How An Unexpected Pregnancy Inspired A Catholic Schoolgirl To Start A Health Organization

unexpected-pregnancy

By Michelle Shegda

There will come a time in your life when you realize you weren’t adequately prepared for what is to come. It could be something simple like how to balance a checking account, getting a good credit score, or applying for college. We assume that somewhere along the way our parents garnered us with all the lessons required to not screw up royally. But our parents aren’t perfect. They can’t do it all.

At seventeen years old, I walked up the cement steps to my Catholic high school, knowing I had missed the boat on one major topic: my body. I was one year away from becoming a legal adult, preparing for a college education paid for by a soccer scholarship, and I had no idea what a vulva was.

Unfortunately, I came upon this epiphany only after I found out my twin brother— my other half, the male version of me who I had compared myself to for all of childhood—had just gotten his girlfriend pregnant. My bright future now felt tainted by this scary news and our devout parents insisted on keeping it a secret. Sex was something we didn’t talk about.

My brother and I had always lived parallel lives, hitting the benchmarks of childhood and then adolescence side by side. Although I wasn’t pregnant, I couldn’t help but notice how easily this could have happened to me.

Why had our parents not prepared us for this? I can only assume it was because their parents were too afraid to have the same conversation. The subject matter may be awkward or uncomfortable, but the consequences of not knowing can be life altering. The only information on sex we were given was a book called, Changing Bodies, Changing Minds that was mysteriously placed on our beds one morning before school around age ten. That obviously did a lot of good.

I saw first hand how quickly anyone’s future could be snatched away because of one bad choice, because they just weren’t informed. What’s even more disturbing is that my parents didn’t use this as an opportunity to start a conversation that obviously needed to happen. So, I took the reins.

I asked around, read every book, and accompanied friends to Planned Parenthood while saving all the pamphlets. The more I learned, the more I felt I could share. In college, I would advise friends about their menstrual cycles, sexually transmitted diseases, birth control, and abortion. I even sat down with my sister on the day of her first period and explained to her what was going on with her body. I became the go-to guru for any information related to sex or reproductive issues.

Girls-PACT

After college, I got a job helping young mothers to earn their GED. I taught them the life skills they never got the chance to learn—resume writing, interview technique, and how to juggle a career while being a mother. Throughout this experience, there were two elements that stuck out to me. First, almost all of these women got pregnant in the tenth grade. Second, they all seemed to have a somewhat apathetic view about their current circumstance, like getting pregnant and dropping out of school just kind of “happened” to them. Their self-imposed hopelessness frustrated me.

Around this same time, I had a conversation with a girlfriend about her relationship. She had been dating the same guy for six months, they both had been tested, and now wanted to stop using condoms because it was more pleasurable. Risky business, right? To a woman who had no clue what times of the month she was most likely to get pregnant, the pull-and-pray method seemed like a bad idea. I thought to myself, Jeez, if a 27 year-old professional woman isn’t armed with the right information, then who is?

I knew a solution was necessary. A dialogue needed to be started for all young women to learn and talk about their bodies, their choices, and about sex. In 2010, I founded Girls PACT to meet this need and we now proudly support over 150 young women in the Los Angeles community, helping them to build the knowledge and the self esteem to put themselves, their goals, and their dreams first.

As a woman, I make decisions about my body and my sexual health everyday, always keeping in mind my immediate and long-term goals. These issues do not just go away as we become adults, enter into loving relationships, or have children. They are ever-present. You are in life long relationship with your body, so no matter where you are in life, please inform yourself, do not be afraid to ask questions or help to inform others, and set an example by treasuring it every day of your life.

 

Michelle-Shegda-founder-Girls-PACT

Michelle Shegda is the founder and director of Girls PACT, a Los Angeles centered, curriculum- based non-profit program for young women ages 14-21that develops personal values, fosters self-confidence, teaches sexual health, promotes healthy lifestyles, and serves the community.
To learn more about Girls PACT visit their website. 
Girls PACT is hosting its first major fundraising party on September 6th from 4:00PM–8PM at Busby’s East in Hollywood. Click here to buy your tickets.

Follow them on Instagram @GirlsPACT
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2 Comments

  1. Yay Girls Pact. I can attest to the work they are doing and the passion that Michelle and volunteers bring to the program. Let’s support more work like this!

  2. Pingback: Our Founder Featured on Girl Talk HQ - Girls PACT - Girls PACT

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