FROM READERS: Pregnant college students deserve more support

Monday, May 5, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

Joanne Schrader lives in Fulton.

During my first pregnancy, my husband and I frequented the University of California-Berkeley campus. It struck me that of all the other college age women I saw there, I was the only one visibly pregnant. It seemed like everyone else who was also pregnant then was either a teenager or much older than me. I felt oddly alone in my gestational condition.

I attended Quincy College during my second pregnancy. Larry and I began trying to conceive in August so that our baby would have a chance of being born after the spring semester. We were so successful on the first attempt that my due date was May 15. That school year, I was a pregnant full-time student as well as a part-time worker at my son's daycare, wife, and mother.

It is a time in my life that presented some unique challenges, but one I will never forget. For instance, I was amazed how active my son would always be during my 11:00 am history class. For fear of going into pre-term labor as I did with my first born at 35 weeks, my midwife did not want me walking too much or climbing stairs. Thus, I obtained a temporary disabled parking permit and used the elevators to get to class.

All along, I was determined to finish school. At a May 4 check-up, I learned I was four centimeters dilated. I went ahead with my finals that week knowing that any minute this could be it. In fact, my second son was born at home 16 hours after completing my last exam. It was electrifying.

Why do I tell you this? Because I believe women should not have to choose between their unborn child and their education or job. (My birth mother dropped out of college during her pregnancy with me.) Unfortunately, pregnancy discrimination and pressures to abort are all too real. Women have a unique and important role as child-bearers.

Motherhood is a role that deserves to be celebrated and supported, not treated as taboo on a college campus. Ask yourself, is the only available reproductive information about countering one's natural fertility? Are pregnant students truly welcomed and supported? Are they given the means to succeed in both school and as moms?

Although college campuses are full of fertile young women who will become pregnant one day, they may not know where to turn when facing the question of being pregnant while in school. Pregnant students need pertinent and supportive social resources to counter discrimination or other challenges. Support can be found at resources such as I also hope in the future, students can readily find positive materials on pregnancy, fetal development, and community aid at the Women's Health & Wellness Fair and the MU Women's Center.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.

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