A magazine for Africans and friends of Africa...Our Voices, Our Vision, Our Culture

Ask Auntie Chambu: Teen Motherhood
By Christina Nana

Dear Auntie Chambu:

I am a 17 year old graduating High School senior. My boyfriend and I were looking forward to finishing school this May and starting college next fall, till I found out I am two months pregnant. My boyfriend dumped me and I am still struggling to find a way to tell my strict Ghanaian parents about the baby. I want to keep the child and keep up with my education. Please help me Auntie.

South Carolina

Dear Matilda:

You sound shell-shocked and still a bit frightened about being pregnant. You're not alone. Most young women undergo stress and some trauma during their first pregnancy. I imagine it is especially difficult for an unwed mother -to-be. I remember how back in the days girls who got pregnant in Africa were really stigmatized: shunned by their families, expelled from school in Africa, their education was terminated and their lives were never the same again. Here in the States, there was also a strong moral code against unwed pregnancies that forced many couples into "shot-gun marriages." But things have changed every where and the stigma attached to getting pregnant outside of marriage has greatly diminished.

I suggest that you muster the courage somehow to tell your parents. Make their favorite dinner and have an intimate talk with them. But first, prepare yourself with some information to present to your parents. Research and map out a plan on how you are going to continue your education after the baby is born. Include your plan for child care and financial support. Don't forget to detail the guidance and moral support you will need from your parents and family. In your outline you should include information about near-by community colleges, student aides/loans, neighborhood clinics for prenatal and baby care, social services supports for child care and financial help.

If your parents get upset and "drive you" out of the home, try to understand their point of view, their own upbringing and forgive them. Stay with a friend until they cool off and then come back and try to work things out. Be respectful and plead for understanding. Just in case things still don't work out between you and your parents, there are community homes for unwed mothers, hostels, the "Y" and counseling centers that could help locate shelter for you. Whatever you do, please keep your promise to go to college and make something of yourself- for you and your baby.

In the next seven months of pregnancy, get information to better equip yourself to take care of the baby. There are several organizations offering services and information: Some chapters of the American Red Cross offer classes in new mother and child care. The March of Dimes and your local clinics can also provide you with information about health, social and other pregnancy related issues. In addition, health clinics can help you right now to provide you with good nutritional foods items under the federal government's Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program. Your body is still growing and you will need good nutrition to safeguard you and your unborn child. Social services, the health department and counseling centers in your town are also resources. Information about adoption or foster care could also be provided by these agencies, if you are so inclined. Whatever you do please take care of yourself and the previous package God has blessed you with.

Because most teenage young women tend to have high risk pregnancies and underweight babies, her are simple guidelines:
--Get good and regular health care from a doctor or clinic to reduce complications for you and the baby
--Eat regularly and well ( lots of fruits and vegetables)-- no junk food due to little nutritional value
--No smoking or drinking alcohol
--Don't take any drugs unless they are given to you by your doctor

Motherhood can be an unforgettable experience. I wish you all the best---Mom.

Auntie Chambu, 52, was born and raised in the grasslands of Cameroon. This sheltered nineteen year old, boarding school girl came to a rebellious 60's United States to pursue a college degree and her dreams. She garnered degrees in social work and counseling, got married, and had four kids who constantly put her education and home spun wisdom to the test. After over twenty years of living on the two continents, her advice has a great mixture of traditional African insights with a spirited American independent thinker streak.?