Today, I’m sharing my own Student Parent Story. If you’ve followed my blog from the beginning, you’ll know a lot of it – but it occurred to me that I’ve never condensed the full story into one single post.
If you haven’t read my blog before, I’ll introduce myself. I’m Maddy, and I became a student parent rather unexpectedly…
In my first year of university, studying a theatre degree, I drifted through pretty much everything. I had no solid plans for the future; I coasted through doing just enough at school and college and uni; even my social life was half-hearted. I went out and got drunk and did karaoke at the student bar, but nothing really made me feel passionate. I even drifted through my relationship with my boyfriend, Daf.
Then, at 19 and two weeks before the start of my second year of uni, I found out that I was pregnant. It was a bolt out of the blue, and for a while, it felt as though all my hopes and dreams were dashed. Thankfully, Daf was supportive, as were our friends and lecturers. It wasn’t a conscious decision to keep going with my degree; I just didn’t want to have to make a decision. I buried my head in the sand and decided to just push through for as long as I could.
It wasn’t easy. I was dealing with an increasingly-packed schedule of appointments alongside normal university work. On the day of my twelve-week scan, I went to the scan in the morning and played a heroin addict for an assessment in the afternoon. I played Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors at six months pregnant. When I had to be induced at thirty-seven weeks pregnant – also the final week of contact hours for the year -, I had to make a slightly-nervous phone call to the lecturer, telling him that I wouldn’t be able to be in the stage crew for the end-of-year show, as I was having a baby.
My daughter SB was born on the final “contact” day of my second year. Two weeks after she was born, I wrote essays in between night feeds, miraculously passing the year with a 2:1. Again, there was never any conscious intention to keep going; I was just too tired and overwhelmed to deal with the paperwork of deferring my studies.
After a summer spent together, learning how to be parents, SB went into nursery and Daf and I returned to university, now as student parents. It wasn’t easy, and we encountered obstacles along the way – many of which I documented here on the blog – but we got through it. There were times when I never thought we would, but we were lucky to have an amazingly supportive university (I can’t recommend Glyndwr University enough), fantastic family and friends and incredible lecturers, who never stopped encouraging us.
When I fell pregnant, I consoled myself to the idea of never finishing my degree. Through the pregnancy, I started to think that maybe I could return to it in a few years. When SB was born, I decided to carry on and do my third year, but knew that I’d probably need to do it in two years, rather than one. At the beginning of third year, I thought I’d need to re-sit the year if I managed it all. By Christmas, I was hopeful that I’d graduate, but certainly not with a decent grade.
I graduated with a First-class degree.
I don’t say that to brag. I want my experience to show people everywhere that if young parents want to continue studying, they must be supported to do so. Some people on my course assumed I’d drop out of university when I fell pregnant. Some even tried to pressure me to quit. I took their criticism and turned it into motivation and drive to prove them wrong. No-one should be faced with the expectation that they must drop out when they fall pregnant. Parents and parents-to-be should feel supported and encouraged, and universities, colleges, schools and learning providers should be behind them all the way.
Getting pregnant during my studies was never part of my plan, but it was the making of me. I now have a clear goal in mind – to become a paramedic – and I know how to achieve it. Daf and I are married; we have a fantastic group of friends; SB will be heading off to school soon. I hope more than anything that I have shown her that she is capable of anything she puts her mind to. Being a student parent is immeasurably difficult, but it pays dividends. Nothing compares to crossing the stage on your graduation day, knowing that your child – the reason you persisted and pushed through – is watching.
If you’d like to share your Student Parent Story, please email me – firstname.lastname@example.org. Whatever your student parent journey was, is or will be, I’d love to hear about it!