they simply cannot do it, that they won’t be able to finish school while raising a baby or have a successful career thereafter.
But I’ve got news for you: nearly 26 percent of the total college population are also parents of dependent children. Almost 5 million people. And 43% of those parents are single mothers.
It’s hard but it’s not impossible. Women are amazingly capable of overcoming challenges and difficult situations.
If you’re reading this because you found yourself in an unexpected pregnancy, I want you to know it does get better. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do this.
The people who truly love you will support you.
The ones who judge you aren’t worth keeping around. The people who care about you, no matter how hard it is for you or for them, will be there. And if nobody you know will support you, I’ve included a list of links below where you can meet people who will.
Your plans will change.
My son was definitely not part of my original plan. But honestly, I’m glad my original plan didn’t work out. I’m so grateful for the family I have now, plus I’ve discovered new interests, so I don’t miss my old plan. I really had no idea how much I would love being a mom. Now instead of constantly planning for the future, I value the present more, and I love it.
You will change.
I have changed so much, but it is all for the better. I literally cannot imagine my life without my son and I am so incredibly grateful to him for helping me grow into the woman I am now.
If my young college self could have known one thing on that October day as I worried about my future … I wish I could have known how this challenge was going to bring new, amazing opportunities for my life.
It was because of him that I was able to find the depth of my strength.
To read more about our co-founder Monica, click here.
If you’re pregnant and need support:
National: http://1stwaylifecenter.com/ or call 1-800-848-LOVE
https://optionline.org/ or chat online, or text “optionline” 313131
In Dallas, Confidential Assistance