When I found out I was pregnant half way through my first year of University, I had a moment of thinking it was all over.
Realistically, there are hundreds of young women who are in higher education while also nursing their children. My course leaders were far more understanding than I had expected of them and always got distracted telling me stories of their own experiences with pregnant wives and the birth of their children. Becoming pregnant at University does not have to stand in between you and your aspirations, and certainly doesn’t have to end in termination.
Communication is vital. You will never know unless you ask, so talk to your student services and/or course leader to discuss your University’s policy on pregnant students. It may be that there is a set procedure for taking leave while you have your baby. Otherwise, applying for extenuating circumstances will allow you the extra time you need to complete work and prepare for exams.
Intercalation, rather than a ‘year out’, is more practical for many students expecting children during the school year as you can stay at University right up until you need to leave. You can then rejoin the course at the same point you left the next year. This option means you stay registered as a student and receive your maintenance loan and grants or bursaries; very useful if you can’t work.
Having a small baby or toddler in your work space is not practical for concentration. Students are given childcare vouchers, which you can use to give yourself a break to do assignments as well as when you are expected to attend formal lectures or seminars. There is always the option of taking your baby with you to class if it is small enough. Many small babies sleep a lot and therefore could be easily manageable in the classroom. Try to organise friends and family to come over and play with the baby or even take them away to look after so that you can have a well earned break and get some work done.
Money worries shouldn’t be an added weight on your shoulders. Students are eligible for Parent’s Learning Allowance, a grant to help parents in higher education, and added benefits that can be sought from your local council. If you have a partner, they can claim for the both of you making it more practical and also spreading the responsibility! Even if your parents or lecturers have doubts, think about what is best for you and make an informed decision; don’t assume that one unplanned pregnancy will be the end of your education and aspirations.
At nineteen I am preparing to make the most of my summer break before returning to the second year of my degree, during which I will give birth to my first baby. I am under no illusions that this year will be easy, however my education is more important than ever. Becoming pregnant has given me new inspiration to complete my course and start working to support my family. Don’t doubt yourself.