Things have been quiet here of late because I have been busy finishing my university degree. No big deal hey. Tons of people have a degree right? Well, it is a big deal to me. Probably a bigger deal than I realised when I was sitting in lecture theatres and typing essays whilst breastfeeding a baby.
5074533 – a number that has defined part of me for over 6 years will no longer be mine from Wednesday. I will graduate tomorrow. It has so long in the making that it still feels surreal that I will no longer be a QUT student after this week.
I began my Human Services degree in 2005 after doing one semester of an Education degree the year before. I realised that my passion for working with young people would be far too constrained within the system of a high school and therefore I changed degrees. At the time, I was doing as much volunteering with local youth organisations as I could. I loved it! University classes challenged me, but I felt up to the challenge. Everything was perfect. I love learning. It is something that is a part of me, but towards the end of my degree, it was very hard to find the passion for it.
When we lost May (check post 1) I spiralled into depression and nothing was thrilling me anymore. I very seriously considered quitting my degree and if it wasn’t for the amount of money I had to re-pay for the units I had already completed, I would have. Brian and my family encouraged me to keep going with it, but I have to admit from that time on, the passion was lost. I had a newfound priority now, and it had nothing to do with other people’s wayward teenagers.
When I became pregnant with Hannah, I began to do uni part-time. The two practical work placements that I knew I would have to do were weighing heavily on my mind. For the first one we were lucky that Brian worked part-time to support us while I did the placement and he stayed home with Hannah. The second placement (that I just completed!) nearly killed me…
I know that sounds melodramatic but this semester was such a difficult experience for me. I was not looking forward to doing the work placement at all. Blake was exclusively breastfed when I started the placement. He refused to drink anything other than water from his sippy cup, he refused to drink a normal bottle completely and was only eating a miniscule amount of solid food. I was extremely worried about being away from him all day, 3 days a week and whether our breastfeeding relationship would survive. I was very fearful that it wouldn’t, and for that to happen because of study was unimaginable to me.
Fortunately, my work placement ’employers’ were very understanding and accommodating, allowing me to bring Blake to work with me one day a week and to work in the afternoon when Brian came home the other days. I still had to put Blake in Family Daycare one day a week, but only for 3 or 4 hours at a time thankfully. Hannah was enrolled in a local daycare 3 days a week.
Paying for other people to care for my children whilst I worked my ass off for free for 4 months – that’s what hurt the most. It dawned on me as I dropped Blake of at his carers house with tears in my eyes, that I was not cut out to be a working mum. Certainly not cut out for work that meant that neither Brian or I would be able to take care of our babies during the day. Every week, I desperately wished that I didn’t have to put our family through this process and I felt very selfish to be doing it… even though everyone kept telling me it was for the best.
I missed my babies more than I thought I could. Although it was nice at times to have intelligent conversation and to pee in peace, those were benefits I would have happily done without if it has meant that I didn’t need to do this work placement. I really resented it, it ate at me every day. I didn’t like that working took so much of my energy and time away from the kids. I barely had any left for anyone else and all I could do was count down my hours knowing that eventually it would be all over and life could return to normal.
The other big issue was that I didn’t only have the placement to complete to satisfy my course requirements; I had mountains of reflective essays to write and a portfolio to organise, projects to run and workshops to attend. All this whilst trying to mother my children, maintain a house, participate in 2 mothers groups, spend time with family, be wifely and supportive of my husband, sacrifice many personal wants and needs and try to sleep. We had some HARD days in this house. REALLY HARD DAYS. The entire experience took a toll on our family that we really didn’t need after a difficult first 6 months after Blake was born (more on that in a future post). I know neither of us realised just how much of an effect having me out of the house part-time would make on our family life. I am certainly looking forward to a more peaceful home and more naps now that uni is over.
And it is over. I was quite stressed in my final weeks of the semester as I was writing my portfolio and written reflections. My lecturer had deliberately been quite vague in her expectations of this assessment in order for us to strive for higher standards I assume. I was certain that I had either done too little or too much ;). However, an agonising fortnight after submitting my final assessment I received some welcome news from my lecturer that she wanted to use my portfolio as an example to show future students! This was such a relief and meant that I had passed my unit and therefore my degree.
So after all that, call me crazy, but I am still a studying mama. I have a Childbirth Education course to complete and I have applied for a Midwifery degree for next year. I will find out soon whether I have been accepted but if I am, I will more than likely defer the degree for a little while. I need some time at home, with my babies and my husband first; I need sleep and I need peace.
Oh and by the way, our breastfeeding relationship did survive. 14 months and still going strong 🙂