These children need support, not criticism
Written By: Nomsa Zwane
I was 17 when I got pregnant with my son. I was doing my matric year and living with my grandparents.
My grandmother was a no-nonsense devoted member of the 12 Apostle’s Church and was known to be very strict and my grandfather was more of my ally, always by my side.
I had to write my final exam at 35 weeks [8 months]. It wasn’t easy; you need all the support you can get; not criticism.
I had an option of dropping out and raise my child, and continuing the following year but I knew it would do me no good.
To be honest with you, I knew about contraceptives. My life orientation teacher went all out to make sure we got the message. She would even demonstrate in class how to put on a condom, she told us about the pill and the injection.
But I chose not to, I always thought I was a child, I’m still young, these things will damage my body. I had a pretty cool body, firm, petite and feared the perception that contraceptives can make your body fat, saggy and ugly.
My partner and I decided condoms were cool and resorted to using them instead, little did we know that it will burst.
One evening I was a teenager having fun and a few weeks later I was trying to come to terms with the fact that I was going to be a mother.
Because I was over six months and heavily pregnant, my school requested that I stay at home. My principal held a meeting with my grandparents and explained to them why they can’t allow me to attend classes until I give birth.
He said if anything was to happen to me or the child within the school premises, the school will get into trouble with the law and the department. It was reasonable, but I wasn’t ready to give up- it was December and I only had four more papers to write till i was done.
I remember how I held on to my grandmother outside the principal’s office after the meeting and begged her to go negotiate with him for me to finish writing.
I couldn’t stop crying, I knew how difficult it was to get a job without matric. Most of the girls with children in my neighbourhood didn’t have jobs and I definitely knew how difficult it was to go back to school after dropping out.
I was a smart child, I knew I had passed already and just had to write the last four papers.
Finally they came to an agreement, I could go write provided my grandmother accompanies me to school every day until I’m done with exams. She had to wait at the staff room while I write and sign in and out every day.
Do you know how humiliating that was for my God-fearing grandma? I could just see the embarrassment and disappointment in her eyes every morning she took me to school.
She hardly spoke to me throughout my pregnancy. It wasn’t easy; I had to lock myself up in my room, pretend to be studying just to avoid seeing her. It was the longest nine months of my life.
I never had someone rubbing my stomach or asking how I’m feeling.
I was disappointed in myself. So were my teachers and peers. My uniform couldn’t even fit well, I looked horrible in it.
The moral of my story really is that, obviously teenage pregnancy is not something to be advocated. But it does not mean children should be stigmatised.
The recent calls from people, including our president, suggesting that teen mothers be isolated and made to work hard for their children are ridiculous.
When a child is pregnant, the damage is done, the shouting, yelling and isolation will never change anything.
Our society is not set up for teenagers to become parents but it can adapt. I just wish the stigma against teen parents could be reduced. One of the reasons I experienced so many overwhelming emotions was because I had been led to believe that having an unplanned child early in life would be the end of anything and everything good.
Well it is not. Yes, I had to juggle being a mother, an employee and a student, but look at me now.
As a teen parent, you are expected to beat yourself up and be miserable.
They forget that this whole thing is new to you too; going through the morning sicknesses, breastfeeding, changing diapers and those sleepless nights. This is something you’ve never done before.
The number of teenage pregnancies in the country is currently siting at 21000. These are alarming figures, but people need to know that almost all these pregnancies are unplanned.
No school going child wakes up and decides, today I’m going to be pregnant.
Everyone has to pull in; the Departments of Health and Education have to speed their talks with regards to introducing contraception in schools, parents must also come to the party, but teenagers have a bigger role to play- responsibility.
seven years later, I appreciate the whole experience, it thought me a lot about myself, I’m strong and I have a little human being that calls me mom.
I appreciate the fact that God entrusted me with such a responsibility.
I appreciate that old lady who was there through it all. I appreciate my school for granting me the opportunity to finish matric, but most of all I appreciate my child.
He means the world to me; this guy is my friend, my little brother, my king.
He makes me lunch for work when he does his for school, he helps me undo my braids and he washes my car for a fee.
He calls me sis Nomsa and I call him mfwethu [brother].