Young mom Sarah Joseph shares her story of being pregnant at a conservative college — and explains why it was actually a positive, do-able experience:
1. How old were you when you got married and pregnant?
I was 20 when I got married and 21 when I got pregnant.
2. Was this something you planned?
We did plan to have the baby! My husband and I practice natural family planning, and have since about 6 months after we got married. One of the really nice things about NFP is that it allows you to pinpoint your fertile days with extreme accuracy, so when you are trying to achieve pregnancy, it can be easier than if you aren't necessarily aware of your ovulation window. We conceived the first month we tried, which was such a blessing.
3. What college did you attend? And did you graduate?
I attended Hillsdale College, and graduated with honors along with my class! BA in English.
4. How did your college/professors treat your pregnancy?
My professors and college were incredibly gracious towards my pregnancy. I had the great good fortune to study under Allan Carlson frequently during my time at Hillsdale. Dr. Carlson speaks frequently on family economics both domestically and internationally, and he was one of my biggest supporters while at Hillsdale.
And the financial aid office was very supportive of my marriage and pregnancy. Because they don't take any government loans, they were able to put my numbers under my husband's numbers for financial aid, and by the time I got married I had less than 2K in out-of-pocket expenses every year. By the time I graduated I was completely covered, which was a huge relief when we were thinking about our baby.
I was very surprised at how well my college took my pregnancy in stride. While my campus is tiny (1200 students), I didn't know all the students by any stretch of the imagination. Not all of them could have known of my marriage, and certainly not of the fact that my pregnancy was planned, but I had very few instances of rudeness. Perhaps because of the strongly Catholic presence on Hillsdale, most students were more familiar with pregnancy than they would have been at a larger state university?
The one and about the only time I had a rude encounter was sadly enough with a very well-known conservative speaker who glared at me the entire time she saw me studying in the student center. While most of my college was supportive and at times even nonchalant about my pregnancy, I still remember this woman's stares with sadness. So what if I hadn't been married? She claims to be a member of a pro-life movement, but when presented with what (she thought) was an unplanned pregnancy and unwed mother, she was hostile and ungracious.
I was down for a couple days about this but when I told the story to one of my professors he started laughing and said I should just get a shirt that said "pro life slut." Maybe not the EXACT message I wanted to get across, but hey, it made me laugh.
5. And what about your college friends?
My friends were all so encouraging. I have nothing but the highest gratitude for them in my life. They threw me a baby shower and invited me into their homes and made sure to keep in contact even when I was in my first trimester and all I wanted to do was sleep. I even had a good friend who went to a couple appointments with me.
6. What's something you wish you did differently while you were pregnant and in college?
The one thing I wish I had done differently was keep a detailed journal of my pregnancy. When I was writing papers all day the last thing I wanted to do was write another word, but those memories and days went by so quickly.
7. Are there any positive perks to being a pregnant college student? Reasons you're grateful for that experience?
As far as positive perks, I would say I was never really treated any differently. My professors, while encouraging of my pregnancy, expected hard work and I did my best to deliver. Maybe if anything it was the excuse (for me) to sleeeeeeep.
I'm so grateful to have had the experience of pregnancy with so many people I held dear. I would never have been able to share one of the most blessed times of a woman's life with my college faculty and friends if it weren't for our decision to get pregnant in college.
8. What was the most challenging part of it all?
The most challenging part of pregnancy in college was not being able to focus on my first pregnancy as much as I wanted. I graduated right before my third trimester started, so I was able to lay around and read pregnancy books as much as I wanted for three months, though, so I can't complain TOO much.
9. Did you ever consider dropping out?
No. This wasn't due to any goodness on my part, though. I give all the credit to friends and family and my amazing church body.
10. What advice do you have for young women pregnant on campus?
My biggest recommendation for young women who are pregnant in college, whether through choice or whether they are devastated at those little lines, is find your community, your tribe, your people who will be your safe place. For me, it was my church and those few professors who were willing to ask me how I was doing that week. It might be your girlfriends or your family or your husband's or boyfriend's family, but those people who support you are worth more than any financial aid.
You can read more about Sarah on her blog The Domestic Church.