Sometime at the beginning of 2018, we had relocated to a new city, and I was restless in our new home. I didn’t have any place to go, I didn’t know anywhere, and my husband’s job didn’t afford him a lot of time to take us sightseeing in our new location. So I came up with the plan to enrol for a masters degree at the federal university there; I was already pursuing it at our previous location before we had to leave.
I eventually got the admission but you see, I didn’t bargain for life as a mom with two kids under 2 years of age and a very busy schedule in school. I loved the sense of purpose going back to school for a higher degree gave me, I loved the adrenaline rush of meeting young people like me in school (this was so surreal because ordinarily, my days were occupied with toddler babbles, baby cries, diapers, wipes and baby food). It felt so good to be “out in the world” once more, as opposed to being holed up at home as a stay-at-home mom.
Combining schooling with family life was tough but I was happy to do it. I was actively busy and that was more than okay by me. I was juggling both like a pro until that fateful evening when I tested positive for a pregnancy test. Let me just say here that I wanted the ground to open so that I’ll just jump inside. Literally! I didn’t know what to do, I had no idea how I was going to juggle 2 kids, pregnancy and postgraduate studies which had become very intense by then.
Fast forward to when we were about to start our second semester exams, I was already over 7 months gone. By then, my physical strength had dropped considerably, I was always tired but had to pass those exams. I couldn’t get anything done during the day because of family life, so I always woke up at 1am every night to study till close to 6am when I had to get my kids ready for school. Fluids started accumulating on my legs due to lack of rest, but I had a very understanding doctor who had only encouraging words for me.
Some days, I would go from school directly to my doctor’s appointment, then from there, I’ll pick up my kids from school. Some days, I didn’t feel like getting out of bed at all. Other days, I wished I never started the program at all, told myself that I overestimated myself, and the joke was on me for ever thinking I could do it all.
By the time the exams ended and we moved into the research phase of the program, I had a brand new infant that depended 100% on me. As I listened to my colleagues buzz about their lab work and how they were going to go about it, it just took one glance at my newborn for all the self doubt and inadequacy I was feeling to come crashing down on me. But I didn’t give up. I just couldn’t imagine my colleagues graduating without me.
I gave myself 4 weeks to recover and I was back on the road again, trying to kickstart the process for my own research work. After about 6 weeks, my mom had to go back home to resume work and that was when the reality of my student-new mom life dawned on me. I started going out with my baby when she was less than 2 months old.
I would carefully roll over speed bumps on the road, always so careful not to disturb her comfort at the back seat. I would stock my car with all kinds of things we didn’t need, 3 extra pairs of clothes, baby towels, baby burp clothes, diapers, wipes, flask of hot water (even though I was on exclusive), anything that would ensure we would be as comfortable as we could get while outside the home.
At the lab, we would stay in the technician’s office (who made sure we were so comfortable by the way), he would take me through everything we were going to do for that day, but when the actual work started, I would go outside with my baby and observe the practicals from the window. Sometimes, we simply waited downstairs, other times, some undergrads were so happy to help me hold my sleeping baby outside while I participated in the lab work.
I can’t remember how often or how many weeks my sleeping baby and I sat by the window side, or waited downstairs at the lab complex, going over notes, observing and learning. We made quite the pair.
In all these, I was completely exhausted. I was actively breastfeeding, schooling, looking after my other 2 kids. I would usually drop them off in the morning before my baby and I hit the road. I was barely staying afloat.
At the point when I finally accepted defeat, when I told myself that I couldn’t do it anymore, the pandemic struck. There was a nationwide lockdown and we were all asked to stay indoors. Talk about the stars aligning in one’s favour.
Now, more than a year later, I’m done with the program, with flying colours if I may add. I look around me and I can’t even remember all the pains and struggles it took me to get here. My baby has since joined her older ones in school. I can only feel that joy associated with winning, and I’m so energised to keep forging ahead. Motherhood got nothing on me! Haha.
Dear young mother, motherhood is not in your way of progress. If you’re always looking for excuses, excuses are all you’ll ever have. But like a certain wise man once said, “You can either have excuses, or have results.”
I’m rooting for you!
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