I’ll never forget the day I found out I was pregnant. It was June, the sun was shining, and I was on holiday from university. My period was late, but not panicky late - I had been in hospital a few weeks earlier for minor surgery and I just assumed that the combination of antibiotics and anaesthetic had muddled up my cycle.
The test was really just for peace of mind, after all, I was on the pill so couldn't possibly be pregnant. The local midwives clinic did free testing, so off I went. I took the test, and waited, not really nervously, for the result. And it was positive.
I wished the world would open up and swallow me whole. I thought maybe I should cry but shock seemed to have frozen the tears, so I just shook and shook until I had to sit down. Positive. The test was positive. And here was I, smack bang in the middle of a university degree that had taken me four years to even start, and living with a man who already had four children to four different mothers. What a major screw up.
A few days later, after the midwife ended any doubts with a pregnancy blood test, reality hit me with the finality of a slamming door. I was pregnant, and I was never going to get my degree. The father was unfazed, my mother cried, and I couldn’t find the words to tell my father about this latest in a long line of screw ups on my part.
Later still, I began to accept the idea that yes, I really was pregnant and yes, I really was going to have a baby. In an effort to appease my mothers sorrow, I pledged to finish my degree in time to graduate with my class. At that stage the logistics of it overwhelmed me, but I figured I could back out of it when the time came. No one really expected me to have this baby and finish my degree all in the same year, did they?
Fast forward through a difficult pregnancy which included five months of all-day morning sickness and an extremely painful condition called symphysis pubis, and there I was in labour and studying for an extramural psychology course I had taken for cross credit.
Fast forward again, through the birth of my beautiful baby daughter Maya, an episode of mastitis that left me hospitalised for 9 days and the final demise of my relationship with the father of said daughter, and there I was embarking on my final semester, full time, four papers, and depositing my fully-breastfed baby in daycare for 6 hours a day.
It was four months of relentless work. The courses were more demanding than ever before. I got up every morning at 6.30 am, was out the door by eight, and dropped the baby at on-campus daycare before class started at 8.30am. Mid-morning I rushed out to feed the baby, and then back to class for yet more work. At 2pm I picked the baby up and trekked home to face the housework, the bills and yet more course work. For a free-spirited writer, my life had taken on an almost military precision.
Add to all this carefully organised chaos a few complicating factors – my car, washing machine and fridge all died in the same week, and then my beautiful baby became sick and was hospitalised twice. It seemed like I was never going to get to the end of it all.
And then on December 17 it was finally over. I handed in my final assignment, had completed all my exams, and, results pending, had completed a Bachelor of International Communication in the prescribed three years. The results came some weeks later, but my parents were so confident that I had succeeded that they gave me a tiny trophy with the words Emma Louise Fahy, BIC on it.
In April this year I will graduate with a university degree. My daughter will be 14 months old. I will march down Queen Street with my fellow classmates, dressed in the canary yellow of my degree, and I will know that there is nothing I cannot achieve. I am a young mum, a single mum and a currently unemployed mum, but I am certainly a determined mum. In years to come I hope my daughter will look back with pride on my achievements, take inspiration from them ,and know that life is truly not what you are given, but what you make from what you are given.
Nineteen months ago I thought my life was over. In fact, that was just the beginning.