Like any young mother-to-be, 14-year-old Tintswalo Chauke* was terrified when she found out she was pregnant.
The fact that she was not prepared for a child and that she still had her studies to worry about resulted in her becoming depressed.
“My depression was caused by the pregnancy. I had not had my period for three months and although I thought something was wrong, I didn’t think that I could be pregnant. There were other signs [of pregnancy] that my mother picked up, such as me vomiting.
“My mother discovered I was pregnant before I could even understand what was going on, she just needed confirmation. She and [Community Health Worker] Mrs. Sarah Mashaba took me to the clinic where my pregnancy test results came out positive,” says Chauke.
Although Chauke’s parents had their suspicions, nothing could have prepared them for the moment their second-born child’s pregnancy was confirmed. However, their astonishment quickly changed to compassion when they thought about the support and care their daughter and yet unborn grandchild would need.
“I was lucky that my parents were supportive from the start. They helped me accept the situation I had found myself in and vowed to support me going forward. They could see that I was stressed and never made me feel bad. I still remember the day I was told I was pregnant. I couldn’t stop crying as I didn’t know what would happen next or how I would explain it to my parents. I’m happy that they didn’t get angry, their support has helped me cope with the depression I suffered,” she adds.
She says the support she received from her CHW has helped her recover.
“At first, I could not admit to myself that I was depressed. I just could not accept that I had this problem. Mrs. Mashaba encouraged me to open up and tell her or anyone else I felt comfortable with about the problems I was facing.
“I’m now better thanks to her, she even says I look far better than I looked when I first approached her for help. Her motto is ‘talking helps’ and I have to agree with her – it does help. It is the first step to recovery.
“Some community members would often ask me about my pregnancy and, at first, I’d try to avoid their questions, but I now see that running away from your problems does not help, it only makes you worse.”
Chauke continues going to school and says her favourite subjects are life sciences, mathematics and geography. She believes that with the support of Mashaba and her parents, she’ll be able to raise her baby and become a police officer one day. Mashaba says she will keep checking on her until her baby is two years old.
*Not her real name