Young mum, Ciara, fell pregnant at 18 during sixth form. She’s shared her top tips to help with exams whilst pregnant or a new mum.
When I found out that I was pregnant, I was in my last year at sixth form and my A levels were 9 months away… just like my due date!
My first exam, Psychology, was scheduled for the 7th of June 2017, and my daughter was due on the 26th of May, but she arrived a day early on the 25th. I knew that such an important academic year would be difficult to get through even without being pregnant, so I needed to work hard. Here are my top 5 tips for exams whilst pregnant or a new mum.
1. Set one easy to accomplish goal a day
I was taking 3 A Levels – English Literature, Psychology and Biology, so I had a lot of work on my plate. The idea of learning and revising all of the subject matter was overwhelming and sometimes the thought of it made me desperate for a nap, so I set myself 5 specific and realistic goals a day, and forced myself to do at least one. Whether it was to do one practice question or to finish an essay, I made sure I knew exactly what I had to do, and the amount of time it should take me to do it. Alternatively, I would set a timer for an hour and tell myself that for that hour I would work flat out, and then I would allow myself a break!
Tell a teacher or member of staff that you trust as soon as you find out that you are pregnant. Open up channels of communication between your subject teachers and yourself so that if you miss a lesson or revision session due to an appointment, they can send you study materials. It is possible for your school to communicate with healthcare professionals, so that everyone is on the same page. When I was pregnant my anxiety became very intense, and if I hadn’t already developed a good relationship with my teachers, I might have been too anxious to ask for help and I would have fallen behind.
3. Portable revision
Throughout my pregnancy I found myself in waiting rooms all the time, and to kill time I would bring a pack of revision cards, or read my books for English on my phone and make notes. Find a portable revision method that works for you so that whenever the motivation (or boredom) strikes, you are prepared for some impromptu revising. Many revision books and textbooks have a free online copy that your teacher may be able to help you access.
4. Get in your zone
I work best with silence and alone in a clean space with minimal distractions. Before I sat down to revise I made sure that the room wasn’t too hot or cold and that I was comfortable. As my pregnancy progressed it became increasingly difficult to sit on the uncomfortable plastic chairs at school, so I brought in jumpers to make myself a cushioned seat. At school, total silence was nearly impossible, so I would find a booth, put my headphones in and play some music or a video that related to one of my subjects. At home I revised in my bedroom, where I could see my daughter’s cot, her scan pictures on the wall and her tiny clothes on display. If all my usual techniques were failing, knowing that all of the hard work would help me give my baby the best life I could motivated me to work a little harder or a little longer. You should also be able to take the exams in a location that is comfortable and convenient for you. I was able to take my exams at home with an invigilator, and I was able to take frequent breaks to breastfeed my daughter.
5. Give yourself a break
OK, so you might not be able to go out to clubs with your friends, but unwinding is so important during pregnancy, and if you are in a high stress academic year it is vital. Whether you are taking a relaxing bath, doing some shopping for the baby or just having some lunch with your friends, getting your head out of a book can give you a fresh look at your work load and make things seem more doable. Going out on dates with my boyfriend or swimming with my mum made me feel like a person, especially if I had done all of my work beforehand. Even a bath and a podcast made life more bearable, so take some time to just be yourself, before you become a mum!
My academic plans changed when I became a mother, but I am due to start university in September 2018 after taking a gap year to work and focus on being a mum. I will be doing the subject I love with my little family to come home to, and after taking my A levels with a newborn (I even got to bring my tiny baby into school for revision sessions!)
I have realised that being a young parent can be the greatest challenge and the greatest motivation at the same time.
Read or hear more from other young mums who fell pregnant during education.