School resources like TVA missionary nurses provide necessary care and relieve stress, said BYU–Hawaii student mothers. Also, efforts from the BYUH Women’s Organization to give student mothers new-mom kits made being a mother in school less challenging, they said.
Alyssa Orrego, a recent alumna who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English, said she is happy the school is mindful of mothers and families. “BYUH has so many young families, and all the resources they provide for us show BYUH is a family-friendly school, and it values education no matter what situation you are in.”
Suvd-Erdene Boldbaatar, a senior from Mongolia majoring in human resources, said, “We can’t raise children while studying and working at the same time anywhere else. But BYUH provides this opportunity for us. I just can’t thank the school and nurses enough for this wonderful opportunity.”
Boldbaatar said she received help from three different TVA missionary nurses. “First, Sister Black, [a previous missionary nurse] drove me to the hospital when I gave birth to my first son. Then, Sister Edgar replaced Sister Black.
“Sister Edgar taught me many useful skills to care for my newborn, such as how to shower. Now, Sister Bulkley is helping me with my second son. She is a very nice and helpful person. She checks my blood pressure and checks if I am having postpartum depression or not. Her care makes me feel that I am loved and cared for.”
The current missionary nurse is Sister Judi Bulkley, who came in September 2019. It is her fourth mission, she said. She served in Connecticut with her husband. Then, she served in the Marshall Islands and Washington, D.C. as a missionary nurse.
Bulkley works with the BYUH Health Center and is assigned to work with TVA mothers and babies. She visits mothers before they give birth to educate them about pregnancy. After they give birth, she visits them at least three times to inform them about postpartum depression, immunization, and caring for newborns.
She also conducts “Keiki Corner,” a weekly activity, where mothers discuss motherhood issues and exchange information, and children can come and play with toys.
Orrego added her experience with missionary nurses. “Sister Edgar helped me with my first son. It was very helpful since I was an inexperienced new mom. Now, Sister Bulkley helps with my second son. I know most of the things but still have some questions ... Everybody needs that extra help.”
Student spouse and mother of two Cathy Elisan said, “My first daughter has Ohtahara syndrome, which is a neurological disorder that causes seizures. Even though she is 3 years old, she is like an infant. Sister Edgar helped me and comforted me many times when I was alone and far from home.”
Jislene Tevi, a mother of three from Vanuatu, was alone when she gave birth to her second child, because her husband was in New York on a Career Connect trip making connections with professionals.
“I was about to give birth, but I didn’t have anyone to help. I called Sister Edgar, and she helped me to go to the hospital. She also stayed with me in the hospital. Now, Sister Bulkley is helping me with my third son. She helps me with my postpartum depression and gave me the new-mom kit.”
Nancy Eastwood, president of the BYUH Women’s Organization, said, “Initially, it was Sister Edgar’s [the previous missionary nurse] idea. She approached us, and we supported the idea. Many of the new student mothers are far from home and need help. It was one small thing we can do for them.”
The organization contacts bishops and Relief Society presidencies to know who needs the kits and distributes the kits through the missionary nurses. Eastwood said they have distributed more than 80 kits. New-mom kits have diapers, wipes, baby clothes, baby hygiene products and breast care products for mothers.
Trempty Akau, a sophomore from the Solomon Islands majoring in social work, gave birth to her third son recently and said she was happy to receive the new-momkit. She said, “We bought the big stuff like a crib, stroller, but didn’t buy the small things yet. But our son came out four weeks early, and we were not ready. However, the new-mom kit had almost everything I needed, and we are very grateful for this gift.”
The Women’s Organization raises funds for scholarships for students who need financial help through luncheons and bake sales. They provide $300 scholarships for more than 20 students every year in May. The scholarships are available for every BYUH student, and according to Eastwood, over the years many of the recipients have been student mothers.
The organization also runs the “Sub for Santa” charity project for married students every December. The women work with bishops to find out what their ward members need. Eastwood said the Laie community helps the organization by donating toys, gift cards, clothes and other useful things.
Suggestions from mothers
Despite missionary nurses and motherkits, student mothers said the school could provide more resources for them by building more playgrounds and mothers’ rooms, establishing campus day care and extending visitors’ stay periods for mothers who give birth.
TVA has two playgrounds, one for older children and one for younger children. Some mothers suggested there should be more playgrounds for children under age 3.
“My children are too young to play on the bigger playground, and the small one is always overcrowded,” noted Tevi. “So, we definitely need another playground for children under age 3.” Akau shared the swings of the big playground are missing and need a replacement.
Mothers also suggested since BYUH has many student mothers, every major campus building should have mothers’ rooms. Boldbaatar said she is hoping for the General Classroom Building, which is under construction, to have a mothers’ room.
Elisan said it would be a great blessing if BYUH were to establish a day-care service for students’ children. “When parents have overlapping classes and work, it is a real problem to find babysitters.”
Student mothers mentioned it is hard to have babies while studying and working at the same time, so they need their family members to help after they give birth. However, the TVA guest stay policy is only for two weeks, and they said they felt it is not long enough.
Mothers said if the BYUH Housing Department extends the guest stay period to 2-6 months for mothers who are having a baby, it will alleviate many problems.