SF State student balances school and pregnancy as graduation draws near
Four months ago, Danielle Acierto took a test that did not require studying, and was shocked at the results. The 24-year-old sat alone in disbelief, scared and somewhat excited, when she discovered that she was pregnant.
Now with just a few weeks left of school, she is looking forward to graduating with a degree in psychology. However, it’s proving to be difficult as she tries to balance school and her pregnancy as she enters her second trimester.
Research conducted in 2008 by the Guttmacher Institute on unintended pregnancy found that more than two-thirds of pregnancies among unmarried women aged 20 to 29 were not planned.
Acierto said after taking numerous pregnancy tests which all came up negative, she figured her latest test would read the same way. She was wrong.
“I cried when it showed the results. I never thought I would be pregnant. I sat there and I just couldn’t breathe,” Acierto said. “The test didn’t have a plus or minus response either, so it just said in big bold letters: pregnant.”
Albert Angelo, a health educator with Student Health Services, said there are a multitude of stressors involved with being a pregnant student, such as the social impact, time management and the process of change. Most importantly, she must come to the realization that she’s becoming a parent.
“The amount of stress you put on your baby while pregnant will have a very influential impact on its development,” Angelo said. “Everything is going to come at you all at once and your mind is going to be on a swirl, but the student has to slow down and put everything in front of them and take it one step at a time.”
Acierto said she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis during her senior year of high school, and it severely affected her during her first few semesters at SF State because her memory was declining and she was fatigued throughout the day.
Her grades suffered two years ago because she had trouble comprehending the lectures and staying awake in classes, so she dropped out in the middle of the semester. She wasn’t allowed to continue at SF State until she raised her grade point average.
“I realized I took going to SF State for granted when I was forced to fix my grades at City College,” Acierto said. “I didn’t feel comfortable, so I worked my butt off to get back to SF State.”
Acierto said she was tired of her sickness slowing her down, but when she found out she was pregnant, she knew she had to push herself to do better.
“I could’ve easily given up on school and get a job that wasn’t asking for a degree, but I looked how far I’ve gotten and realized there was no reason why I couldn’t graduate,” Acierto said.
She said she never sought out any help from her professors because of her pregnancy or her multiple sclerosis. “I didn’t want special attention from anyone at school. I just wanted to be treated like the rest of the students,” Acierto said.
According to research done by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, pregnancy reduces the number of multiple sclerosis attacks.
“My memory was so bad and I used to have to be hospitalized because the attacks were so severe, but this pregnancy has had an all-around positive effect on me. It’s been a true blessing because I feel like it protects me,” Acierto said.
Acierto said she wasn’t looking forward to telling her mom that she was pregnant.
“I went to her room, sat down at the edge of her bed and told her I need to tell her something. She immediately knew something was wrong, so I just outright told her, ‘I think I’m pregnant,’” Acierto said. “I was scared, but she was so overjoyed. Knowing that my mom was happy, nothing else mattered to me because her support means the world to me.”
Acierto’s mother, Livien Muulimbayan, said she knows Acierto is going to be a good mother.
“It’s a true blessing and I’m looking forward to seeing my grandchild,” Muulimbayan said. “She has been through a lot of struggles from her sickness to her schooling, but she still continues to amaze me and make me proud.”
Acierto’s good friend, Rachel Sales said although times get hard, she tries to be there for her as much as possible.
“Danielle is going to make a good mom. She will always make it out of tough situations the best she can,” Sales said.
Acierto said she cried after she filled out her graduation application because she’s been through so much to get to this point, and now her baby has become her biggest motivation to finish school.
“I know my baby can hear me now,” Acierto said. “So every day I tell it I know I’m not going to have to worry about anything because you’re going to be strong just like me. Times will be hard, but we can do this.”