Full-time student, full-time mom: Navigating a new normal

By Samaria Parker

Crying could be heard from across the room. He was awake. Again.

It was the fourth time that night, and at this point Adele Williams wasn’t sure if her eyes were burning from lack of sleep or because she was about to start crying herself. It was probably both.

All she knew was that she had to do well on her psychology final and get Zeke back to sleep.

In the past few months, the ability to pull the all-nighters she had once been able to pull with ease had become more of a challenge.

Navigating z-scores, correlations and graphs was tricky enough, but combining that with the task of trying to understand the needs of the little human beside her was even trickier. Did he just want the pacifier? Did his diaper need to be changed? Was he hungry? He couldn’t be; she had just fed him. Did he just want to be held? This guessing game went on into the early morning as she tried to figure out how to best comfort her 5-month-old son. When all else failed, she would rock him, hoping he would take the pacifier, and quietly beg for him to fall back asleep.

Once he drifted back to sleep, Williams would settle back on the couch amongst her mess of notes, textbooks and highlighters, open her laptop and get back to the statistics.

As she stared at the screen, all she could think about was sleep. It was something she hadn’t gotten much of lately.

Not since all seven pounds, six ounces and 20.5 inches of Ezekiel “Zeke” Anthony Gipson came into the world, early in the morning, on July 8, 2019. It was like she traded in sleep for the new bundle of joy she held in her arms. It was worth it, but man, she was tired.

A change in plans

At the age of 20, Williams knew what her plans were: Graduate from UNC-Chapel Hill. Become a physician assistant. Get married. Have a baby.

But as Williams stood in the bathroom of the Campus Health Services building staring down at the positive pregnancy test in her hand, she knew her plan was going to be disrupted. The news brought no tears, just her silence and the buzzing of the fluorescent lights in the bathroom.

She imagined all the reactions she could have – crying, screaming, cursing. Instead, she stood still, staring down at the pregnancy test in her hand.

Without even giving it a second thought, she knew she was having the baby. The crushing guilt of getting rid of the child was enough to solidify her decision. So, as she came to terms with her new reality, she thought to herself: “Well, okay. Gotta get ready for it.” She grabbed her belongings, tossed the test in the trash and exited the bathroom.

Have a baby. Finish school. Become a physician assistant. Get married. Then have another baby.

Making calls for her future

Two weeks later, it was time to make the call. However, the call was not to her parents, for that call had already been made. This one was to her best friend, and somehow, she was equally as nervous.

As Williams waited for her friend of 14 years to pick up, she just knew she was going to be mad.

“I have something to tell you,” Williams paused for a moment before continuing. “I’m pregnant.”

To William’s surprise she didn’t sense any anger from the other side of the phone. Instead, Kianna Wilder fell quiet for a moment before saying, “Don’t let a baby be an excuse for you not to do the things you want to do.”

Williams wouldn’t, despite the number of questions that came with the following pregnancy announcements.

Are you dropping out? How are you going to stay in school? Are you planning on going back home? How do you plan on graduating?

The rounder her belly became, the quicker she was able to answer each question.

“No, I’m not dropping out.”

“Yes, I am going to stay in school.”

“No, I am not planning on going back home.”

While peers weren’t sure how she was going to be able to do it, William’s confidence remained unshaken. Baby or no baby, she had goals. Now, she had someone else to share them with.

It was no longer as simple as just wanting to graduate. Now, she needed to. She no longer just wanted to become a physician assistant. She now needed a job that would allow her baby to have everything he ever needed. She wanted the house, the husband and the career, and she planned on having it.

As her feet swelled and stomach grew with each passing week, Williams stayed in school. She studied hard, passed all her classes and kept her job at the school’s financial aid office. When July rolled around, she had Zeke.

The new normal

She was still a college student, but the baby she was now responsible for made her so different from her peers. She no longer had the luxury of thinking solely about herself.

While her peers are waking up, rolling out of bed, brushing their teeth, throwing on some clothes and heading to class, she is waking up twice as early to do the same routine for two. Brushing her and Zeke’s teeth, getting them both dressed, making sure they both eat and dropping Zeke off at daycare – all before she heads to campus for class.

The hours that Williams spent alone were most often spent in classes or at work. The rest of her time was now spent alongside Zeke. They do everything together. They watch YouTube videos together, play in the little ball pit set up in the living room together, they laugh together, cry together, take Instagram pictures together.

These are the moments, both good and bad, that she couldn’t imagine any other way.

No matter how many sleepless nights, missed parties or challenges Williams faced, the hard times always faded away as soon as she looked down at that cute little nose and those big eyes staring right back into hers. She knows life is just the way it should be.

“I always wanted to be a mom,” Williams said. “I didn’t think I would be one this early, but I look and I can’t believe I made this little person.”

Edited by Elisabeth Beauchamp