Teenage pregnancy and addiction not a setback for one Carleton student

When she became pregnant at 17, Dominique Molzan realized her life had to change.

She is now a 27-year-old social work master’s student at Carleton. Up until her pregnancy, she said she struggled with addictions, unhealthy relationships, and unstable living situations. But looking at where she is now, she said she “would change nothing.”

Molzan said becoming a mother required “a lot of strength and resiliency.”

Many mothers are having children while attending university and some, such as Molzan, choose to start university only after their children are born.

“I made the steps that I knew I needed to make to stay clean and sober,” Molzan said.

She said she accessed support centres for young parents, including St. Mary’s Home and the Youville Centre in Ottawa, while pregnant with her son, Hunter, who is now nine-years-old.

The Youville Centre and St. Mary’s Home both serve pregnant teens by offering mental health programs, parenting classes, and support to get young families off to a healthy start. St. Mary’s Home specializes in a teen’s prenatal journey and the Youville Centre would typically take over once the child has been born.

A lot of the graduates from the Youville Centre go onto Algonquin College, and others, like Molzan, continue on to university.

On average, about one every year or one every two years will continue onto university, said Heather Heagney, communications and community development officer for the Youville Centre.

After completing her high school diploma at the Youville Centre, Molzan said she achieved a diploma from Algonquin College.

She then moved on to Carleton to attain a bachelor’s degree in social work and is now completing her master’s in the same field.

Carleton offers services to pregnant women or those with young children. One of these is a small brick building across from Athletics—the Colonel By Child Care Centre. Molzan, however doesn’t use the centre, as her children went to daycare at the Youville Centre.

While the centre operates through City of Ottawa-supplied waiting lists, the centre always gives priority to the Carleton community, according to Rita Renaud, the centre’s co-ordinator.

The childcare centre’s population is currently 98 per cent “Carleton affiliated families,” Renaud said. She added that, for extra support, the City of Ottawa offers subsidized spaces for families who use the Colonel By Child Care Centre.

Carleton’s Health and Counseling Services offers physicians and registered nurses to students who are pregnant. Services include: preconception advising, pregnancy testing, counseling, and prenatal information with referrals to Ottawa area services, according to their website.

For Carleton students who become pregnant during their studies, the university has the Student Parental Leave Policy.

The policy exists “to permit a pause in studies in order to provide full-time care in the first year of parenting a child or for health-related parental responsibilities.”

Molzan said there is still a daily social stigma young parents face.

She said it would be nice to see a society that recognized the qualities young mothers possess, like herself, to succeed.

Two years after the birth of her son, Molzan had another child, a girl named Sadie, now seven years old.

“People would not imagine what it is like to be 17 and pregnant,” she said, “or 18 with a one-year-old and pushing that stroller every day through the snow banks to go to school, so that you can get a high school education.”

There has been an evolution in the social services for teenage pregnancy, though this in no way “diminishes the struggles that the girls go through,” Heagney said.

Molzan is now focused on finishing her degree and said her two children are her motivators and inspiration.

“I would have never expected to have changed so much as a woman by having kids and by being a mother,” she said.