I have been pregnant the entire time that I have been in graduate school. It was not how I planned to experience grad school, but it has opened my eyes to a whole new perspective and will give me a lovely son (seriously, any second now). There are certain things that I did not realize about being a pregnant student until I experienced it, and maybe my experiences can help better prepare other women, or give them something to relate to since pregnant students are such a rare breed.
As a grad student and a 25-year-old, I am around the average age to have my first child in America. I am not dependent on my parents and the world does not treat me like a child anymore.
However, since I decided to pursue my master's degree, I feel that people are not used to seeing pregnant and student in the same sentence without gasping.
When I first told my father, his first reaction was to ask me if I was to going to drop out.
This became a recurrent reaction from my family and friends (which my boyfriend who is also a student was never asked once). I did not expect the hesitant reactions and it made me feel shameful to be a pregnant student. As my expecting belly grew I always noticed that people on campus would stare at my stomach.
As I walked past, their eyes followed my belly like I had a giant red felt "A" on my chest.
None of my classmates are pregnant and thinking back, I can't remember ever seeing a pregnant woman in all of my five years of college. Since none of my classmates were pregnant, I felt like I had no one to relate to. There are a lot of things that pregnancy effects, besides the baby in the tummy part. I could not go out and get drinks with my classmates and bond with them the way that they were all doing. I could not relate to them fashionably because maternity clothes are heinous. I also feel like pregnancy put up a barrier because I would have a baby eventually and will always be busy, so why bother?
Pregnancy side effects would sometimes take a toll on my school work. In the first trimester, I could barely get out of bed because I was so tired. I could easily have slept 14 hours straight and being a working student did not help. I would seep through some of my classes and had to take the hit to my attendance points. I also have "pregnancy brain." Pregnancy brain is a real thing and is not well known enough. My mind can be so scattered that I forget my friend's names while I am speaking to them. I think it is October when it is March. Pregnancy brain has made me forget that I even go to school or that I work in twenty minutes. I missed due dates or completely misread instructions on assignments. For someone who needs A's on every assignment to function, it hurt because I would never make that mistake otherwise.
There are also benefits to being a pregnant student. I am never hungover and I have never been tempted to ditch a night class for a drinking holiday.
Pregnancy has allowed me to prioritize my school work and ignore the college lifestyle.
Before I knew I was pregnant, I went with my roommates to bars in Chicago's Lincoln Park. I feel so happy knowing getting wasted from $3 shots on a Wednesday is behind me. I now truly have nothing better to do at night than complete my homework.
Another benefit is that you sometimes get special treatment. The special treatment that pregnant women get is awesome. It is my favorite part and sometimes makes me wish I could be pregnant forever. People feel obligated to wait on me hand and foot. If I drop something, people rush to pick it up. It is completely not necessary but I get to feel like a princess for a day (or 280 days). Even though I was singled out for being the only pregnant woman, I was always treated especially nicely by students and professors.
Regardless of my friends and family expecting me to drop out, I am doing phenomenal in grad school. I have received A's in every class and have loved all of my classes. Being a pregnant student can be tough, but it is totally doable. If you find yourself to be a pregnant student, don't feel discouraged. It is not ruining your college experience but allowing you to do college differently.