“How did you manage being a full-time student and full-time parent at the same time? Especially being so young?”
If I had a dollar for everytime I was asked that question, I’d probably be out of student debt. My usual answer was: adrenaline. That is exactly how I felt at the time. I was always busy, always moving, always thinking, always tired, always frustrated, always kicking it, always…something. Now I say God but I keep the conversation going. True, God kept me throughout my season at Mizzou where I was finishing my degree and raising Addyson at the same time with all my family and support system two hours away.
There were numerous occasions where I felt made a huge mistake coming back to school.
“Why did I move away from home? I need help! Addy needs me and I can’t give her all of me because I have to focus on my studies. I’m still young and still want to enjoy my youth. Is that selfish?”
I swore I was crazy the two years I had left for school in Columbia. I talked to myself a lot, complained to God a lot, cried to my mom a lot. I was all over the place.
I graduated from high school in 2008 and went to Mizzou that following fall. I was in an on-again/off-again relationship with my high school sweetheart who went to a different college 4 hours away from Mizzou. We continued to be on-again/off again throughout my freshman year, so much so that I got pregnant over winter break when we both came back home.
I found out I was pregnant on the day of Obama’s Inauguration in 2009. My first semester of college was awesome: new people, freedom, parties, etc. I thought I adjusted pretty well. Plus, I was never really homesick because I came back home to St. Louis every other weekend. Second semester, the beginning of the rest of my life began. It didn’t take long for me to feel the affects of pregnancy. I was only three weeks pregnant when my test came back positive and I could feel Addyson making her presence known early on.
I remember being curled up in a ball on my floor every night for a week straight around 1 or 2 in the morning from severe cramps: her implanting in my uterus lining (I got that from healthday.com).
Her father and I grew more and more distant the bigger my belly got. I always felt a snowball of emotions every hour of everyday. I often missed class second semester due to feeling nauseated or just wanting to sleep in. Fortunately for me, I ended the semester with a 3.5 and decided to move back home to get help from my family with Addyson. I continued taking classes over the summer at the local community college and in my third trimester, I took online classes to keep up with my credits. One adviser from Mizzou worked closely with me the whole time I was away to ensure I was still on track to come back when I was ready (I LOVE YOU VICKY!)
In the midst of the highs and lows my emotions would endure throughout one day, I was doing fairly well. When Addy was only 8 weeks old, I started working at a very popular children’s clothing store at a local mall (where all my money went as well) while still continuing the online classes. I remember rocking a car seat with my foot at night so Addy could go to sleep while I was trying to finish online quizzes. Spring of 2010 when Addy was three months, I enrolled at the local community college to get the classroom feeling back. It wasn’t Mizzou but it would do while I was trying to stay on track. Thank God for both my grandmothers and my grandfather. They came in and held me DOWN! I only had class 2 days a week but I worked the other three and I would alternate which great-grandparent’s house she would go to throughout the week. I wasn’t quite ready to put her in daycare and they offered to help me. I wish I had another opportunity to tell them how much I appreciate them coming in and supporting me when I needed it most. My grandfather is my only surviving grandparent and I make sure Addyson spends as much time with him as she can.
For most of 2010, this was my life: finishing up general education requirements and working. Fall semester was approaching and I was heavily considering going back to Mizzou. I felt that I did a good job balancing student, work, and home life (with all the support) and I wanted to finish at the place that I started. Addy would be turning one that upcoming September and I finally felt comfortable placing her in a daycare. I started making plans, making day trips to Columbia to speak with financial aid, looking at apartments, and looking up transfer equivalency policies to make sure everything would transfer within my major.
Yall, I thought I had it together.
This didn’t go over so well with my parents. My mom was indifferent but she knew how much I wanted to go back but my dad…oh no.
“All of your family is here. All of your support is here. So now you want to go and make yourself a part time parent just so you can go back to Mizzou? Nah, I aint with that.”
Wow. Tell me how you really feel dad.
That only fueled my fire to make sure I did go back to Mizzou. My best friend/old roommate was still up there so we discussed finding an apartment by campus and signing a lease right before school started. I registered for classes, did my FAFSA, and kept eye on the disbursement of that good ol’ refund check. Everything was good, right? WRONG!
The Friday before classes were to resume, I was stripped of all my financial aid (outside of loans) that I thought I was eligible for. Was I about to take out $20,000 in loans? No! Apparently, with me moving back home under my parents’ roof (even though I had a child), they took my parents income into consideration and I was no longer eligible for need-based aid. This would require an intensive appeal process that would extend way past the start of classes. My heart was crushed. There was no way I could go back right now. I had just signed this lease (with my mom being a co-signer) and it fell through right before my very eyes. My best friend had to hurry and find someone to sublease my room so expenses wouldn’t fall on her. I felt like a failure because I told people I was coming back, but I wasn’t.
God makes it extremely difficult for things to happen in my life when it isn’t in His will. I wanted to be back so bad. My mindset was to prove people wrong and I was willing to do anything and everything to get back. God showed up and shut it down.
That following week, my mind was just in a frantic. I was hurt. I was angry with my father who I felt secretly got his way. I was upset at my friends enjoying the festivities of Back to School Shenanigans and I’m back home trying to figure out if I can even attend classes and stay on track with my courses.
Mizzou has a sister school in St. Louis, MO and I knew I didn’t want to go back to community college so I enrolled at the sister campus and began classes a week later. Oh, I was still going to find a way to get back to Mizzou eventually so I even began my appeal process so I could have all my ducks in a row by the time the spring semester rolled around.
*You keep writing about all this school stuff Alana. Where was Addy’s dad through all of this? Was he supportive? How did he feel about you leaving St. Louis with the baby?
I’m sure these are probably some questions that you have at this point in the post. He was a student at the time as well which was not in St. Louis. Eventually he did move back home, but he was on the same quest I was on. I wanted to go back to school and he wanted to find a better school to play basketball. Like many common situations you probably know of, Addyson was/is under my care 100% of the time. I had and still have to make decisions with Addyson in mind where he did not. Honestly, I did not care if he had any reservations about me going back to school with Addyson but he did not. By then, our relationship (that was not there) sucked to the highest sucktivity and there was always strife. I needed a healthy distraction and for me, that was school.
Don’t’ worry, I will address the struggles of single parenthood in another posting. Things got REAL real, REAL fast.
I excelled in school during that fall and at the very last minute, my appeal with Mizzou went through. I had to provide 65645343 pieces of documentation to financial aid to prove that my income is the only one that mattered and the only one that should be considered (which was none), meet up with Ms. Vicki to help me re-register for classes again, start my quest for housing and for childcare. Only this time, I didn’t tell my parents what I was doing. If I had any off days, I would literally make day trips to Mizzou to make all this happen while Addyson was in daycare and make sure I was back in time to pick her up. You know how much gas that was?!?!?! (Courtesy of refund checks again. Best thing that can happen to you during undergrad…if you use it for what it’s for of course). I wanted to make sure that everything was right before I presented it to my parents so every possible question they could ever think of; I would already have the answer.
Financial Aid (double check/even the reimbursement date)
Housing (check) She even let me sign the lease on site and pay when I got the money the following week
Childcare: I was still looking. That’s not something I wanted to rush.
All of this was completed a week before classes started. Once I secured my housing, I drove back to STL and sat on my parent’s bed. Now or never Alana. Technically you are grown (in your own head) and they need to know how well you prepared and thought about this. It worked. Every question they had, I answered for them. My mom was happy for me. My dad still didn’t agree 100% but when I showed him all the work I put into it, he gave me his blessing. I knew then without a doubt, I was going to be a Mizzou tiger again with my little cub in tote.
One week later, I was back on campus with a bookbag strapped.
Listen up I’m BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK!!!!! * blasts T.I. in the background *