Brianna Spears was beginning her third year at The University of Southern Mississippi when she started feeling flu-like symptoms.
After getting sick at work, her boss advised her to go to the clinic. When the nurse asked her to take a pregnancy test, she was certain she was not pregnant, but took the test anyway.
The doctor returned, and Spears listened attentively to the doctor’s diagnosis. To Spears’ surprise, the doctor told her she was pregnant.
“I thought, ‘She’s in the wrong room (and) she’s talking to the wrong person,’” Spears said.
Spears called her mother soon after finding out. Her mother helped her control her initial feelings and realize that she would be able to handle having a baby while finishing out her college degree.
At the start of her senior year, Darrionne Myles faced a similar problem. After finding out she was pregnant, she was shocked.
“I have had a plan that I stuck with since I started college, and it only included me because I wanted to travel with my friends and have a career first before anything,” Myles said.
Unlike many women who get pregnant in school and have to face judgment early on, no one knew Spears was pregnant for nearly her entire pregnancy. She did not start to show during the first semester she found out, and she only told one person.
In the spring, she took online classes, so people only learned of the news when she posted photos to social media. She chose to keep her pregnancy private because she did not want people to shame her for being a Christian who was having a child before marriage.
However, that did not stop negative opinions once the word spread. Spears said her experience was similar to if she had gotten pregnant in high school.
“If you’re in school, and you don’t have a career going, you don’t have a house of your own and you don’t really pay your bills, people think you’re going to fail,” Spears said.
Myles told people close to her. Her family remained supportive, although some of her friends were disappointed. Though her pregnancy made her schoolwork more difficult, Myles worked to stay on track for graduation.
“My teachers have been very supportive as well, which is shocking,” Myles said. “They were understanding when I told them everything that has been happening.”
Financial hardships were one of the most difficult aspects of having a child while in school. Spears said she was not able to be a full-time student, have a full- time job and be a full-time parent.
“I tried the part-time job thing, and it didn’t work out,” Spears said. “I didn’t have anyone to help me on the weekends with my fiancé living out of town.”
Even with those challenges, Spears did not fail as a student. Becoming a mother changed Spears’ behavior as a student for the better. “When I first came to USM, I didn’t like it, so I wasn’t taking schoolwork that seriously,” she said. “As soon as I had my baby, I started to get on the Dean’s List.”
Spears realized being successful in school is the best way to prove all of the people with negative opinions wrong.
Though her pregnancy was not part of her plans, Myles does not think having her baby will negatively affect her life.
“A baby doesn’t stop your dream. I still plan on traveling and doing what I wanted to do—I just will have a little shadow behind me as I go.” – Myles
It was two years ago when the doctor told Spears she was pregnant. She now has a one-year-old daughter, Amina. Spears learned to overcome the challenges that come with being a mother while in school and to not allow the negative opinions of others to get her down.
“(Amina is) my motivation,” Spears said. “She makes me happy. She keeps me smiling.”