This will be a long one so grab yourself a snack!
I started my degree in September 2016, after having a year out to work full time. I did this to make sure that it was definitely the degree I wanted to do because obviously, it’s a lot of money! I settled on English Literature and Journalism due to my adoration of writing. I felt that a combined degree like this kept my options open as at the time I was toying with the idea of being a Literature teacher, but I was also fascinated by the world of Journalism.
Instantly, I fell in love with both subjects and adored my time there.
Unfortunately, in the January of 2017, my Dad passed away. I was absolutely beyond heart broken and didn’t want to continue with anything in my life, never mind my degree. I wasn’t attending as much, I wasn’t putting the effort in. Outside of University, I wasn’t looking after myself at all and I became very poorly, both physically and mentally. I fell pregnant three months later and it was what I needed more than anything. At first I was terrified, I thought I was going to have to drop out and I was panicking so much!
Thankfully, the pregnancy had the opposite affect and I was more motivated than I’d ever been before. I quit smoking, stopped having three energy drinks a day, ate better, drank water and genuinely looked after myself and I felt amazing. Being pregnant gave me the drive and the motivation to want to make something of myself.
A lot of people asked me what I was going to do when I told them. I think in a lot of people’s eyes it was a case of abortion or abandoning my degree. Why does it have to be like that, though? I wanted both worlds and I believe that when you set your mind to something, nothing can hold you back.
I had eight weeks from finding out until breaking up for the summer and I spent those eight weeks walking out of lectures to be sick! I didn’t mind though. I was creating a beautiful baby inside of me and I was so motivated to succeed and get this degree not only for me, but for him too.
I told the University about my pregnancy and when the baby was due. It’s important that they know this and they know that you may be off for scans, hospital appointments etc. The vast majority of my lecturers were extremely supportive and kind about it all. The University will also help you to decide whether you want to put your studies on hold, or simply keep going. I decided to keep going because I thought it would be harder to leave and come back than just to keep pushing on. My tutor helped me to work my timetable for the semester after the birth of my son so that my contact hours would be minimal and it wouldn’t be too much of a strain or too difficult to find child care.
You also need to speak to Student Finances as you are entitled to an extra amount of money on top of your student loan and grants for being a parent in education.
When I started my second year of University I was approaching the six month mark and was visibly showing a bump. I’m not going to lie to you, people stare. I always took that as a compliment though. I only ever heard one person make a negative comment under their breath but every single other person was so supportive. Everyone in my class was asking questions and being kind and then just genuinely treating me like a normal student which is all I wanted.
My baby was growing a lot more than expected and I was off a few times for growth scans and appointments but like I mentioned, my lecturers were great. The only time my pregnancy ever affected my work is when I was expected to do a ten minute presentation infront of a lot of people at 34 weeks pregnant. I physically and mentally couldn’t do it and I was having anxiety attacks at the thought. I’d suffered from anxiety for years and this was bringing it all back, I was being sick, shaking and just feeling awful and I knew I couldn’t put myself or my baby through that. I was in hospital one night for reduced foetal movements that I believe was down to my stress and that was the last straw for me. My son will always come first and so I handed in a sick note from my doctor and forfeited the presentation. I then had to catch up in the Summer with an essay to improve that mark. It seemed awful at the time but know that if you ever have to do something like that, then it’s for the best. An assignment can be redone but you can’t take back any damage caused to you or your baby so always always always make sure you put you and your baby before your degree.
We broke up for Christmas break in December 2017 and I went into labour on January 8th 2018. I realised, when I was in labour, that I had two essays due on the 10th and the 11th of January, which I’d totally forgotten about. I went into the hospital at 11pm on the 8th and was sent home as I was only 2cm dilated. I then finished one of the two essays whilst frantically jumping around on my pregnancy ball between contractions. Finally, I went back into the hospital at 7.30am and I gave birth to my perfect baby boy at 16:37. Unfortunately, he was a little under the weather which meant that we had to stay in hospital until the 13th, but on the bright side this gave me the opportunity to finish that other essay that I totally forgot about.
I brought my gorgeous boy home and I had two weeks before I had to return to my studies, which was hard, as in a job you get a lot longer. I was just grateful that we were both ok and home safe and sound. I was sore, tired (exhausted) and anxious when I returned but I stayed at it and made sure that I kept up the best I could. My boy motivated me more than anything to keep going. Even though you may feel anxious and even depressed for what seems like forever, your confidence will bounce back and the dark clouds will always pass. It can’t rain forever!
If I didn’t have my friends and family behind me I’m not sure I would have made it this far they were so supportive and amazing. The friends I made at University always made sure I never fell behind and that I was doing my best so make sure you don’t push them away because you will need them more than ever.
The main key piece of advice I would give to a woman in my position is to accept all the help you can get because it’s not easy. University is such an emotionally demanding thing to go through with seemingly endless essays, presentations and reading. Having all that alone is hard enough, but whilst raising a new baby and coming to terms with your new life as a mum can sometimes feel impossible. I’m here to tell you it’s not. You can do whatever it is you want and you can achieve anything you want to achieve. With the right support, the motivation, the drive and the determination, you can do it. I promise! Just remember why you started and who you’re doing it for. Your future self will thank you and the feeling you get when they call your name on graduation day is worth it all.
I didn’t write this for any other reason than to tell mums to be in my situation that it can be done. You do not have to choose between being a mum and your education. You can do both. I promise.
If you are in my situation and would like a chat or someone to talk to about anything I’ve touched on, please do not hesitate to message me on Instagram or Twitter, I’d be more than happy to help. (@beccalhargate)
Stay strong and be the boss bitch you were born to be, the universe wouldn’t have given you this life if you couldn’t handle it.