When Bryanna Mobilio saw the word “pregnant” in big bold letters, she was terrified.
The Castleton State student was 18 when she got pregnant and 19 when she gave birth. And it has been a tough journey. “I was really self-conscious about it because I was ashamed,” she said. “It didn’t help that I look 16 years old.”
As if knowing she was going to be responsible for someone else’s life wasn’t intimidating enough, she was treated badly by others. “A lot of people would give me dirty looks or make rude comments about how sad it was or how I should give MTV a call or how I probably don’t even know who the father is,” she said. “Most of those comments came from complete strangers.”
For students, finding out they’re expecting a baby can come as an overwhelming whirlwind of emotion and uncertainty.
“I contemplated abortion, but decided that it was not the right choice for me,” she said.
Instead, she grew up – quickly. She went from being a carefree 18-year-old, dependent on her parents, to motherhood in nine short months.
“It was difficult to grow up quickly and learn how to be a parent,” Mobilio said.
That’s an experience Jesse Euber knows too well. She was 17 when she found out she was pregnant and 18 when her son, Sawyer, was born.
“I’ve learned to survive and struggle because someone else’s life depends on me. I have no time for ‘I’ll do it laters.’ He depends on me and I am better than I was before, but I had to rush to be that,” she said.
Euber had to quit high school to work full time to care for her baby. “My little brother walked with his graduating class before I was able to,” she said. “That’s not easy.”
When her son was 2 ½, she was able to graduate. “I wore a cap and gown with a baby on my hip. It was an insane mixture of feeling so proud and so disappointed at the same time to be honest,” Euber said.
The disappointments didn’t end there. When she and her son’s father broke up, she had to apply for assistance from the state, which she says humiliated her. She had no other choice and was willing to do whatever she had to do to provide for her son until she could find a job and a home for them, she said.
Euber says if she didn’t have her son, she would probably be a full-time college student writing this article about someone else.
But she’s getting a different kind of education. She said the most important thing she has learned from being a mother is unconditional love and patience.
Mobilio, too, said she has grown since becoming a mother. Mobilio used to be extremely shy and timid. She was overly concerned about what others thought of her. After having her daughter, Emma, she came out of her shell. She doesn’t shy away from people and tends to be more outspoken.
If she lacked drive before, she now applies herself and has a 4.0 grade point average. She said she’s in the best physical shape of her life. Having a child pushed her to become the person she always wanted to be.
“I want to show her that she can follow all of her dreams and be whoever she wants to be, no matter what the obstacles, and because of that, I push myself to be the best example possible of someone following their dreams and being the best they possibly can,” she said.
Being a mother is one thing, but being a full-time college student is another. Mobilio said school has always been her priority, right after her daughter. At first, she had a difficult time trying to concentrate on her assignments with a baby in her arms, but has since learned to adjust.
Mobilio has had the experience of being a regular college student, a pregnant college student and a student parent. As a parent in college, she sees college as a means to an end.
There is no partying for her because she doesn’t have the time. She carries a full course load with the same amount of work as everyone else, but also has a household to run, a husband to take care of and a child to take care of.
Such challenges took a toll on Euber and forced her to make a difficult decision when she learned she was pregnant a second time.
“After having my son, when I found myself sitting in the same place scared as hell all over again, I had to do what I believed was best for the child I already had,” she said. “That decision led to an abortion and, although it’s hard to live with, I truly think I did the right thing for everyone involved.”
Euber said she doesn’t think abortion should be used as birth control. “But I do believe that sometimes circumstances can be out of your control; things happen,” she said. “It’s not any easy choice, but it’s a choice nonetheless,” she said.
It’s a decision 21-year-old Devon Thow would struggle to adopt. “If you are willing to have sex with someone than you should be willing to deal with the outcome,” he said.
Thow’s daughter, Chloe, was born when he was a 16-year-old high school student.
He has always wanted to go to college, but having a child and financial problems have made it tough to fathom.
He said he has been forced to make different choices.
“I was scared, but knew that no matter what we could make it work,” he said. “No matter how bad it gets, you can do it and it’s worth it and try not to fight with the other parent because it only puts the child in a bad place.”
Euber said relationships are perhaps the most difficult part of being a single mother. “I am human and need love too. A partner expects 100 percent devotion and so does a baby, but there is only one of me. The balance can sometimes feel unreachable,” she said.
Mobilio said she’s grateful her husband is so supportive.
Not that co-parenting is always easy. “We had grown up in very different households and had our own parenting styles,” she said.
But right now, she said the toughest part of raising a child is dealing with other people’s opinions and judgments on how she parents.
“People look at me differently because I am ‘that girl’ … the one they are all afraid of becoming,” Mobilio said. “When I get out of class, I have to get my daughter from preschool, cook dinner, clean, spend time with her, spend time with my husband, maybe get in a work out, and then do schoolwork. I have been diagnosed by a doctor twice with exhaustion.”
If she had to give advice to young adults who find themselves expecting a child before they’d planned, she said she’d tell them it’s OK to be terrified and excited. “I would tell them to … just breathe, be yourself and be happy,” she said. “Everything may not turn out the way you plan, but it will be OK.”