I am Britney, a Young Mom, and this is my story.
Britney, 22, lives in Robeson County with her husband and 18 month old son.
As told to Jasmine Getrouw-Moore, Media Outreach Coordinator for Young Families Connect
Britney shares how she has balanced nursing school, family and the Young Families Connect program. We will learn how Britney used time management skills and leaned into her support system while balancing nursing school, being a full–time wife and mother and participating in the Young Families Connect Program.
Marriage, School, Work…Surprise!
I grew up with a teen mother who had me at the age of sixteen, living in a community with a high crime rate, drug abuse (drug addicts and drug dealers). Many people from my background also become teen mothers, living off of welfare but instead, I chose not to become a statistic. I chose to create a life I wanted. I met my husband when I was fourteen years old, he was sixteen years old. We’ve been inseparable since then. After I graduated from high school, we moved in together with plans to get married. Things began to move pretty quickly. At this time, he was pursuing his career in law enforcement and I was pursuing my dream of becoming a nurse. We got married in our home and told our families about our marriage the next day. They had mixed emotions- hurt because we had not involved them in our plans but also happy for us because we had been together so long since our high school years. Each of our families were very comfortable with our relationship with one another. At the time, I was a 19 year old full-time student at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNCP), working two full time jobs. One job was selling insurance and the other was tutoring students on campus at UNCP. At this time, I completed all of the classes needed to apply to the nursing program. I applied and found out I was accepted; then I found out I was pregnant! All of this happened back to back after I got married.
When I first found out I was pregnant, I was an emotional wreck! I planned on being pregnant with my first child when I was at least 30 years old. This pregnancy was surprising. I had to reconsider my next steps with school, but I ultimately decided that I would continue with Nursing School. Once my husband and I shared the news with our family, I shared my plans to continue with my academic program and our family said they would help me the best way they could. With their support, I figured I would just go with the flow and do what I could to accomplish my dream of becoming a nurse.
Nursing School: A Humbling Experience
I began the Nursing program in summer 2015, working at rest homes and caring for elderly patients. The experience was somewhat overwhelming, but it helped to prepare me for remainder of the program. I was five months pregnant at in the fall of 2015. This program was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. This was the hardest experience I have had while in school. When my class started fall 2015, the teachers gave all of us (students) a syllabus which is like an agenda for the semester that includes a list of course work and due dates. The syllabus also showed show teachers determine success for students. This agenda is meant to help us know what to expect from the program. This was overwhelming to my classmates and me; we were wondering how we would get all of this stuff done in a such a short time period.
Nursing School was a whole different world than I was used to. The first week of fall 2015, I remember thinking to myself “What did I get myself into?!” I noticed that I had to change my commitments. I was unable to manage studying for these intense courses and working. I decided to quit my two jobs and totally focus on my success in this program, especially because I had not developed a plan B. Nursing was my goal and I had to give it my best shot. During this time, fall 2015, I had five classes, two of which were clinical courses. This was tough! During this time, teachers reminded us (myself and other students) that spring semester is when we would start getting “weeded out” of the program. I had to use new methods for studying and realized that I had to sacrifice family time so that I could stay on top of my school work. I managed to continue my prenatal visits and managed a healthy pregnancy while managing a busy school life. I believe, however, that if I had my son during the first six months of school, I would have had a much harder experience. I passed fall 2015 by the skin of my teeth, proving by action that I would be able to do the work while pregnant and soon parenting!
I had my son in the spring of 2016. In fact, I gave birth to him on a Thursday and went back to school on a Tuesday! I had to fight tooth and nail to return to the classroom because I wanted to make sure I wasn’t behind. My advisor, a Nurse Practitioner, understood how taking off of school for a long period of time while in the nursing program would really put me behind. She took my vital signs, ensured I was in a healthy condition to return to school and allowed me to return.
Being a full-time mommy, breastfeeding and focusing on school 100% has been a humbling experience for me and my husband. I spent eight hours a day at school. My grandmother kept my son while my husband worked and I was at school. I used ten minute classroom breaks and lunch breaks to pump breastmilk for my son. I made sure to breastfeed my son as soon as I got home to make sure I was releasing my breastmilk and giving him what he needed.
I noticed that when I got home, I wanted to spend time with my newborn baby who I had been away from for eight hours a day. I began to spend more time with him instead of studying. This caught up with me because I bombed the first exam I had during the spring 2016 semester. That was the lowest grade I had ever made in college. Ever. At that point, I thought something’s got to give. I needed to juggle my responsibilities and multitask. I wanted to make sure that I was clear about my goal- to get through Nursing School, for my baby, for our future, but also make sure to not put my son on the back-burner. I began to study while I pumped, studied while I breastfed him and even studied out loud speaking in baby talk while I spending time with him. Once I figured out the time management and multitasking, I had a good spring semester.
Good News, Bad Storm
My husband had been working at a local sheriff’s department and moved to a local police department. During this time with a new baby, and in between jobs, we started to feel some of the financial burdens of having one income. We had living off of our savings account, and received some support from local churches and community members. One day at church, a member gave me the number for Mrs. Virginia (Young Families Connect Coordinator in Robeson County). I immediately started the program and realized how helpful it was for my family. Mrs. Virginia helped connect me to programs in Robeson County like one that gave short-term stipends to transitional workers. This was especially helpful due to our financial hardships. I really enjoyed the classes I have been a part of with Young Families Connect. I learned how to find some school-family balance; I learned how to show appreciation to my spouse and not to feel guilty for accomplishing my goals while being a full-time mother and student. I also polished my skills on maintaining healthy relationships, positive parenting skills and healthy nutrition for my family. These skills proved helpful for my next and last year of nursing school.
The fall semester 2016 was by far the easiest semester of this program. I took mental health, a community course, and research. At this time, Hurricane Matthew happened. My husband, a new local police officer and emergency responder, often on duty, responding to the community’s needs after the storm. I was often at home alone with an infant. No water, no power. We were out of school for a week but as soon as we came back, we had a test all as if nothing happened. We were able to apply the damaging effects of Hurricane Matthew in our Community class. Our program donated canned goods and clothing. We were able to see how churches in the community, our school, the nursing program and us as students were able to give back to victims of Hurricane Katrina in Lumberton. This wasn’t clinical time, it was our volunteer time. This experience helped me to grow as a nurse, to be selfless and give back to the community I live in and serve.
Weathering the Storm
My last semester in school, spring 2017, was very, very difficult! I would say my most difficult of my whole experience in the nursing program due to the time commitments I had with my courses, required paperwork and personal changes I experienced with my household. I had classes that required me to complete an internship which is like being a full-time nurse. On top of that, my semester included doing some resume building, a job search and taking a course on nurse management and leadership. I did very well in my classes but this was extremely hard with so many papers. I mean papers GALORE! My internship was on the Intensive Care Unit of our local hospital. This experience allowed me to apply my classroom experience to a real-life clinical setting. I enjoyed this experience so much because I had to think on my toes instead of asking a teacher for help. When I had questions, I was able to learn from my team members at my internship. I was even hired on that floor, with that team!
My commitment to school and my husband’s focus on his career, our new roles as parents began to put a strain on our marriage. My husband told me that he wanted to separate. It is not fun to have someone you care about walk away from you. I asked him to reconsider, to go to counseling but at that time there was no fixing the matter. I asked church members to pray for us and then reset my priorities on the two areas I was able to work on: motherhood and my last two months of school. I finished school successfully. My husband and I talked about what this was all for- making a better life for ourselves, for our son. I reminded him that I was present for him during his Officer Training program, 100%. After some talking my husband realized what he had, that the decision to separate was a mistake. We are now weathering the storm of that decision. We are making our back to one another, rebuilding the trust that had been lost in our relationship. I now know that I can pretty much do anything I set my mind to. Managing responsibilities as a wife, mother and student has been difficult but possible with focus on my goals and support from my family and community, including Young Families Connect. It didn’t hit me that I was graduating until I walked across the stage. I have a job in my field and I hope to pass the NC nursing exam. I believe I am living proof that if you put your mind to something and work hard, you can become a success!