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Baby Matters

Back to School...Or Not

August 28th, 2014

By Amanda Matwie

This is the first year in several that I won’t be going back to university classes in September. I have spent the last five years as a full-time university student at Grant MacEwan University, and during three of those years I was pregnant, caring for a newborn, caring for a toddler, or a combination of more than one of these things. I juggled sleep, childcare, marriage, housework, schoolwork, classes, wedding planning, and moving. Oh yeah, and sometimes I even tried to have a social life or go on dates with my husband.

I went to classes on campus throughout my first pregnancy, right up until a couple days before I gave birth. I had to be coerced by my friends into using the elevator at Grant MacEwan’s bright orange arts campus instead of taking the stairs. I hoped to not go into labour in class, though that would have made a rather entertaining story. I did the majority of my classes online after my first daughter Abby was born, but I did have to leave her at home with babysitters a few times so that I could go to class on campus. I hated every minute of leaving her behind, though the brief separations helped to ease the postpartum depression that hit full force when she was a few months old, and coming home from class to a baby who was overjoyed to see me was a nice experience.

Yeah, you read that correctly. Full time student. Mind you, I dropped my course load down to nine credits per term, just enough to be considered full time for the sake of student loans, for a few of those years; those nine credits per term were more than enough to keep me busy on top of being pregnant, caring for a home, and then caring for a baby. My final year was technically a maximum course load, though I did the work entirely from home. Thankfully, it was comprised of writing assignments that I was able to design for myself.

We were going to wait until I was done school to have our next child. No, really, we were. We had just gotten married in September of 2012, when our daughter Abby was six-months-old, and we wanted to take a break from any more huge life changes. But my hormones got the best of me and when Abby was 10-months-old I begged my husband Sheldon to let me get pregnant again. At the time I was starting the second term of my fourth year of university and planning my fifth year, the year that would finally finish off my degree.

It took me all of one month to get pregnant again, and so I chased a toddler, did online classes and an internship, and went through the first trimester of my second pregnancy, all at the same time. We also had an unexpected move during that time. I can’t even tell you how I maintained my sanity through those months, or even that I actually maintained it. Sheldon was and still is a huge help and my biggest cheerleader; there is no way I could have gotten through university without him.

The 2013/14 school year was my last one, and that knowledge helped me get through hours of trying to type up thousands of words while my toddler begged for attention and my belly grew more massive every day. I was able to schedule my assignments so that I didn’t have one due at the same time I was due, but that didn’t stop me from scrambling to finish assignments when I’d barely slept the night before—though I suppose that’s the case for plenty of university students that aren’t parents. I traded self-induced sleep deprivation, which I could recover from on a day off, for baby-induced sleep deprivation, from which I was never guaranteed recovery time.

I took notes with my smartphone in one hand while using my other hand to help my baby breastfeed. I forced myself to stay awake in the evenings and sacrificed precious moments of quiet with Sheldon in order to submit my work on time. I compromised relaxing baths by reading textbooks in the tub. I was relieved to be done for good and hold my degree in my hands. I remember thinking “Oh, now I’ll have lots of free time!” Yeah right. More like I never had any free time to begin with. Every moment I spent on schoolwork was a moment that I lost with my children or my husband or with sleep, beloved sleep.

I chose to make those sacrifices, because I wanted to start a family and I didn’t want to wait out the years it would take to finish my degree and establish my career. I am with a man who was willing to be the sole breadwinner while I studied and raised babies. He also has a lovely habit of being an equal partner when it comes to childcare. Having babies isn’t for everyone, and neither is going to university. Doing both at the same time is looked upon as being a strange mix of heroism and insanity. As much as I would not go back and change my choices, I have been revelling in spending time with my children without worrying about doing schoolwork in every free moment.

I have a few years to go before I’ll be sending any of my own children off to school for the first time, but I have every confidence that when I do they will succeed. After all, their mom managed.

Amanda Matwie is a breastfeeding, cloth diapering, babywearing mama of two girls. When she isn't chasing a toddler and an almost toddler, she's writing and proofreading.

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