Non-Traditional Student

Weak Meals
Dinner.

A few months back I wrote about my dilemma of going to school now or waiting three years to use my husband’s GI Bill benefits to pay for it. I had to come to the conclusion that spending the next three years asking people for permission to ask them questions despite the fact they called in to Customer Service for help may in fact lead to a certain kind of death.

I had to rush and pick a school to complete Statistics as a prerequisite. I picked my Alma Mater. From the website, it looked like I would be paying around $250 per credit hour by two ways. First of all, military personnel and dependents could get In-State tuition, and secondly the tuition for online only programs was around that same price. So I was good to go! Except I wasn’t. My tuition bill was $1421.

What I had failed to realize in my haste was that there was a deadline for claiming military status. It was in May but it was June when I realized I needed to take this class! Then, the online only course rate only applies if an online major is declared! Word of advice– just put down your mom’s in-state address.

I was anxious about taking the class because I’m terrible at math and had poor study skills when I was in college. But I’m grown now so I thought I’d do better since I’m responsible. When I was in college my Asian boyfriend did my College Algebra homework online and I still barely made a C. Nevertheless, I was cautious but optimistic.

The first assignment was to post “A little about yourself” on the forum and comment on two other students’ posts. Being old, I wrote a paragraph about myself instead of a numbered list with only the requisite three facts, and commented on several others posts. I eagerly awaited for someone to respond to my comments or my post, which no one did.

When perusing the forum, I realized I was the only graduate in the class. Do you remember being in undergrad and having that one lady in her mid-forties in your class that you kind of unfairly couldn’t stand? I recall having several classes with this woman who was frequently lost, but still tried to answer every question the teacher asked despite the fact she truly had no clue. In fact, she often ended her answers with “I don’t know.” She caught on slowly, but was self-sufficient enough to ask [stupid] questions to find her way.  Well at one point I realized I might be her when I saw that I was the only person posting in the forum regularly regarding TECHNOLOGICAL ISSUES. In addition I was probably the only person with an email thread going with the professor about various inquiries. But I was also probably the only one paying my own real life, non-Sallie Mae coins to take the course, so judge me.

Taking an online class and being a full-fledged adult was much different from undergrad because I had to work all day and do homework at night and grow a fetus. It was also a five-week course. Each week had a lot of work, but Final week was intense: two tests, four assignments, four quizzes, and a project AND the final, which I had to take off work for and pay to use a proctoring service.

P Value

Anyway, I was pretty stressed before the final. I wasn’t sure how I would do because I had gotten stranded in struggle city with the last couple chapters. I felt like my fate on the test was decided because I knew I didn’t have the mental or physical capacity anymore to “pull an all-nighter.” But on the other hand, DO YOU KNOW WHAT I COULD BUY WITH $1400???

I was so glad to be done with the class and statistics as a whole. But was also not 100% sure I didn’t fail. The feeling of relief after the final was like being post-coital, but then also like when you’ve just nearly missed being in a horrible car accident.

You can imagine how shocked I was to find that I had made an 88%! I was just hoping for a C. But I was really floored the following week when I checked my grade and saw that I had earned an A!!! I cried.

I cried because I had found a lizard in the shower that morning and was emotionally drained, but also because after 15 years, I finally had proof I wasn’t an idiot. I couldn’t help thinking back to struggling in Pre Algebra in 7th grade and the beginning of believing I wasn’t actually gifted or intelligent. If I had never stopped believing in myself, I would be a psychologist right now. I considered myself “bad at math” from then on, but looking back it had more to do with external factors than my actual intelligence. I could get deep and talk about how I was black and poor, and all my classmates were white with two parents and lived in nice neighborhoods together and studied/copied each other’s homework, but I am happy to simply say that I am finally ready to do my best.

Baby Making

Pregnancy Test

I am 18 weeks pregnant and my husband is deployed. He knew I was pregnant before he left because we planned it.

Why would one plan to carry a child without her partner? Because the Army. The Army has commandeered almost all of my significant life choices and it seemed important that we not let it dictate our life plan. Where we live and what jobs we have are temporary, but bringing a child into the world is hopefully a permanent decision. We wanted to make that choice on our own terms. Being 29 this year and reaching three years of marriage, it was the right time for us. Personally, I’ve been ready since I was about 18 but having a child in high school is frowned upon. Spencer on the other hand stated he needed a total of three vacations before he could feel he had done enough. The third would have been this summer, but all the dates conflicted with the deployment… Does Afghanistan count?

The thing about deployment is we basically know what to expect: things are going to be less good for x months (of course, still anything can happen). That sounds bleak, but better the bleak you know than the bleak that springs up when you have something nice and elaborate planned! Better he missed the pregnancy than us wait and he miss the pregnancy, birth, or newborn stage for some other reason. Those things can still happen, but the deployment should at least allow us a guarantee he will be home for the first part of our son’s life. Despite those “facts,” we ultimately prayed that whatever was best would happen and proceeded.

I know this is frustrating to many people, but we started trying in April, and we conceived in May. I was obsessed in April. I realized I could not continue on like that. It made me crazy. The tests, the sex, the hyperawareness was too much and I knew I would be a wreck if I repeated that pattern. The following month I just wanted to continue our normal routines, but did take an ovulation test the day my Glow app suggested I should ovulate and made a point to follow up…

At the end of the month, Spencer brought up how overwhelming it might be to come home from deployment and have a newborn. I thought that was reasonable; reacclimating after a deployment can be difficult. I agreed that it would be best to wait. LOL.

I hadn’t thought I was pregnant because I didn’t have any symptoms, I mean, I had a frozen daiquiri in the freezer. But Spencer was leaving town on June 1st so I figured I should go ahead and take a test so we could find out together as opposed to waiting four days until I joined him in Oklahoma. It caught me completely by surprise for the test to come up positive. Spencer came into the bathroom to see why I was laughing so hard. I replied by showing him the pregnancy test…which he couldn’t comprehend, because I’m cheap and had the test strips instead of the plastic test stick that has the legend on it to tell you want the lines mean. We took another test later that afternoon. Then I took one Friday and when we got back about 10 days later. It actually takes a while to really be convinced.

That was Memorial Day and Spencer left June 25. It was hard to celebrate a pregnancy when Dad was rearing to join the boys in the sandbox. And it’s hard to celebrate now with the time difference and our separate stressors. I didn’t think much about being pregnant without my partner because thousands of other black women do it every year. I now understand that just because people go through something does not mean it’s easy and it has not been. And that is the same truth about deployment. I wish I had someone to get me food, hug me and rub my feet, watch me grow, and talk about the future. Twenty minutes of FaceTime once or twice a day cannot suffice.

Despite the exasperation or aloneness I feel at times, so far I can’t say this was not the right choice. Overall it would be better if Spencer were here, but at times, it seems like he is better off not being around, because with these hormones and his personality, I’m going to be mad at him regardless of where he is.  This has not been as exciting of a time as I expected for several reasons, and only as I write this I make the connection that neither was my engagement because Spencer and I were apart for that as well and I had to do everything on my own. But the difference here is that my son is with me. At this point, I have to add “so I’m told,” because I’ve got this bump and these C cups but nothing else to show. Hopefully in the next few weeks I will start to feel him and that will comfort me. Although I’m not excited, the pregnancy is hardly the end goal; the baby is, and Spencer will be here for that. Hopefully.