[Photo courtesy of Janet Wambua]
By Janet wambua.
Becoming a mother is a life-altering experience that can present numerous challenges, especially for young women pursuing their education. In the inspiring story of Mary Wangeci, a Bio-Medical 4th-year student, we delve into her journey of discovering her pregnancy just before starting campus and how she bravely faced the difficulties of being a young mother while striving to excel in her studies. With determination, support from friends, and a remarkable resilience, Mary overcame obstacles and found the strength to embrace both roles of motherhood and student.
In November 2017, just before Mary was set to join campus, she received unexpected news – she was pregnant.”I found out before I came to campus. I recall it being November, and at first I didn’t believe it, wondering what I was going to do because I was meant to just join Campus.” She stated.
Overwhelmed by mixed emotions and unsure of what to do, Mary found herself torn between the desire to keep the child and the fear of the challenges that lay ahead. Despite her apprehension, she made the courageous decision to keep the pregnancy a secret from her family and confided in her friend, Mary Wangari, who provided her with much-needed emotional support and encouragement.
Determined to pursue her dreams and provide a bright future for her child, Mary decided to enroll in school even while four months pregnant. Concealing her pregnancy from her fellow students and faculty, she embarked on a journey where she had to navigate the complexities of being a student and a mother-to-be simultaneously. To make ends meet, Mary capitalized on her hair braiding skills, seeking clients among her fellow students during her free time. This allowed her to earn some income and gradually prepare for the arrival of her baby.
“When I first arrived on campus, I knew I had no one to turn to for help with the child. When it came to the child, I discovered something to sustain me. I was able to accomplish something that at least helped me get ready for what was to come. So I made a hasty exit. I’m good at braiding hair, so I used to find students who wanted their hair braided anytime I wasn’t in class, and that kept me going, she added.
Arriving on campus with a heavy burden on her shoulders, Mary felt alone and uncertain about the future. However, she discovered solace in the kindness of a fellow student named Esther Murugi, who became a trusted friend and offered unwavering support. Through Esther’s friendship, Mary found strength and encouragement, proving that a strong support network can make a world of difference.
Despite the challenges, Mary was determined to be well-prepared for her baby’s arrival. With limited resources, she carefully managed her finances and gradually purchased essential baby supplies, ensuring that she had the necessities required for her child’s well-being. Remarkably, she successfully kept her pregnancy a secret from her classmates and professors, a testament to her perseverance and adaptability.
After months of anticipation, on August 9th, Mary, accompanied by her supportive sister, went to the hospital and gave birth to a healthy baby girl named Tasha Hope Muthoni. The joy she felt upon seeing her daughter for the first time validated the difficult choices she had made. Mary’s mother and sister, upon learning about her pregnancy just weeks before the due date, expressed understanding and acceptance, reinforcing her belief that she had made the right decision.
“I actually chose to notify my mum and sister three weeks before giving birth because no one had actually noticed. My sister said that since the delivery is still three weeks away. Well, my mom’s reaction was okay, there was no need to worry.” she said.
With the birth of her daughter, Mary faced another hurdle, the desire to return to her studies. Despite Tasha being only five months old, Mary was eager to continue her education. However, circumstances prevented her from returning to school, forcing her to take a full year off. Undeterred, Mary remained determined to pursue her dreams, using this time to further bond with her daughter and prepare for her eventual return to campus.
Returning to school after a year-long hiatus, Mary found herself confronted with the heart-wrenching decision of leaving her daughter in the care of her mother during the first semester. This temporary arrangement eased her transition back to school. However, circumstances took an unexpected turn when Mary’s mother fell ill, compelling her to bring Tasha to live with her off campus. The daily routine became tedious, requiring Mary to wake up early, prepare meals, pack Tasha’s belongings, drop her off at daycare, attend classes, and then pick her up immediately afterward.
“It got to the point where my mom became ill, forcing me to go fetch Tasha and keep her with me at off campus. In order to prepare her for the day, I would get up early, cook for her, and pack her bag. I would then drop her off at a daycare, go to class, and then go pick her up again.”
While these responsibilities proved challenging, Mary was not without support. Despite occasional instances where she had no one to leave Tasha with, some of her friends graciously offered to babysit the child, enabling Mary to attend her classes. Nevertheless, Mary faced difficulties participating in evening group discussions due to the lack of childcare options. Despite these obstacles, Mary managed to strike a delicate balance and fulfill her academic commitments.
Remarkably, amidst the trials, Mary expresses no regrets. She acknowledges the invaluable lessons parenting has imparted, particularly in terms of discipline and responsibility. By being a mother, she has willingly sacrificed certain indulgences, such as partying, which has instilled in her a sense of discipline. Additionally, the responsibilities of parenthood have honed her accountability and prioritization skills, attributes she greatly appreciates.
“Being a mother has taught me discipline because it has prevented me from enjoying worldly pleasures like going out to parties and other things. For this, I am really appreciative. In terms of responsibility, I have grown to be quite responsible in that my sense of accountability and prioritizing has grown.” she stated.
It is natural to wonder about the absence of Tasha’s father during these trying times. Mary shared that her daughter’s father has been absent, and despite her efforts, she cannot force him to accept his responsibilities. Nevertheless, she remains grateful for the support she receives from God and her unwavering commitment to Tasha.
Mary Wangeci extends her advice to fellow campus students facing similar challenges, urging them to remain optimistic throughout their journey and to seek solace in prayer. She firmly believes that no matter the circumstances, God will always provide, citing the proverbial adage, “there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”
Now, with Tasha at the age of five and enrolled in school, Mary finds joy in her daughter’s intelligence and is constantly grateful for God’s blessings. With her graduation approaching, Mary eagerly anticipates the future, embracing both the fulfillment of her academic goals and the continued joys of motherhood.
Mary Wangeci’s journey as a young mother and student exemplifies the strength and resilience that women possess in the face of adversity. Through her perseverance and the support of friends and loved ones, she managed to navigate the challenges of being a young mother while pursuing her education. Mary’s story serves as an inspiration to all those who find themselves juggling multiple responsibilities, reminding us that with determination, support, and a positive mindset, we can overcome any obstacles that come our way.