Struggles of uncelebrated teen mother
Sandra Wekesa @wekesasandra
For the second time, Rebecca Keha marked Mother’s Day yesterday. Her baby is one year and seven months.
However, it was a day like any other: no congratulatory message, no gifts, nothing.
The day brings her so much sorrow, reminding her of her life mistake — being a teen mum.
It reminds her of rejection and stigma from her close friends and family for being a young mother.
So, while she is supposed to be celebrating motherhood, she also feels guilty of being a young mother who is often targeted for her ‘poor life choices’ by everyone including strangers.
“It’s a dilemma. If I say I’m proud to be a mother and celebrate motherhood, am I not encouraging teen girls to get pregnant?” poses the 19-year-old.
Keha recalls how in 2019, at the age of 17, while still in school, she got pregnant. Although he was much older, he had convinced her he would take care of the pregnancy.
When her parents discovered she was pregnant, they were disappointed. But her mother supported her nevertheless.
“I gave birth two weeks before my Kenya Certificate of Secondary Examination (KCSE). But I still sat the exams.
At that time, my only challenge was having to leave my child at home with my mother and sitting in a class for hours with breast engorgement, as increased milk caused pain and discomfort. But I ended up scoring a mean grade of C+,” Keha recalls.
However, her parents wanted her to repeat class to get a better grade. This meant she had to go back to Form Three. She refused.
“My parents became furious and asked me to leave home. I tried pleading with them to no avail. My cousin took me in together with the baby,” she shares.
“One thing for sure is we, young mothers want the same thing that all mothers want — to be loved, supported, and encouraged,” she says.
For Zuhura Mohamed, 16, fear, stress, anxiety and loneliness best describe her gestation period.
Every day, she has to deal with negative comments and judgements from people, which stresses her every day.
She recalls how she found out she was pregnant last year during the long holiday necessitated by Covid-19 pandemic.
Alone and anxious
“I had nausea, headache, and fatigue. When I told my mother, she took me to hospital. It turned out I was 21 weeks pregnant. This didn’t sit well with my mother. She was furious,” she explains.
“I had been seeing a boy for two years, and although we had plans of being together after completing our studies, the situation had happened early.
However, I made him promise that no matter what, we would stay together and get through it,” Zuhura says.
By the time the schools opened in January this year, she was already five months pregnant.
She didn’t tell anybody in school as she feared rumours. But they still found out.
“Everyone started looking down on me. The few friends I had in school distanced themselves from me and that is how I became lonely,” she shares.
All she needed was some encouragement and positivity from people close to her, but instead, they gossiped about her.
“I have heard people say so many things about teenage mothers — that I am lazy, not interested in school, and worst of all, that I just wanted to get married at an early age.
But that is not true, it was just a mistake that happened once, and given an opportunity, I would rectify the situation,” she explains in a tearful voice.
Currently, Zuhura is eight months and two weeks pregnant. Although her boyfriend has been emotionally supportive, she still longs for the day that this chapter of her life would be over.
One thing she is grateful for is her mother’s support. Her everyday prayer is that she delivers safely, without complications so that she can go back to school.
“I know that I am destined for greatness and I will not think twice about going back to school because it is important for my future.
I am certain I will excel and get good grades that will enable me join a university of my choice and pursue my career,” she says.
She promises to love her baby. “Yes, I erred, but the baby is innocent,” she says.
Although Fanis Ayako, 17, just completed her secondary education last month, she understands the struggles of a teen mum.
Weeks before school resumed early this year, the pregnant teen had to juggle between selling bananas, studying for her final exams, and preparing for motherhood.
She recalls how her father beat her when he discovered she was pregnant. Her mother was filled with pity.
Although she contemplated abortion, her then boyfriend did not agree. He instead insisted he would always be present and help raise the child. But this was a matter of wait and see.
“When I told him about it, he said he would help me with the child. He is 21 years old, and I’m 17. I agreed to his promises,” she recalls.
In her fourth month of pregnancy, she went back to school to sit her examinations. But by the time she was done everything had changed.
“My boyfriend didn’t want anything to do with me. He thought I was lying about the pregnancy.
Also, completing school meant that I could no longer get some privileges such as feeding, and asking for help for basic things such as body lotion and clothes. So, my father would often ask me to go hustle for ‘my family’,” she says.
Ayako has had to train herself on beauty matters and once in a while, she plaits her neighbours hair at a fee. This helps her save money for her unborn child as well as feeding herself on days that there is no food at home.
She is positive she will get good results to help her join university and pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing.
“I would want to prove that being pregnant at an early age doesn’t mean that your future is bleak,”she says.
Ayako can’t wait to meet her little one. Her only wish is that by the time her baby arrives she would have saved enough. She also hopes to give her baby all the love she can.