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Pregnancy 1010: Balancing school and motherhood

Last semester, Shaelee Allen was energetic and enthusiastic about starting her senior year at Weber State University. Now that she’s expecting a baby girl in January,  the elementary education major is tired all the time.

“Now that I am pregnant, I am definitely less focused on my schoolwork,” Allen said. “Between school, work, doctor’s appointments and homework, I am completely swamped.”

Allen, like many other students and professors past and present, is juggling the pressures of school and starting a family. Each of these stages of life presents its own challenges, but there are ways to stay positive and mentally, physically and emotionally healthy.

“At the beginning of my pregnancy, I was very nauseous and never felt 100 percent normal,” Allen said.

To help feel better and to get through the school day, she said she makes sure to always carry a bottle of water so she doesn’t get dehydrated. She also packs healthy snacks such as carrots, grapes or granola bars.

“If you let yourself get too hungry, you get really sick,” she said.

Allen said that she also learned to only bring books she absolutely needs so she doesn’t have to carry a heavy backpack from class to class.

“I like walking around campus,” she said. “Most of my classes are up three flights of stairs, so it is nice to get that small workout in with my busy schedule.”

Kristen Morey, an English teaching major, had similar experiences when she was pregnant two years ago. Morey, now a senior, was a junior and two weeks away from the end of spring semester 2011 when she gave birth to her son, Rei. She said one of her biggest challenges was severe back pain, known as sciatica, which limited her mobility. She relied on a cane to help her get around campus.

“I really couldn’t do much in the way of exercise because of my back,” Morey said. “That sucked.”

One habit she said she found helpful was improving her diet.

“I’m not a breakfast person normally, but I made sure to eat breakfast every day during my pregnancy to keep up my strength and to make sure I received all of the nutrients that Rei needed,” Morey said.

The WSU Student Senate has recently discussed issues in regards to pregnant women on campus. The members have talked about putting in parking spaces for pregnant women by the handicapped spaces in the parking lots. They would give women more than six months pregnant a special parking pass that would allow them to park closer to the buildings during their pregnancy. The issue is still being discussed by the senate.

Carol Merrill, director of the WSU Women’s Center, stressed the importance of healthy eating during pregnancy. Through the Women’s Center, there is a plethora of resources to assist students.

“(We can) make sure they are contacted with WIC for women, infants and children so if there’s a need of nutrition for them while they’re pregnant and for when the baby comes so they stay as healthy as possible,” Merrill said.

Staff from the center can also help students apply for assistance, such as food stamps through Workforce Services.

In addition to pregnant students eating well, Merrill said she advises them to be mentally and emotionally healthy.

“If it’s a difficult transition psychologically (into motherhood), we have a counseling center here on campus,” Merrill said.

Merrill acknowledged that being a pregnant student is hard, but offered encouragement.

“It’s an adventure,” she said. “Sometimes it’s a good adventure, and sometimes it’s not so great. But it’s an adventure. . . . Make sure you set aside time for you. Do what you need to do to feed back to your soul.”

Even if it’s only 30 minutes a day, she said, sometimes that’s enough.

Morey, who will graduate at the end of fall semester, said she is excited to see her son in the audience when she accepts her degree after years of hard work.

“Worth every minute of it,” she said.

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