University is stressful enough with deadlines, reading and the pressure to do well. So, when I found out I was pregnant after my first year of my journalism degree, I was mainly greeted with “what about university?” rather than ‘congratulations’.
I never wanted to drop out of my course and I always wanted to continue studying, but I was advised by a health professional that I would have to choose between raising my baby or completing my degree as it would be difficult to do both. A few university staff also recommended delaying studies because it would be hard to juggle a newborn with deadlines, but that was not what I wanted to do.
When my second year started, I was fully aware that I wasn’t a ‘normal’ student anymore. I was the girl that had got pregnant at uni.
I found it really hard at first when I would walk around the university campus and received funny looks from other students, as though my bump and I didn’t belong there, but over time I got over that. I had as much right to be there studying as anyone else.
If anything, expecting a baby gave me more drive to do better because this degree wasn’t just for me now. It would be hard, but I knew I could do it.
My partner was also at university studying business, and I knew he could do this too.
For five months of my pregnancy, I spent it preparing for deadlines for around my due date and shortly after. I traded my late nights drinking for even more late nights studying. If I wasn’t studying, I was working as much as possible because I wouldn’t be getting maternity pay.
I hated people telling me to take it easy and to sit down, relax. Keeping busy was all I’ve ever known, I was never the type of person to sit and watch TV instead of doing chores or let everyone else do the hard work and I was like this up until I went into labour.
On February 21 2017, I gave birth to my healthy baby boy, Leo, with my partner Dylan and mum Sherida by my side. The first few weeks were hard. I was emotional and tired after a long labour and then the sleepless nights followed.
Everyone says to ‘sleep when your baby sleeps’, but as a student I couldn’t afford to. When Leo slept, I carried on with essays and projects. I had two weeks off where I did all my studying from home, but then I went back to my lectures and seminars to carry on with studies as normal as possible.
My university course leaders were incredible. They let me attend university as normal with my son if I couldn’t arrange childcare. When he was less than a month old I did a graded presentation with him in my arms, pitching a magazine idea while rocking him to sleep.
I found myself becoming more like a university student, relying on coffee to get me through the morning lectures and rocking the messy bun and comfy clothes look. The only difference was that I was up all night with a baby rather than partying, but I wouldn’t trade that for the world.
Eventually we got into a really good routine, which I could then stay up until around midnight doing my university work, my partner would help with the last 12am feed and then we would all sleep while 8am – lucky us!
My parents also helped a lot too, coming up on their days off from work to watch Leo while me and Dylan either went to the library or studied from home.
Life as a university mum is not easy. I’m now in my final year and Leo is a one-year-old. I can no longer rely on his naps for me to get on with work, so I often have to complete assignments while he plays, but he often finds hitting the keyboard on my laptop or trying to shut it more entertaining.
I never thought I would be ‘that’ person to have a baby at university.
When I was asked ‘what about university’, I replied that I was carrying on and not dropping out or taking a year off and people were shocked. ‘How will you do it?’ People say how inspiring it is that I am coping so well with motherhood and student responsibilities, but I cope just the same as any mother and any student.
Being a student is tiring, stressful and there are a lot of tears and let downs when you fall 1% short of a good grade. Being a mum is also tiring, hard and sometimes there are tears, but I would not trade either for the world.
They say university is supposed to be the best three years of your life and they are. Even more so for me, being the ‘university mum’.