Strong Women

How a young Somali mother defied all odds to achieve success


maryan-sahan-journalPic: Maryan Abdi and her son after graduation

“You are your own worst critic,” so goes the saying, but today I am my biggest cheerleader. As my hooyo (mom) said, “No Pain, No Gain.”

I have been waiting to tell this story for awhile now, so please take the time to read it.

I got married at age 18 and the word around town was that I was a few months pregnant. Little did they know; I just wanted to please God and do things the right way.

The only promise I made to my mother was to finish college. It was decided for me that I would become a welfare recipient, a college dropout, and/or a divorcee. People didn’t think much of me, but I couldn’t blame them because I didn’t either. It didn’t help that I repeated a year of high school as well.

After many tears and the grace of God, I became determined to make something out of myself. I wasn’t going to let anyone or anything get in the way. I wasn’t going to let rumors and words stop me. And I certainly did not want to become a statistic to be quoted to illustrate the sorry state of women in my society.

Fast forward three years and this was our first pregnancy/child. Few know this but I had a high risk pregnancy. They told me I was going to miscarry, then possibly have a baby with defects, then finally that there was a high chance my child would be stillborn.

My labor was life threatening. I had less than 24 hours to live if the labor did not progress well. The labor also came six week before my expected due date, meaning my son would be born prematurely. There was a chance that me and/or my son wasn’t going to make it. But we both made it alive and are healthy.

My family were optimistic that things would go well because they have always called me a survivor.

That being said, the odds were not in my favor. It is said that couples who marry under 25 years have the highest rate of divorce and approximately 2 percent of mothers between the ages of age 15 and 22 will receive a college degree by the time they are 30.

I was working, had an internship, lived 30 minutes away and still drove almost every day. To say I was stressed was an understatement.

Throughout my trials, I was guided by the principle of: “One who doesn’t thank others doesn’t thank God.”

Though, I lost friends I’ve gained many more.

I could not and would not have done it without my amazing support system. Especially Liban Abdulkadir Abdulle who has been my rock. There were many other great friends who lifted me up when I was down. To those who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. And the ones who didn’t, thanks for motivating me.

I used to cry because of what was being said about me or how people treated me. I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’m going to make more but I have learned that it is about how you recover from it. A wise friend told me: “Fall 7, Get up 8.”

Today I have tears of joy because I got married young, became a young mom, had to work, got an internship, had my friends and family doubt me, I had my own doubts, gave birth and was recovering from a caesarean section. Took only three weeks off, suffered slightly from postpartum depression in the midst of midterms. Adjusting to motherhood while my son was in the neonatal intensive care unit and didn’t give up.

My son and I fought for our lives and survived with the help of God.

At my graduation, we both walked across the stage and picked up my diploma. I graduated with two degrees and a minor on time! Not bad for a 22 year old, aye?

I hope I can be an inspiration and a positive light for others like me. It is not easy being a minority, a woman, or being a Muslim; so to be all three is even tougher.

I hope I can change people’s perception. They say only 1 percent of the world has a college degree, if I have to be a statistic of any kind best believe, I am going to be a part of one that’s in my favor.

This is for the underdogs, let alone women, because I am living proof that we can come out tops.

I hope anyone reading this decides to do something great with their lives. Don’t ever give up. It’s going to be very hard and people are going to talk whether you are doing good or doing bad.

I’m not going to lie and say it’s not going to hurt because it will. Probably for a long time but the best revenge is to be the best person you can be. Someone God and society can be proud of. A positive role model.

Mama, I hope I made you proud. This was for you. WE MADE IT! Next step: MBA.

Article first appeared on Maryan’s Facebook page and was republished by Sahan with her permission.

Note from Sahan Journal: This post has original appeared on Maryam Abdi’s Facebook page. It has been edited lightly for clarity and reprinted with permission. Maryam can be reached at Follow her on Instagram @msmaryam1.


All Things Somali
All Things Somali (ATS) was launched for one simple reason: to create a medium for content about Somalis in their daily lives and in their inspiring moments.

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