People Are Not Their Bad Decisions
At 14, Bongisa Gunuza fell pregnant. She tells us how she overcame judgement and fear and how at 16 she has grown to become a dedicated mother to a beautiful little girl.
Bongisa was born in Philippi and raised by a single mom; they shared a home in a small shack with her grandmother and two uncles.
She describes her relationship with her mom as close, but the one with her grandmother closer.
“My mom works, so every time I am at home is with my grandmother. I feel like I can tell my granny anything and that she wouldn’t judge me.”
Bongisa met her boyfriend at the age of 13 in a shop in her community, “we were both queuing and he started talking to me. It was the first time I noticed him but he told me that he had seen me before. He was five years my senior and it was like love at first sight. I couldn’t believe an older boy was interested in me.”
The day she found out she was pregnant was one of the hardest days of her life. On that morning, she and her best friend left home early and took a train to Heideveld clinic. On the way to the clinic, Bongisa says that in her gut she knew what was going to be confirmed but hoped with all her might that she was wrong.
“My boyfriend knew why I was going to the clinic because he gave me taxi money to go there. The drive to the clinic felt like it was taking forever because I was thinking about what was going to happen. When we got there, nothing could prepare me for what was going to happen.”
Entering the clinic, Bongisa says that she remembers being called into the room where two nurses were waiting for her inside.
“They first did an HIV test and the results were negative, after that they did the pregnancy test. My friend waited outside, so I sat alone on the bed. I remember thinking about how I was going to tell my mom that I was pregnant.”
When the nurses returned, the kind nurse – as Bongisa describes her – told her that she was pregnant.
“I just imagined my mom’s face in that moment. I pictured what she would say to me and how disappointed my family would be in me.”
The other nurse bombarded Bongisa with questions, “she asked me how I could do this, told me that I was too young to have sex and that I was irresponsible. She also told me that it was too late to “get rid of it.”
Bongisa says that this interaction made her feel worse about the situation and she felt confused, hurt and completely hopeless.
Despite her young age, Bongisa says that she knew that she needed to face her reality. Fortunately, at the time, her boyfriend supported her.
“I tried to tell my mom and granny several times but each time I felt scared because I knew I would be letting them down.”
A month passed before her grandmother noticed a change in Bongisa and confronted her grandchild about being pregnant.
“We were at home one day and she just asked me if I was pregnant I told her.”
“The next day, I came home from church and before I opened the door I heard many voices inside the shack I also heard my mom crying. This broke my heart.”
She says that as she walked inside, she remembers feeling a knot in her throat and her eyes burning as tears wet her face. “My mom, grandmother, auntie and pastor was sitting in the lounge. I felt they asked me a million questions but at the end I felt they would support me. They asked me who was the father and decided that he would only see the child after paying Inhlawulo (damages).”
The next time Bongisa would cry this much was the day she gave birth to her daughter.
“I spent a week in hospital before my child was born. The doctors were worried about her because she wasn’t moving so I had to be observed. I was induced and then in labour for hours before I gave birth.”
She adds that what made the difficult experience a little easier, was having her mom with her through the entire labour.
In Grade 9 at the time, Bongisa spent two weeks at home before she returned to school.
“Returning to school was not easy, I had a teacher who told me I don’t belong there and that I needed to go home to take care of my baby. I ignored her because I knew that I needed to complete school to have a better life. However, she made me feel unwanted and ashamed about my situation. After a few days of sadness, I decided to work a lot harder at school to prove to the teacher that she was wrong. I also decided to become a positive role-model for my child.”
“Life as a mother is completely different and I always tell my friends that they must be careful because being a mom is no joke. The father of my child paid the damages three days after my child was born. He was finally allowed to see her. I was well supported by my family but my boyfriend has been unsupportive. At home our lives have completely changed and the little money we have is spent on my child. Between school and taking care of her all my time is also gone. I no longer have time for myself, if I could go back I would be more responsible.”
Bongisa ended by saying, “when you make a bad decision, you need to bounce back and not allow people to define you by your mistake. It is true I am now a mother, but I am also the same person I was before. My needs are the same and now more than ever, I need people around me to be loving and caring towards me and my child.”
Bongisa is a Leaders’ Quest participant, an intervention offered by Salesian Life Choices