I was nineteen, in my second year of university and I was pregnant.
My boyfriend (of four years) and I had always felt like a pretty strong couple, at that moment in time however, we were terrified, completely lost and suddenly unable to imagine our situation unfolding into a positive future.
After a few months it all became too much for us to handle together and we broke up.
I found myself alone, scared and staring into a giant pit of uncertainty.
Of two things however, I was absolutely sure:
1. I was keeping the baby.
2. I was going to blooming well graduate from university and provide a stable and happy life for my child.
I just didn't quite know how I was going to do it.
I spent a good while plodding along, dragging myself to lectures while trying not to fall asleep, cry or vomit.
I did have the support of my friends and family but as with anyone you are close to - you can always see what their true feelings are by the looks on their faces. They were all extremely anxious.
Some didn't mind telling me how worried they were for my future. Many told me that it would be easier to give university altogether. Some said that I was selfish for planning to carry on with my studies with a child. I was accused of draining people's taxes before the baby was even born. A few incredibly unkind people informed me that I was going to ruin my life as well as the lives of those around me.
For a group of 'grown ups' they certainly were naive. And wrong.
Being young and pregnant does not automatically mean that you have failed and should pack it all in. If you have decided to study, and you still want to do it, then go and do it! I'm not saying that studying hard while gestating a baby is for everyone, and I'm also not saying that those that don't choose to continue are worth any less than those that do.
What I am saying, shouting, screaming even, is that it is not impossible. If you want anything badly enough than it can be achieved.
Nothing that comes easy is worth having. There will be days when you haven't slept, the house is a mess and you have a whopper of an essay to write - and on those days you need to have your goal so clearly fixed in your head that the determination alone overtakes.
For me it was the image of my child one day visiting my classroom and seeing me teach. This would be the moment when I would know we had made it. I would be able to show her what all of our hard work was for. She would grow up knowing just how strong women are. She would be provided for, happy and proud.
Get informed. Make a plan
Contact your campus support team and find out if there is any support available for someone in your position. Usually there are 'access to learning' grants that can help you continue to study. If you are in college or at university there are also grants, bursaries and loans that can help with child care. The people who help you access the support are also there to keep you going. Show them how much you want and need to be there, and they will go out if their way to make it happen for you. My access to learning manager cried when I got my grant sent through. We both did. It was an emotional moment!
Tell your family, friends and anyone who'll listen about your plan, even if you haven't quite filled in the blanks. The more you talk about it, the more focused you will feel. If the people around you know that you are crystal clear about what you want, and can see how determined you are to get it, they will be just as determined to support you.
Get positive. Be thankful.
Having a thankful outlook on life is the difference between a good day and a rubbish one. Of course there were days when I moaned, and cried. I was tired, my body ached, I had essays to write - I had a long list of things to complain about. Then one day I decided to make a list if things I was thankful for every single day and it totally changed my way of thinking. I had a support network, a roof over my head, food in my belly, a healthy baby and access to an education. Thinking in this way helped me to stay positive, focused and determined.
I'm not just talking about a good set maternity undies here (although supportive underwear is well worth the money when you have a baby elephant doing the Time Warp in your womb) I'm talking about friends.
People react to pregnancy in lots of different ways - especially young people. I automatically lost a good proportion of my 'friends' who couldn't handle my situation. That sucked at the time, but I'm really grateful it happened as it totally separated the men from the boys where friends were concerned.
The friends that I was left with were truly incredible and I owe so much to them. I moved in with two wonderful people who were there throughout the whole pregnancy and lived with my daughter and I for a year after that. The three of us had no clue what we were doing, but we got through it together, laughing every day, and I never felt alone.
Just having someone to talk to, to celebrate the milestones with, to drag me out of the house or take the baby for half an hour while I studied, made everything so much bearable.
Your close friends will always remind you of how far you have come, and how much you have achieved. Equally they will ways tell you when to suck it up, stop whining and get on with it.
Talk to other young mothers about what they love about motherhood and how they deal with it. If you can find other women that have been in the same boat as you then that's a massive bonus too.
Always remember that nothing is impossible, and if I can do it, then you most definitely can too. If someone had told me on the day I looked down at that positive test, that I would graduate twice, marry my baby's father and go on to have another two children while starting my own two businesses, I would have laughed in their face.
Just take it one day at a time, stay focused and remember that As long as you are doing everything in your power to be a strong role model for your child, you are doing a brilliant job.
We finally did it!
Graduating again with a PGCE
The friends that got me through