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The Experience of Pregnancy and Completing College With An Infant

Guest post written by Morgan C.

College in general was a crazy 4 years. So much happens in what seems like a long time, but it ends up going by incredibly fast. However, I would say my college experience ended up being a bit different than most. During the winter semester my Junior year I found out I was pregnant.

Finding out I was pregnant was a roller coaster of emotions. I remember the day like it was yesterday. My boyfriend at the time (now fiancé) and I had been joking about me being pregnant since my period was late. So, finally, I ordered some pregnancy tests on Amazon. They arrived December 28th, 2017 about mid day. At this point I was getting nervous and my hands were starting to sweat like crazy. I rushed to the bathroom to take a test because I couldn’t bear to wait for my boyfriend to get home from work.

I was sitting there shaking as I watched the moisture move through the window inside the stick, one blue line, two blue lines immediately. I was pregnant. My first thought was it could be false, so I quickly took another one. Same thing, immediately two pink lines showed up. Anyone who has taken a pregnancy test and read the directions knows they say to wait up to a couple minutes for lines to show up or that the lines may be faint. There I was sitting with two tests bright blue lines on both.

My heart dropped to my stomach, my stomach jumped up to my throat. I felt like I was going to throw up and I started sobbing uncontrollably. The emotions that went through my thoughts were all negative. I can’t do this. I am 2 semesters away from graduating college. How willI finish school and have a baby? What will people think of me? More importantly what will my parents think?

I truthfully do not remember how I told my boyfriend, but I believe I texted him a picture of the test and I honestly don’t remember how he responded because I was so emotionally out of sorts. All I can remember is crying so hard my chest tightened and I couldn’t breathe, I was panicking. Later when my boyfriend got home we talked about what to do, which led to more crying. Mostly me doubting my ability to be pregnant and give birth, raise a child, and finish school. I was so set on getting an abortion. Meanwhile my boyfriend was trying his best to talk me off of a ledge that he and I both knew I would have regretted jumping off of for the rest of my life.

Since I was taking a winter course, I had to get up and go to school the next day. I woke up feeling incredibly sick. Between nerves and morning sickness setting in I showed up to class first thing in the morning with gingerale and saltine crackers. I can still hear my professor (who was one of my favorites) busting my chops about my breakfast of champions (he probably thought I was hungover). I played along and laughed at the joke, all while freaking out inside. 

A little more time went on and I hadn’t really told anyone becasue I was still set on terminating the pregnancy. I had done research about clinics near me and the cost. I was ready to make an appointment until my boyfriend called me one night drunk from the bar with his friends sobbing about how he would do anything to get me to keep this baby. He is not one for crying so hearing him cry like that made my heart drop. I sat on the other end of the phone crying while listening to him beg and plea his heart out. He even went on about how his brother and sister in law would adopt the child for us if we felt we couldn’t raise it, which made me cry even harder.

The conversation basically ended with me saying I would consider keeping the baby. I stopped looking at appointments for abortion clinics and began a search for a place I could get an ultrasound that wouldn’t charge to my insurance, which would cause my parents to see the charge and raise many questions that I was not yet ready to answer. I started telling some of my closest friends, many of which responded very excitedly. I also started talking to my boyfriend’s sister-in-law. She became a huge supporter for me and showed me nothing but love and encouragement through out the whole pregnancy.

As I started telling more people and saw how excited other people were for me. It helped me to get more excited about having a baby too. All of the same fears still lingered in the back of my head, but I just brushed them aside. My boyfriend’s sister-in-law helped me begin planning how we would tell the rest of my boyfriends family and my family. I came up with some cute crafty sayings that rhymed to let everyone know they were going to be an aunt, uncle, grandma, or grandpa (I’d share some of them but we lost them when my hard drive crashed a few years ago).

Then, my boyfriend’s sister in law helped me tie these little sayings to binkies and we put them in small individual bags for each couple to open. I planned dinner nights, one for my boyfriends family, and one for my family. All of our family reacted similarly, very excited for us and for a new baby in the family. I felt so relieved when we finally got telling everyone out of the way, and at this point I was so excited. Everyone was incredibly supportive! I had family telling me they would watch the baby so I could finish school, and reminding me that it may not be easy but I could do it. 

Of course the words of encouragement were helpful but, as many of you may know, when you have feelings of self-doubt, it’s not as simple as people telling you “you can do it” and all those fears disappear. Despite my support system, I still had many negative feelings. I still felt like I couldn’t make it through the pregnancy. Labor scared me more than I care to admit, and the thought of going back to school shortly after having a baby scared me. School was hard enough without throwing an infant into the mix!

My junior year spring semester went by pretty fast. In the beginning no one knew I was pregnant, because I wasn’t showing at all. I slowly started figuring out how to work it into conversations that I was pregnant. I was taking an infancy and toddlerhood class that semester which was really cool because we learned about everything I was currently going through and what would be coming up. I loved the attention and my professor would even ask me questions during class to help clarify, usually about what the most recent protocol was at the OBGYN’s office. Some of the questions were what kind of testing they were offering and what those tests looked for, what week I was and the types of appointments I was having, for example, an ultrasound at 20 weeks, but at week 24 just a routine check up.

I was also taking a personal health class that semester and my professor in that class was incredibly enthusiastic about my pregnancy. We talked about personal health and learned yoga, breathing techniques, and learned ways to identify, acknowledge, and control our emotions. All of these things helped me during my pregnancy and some techniques I even still use today!

I won’t deny that people 100% started treating me differently after learning I was pregnant. People were nicer, more understanding and professors showed a little more leniency and offered more help. That aspect helped make college a little easier, but being pregnant in general did not help. In the beginning I was nauseous all the time, so getting up to go to class and focusing during class if I felt sick was so difficult. I was tired no matter how much sleep I was getting and I was hot. Being hot and tired did not help with morning sickness! As I got farther along in the pregnancy, I gained some energy back and began feeling less sick, which certainly helped for school. Shockingly this semester was the first semester I had decent grades since I had gotten to college.

I had the summer off from school and I wasn’t working so I spent the summer enjoying my last few moments
of life without a child, because I knew soon my life was about to change forever. The summer flew by with me visiting friends and spending time with family. We spent a lot of time at the beach which I loved because being at the beach made me forget about all my fears of being pregnant. Something about the sun and beach breeze, burying my feet in the sand or splashing through the waves made all my fears disappear for a while.

As my due date approached, my nerves began going crazier and crazier! All my labor fears began resurfacing
again. “Can I even do this? Labor is so painful! How will I make it through? What if I feel sick? What if I actually get sick?” were all questions that flooded my brain. I have an irrational fear of throwing up, and being around anyone who is throwing up. Knowing you can throw up during labor was enough to practically set me into a panic attack not even including all of the other things that can go wrong during labor. Moms I knew always encouraged me, telling me things like, “It’s not so bad and it’s over before you know it!”

My due date ended up coming and going with no signs of labor! Two days after my due date, I had another appointment with my doctor. We scheduled an induction date and they told me to call for any reason. Then, they sent me on my way. I went home upset! I was huge, miserable, and ready for this baby to get out of my body! Around 3pm that afternoon, my contractions began. I was worried they were Braxton Hicks, but I began timing them anyway. Over the course of the next few hours I saw a pattern, each contraction lasting about a minute each and varying between 12 and 15 minutes apart. This was it! I was in the early stages of labor!

In total, I was in labor for about 19 hours start to finish. My contractions started around 3pm August 24th, 2018. Around 5pm, I called my mom to let her know I thought I was in labor, but not far enough to go to the hospital. She told me to make myself comfortable and let her know when my contractions got closer.

I laid down and rested, but didn’t sleep, from around 5pm until 9/10pm. By then, the contractions were getting closer, stronger, and more uncomfortable. I was still able to walk and talk, but I called my doctors office and spoke to the on call doctor. I told them my contractions were about 5 minutes apart and about a 5 or 6 for pain. They told me I could wait a little longer or go to the hospital and see about get checked out. Of course, being my impatient self, I decided to go to the hospital.

Going on 11pm, my mom came over and rode with us to the hospital. There doctor checked my dilation and said I was only about 2cm, which meant there had been no progress since the last time a doctor had checked! I was so devastated but they hooked me up to a monitor and confirmed I was in labor! It was around midnight now at this point and I had 2 options, I could go home (something I wanted to avoid at all costs) or I could walk around the maternity wing for an hour or two. Naturally I chose to walk around and hoped that my labor would progress so they didn’t send me home.

A little before 2am, after a lot of walking, stopping and keeling over from contraction pain and more walking, a nurse called me back to the room and they had me in to check my dilation again. “I would say you’re about 5cm dilated, so we are going to put you in a room, but we will wait to fully admit you.” This was music to my ears!

I got to my room, and we got all settled in, but it wasn’t long before my contractions got so strong I could barely breathe. I don’t know where my boyfriend was at the moment, but I can remember looking up at my mom, my mouth open as I’m trying to talk, but words won’t come out. “Breathe!” my mom exclaims, “You have to remember to breathe!” and she begins to try and walk me through breaths.

Finally, when I caught my breath I told my mom, “I couldn’t, I was trying but I literally could not breathe, mom that was so painful.” Yet, even once my breath was back, the pain didn’t fully go away. My mom and I examined the machine my belly was hooked up to and my contractions were topping off the charts and then only going down about halfway, but never fully going back down. The best way I can explain that is, that where most people get a break in between contractions, my body was still halfway contracting in-between real contractions. As soon as the nurse came back in I asked for an epidural.

It didn’t take long for the anesthesiologists to get to my room and give me the epidural, but man let me tell you, it felt like eternity! When you can’t breathe, are in excruciating pain, and are incredibly over tired, one minute feels like a lifetime! It was around 3/3:15am at this point now and once the epidural kicked in I was able to rest. I rested, but still didn’t really sleep, until morning time.

They continually checked on me during the night and by 9am I was fully dilated. They waited a little bit longer to see if my water would break, but one of the nurses ended up breaking my water around 9:45am. My daughter was born at 10:15am August 25th, 2018. They laid her on me for the first time after she was only briefly cleaned off, but I didn’t care! That was my baby girl I grew myself and just worked so hard to push out and now she was in my arms.

I was so overwhelmed with emotions that I began crying harder than I’d ever cried before. These tears were different than any other tears I’ve ever cried. They were tears of sheer joy, and love. I’ve never loved anything so much in my life and for the first time ever I was holding the most precious, beautiful being in the whole world. If there were any moment I could relish in for the rest of my life it would be that moment I held my baby girl for the first time!

Of course the after birth was like most, I fell asleep and visitors began showing up. I woke up to discover family gathered around staring at this beautiful baby girl with her eyes wide open, taking in everything the world had to show her. I later learned that she did not sleep that whole first day! She was bright eyed and cheery, and barely cried. She was a relatively good infant, she had a great temperament and was rarely fussy. Strangely enough, I remember thinking a few days after she was born how I was glad I took the fall semester off otherwise I would have been going back to school with a 4 day old baby. 

School was the last thing I ever would have expected myself to think about shortly after having a baby. I didn’t spend much time thinking about school in the beginning though. As months went by, the start of the spring semester was creeping up on me. I never filled out leave of absence paperwork so not enlisting in fall classes caused me to become un-enrolled.

The re-enrollment process was a pain in it’s own, but I managed. My acceptance letter came and I was thrilled! When it came time to pick classes, I had to change my process for what classes I picked. Not only was this my last chance to fulfill the requirements of my major if I wanted to graduate on time, but now I had to revolve my whole schedule around a tiny human!

I ended up finding the classes to fulfill my major requirements first, obviously. Then, I picked my elective classes to fulfill my credit requirement. Ideally, I wanted all of my classes on the same grouping of days so I didn’t have to drive to campus everyday and then take online classes to fill the rest of the credit requirement. Unfortunately, I had to go to campus everyday! That was hard for me because it meant being away from my baby for 8 hours 2 days a week and for 6 hours 3 days a week. It doesn’t sound like a long time to be away, but man did it feel like forever!

College with an infant was pretty awesome. The more people that learned about her, the more people were nice to me. People would ask me how she was doing and to see photos, which I happily would show every time. Most of the time what would get people asking questions was the photo of her as my background. “Is that your baby?” Was a question I heard a lot, or, “That baby is so cute! Who’s is she?” People were always surprised at first when they found out she was mine.

The follow up question was typically how old I was. People usually told me it was pretty cool that I had a kid, or awesome that I was a young mom. I was shocked by the amount of people that were accepting of me being a young mom (I was 21). Walking around in public was not always fun, I was 21 but I looked 16 and many people would give me dirty looks while I was at the store. I even had one person at a gas station ask me where our parents were, referring to me and my daughter. I politely explained that I was a college student and the child was mine and then drove away because I was finished at the gas pump. Instances like that were always frustrating for me, but the college campus felt like a portal into a different world. People were nicer and always had questions, but in a good way, in a non-judgmental way.

Another awesome part about having a kid in college was that it made me more responsible. Having another life to take care of some how also made me better at studying, turning in assignments completed, and having work done well before the deadline instead of last minute! I honestly was scared having a baby to take care of was going to make me a worse student, make my grades drop, and make me skip class (because it would be hard to leave my baby). I was also worried that I wouldn’t have time to complete the assignments. These were all huge fears of mine. Instead, having a baby taught me how to prioritize my time. My mom and sister in-law babysitting my daughter were now people who would hold me accountable if I missed class (which made it harder to skip classes), and it made my grades go up!

Then came graduation! As graduation came closer and closer my worry grew stronger and stronger. I was constantly thinking about if I actually met all the requirements and if I really was going to be graduating. I wasn’t enrolled in the fall semester so when I found out about a paper everyone received then and had to hand in, I realized I hadn’t done that. The deadline to hand it in had passed I stressed like crazy!

One of the days my friend was babysitting my daughter on campus I decided to go to the office with my daughter after class. I brought the paper that needed to be turned in and politely explained that I had taken the fall semester off to have my baby and had just recently learned about the graduation paper and deadline. The woman behind the counter was so nice and said she understood and took the paper, she said it shouldn’t be a problem getting it in and filed and that I should be able to graduate on time! Finally, I started receiving all of the other graduation emails everyone else had been getting and I felt a smidge of relief.

Graduation night finally came and I was nervous all over again. My daughter was 8 months old and she attended my graduation ceremony with her dad, both of my parents and my grandmothers. I had to sit down with the rest of the graduating class, but everyone else sat up in the stands. I was texting my mom trying to figure out where they were sitting. They found me because I decorated my cap with a photo of my daughter and a saying that said “Her smile made it all worth while”. A photographer even took a picture of my cap and it was featured for some time in the graduation photos posted for that year!

I eventually saw my mom waving like crazy in the audience so I knew where they were sitting. I made small talk with the people around me and patiently waited for the long ceremony to be over. Before I knew it I was being called up to get my diploma. My hands were sweating so shaking hands was awkward, but no one skipped a beat so I didn’t either. After I got back to my seat the rest of graduation flew by and before I knew it I was finding my group of friends afterwards and we were saying our congratulations and goodbyes. My family came and found me and my daughter joined my arms as I said goodbye to friends, some I’d never see again and others I am still friends with and still see to this day! It certainly was bitter sweet as I knew I would miss my friends that had been a part of my life those last 4 years, but I was definitely ready to be done with school and start the next chapter of my life, being a mom!

Overall, the whole experience was pretty exciting and scary, but also joyful and beautiful. Having a baby during college was definitely not easy but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. It made me grow as a person, something about having a baby in general changes something inside of you. I went from this irresponsible, immature person (who presented her self as responsible but was constantly slacking and procrastinating) to growing up in what felt like over night. All of a sudden I could time-manage, get assignments done, do the cooking and cleaning all while loving on my baby with snuggles and play time. This experience made me better all around as a person, it strengthened me, and is definitely a huge defining part of who I am today.

If I could give anyone one piece of advice that I learned from this experience, I would say to keep moving forward. Life is hard but those difficult moments help shape us into who we will become, and sometimes the person you become is a better version of who you were.

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