Most undergraduates spend their first year in college and learn to fend for themselves, make new friends, and spend a few hours at the bar. But what happens if you become pregnant? Two women share their experience of young mothers in Oxford.
The story of Emily
Full Name: Emily Beater
Diploma: Literature and English Language, St Anne's College, Oxford
I have never had the flu of schoolchildren, it is the disease of the morning. While the other students drank too much and kissed strangers, I sat in my room, wondering what to do with the embryo in me.
That morning, I was sitting with my friends in a conversation with the freshmen. They told us how privileged we were to be in Oxford. An hour later, I performed a positive pregnancy test.
The shock still goes through me when I remember those two pink lines and my own acute inhalation. Pregnancy had been a question that touched me in the back of my mind. Now it was a fact that I was talking on the phone with my boyfriend, Jon, who assured me that everything would be fine.
I started to imagine the baby: small, bean-shaped, furrowed with blood vessels. I knew that I did not want to abort, but the Oxford libraries, with their beautifully crafted doors and forced silences, did not give the impression of being accessible to children.
Later, a friend who had raised her baby during her masters at Oxford told me how, sitting in front of a library with her daughter, a man had shouted, "We must go!" He had assumed that she was a tourist.
After discovering my pregnancy, I went to see my tutor at the college. She was incredibly supportive. Without it, I would not have had the strength to have my baby and continue my education.
Initially, my plan was to finish my first year of pregnancy and to take a year of maternity leave. However, the difficulty of balancing the university with the early stages of pregnancy meant that I lasted about six weeks before deciding to take a sabbatical year and return after the baby was born.
These six weeks were surrealistic. The terms of the Oxford Agreement are so tight that if I did not hurry to follow, I would be left behind.
The corridors of my student home were chained and ended in cold baths where I vomited every morning. I was hungry but I was nauseated, unable to cope with our kitchen with its dirty stoves.
In class, I would stop morning sickness by drinking ginger ale and chatting with a crush of Polo mints. I became very depressed. I was lucky enough to have some cooler friends, but I was scared and my family was shocked by the news of my pregnancy.
You feel that you can not be weak in these situations. People so automatically associate unexpected pregnancies with young women that in addition to supporting them, I was constantly trying to prove to others that I was not going to fail.
Jon, who had been working since we were 17 and 19, drove me to my home in Oxford, and I cried like a baby when I had to go home.
When I finally suspended my studies for one year, my pregnancy was an exercise in personal explanation. What would I do? How could I cope? Would I go back to university one day? These are tough questions to load with someone at a vulnerable time, and I hardly trained the answers myself.
At the time, if you were looking for "parents of Oxford undergraduates" in Google, you were more likely to find information for parents of 18-year-olds than for students with disabilities. babies.
I was lucky to have a mom who supported me, but as a young parent, I felt irremediable.
After my delivery, Jon and I brought our newborn baby, Beth, to the doctor. The doctor evaluated us from his chair and flatly announced that we were "stupid" to have him so young. I remember telling her that I was going back to school and that she had said, incredulously, "It's going to be very difficult.
I came back the next year, with Jon and our 12-week-old daughter, and Jon found a job nearby.
My college did not offer family housing, so it was an anxious time when we would live with a meager salary and a student loan. Eventually, I discovered a little phrase on the Oxford Student Accommodation website, allowing undergraduates with kids to live there.
We moved in, this couple just out of adolescence, living together for the first time and taking care of a young baby.
I was eligible for a child care scholarship, and thanks to Jon's work, we were able to place Beth in a day care center. I felt guilty, but glad to return to school because, unlike motherhood, it was something I could control.
It was extraordinarily stressful. Parenting is the job that consumes the most. Fortunately, my tutor helped me get the adaptations I needed, such as fitting extensions when my daughter was sick.
It's a powerful thing when someone tells you that you can succeed, especially when society equates a "young" pregnancy to a failure.
We make exorbitant child care and higher education inaccessible (60-65% of parents expect to leave school) while telling young mothers that they have ruined their lives. And if you do not have childcare on the weekends, you can not work and therefore have less time to study than my peers.
I woke up all night to nurse while preparing several trials and classes during the day.
I am grateful for Jon's concrete support, as I was constantly on the verge of madness.
I remember sitting in a cafe on a Sunday in my sophomore year, after spending two hours studying while Jon was taking the baby alone. I got up, put away my stuff, went home and said, "I think I'm going to have a nervous breakdown."
I am now in the last year of my degree. My guardians have supported me a lot, but I have often been a victim of blindness in the institutions.
Once, during my classes, I was unable to have my children babysitting for a weekend, and I was asked to provide "proofs", as it was about "bad things." an illness that can be proven by a doctor's note.
There was clearly nothing in place to anticipate a student with childcare needs. Taking care of children, despite his intense and invisible work, is still considered a private matter that has no relevance for academics.
One study found that one in 10 parents feel isolated, which does not surprise me. The parents of students I met are so hard-working that they often put their health at risk for their degrees to be obtained.
My daughter is wonderful and I am so proud of everything that I have accomplished, but I do not think it should be as difficult to survive as a student parent.
The story of Aswathy
Full Name: Aswathy Mohanaprakas
Diploma: Portuguese and Linguistics, St Peter's College, Oxford
It is 4:00 am and I fell asleep again on my laptop. My crying son wakes me up. I relieve it on my chest and reopen my essay. I am exhausted and the words do not make sense.
I am an under-age parent in Oxford and sleep only three hours a night. My life, which consists of dropping my son at the nursery, attending conferences, taking him back and starting work when he falls asleep, looks like a marathon without a finish line.
At the moment, I can only afford two days of babysitting a week, which leaves me just enough time to go to classes and pick up books. I do most of my work in the middle of the night.
When I discovered that I was pregnant, I was 19 years old and I was in second year of my degree in Portuguese and Linguistics. I was very scared. I knew the baby's father, Jay, for three months. I was in love with him, but my parents were frowned upon and had already told me to break this relationship.
I come from a small community in South India, London, where gossip spreads quickly and everyone knows each other. I have never seen children out of wedlock unless they are taken to India for adoption.
Growing up, I was the girl that all parents compared. I went to prayer groups and got the highest grades in my school's A cycle. When I was accepted to Oxford, I was determined to succeed. This did not change when I discovered that I was expecting my son.
I already felt like I reached the impossible by entering Oxford through a public school and I decided to keep my baby and continue my studies. It was a difficult decision though and I was afraid of what my parents were going to say.
Finally, I wrote them a letter:
I have something to tell you. It is important. I am pregnant. About two and a half months. Discovered about a week ago. But I did not tell you because I panicked and did not know what to do. I want to keep the baby. It does not matter how bad things are. And what people say about me
I remember their visit to the university after reading it, and my father being so distressed, he threw a cup against the wall.
As my belly grew bigger, I went through Oxford with my library books and went home to get to know Jay better. He was really nice and he wrapped me in blankets and prepared me smoothies, but it was hard to develop a relationship while everyone was saying that I had brought shame to the family .
Jay m asked to marry him. We are very happy now, but at the time, I had the impression that getting married was the only way to control gossip. Every time I passed the door, someone else seemed to know about the baby, and the girls I used to be friends with were passing the news. like candy: "Have you heard? She's pregnant!"
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In my community, a girl can not even be seen with a boy without a sexualization of interaction. Therefore, if you become pregnant at the wedding, you will have a very big shame.
My parents did not stop saying, "You could have done so many things in your life if you had not been pregnant."
Their aspirations for me to work for the United Nations or the government were replaced by odd jobs that I did during my maternity leave to survive.
My bridal shower broke out in a fight between my husband, my mother-in-law and my mother. I sat there and wanted to be alone in reading a book. Once I gave birth, my parents fell in love with my son and increased their support, but other relationships deteriorated.
One person stated that I had no maternal instinct and was mocking me saying that I did not need a honeymoon because I had already had sexual intercourse . Once, Jay and I left Jithu in his car seat for a few seconds while we were unpacking stores and a family member saw this and accused me of wanting to hurt my son.
I returned to Oxford while Jithu was nine months old. I was passionate about my degree and determined to finish it. I had classes on days when Jithu was in a nursery, which left me almost no time to do the actual work, while I came back from the library with a huge bag of books and my son in a door -baby.
Undergraduate degrees are often designed for people without family responsibilities, so as a student with a young child, I felt invisible.
Money was a constant concern. Student Finance did not give me a child care subsidy because I had gone back to university in the course of the year. A NUS report found that 42% of parents say that financial hardship is a barrier to education. I can understand that.
We borrowed money from my parents, gave it back, and then re-borrowed the next day to buy food and diapers.
The Oxford Aid Fund does not consider that childcare is a sufficient reason for obtaining financial support. This puts poor young parents like me at risk of losing their place.
Some of my tutors have been helpful. The others were not. One of them refused to write down my work because I did not have the time to do a research on a subject that he had told me to do, while Another told me that I would have a 2: 2, a 2: 1 if the reviewer was nice. I remember how bad it felt to hear that.
I came home sobbing about my failure, even though I was doing everything I could to succeed. I had the same talent as other students, but I had neither the same time nor the same ability as everyone else.
I graduated with a 2: 1 and I could not be more proud of myself, but it was difficult. I developed Graves' disease under the pressure of a student mother. It is a thyroid disease triggered by chronic stress.
During my studies, I did not sleep most of the time, and every month, I worried about finding enough rent.
Jay spent four hours a day at work in London to make sure we had an income, but it was an unstable and exhausting existence.
It was particularly serious after graduation and I did not receive any student loan. I had two temporary part-time jobs, but I could barely gather enough hours to cover the cost of childcare.
I needed more hours of childcare to go to job interviews and gain work experience – which I had been unable to do during my studies – but I did not know not how I would have the means.
I began to feel tired and breathless all the time and my bones ached. When we finally diagnosed Graves' disease, I had monthly blood tests and the drugs cost between £ 9 and £ 16. Sometimes I just could not afford to buy them.
Eventually, I got a full-time position as Head of Compliance and Security Governance at Oxford University. I work at the university, in charge of cybersecurity issues and relationship management with leading data providers.
Things are getting better now, but I always seem like a panicked parent student, thinking what work I could do in 10 or 20 minutes. I feel sick every time I see a shade of blue that matches the walls of my mother-in-law's house, where I lived during my maternity leave.
The girls who became pregnant at home were shameful and did not receive any support from their family. I want to change the way people see teenage mothers. You can definitely succeed as a young parent.
Emily Beater lyrics