When Hayley posted in our Early Mama FB group saying, "I decided to take [my baby] to classes with me," comments ranged from "Wow! Amazing! YOU ROCK!" to "I've been thinking about doing the same, how did you do it?!"
So I figured I'd ask Hayley a few more questions, for any other student mamas in need of some inspiration.
1. How did you approach your professors about bringing your brand-new baby to class? Were any professors resistant?
I was extremely lucky in that Creighton University is a smaller school, so I knew most of my professors from various classes or activities and all of them were extremely accommodating and supportive. I know that I would not have been successful without them. I emailed them a few weeks before the semester started. I told them when Jude was due and that I was going to be taking a short time off. When it came to bringing up the subject of taking Jude to class with me, I never really asked permission. I just explained that in order to be a good student and mother I had decided I needed to bring Jude to class with me. I offered to meet with them ahead of time to discuss any issues and said that if it became a distraction to either them or my classmates at some point during the semester, that I would make other arrangements. Creighton University doesn’t have a specific policy on babies in class so it really is up to individual professors, and they were all open and supportive.
2. A lot of student parents might worry about what their classmates might think. What was your experience with this?
My first few days bringing Jude to class were scary and nerve-wracking. I felt extremely self-conscious, knowing that all eyes were on me in every class. I was very nervous of what others thought. Every peep he would make my classmates would turn, and because Creighton has small class sizes, usually my professor would be interrupted as well. To be honest, in the beginning, there was lots of crying after getting home from a day of class. I felt really overwhelmed, but eventually it became more natural, I gained more confidence, felt more comfortable, and somewhere along the way it became our new norm. It became normal for everyone else around me too, classmates and professors weren’t bothered by a small baby noise now and then, and generally ignored us and that made it easier.
I wore him in a baby carrier during lectures. It was where he was happiest and most content and allowed me to have my hands free for note taking. Some days he just needed to be held. On those days, I relied on recorded lectures or notes from friends. I also nursed him in class. I never encountered any adverse reactions to nursing in public, and I am super grateful for that because it was my go to way to comfort him when he got fussy and that way I didn’t have to fret over scheduling feedings just right or missing class to feed him elsewhere. I always sat near a door to get in and out easily in case he wouldn’t settle and if possible at the back of the classroom so that I could stand and bounce him if I needed. Every class zapped my energy, between caring for him and listening to lessons, but we did it, and it worked. As he got out of the newborn stage and was awake for longer stretches and more interactive, it did become harder. He was about 3 months when I graduated, so I can’t comment on what it would be like to take an older baby to class.
3. What advice do you have for new moms in college, who might worry about balancing it all?
It's hard, and it's okay that it's hard. It's okay to recognize your own limitations and to adjust to those. The idea of "doing it all" or "having it all" is a myth. I didn't understand that at first, so I struggled most with guilt. Jude and I never got to have maternity leave. His first months earth side weren't cushy, dreamy, or quiet. I was plagued with "what ifs" and wishes for a different life. I whisked him from one loud place to another, I was less than calm most of the time, and my attention was divided. I am sure many mothers struggle with guilt, about anything and everything when it comes to their babies, but I grieved for the easier, beautiful, and soft transition I couldn't give Jude. I would feel so sad, and sometimes angry, and I feel that many student moms can understand the feeling and get caught in it.
But I had to let go of that. I instead focused on the unique beauty of our own situation and bonded strongly to Jude despite everything I was juggling. Guilt can rob you of happiness, time, and success, so you have to learn to let go. My last semester of college was by far the hardest thing I have ever done, but walking across the stage in my graduation gown with my degree in hand, I knew I wouldn't have it any other way.
Congratulations Hayley, and good luck on applying to medical school! Thank you for providing such an insightful and inspirational message to the other early mamas out there.
Check out more advice from former student moms:
Kayla: "Try to create a schedule that is babysitter friendly."
Victoria: "Find a support team!"
Chaunie: "I think one of the biggest challenges is simply feeling accepted."
If you have a story to share, please send me an email!