Putting my determination to the test
Nothing can catch me off-guard, I have always believed, as I’m always prepared for all the possible scenarios that life may throw at me (like a true Virgo if one believes in horoscopes). I was certainly proven wrong on 23 December 2020 as life brought me the most unexpected Christmas gift. Just a few weeks before the start of my full-time MBA programme, I saw two lines on a pregnancy test. To take you back a decade, doctors had diagnosed fairly early that I would struggle to have children. Coming back to reality, here I was, out of my job, a week from the start of my MBA, in a new country, in the middle of a pandemic, with a positive pregnancy test. Perfect timing!
To say it was the biggest shock of my life would be a huge understatement. I must admit that I did not have tears of joy rolling down my cheeks. I felt rather frightened, wondering how I was going to cope. I had thoughts of deferring but with my supportive partner, who was over the moon with the news, we decided that we will pull it off. It wouldn’t be easy, but we were in it together.
Deep breath, off I go
So, I braced myself for the first trimester (of pregnancy and MBA). I remember, right on the day of our first class, it all hit me. Exhaustion to the point I could hardly get out of bed, feeling of nausea making it impossible to eat or even drink water, and some odd smells following me everywhere. My partner and I had agreed not to tell anyone other than family until 12 weeks. So, I had to power through all the group project meetings, exams, and classes, without letting my teammates know about my little (big!) secret. This lasted for the first three months of my pregnancy and quite nicely coincided with the first – most difficult – term of the MBA. It helped tremendously that our classes were online though – and also one of the many reasons I am a die-hard supporter of hybrid/remote working. Hats off to all the ladies going to the office when pregnant, battling sickness all day (it does not just happen in the morning).
I can do this!
After the first trimester, things had significantly improved. Nausea and exhaustion were gone, I could finally eat again, and the most demanding term was done. Also, I could finally start telling people about my pregnancy. My MBA teams have been so incredibly supportive, and I feel very lucky to have met so many wonderful, kind people. RSM’s staff was regularly in touch with me seeking updates on any new developments regarding my pregnancy.
The big event … on finals day
On the 28th of August 2021, I was preparing for my final exam of the 3rd semester when my contractions started. The school was open to extending the deadline, but I thought perhaps I can just continue and complete it. My yet-to-be-born-baby, who had been so cooperative throughout my MBA journey, waited until I finished my exam (so proud of her) and 12 hours later (29 August 2021), I welcomed Elise into the world.
The next few weeks were a bit of a blur, and I was lucky to have three weeks off before the start of the final term. Now that I was past the pregnancy phase, one might believe that the most difficult part of the journey was over. Without a doubt, it was even more challenging to complete the programme with a new-born baby than when pregnant. But with great support from my partner, my parents, my wonderful MBA friends, and the school, I did it; we did it. I finished this journey with cum laude distinction. Would I have wanted it any other way? For sure not.
What I have learned
- Relying on others is not a sign of weakness, and neither is asking for help.
- People are predominantly kind, and you can learn so much from others.
- Having a support network is important and thinking you can do it all on your own may just be a bit naïve.
I remember reading blogs about MBA and pregnancy a year and a half ago and am so thrilled I can share my story. I decided to write this for those who have the immense courage to achieve what they want, fighting against all the odds. It will be tough and there will be moments you want to give up. Believe in yourself and surround yourself with kind people – you can do it!