Being a teen mom is difficult, no doubt about that. Nicole Nieuwenhuizen is proof that life can definitely go on after falling pregnant in high school, and that it can be pretty great too.
‘A choice or mistake, one mistake that changed my life forever. A mistake I was judged by, a choice I was defined by. The choice to let the mistake break what was not broken, tear what was not torn, by judgement of people. Friends rejected me but loved ones stood by me. My mistake turned into a choice, not to let it be a mistake but a blessing, my blessing Miané.’
(Part of a dance performance by Nicole, after giving birth)
Nicole Nieuwenhuizen is 19 years old. She is currently in her second year of her teaching degree, while simultaneously working as a student teacher at her old primary school. Her daughter, Miané, who is almost 3 years old, is indeed a little diva with a huge personality. I spent some time with them to talk to Nicole about her experience of becoming a teen mom and dealing with the stigma that comes with falling pregnant in high school.
With over 15000 girls falling pregnant during the school year in 2015, a concerning statistic at the least, teenage pregnancy in South Africa is rapidly increasing. What happens when a girl is faced with this predicament? Falling pregnant midway through your high school journey can be a frightening experience which often leads to dropping out. Nicole strongly advises against that.
Keep on Keeping on – Don’t give up!
She recalls how she revealed her pregnancy to her parents, her father specifically, and chuckles as she says:
‘Someone told my mom you must sit in a blue room because the angels will protect us! So we sat in my granny’s room…my sister said: “Your daughter is pregnant.”’
After some adjusting to this unexpected blessing, Nicole’s parents played a big role in encouraging her to complete her studies, as planned.
‘I’m very lucky that my parents are supportive…I’m very lucky for the opportunities they gave me,’ says Nicole.
Her own goals motivated her too.
‘I’m not going to settle for less…I can go on with my life, it’s not like a huge, intimidating house in front of me. I just have to open the door and walk through.’
Being a Mom
As the interview progresses I notice that Nicole is a very attentive mother, every now and then saying ‘Hello liefie’ to Miané or announcing to her sister that Miss Miané is in need of a loo break.
Motherhood comes with a lot of responsibilities that most young girls aren’t equipped to handle yet. Although Nicole had sacrifices to make, like not living the spontaneous party life that student life comes with, she acknowledges that her priorities have now changed,
‘I want her to know her mommy raised her and tried to support her in every way she can…I want to prove the statistics about pregnant girls wrong.’
It’s worth the hard work.
While more girls are finding themselves in Nicole’s situation, teenage pregnancy still seems to be a taboo that isn’t discussed openly. More importantly, the success stories that blossom out of a supposedly unsalvageable predicament aren’t being shared.
Where to Now?
After she found out she was pregnant, the pressures of being a pregnant teen and being ostracised by some of her friends became taxing on Nicole and her friendships. It was then that her and her family chose to relocate schools.
The Tuition Centre for Pregnant Learners, a unit of the Hospital School in Pretoria where she attended, provides a safe environment for pregnant girls from grades 7 to 12. It provides shelter and a support structure in which pregnant teens are able to continue with their high school career.
Nicole acknowledges that not everyone is as fortunate as she was. Regardless of this, she insists that abortion should not be an option.
‘I believe every child is a blessing, doesn’t matter whether you’re 30, 20 or 41,’ says Nicole.
Embrace the Youth in Being a Teen Mom!
When I asked her what her favourite part about being a mother was, specifically a young one, she confidently said ‘To be able to go on trampolines, jumping castles, jungle gyms and to eat ice cream till it goes out of fashion! You get new glasses for the world…you feel like a child again, everything is so new.’
For Nicole, any obstacle makes life more interesting and having a child is a huge motivation for her to strive for more than just mediocre. She takes responsibility for her actions and realises that the choices she makes now affects not only her, but her daughter Miané as well.
‘…it’s not about what you want, it’s about what she needs.’
Nicole could have easily become another statistic, a high school dropout with no further aspirations but she didn’t and that is what is inspiring. Nicole, and other strong young women like her, are proof that having a baby at a young age isn’t the end of the world.
‘There are a lot of teen moms that did what I did, I’m not the only one,’ she says encouragingly.[vc_tta_accordion style=”outline” shape=”square” color=”black” active_section=”0″ collapsible_all=”true”][vc_tta_section title=”Nicole’s Practical Tips for Young Mothers” tab_id=”1495619532426-c4ff9d63-7dad”]
- Try to use any free time at school to finish any homework or extra work.
- Pump breast milk in advance.
- Manage your time well e.g. do homework while your baby is asleep
- Maintain a stable routine/system.
- Stay active while pregnant, as well as after, to maintain your physique (Nicole practised karate as well as danced during her early pregnancy and after giving birth.)
Nicole is an extremely driven young woman and wishes to help other young girls in her situation. A devout Christian, she believes that God has put you on the earth for a reason and that working hard and persevering moves you a step closer to your purpose in life.
‘If it wasn’t for Christ strength I could not even accomplish anything’ she says
As I left Nicole and Miané, something very poignant said by Nicole remained with me,
‘I hope she’s strong and independent one day’
A simple statement that displays the essence of motherhood and the beauty of it. To wish only the best for your child – the purest form of love.[vc_tta_accordion style=”outline” shape=”square” color=”black” active_section=”0″ collapsible_all=”true”][vc_tta_section title=”Find Out Where You Can Get the Support You Need: ” tab_id=”1495619694754-909be40e-d1db”][vc_column_text]Like the Hospital School, there are many other organisations that pregnant teens can seek support and guidance from, especially if their families aren’t present in their lives. These organisations offer both emotional, financial and other forms of support to pregnant teens in need of help.
- Dignity Centre
- Young Mom Support
- The Parent Centre
- Fatima House
- Options Care Centre
- The Baby Safe
Let’s be honest, life doesn’t always go as planned and if an obstacle like this comes your way, we know how scary it can be. We respect the gift of life, but we also know that ultimately it is your decision. Just know that there are people out there that have gone through the same thing and are hugely successful. Reach out to the organisations mentioned above or join a support group. Either way, Nicole is a role model to all teenagers and young adults. Use her story to motivate and push you forward!
Thank you to Nicole for sharing her inspiring story with us at EduConnect.