Mom on campus: Diaper bags and backpacks

While many of you spend your Thursday nights out drinking and celebrating an early end to your school week, you can find me standing at the kitchen sink washing bottles and listening to my husband play with our son in the living room.

It’s quite a different atmosphere from that of your typical night, don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with going out or celebrating, I used to do the same before I had my son.

While I may be a tad partial, you can ask anyone who has met my son, he is beautiful and he is one of the happiest babies that I have ever laid my eyes on, but never in a million years did I picture myself being a mother in college.

I graduated high school in June of 2011, and began my journey at Sam Houston State University the following August of that year. I began my college career just as most of you did, taking courses that I was advised to, joining organizations that centered around my interest, making friends and going out.

I spent the first half of my college career stereotypically going with the flow, however that changed in 2013 when I met my husband. We had discussed our future family many times with one another, we both wanted children, but we had decided to let things play out as they should. Little did we know that soon after we were wed we would be expecting.

After we found out and announced we were expecting, I was met with the same question from friends and family alike: are you going to stay in college?

I kept getting reassured that it was completely understandable if I did decide to drop or take a semester off, that it would not be frowned upon or considered a “bad thing” if I did decide to take the time off.

The idea of taking time away from my studies devastated me. Education and knowledge are two things that I hold dear, and being asked if I was going to step away from furthering my education was like a shot to the heart for me.

According to a report issued by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 61 percent of students who become pregnant while enrolled drop out before finishing their degree or getting any type of credentials from their place of higher education.

I was in the middle of the first semester of my senior year, and I had no intentions of stopping and I refused to become another statistical member of the 61 percent who drop out due to pregnancy.

My pregnancy was not as beautiful and wonderful as they make it out to be in the movies and books.

With my luck, I was part of the small percentage of women who were effected by Hyperemesis Gravidarum- otherwise known as extreme morning sickness that doesn’t simply last all morning, but rather all day and all night. I had to take medication to be able to eat and drink as a normal person should and I was constantly in and out of the emergency room from being dehydrated all the time.

Juggling school and being constantly sick soon began to take its toll on me.

I was starting to miss class days due to late nights in the hospital, and the few times I was able to actually attend class I was running out of the room left and right due to sudden nausea. I soon began to worry and the thought of “I’ve gotten myself in over my head” slowly began to creep into my mind.

Luckily, I had an amazing set of professors who understood what I was going through and encouraged me to keep pushing forward.

Fast forward nine months and two days to be exact and my son was born, October 30, 2015. Little did I know that the real fun was about to begin.

I was out of class for a week, attempting to adjust to my normal at home. Returning to class was hard, not simply because schoolwork can be a pain, but because I had to leave my week old son at home with his grandmother while his father and I returned to class and work.

Sitting in class not having him near me made me an emotional mess as I miss him dearly when he is away from me. Thankfully there were only a few remaining weeks of the semester.

Catching up on homework and studying for exams proved a lot harder with a newborn at home.

From feedings and constant diaper changes to the overwhelming urge to just stop and put everything down and just simply be with him, school began to feel nearly impossible. I remember spending many nights trying not to pull my hair out and either on the verge of tears or in the middle of a full blown break down from stress, but somehow I managed to finish up the semester with a B average despite everything.

It’s hard to think that was nearly five months ago. Now, with a personality of his own, my son attends college with my husband and I. My husband is a graduate student and I’m wrapping up my undergraduate career. The struggles we sometimes face on campus are just as trying as the ones off campus.

You’ve probably seen me around campus toting a backpack on my back, a diaper bag slung across my chest, and trying to carry my son around in his car seat while running from classes and meetings. Most days we are met with smiles and a helpful hand, but others sometimes shoot a disapproving glare our way, judging me based off of the fact that I am a young mother.

One of my biggest annoyances regarding being a young mother are these looks and glares. However, many of these disapproving glares fail to ask about our story or acknowledge all that has been accomplished.

I am not attempting to brag, I am simply stating my case and trying to educate those who believe that being a young mother is a bad thing. I am both a mother and a college student, I am 23 years old and married, I work on campus, I attend class and work hard to keep my GPA up, and I am a member of a Panhellenic sorority as well as a member of a national honor fraternity.

Having my son on campus with me can prove to be trying sometimes. While he is a happy baby, he does get fussy as most babies do and it sometimes earns a couple of extra glares from those trying to study or walking to and from class. I do my best to quiet him down and fix whatever the issue may be quickly as to not disturb others more than we already have.

Don’t even get me started on diaper changes. Did you know that there are maybe a total of two places on our entire campus that have changing stations? There is one in the bathroom of the ground floor of the LSC and there are a couple in the coliseum bathrooms. While I’m grateful that there are these few on campus, it makes it hard when we are in either the Lee Drain Building or the Evan’s Complex and we need to change a diaper in a hurry.

Walking around campus with him is a completely different story. Long gone are the days that I carried only a purse or a backpack to hold my books. Now I start the trek from the parking lot to campus loaded down with my own backpack, his diaper bag that is loaded down with anything and everything he could possibly need for the day, his blanket, and then I grab him and his carseat.

While it can sometimes get overwhelming, there is not one single thing about our journey thus far I regret.

I don’t point out the things that are “tough” to discourage anyone who is currently pregnant or who is in the process of starting their own little family, but rather to encourage those who are on the same journey and to let it be known that it is possible.

It is tough sometimes, and somedays you want to pull out your hair, but one look at my son is all I need to keep pushing through because he deserves a better future, and by attending school while being a mother is one way I can make that happen.

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