While her classmates were spending their junior college years studying and hanging out with their friends, this teenage mother, all of 18, had a different set of problems towards the end of her first college year.
Struggling to keep a huge secret under wraps, she successfully hid her pregnancy from everyone, including her parents, until the day before her delivery.
Abortion was “too cruel”
Singaporean teenager, Pauline (not her real name), knew that she had to keep the baby alive the moment she found out she was pregnant with her boyfriend of 3 years.
To her, an abortion was too cruel and she would not be able to live the rest of her life with the guilt of having taken away her child’s life.
Having made this courageous decision, the troubled teen continued her pregnancy and managed without anyone finding out, a task which initially seemed dauntingly impossible.
Hiding her secret to study
Pauline’s worst fear upon getting pregnant was that her school would find out and expel or disallow her from taking her GCE ‘A’ Level examinations at the end of her second year in college.
Pragmatically understanding the necessity of education and getting a good degree to secure her future, Pauline did all that she could to keep her secret so that she would not have to defer school.
From buying a bigger uniform (to hide her growing bump) and religiously attending her classes, Pauline did everything she could to ensure her secret was kept. The determined youngster even continued attending Physical Education (PE) classes and did 2.4km runs when required, even though she was already 4 months pregnant at the time.
This teenage mother continued studying for her ‘A’ Level examination
Her fortunately thin frame also helped her to keep up the facade and her tiny belly made her pregnancy so inconspicuous initially that her school did not question her at all. The local teen only went for one prenatal check-up when she was five months pregnant and did without all the attentive fuss and fawning that mothers-to-be usually receive.
The eve of delivery day
The day before her expected due date, however, Pauline, the teenage mother knew that she had to let the cat out of the bag. She had to break the news to her parents. Being a minor under 21 years of age then, she needed her parents’ signature on the hospital forms before delivery.
That fateful night just one day before her expected due date, Pauline arranged to talk to her mother at 8 pm and they agreed to meet at the void deck of her block. With the support of two counsellors from Babes, a teenage pregnancy crisis service, she prepared herself to reveal her secret.
Although Pauline told her mother to meet her alone without her father, both parents appeared and spoke to Pauline that night.
The young girl’s greatest worry in breaking the news was her parents’ disappointment as they have always seen her as a studious and hardworking child.
Breaking the news to her parents just one day before the expected due date
“I need to go to the hospital tomorrow”
Opening her reveal by stating that she had to be at the hospital the next day, the teen recounted her entire story to her bewildered parents.
While they were first shocked at the news, Pauline’s mother and father soon became more concerned about her health and the well-being of the baby instead.
Crying after she found out, Pauline’s mother was more upset about the lack of nutrition the baby received than disappointed in her daughter.
The understanding mum then promised her worried teen that she would help to care for the baby and consequently made the brave decision to quit her job in order to do so.
The next day, Pauline was admitted and gave birth after 10 long hours without painkillers. The delivery was during her June school holidays, aiding in her continued bid to maintain secrecy from the school.
Non-traditional postnatal practices
Of the four-week long June holidays, Pauline’s confinement took up 3 weeks and she had to ready herself for the new school term following that.
She broke traditional rules for new mothers while bathing during her confinement and feeding her baby formula powdered milk from birth since she would not be able to breastfeed once lessons began again.
Being as practical as possible, the family arranged for the newborn to sleep with Pauline only on Friday and Saturday nights.
From Mondays to Thursdays, the baby slept with Pauline’s mother as Pauline herself stayed up to catch up on her studies and prepare for the year-end ‘A’ Level examination.
The 18-year-old scored 4 distinctions in her ‘A’ Level exams in November
Diligence that paid off
Juggling between school and baby duties at home, the new mother remembered the importance of investing enough time in her schoolwork. While she called home to check on her baby during lesson breaks in school, she did not lose focus from her studies.
It all proved to be worthwhile in the end when the teen achieved four distinctions in her ‘A’ Level examinations last year. She is set to study at a local university this year.
A happier ending
A story that began with the prospect of an awry ending saw a turn for the better, Especially, with the young girl’s persistence and hard work.
Reflecting on this experience, Pauline states that she now spends more quality time at home and values her family more.
The road ahead may not promise to be smooth. But, Pauline is prepared to work hard so that she can give her parents and child a more comfortable future.
She is currently working two jobs while waiting for the first term of her university to begin.
While motherhood was unexpected and initially terrifying, the teen admits that she has changed for the better in the process. Thus, becoming more responsible and less self-centred.
She also treasures her own mother more now and is extremely thankful for all the help and support received. She explained how her mum became her source of inspiration and motivation. And, she continued working hard in order to give the family a good life in the future.
Pauline’s story reminds us of the continuous support and guidance that teen mums need in their difficult pregnancy journeys. Struggling with unplanned pregnancies is never easy.
But the courage and willpower that these often single mums have in raising their babies should be affirmed.
Also read: Stereotype about young mothers put to rest with photographer’s project