University is hard enough sometimes with all the deadlines, essential reading, pressure to keep on top of everything and do well. And one question everyone asked me when I first said I was pregnant was, “What about university?”
I’d always done my best to take life as it came, never plan for the future because you never know what’s around the corner. But the one thing I did plan was to get a degree and then a job I enjoyed doing before even thinking about starting a family.
So finding out I was pregnant meant I couldn’t just think about myself. I had to think about what would be best for the baby too.
I knew deep down that I wanted to continue with university. I just had to weigh up all my options. Delaying my second year wasn’t an option as I knew I’d lose the motivation to continue with my studies. Nor could I get a job – who would hire me, knowing I’d have to go on maternity leave after four months?
My advice to anyone who finds themselves in the ‘student mum’ situation is to contact their course leader or student support officer for advice. I emailed one of the lecturers I trusted in the early stages of the pregnancy and two months before the new academic year just so I could discuss my options.
After having a meeting with the lecturer and support officer, I was advised against continuing my studies in the second semester (January – May), because looking after a newborn baby isn’t the easiest job in the world, never mind the added pressure of deadlines and passing each module. I had up until December to make a decision and sign any paperwork. By the time December came, I had decided against delaying my second semester for another year. Instead, my placement year would be a gap year to look after our baby, before continuing my final year at university.
The decision didn’t come easy. I had to consider the amount of work I’d have to do, so to get a head start I emailed all my module leaders for the second semester to make them aware of my situation. I asked them to send me resources to read over the Christmas holidays so I could get ahead with the work.
When I first told people I was pregnant and continuing with university, they told me it was “so good and brave” and wished me luck. But they still looked confused as to how I was going to manage. I know it won’t be easy, I just know that taking a year off between my second and final year will be better for myself and for Leo, than stopping midway through my studies. Putting a pause midway through my academic year made me feel as though I would be waiting around for Leo to arrive, and I just wanted to keep busy and get as much work done as possible.
At the end of the day, I wanted to get my degree and a good job and I still want that. But it’s no longer just for me anymore. I want to continue with my degree, do my baby proud and give him the best start in life. It’ll just take a little longer than expected.