You are allowed to freak out.
You have worked hard to get here. You have looked forward to it, dreamed about it, planned everything out for these four years—but you did not plan for this. You always thought that college would hold some of the best years of your life and allow you to go on and do amazing things, but now that you have found out that you are pregnant you may have begun to question whether you can even finish these four years.
You are probably asking yourself “Can I even be a student and parent a child?” The short answer is yes, you most certainly can do both, and you can do both incredibly well, and you can still have some of the best years of your life. Do not get me wrong, finding out you are pregnant can be stressful and overwhelming even in the best of times, so you can allow yourself to freak out for a while. Scream, cry, punch a pillow a few times—but, when you have given yourself that time to freak out, you can sit down and make a new plan, one that allows you to still accomplish what you set out to accomplish during your college years and allows you to deal with this pregnancy or parent this baby that has come into your life so unexpectedly. We are here to help you do that, so we are going to talk through a few things with you. Ready?
You have rights.
First, it might help you to know a little bit about your rights as a pregnant student and as a parenting student. Title IX is a federal law that protects all people from discrimination in educational programs and this protection includes pregnant and parenting students. Title IX protects you by requiring your school to excuse you for medically necessary reasons such as childbirth, miscarriage, abortion, and recovery even if the length of time you need to be excused lasts longer than the school’s typical leave policy. You will need a doctor to write a note stating the medical necessity of your leave of absence. This protection applies to both women and men. Additionally, these absences are excused which means that you are allowed to make up anything that you miss once you return from leave without penalty including final exams and participation credits. If you are a student at West Virginia University, you can read more about their specific Title IX policy related to pregnant students here. If you have financial aid such as student loans, you will need to meet with your financial aid office before you need to take leave, so it would be wise to schedule this meeting as soon as possible so that you are aware of your options. Some common financial aid situations related to extended leave include remaining registered as a full-time student, registering as a part-time student, or terminating registration. Some of these options will require you to start repaying your student loans within a certain time frame so it is important to be aware of all of your options. Schools are also required to make accommodations for pregnancy-related impairments or conditions such as gestational diabetes, morning sickness, or urinary tract infections if the school provides accommodations for other students with temporary disabilities. An accommodation is defined as an adjustment in how, when, or where a student completes their work. These protections and accommodations extend into breastfeeding meaning that your school is required under Title IX to provide you with time to breastfeed without penalty, a safe space to breastfeed on campus, accommodations for breastfeeding-related complications or needs, and freedom from harassment for breastfeeding. You can read your school’s ADA accommodation policy for more specific information. If you would like more information about your rights as a pregnant or parenting student, including taking a look at some frequently asked questions, just click here. Additionally, if you are a West Virginia University student, you can find out more about their policies and resources, including child care assistance, for parenting students here.
I am glad that I have rights, but this is still hard. How am I supposed to do this by myself?
You are right, this is hard, and you should not let anyone try to tell you that it is not. But you are not alone, and you do not have to do this by yourself.
Even if you are going through this as a single parent, which is common with 55% of college students being in that position, you do not have to go through any of this alone because there are plenty of people here to help you. Here at Compass Women’s Center, we provide you with support, education, and connections to other community resources at no cost to you. Pregnancy and parenting education and support are here for you whether you choose to go through the adoption process or parent your child. There are also plenty of community resources available to you that you can use if and when you need them including food, housing, counseling services, and children’s programs. And, if you are a student at West Virginia University, counseling services are available to you including individual, couples, and group counseling. You are certainly allowed to be scared, but it is important for you to know that you do not have to be alone as you go through this new phase in your life. Things have changed and will continue to change as you go through this journey, but these changes do not have to be bad. The team at Compass Women’s Center is dedicated to advocating for your health and well-being, and that includes supporting you and making sure you are getting what you need. Schedule an appointment at Compass today to gain access to the services and resources that you need.
What do I do next?
We have talked about several things in this short post because there are several things that need to be handled, but you do not need to let these things overwhelm you. Take things one step at a time. First, you need to take a moment to breathe. Next, schedule an appointment at Compass to talk to somebody who can help you through your pregnancy and parenting decisions and connect you with additional community resources. Your advocate at Compass will help you make a plan as you go through this process. After you deal with that, you can begin to handle your school-related decisions by using the information discussed above. Remember, you are not alone so always feel free to reach out to Compass 24/7 if you need anything.