“Do anything nice over the summer? “
I gave birth during the summer of 2014: a week after I finished my final term of my first year at university. I returned 8 weeks later: the beginning of term 1, year 2.
When I found out I was preggers in 2013 (just two months into my first year) I contemplated giving up. I’m already regarded a mature student, now I’m pregnant. How the actual fuck was I going to be a student and be a parent. There was no way. Abortion was never going to be an option; the only feasible choice was to quit school and start making money.
One night I smashed away at my keyboard, scrawling a long email to Mr T, one of my lecturers. He seemed cool and we got on. I didn’t know who else to turn to. I got super emotional and by this point I had only known him a month. I pressed send and straight away felt the pangs of regret- “I’m going to look so stupid”. 🙊
Opening the reply changed my life. “It will work itself out and we will be here to support you”.
Fast forward two years and some change and my son is now 23 months, I am three months away from graduating and have just been promoted at work, in my first career-driven role.
Brains not belly.
Now, don’t get me wrong, rolling up to lectures pregnant was kind of embarrassing at first but my friends were really supportive and tbh I hid it well: I didn’t want to be given special treatment. I wanted to stand out for my brain not my belly.
Being a student AND a mother is hard, harder than hard. All you want to do is sleep, but the only time you can actually complete work is when the baby sleeps so technically you just don’t sleep- at all. You’re unable to spend sufficient time on your assignments and extensions become your BFF. However, it gives you this weird hulk-like motivation and strength to push through all the challenged juggling these two lifestyles bring.
For me, it was about not stopping. One lecturer advised me to defer (take a 6 month break) and return effectively graduating 6 months after everyone else. There was no way. If I had slowed down, I would’ve not started up again. As baby turned two months old, I continued my studies and haven’t stopped to look back.
Two jobs. One summer.
In the summer of 2015 I worked two jobs- one to pay for childcare and the other to earn money to survive on. The second job I found after discovering there was no way I had enough from my first part-time job to cover the costs of childcare; I needed another income. I trawled Twitter and found a two-day PR job. Perfect. I began as an intern and 10 months later I am heading up the department.
To be able to achieve as a student-parent you’ve got to allow yourself to be vulnerable. Before I needed help I cringed at talking to student support services or guidance counsellors. It all seemed a bit desperate. But I was. Sure, there are times when I want to quit, unable to focus on writing 2,500 word assignments, but I just think of where I want to be, will be and that this is temporary. Make use of all the help on offer at university. Start with a lecturer you trust and then with their support approach your student services: every university has one. Create a routine and do a little a day. If you’ve got a 1,500 word assignment due in, spend an hour writing your plan then over a week do 300 words a day once the baby is in bed. Planning is key to not losing your mind.
A (nearly) happy ending.
I don’t pretend to know it all but I know that in two months I’ll be graduating at Wembley Stadium. Only two years after writing that email to my lecturer about giving up whilst my 13-week old embryo floated inside me. It’s all been worth it; but it’s not over. I’m still 2,700 words into a 6,000 word final paper and there’s still two assignments to go… I’ll get there though…
…and so will you.