Picture this: You have just migrated to Australia from the Philippines with your mum and dad. You’ve been living here less than a month. You’re 17. And you’re pregnant.
This is the reality that Nikki Sy-Siong faced.
“I didn’t even know where to buy a pregnancy test!” she said.
“I was so ashamed. I mean, how would I even tell my parents?”
But she knew she had to tell them. Nikki didn’t yet have a support network of friends – her parents where all she had in Australia.
“A few days after I took the pregnancy test, it was nighttime and my mum was watching TV in the lounge. I was so nervous that I was pacing back and forth. I was like, should I tell her? Should I show her the test results?”
Before Nikki had the chance to say a word, her mum Bernadette looked her in the eye and said, “Are you pregnant?”
You can imagine the exchange: the tears, the hurt, the anger and the hugs. Bernadette felt weak and overwhelmed. Despite holding the strong belief that life was already budding and growing within Nikki, she was searching for a quick and easy solution.
“I said, let’s go to the doctor and see if they can give you something to make your period come,” Bernadette shared.
“In my mind, I was looking for a cure, as if pregnancy was a sickness, a disease that Nikki needed healing from.”
Nikki’s female GP took one look at her situation, at Bernadette’s pleading question of, “What should we do?” and advised that young Australian women normally have an abortion in such circumstances, to sort everything out.
“She was telling me, ‘Look at your mum, look at how disappointed she is, look at how distraught she is. You can’t cope with having a baby.’ I felt pressure that abortion was the only way to go,” Nikki said.
She knew, deep down, that there were plenty of good reasons for keeping her baby. Nikki did try to stand up to the GP, saying she didn’t want an abortion, but the doctor said that she had already, “sinned for having pre-marital sex” and that having an abortion wouldn’t matter any more. She advised that being a single mother would bring shame, embarrassment and financial pressure to the family.
Bernadette was rattled by the doctor’s confident judgment and began to believe that having a termination may be for the best on this occasion. At that point she didn’t recognise the coercive language of the GP and the power it had over her. She didn’t realise that reports have revealed that 70% of women who had abortions said they felt they had no other choice, and that women suffer deeply and often for a prolonged time after abortion.
Then, they went for an ultrasound.
Their ‘choice’ was a tiny body with a strong beating heart that lit up the screen in the darkened room. And the light came on in Bernadette’s own heart and mind when the radiographer said:
“Look, there’s your grandchild!”
Suddenly Nikki’s pregnancy wasn’t a problem; it was a baby. Nikki and Bernadette walked away from the radiographer in agreement: they would keep this baby.
Nahla is now three. She is a beautiful, dark-haired girl with an easy smile and truckloads of energy. She continues to bring untold joy to the Sy-Siong household. Both Nikki and Bernadette know that they made the right decision – for themselves and for Nahla.
“When Nahla was born I felt like bringing her back to the clinic and saying, ‘Look how gorgeous she is!’ We’re so happy that we had our minds changed,” Bernadette said.
Interview with Nikki and her mum, Bernadette
The number of teenagers falling pregnant in Australia has been declining for the past 20 years. However, the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ most recent data reveals that, in 2015, there were 8574 births to mothers aged 19 years and under (2.8% of all births).
Organisations like the Brave Foundation are working to decrease this rate and remove any stigma associated with teen parenting through education and support outreach. You can find out more about them here.
Pregnancy Help Australia also provides 24/7 support:
1300 792 798 (QLD, NSW, VIC, ACT) 1300 655 156 (SA, WA, NT, TAS)
We have more information for people facing an unplanned pregnancy here.
Remember, you’re not alone, there are people who want to help you.