A few people have asked me how I manage to complete my degree whilst having such a young baby and I will admit, it is bloody hard!
When I found out I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to stay at Uni and finish my degree. I had never intended on going to University when I was finishing my A-levels. I wanted to just go into work straight away. But, having already completed almost 3 years of my degree at the time I knew that it would be a total waste to throw it all in then and give up. Besides, it's not as if it would mean spending anymore time with the baby as I am firecely independant and didn't want to just go on benefits, so I would have ended up having to get a job and not being able to see Cameron grow up anyway!
So, I set about letting the Uni know I was pregnant and sorting out with them what extra help I would be given (seemingly a lot, but in reality not much at all!). Luckily, I was almost at the end of my placement, which is what I had been doing for my third year of the course. I was able to just rest at home a lot throughout the hardest part of my pregnancy. I did consider getting a part time job over the summer, and even went to a couple of interviews, but then the doctor told me I shouldn't be working as I had bled at 17 weeks. I knew it would be really stressful going back into the fourth year with a newborn. What made things worse was that I didn't know exactly when Cameron was going to come, and due to him being a week late, I ended up having to go back to Uni when he was only a week old! Not ideal...
The Uni, despite originally telling me I would get loads of help, became very unhelpful once I was back. They arranged meetings with me where they would try and pressurise me into deferring a year and coming back when Cameron was a year old. I knew if I did that I wouldn't end up coming back though so stuck it out and even sat through having one lecturer who has young kids of her own, telling me that I couldn't just think of myself anymore and that it would be fairer on the baby to spend time at home with him, even if it meant me going on benefits for a year. I was really angry that they were trying to tell me I wasn't a good parent just to get their way. They didn't break me though, I knew I was a great mum and was staying on to make a better life for me and Cameron.
I have been allowed to have an extension on one piece of work so far, which I had to work on over Christmas. I have also had to do one piece of coursework different from all the others in my year as I was told nobody would want to do group work with me as I was so unreliable due to Cameron, and that it would be unfair to bring the rest of the groups mark down. For this reason, I was given a seperate essay assignment to do. I have three assignments left to do this term and am only half way into the first one as it is a pretty in depth assignment.
I ended up complaining to the Univeristy as to the lack of help I was getting and as a result, have been told I would be allowed extensions on all of these if I need it. I don't want to have an extension on any of them if I can help it, as I wouldn't have any time after the deadlines to get the work done anyway. But it is nice to have that safety net in place. At the meeting I also got another couple of issues resolved. One was my dissertation which I was told I could have an extension on but nothing was put in writing (it has now been extended to the summer), the other was the fact that I cannot get childcare for Thursdays when I have a lecture and a seminar. They have now allowed me to work from home on these, which is what I was having to do anyway, but I now have permission so don't feel I will get in trouble for it.
I will admit, I have had a few days where I have spoken to my mum in tears and said I needed to quit Uni because it just gets too much. I am only in for a few hours on a Monday and a couple on a Friday, which luckily my mum can have Cameron for, but it's the assignments that cause the most hassle. I just don't ever get the time to do work as I have Cameron with me pretty much all the time. It is so frustrating being in the flat with my flatmate who is on the same course, knowing she is doing her assignments and not being able to do any work because Cameron is with me. I then feel awful, because of course I want to spend time with him and play with him etc. But it is just hard and stressful to know time that should be spent working for uni is instead spent watching childrens tv with him. Even when he naps during the day, it is only ever for half hour maximum, and I am always on edge expecting him to wake up again. This means I don't ever really get any work done in the day.
Cameron does sleep through the night now, but won't properly go to sleep until 10pm. This means that at 10 I am finally able to start my work and then have to work through to the early hours to get a decent amount done. Cameron then wakes up around 6am to feed, meaning I only get a few hours sleep. He will often go back to sleep for another few hours, so I try to get some more sleep in then. It is just constant stress and so I am really really looking forward to finishing in the summer! I want to be able to just enjoy spending time with him, not worrying about deadlines constantly.
In order to prevent myself from going crazy, I write blogs during the day, when Cameron is sat on my lap, or really late at night, just before sleep and after my work is done, so that I get a small release! Writing relaxes me so it really helps. I feel I can also vent via the blog, so I am sorry if I bore people!
This year at uni has definitely been my hardest so far. My work has noticeably gone downhill, whereas before I was getting high sixties and some seventies marks, my highest mark this year so far has been 54% and I almost failed one assignment.
For anyone who is thinking of going to Uni, or finishing a degree with a newborn, I would say by all means go for it as I am sure that at the end the pride I will feel for having managed to graduate with my year will make all this stress worthwhile. But, by no means think it will be easy. I am a single mum, which makes things harder as it's only me and Cameron. But I do have the support of my mum and nan who live nearby. If I was away at Uni, like my brother in Newcastle, there is no way I would be even considering doing this! I feel really proud of myself for staying on my course. It's hard, but I know Cameron will be proud when he knows what I achieved whilst he was still so young.