‘You can bring your newborn to class,’ my Dean emails me. I was relieved, but afraid. Will he cry all the time?’: Mom takes newborn to law school classes, does ‘everything in my power’ to give children ‘opportunity to be successful’

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“Since I was a little girl I loved to study and I aspired to have a college degree, but I didn’t really know what I wanted to be when I grew up.  Even when I filled out the college application, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study, so I applied for admission to the General Biology Program. I didn’t really like it that much, it just didn’t feel right, so I made the decision to request a transfer to the Social Work Program because I realized I wanted to help people with family and emotional problems. I met my husband in college two months before I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, we got married 8 months after I graduated, and that same year, I became a mom. My husband already had a one year old when we decided to move in together, but he lived with his mom and only came to visit every other weekend, so we already had a little one, but he didn’t live with us. My whole world turned upside down when I had my own baby, I absolutely loved being a mommy. Having that little baby boy changed my perspective of life and the future ahead of us.

Courtesy of Leisha Joanne Claudio Rivera

I had a part time job at a big department store that I kept until I got a job in what I thought it would be the best job I could find as a Social Worker, but I was wrong. I began to hate my job – the only part I liked was going to courts and having case discussions with the lawyers from work. I realized I wanted to be a lawyer in order to help people representing them in court so that they could avoid unfair situations. My husband, who is enlisted in the Air National Guard and works full time on base, wanted to be a lawyer since he was a little boy because he wanted to follow his father’s footsteps. He took the LSAT and got accepted in a Law School. Once I saw him take his first classes and tell me all about it, I told him, ‘Hey I realized that my job isn’t working for me and I would really like to be a lawyer, but I’m scared because I don’t want to be an absent mother for our boy.’ He told me, ‘Do it. You supported me when I told you I wanted to enlist in the Air National Guard. Who am I to hold you from following your dreams? It’ll be a little bit difficult, but we’ll get through it together.’ I followed his advice not knowing what would happen next.

Courtesy of Leisha Joanne Claudio Rivera
Courtesy of Leisha Joanne Claudio Rivera

I took the tests and I failed the first time, but that didn’t stop me. I quit my job, applied for a master’s degree in Social Work that would just take a year to complete. I was lucky to have the help from my mother in law, who took care of my son when I was in school, and when I came home every day I was filled with hugs and kisses from my little one. He was my biggest motivation to complete my degree. While doing my master’s, I took the tests again and this time I passed them! We were so happy about it. I only applied for the same law school where my husband was taking night classes and I got accepted. I was ecstatic, but at the same time I was worried because my husband offered to move to the same town where the college was so we wouldn’t have to travel that much in the car. Since his work was near where we were moving, it was a win-win, but we were moving far from family members that were our support system whenever we had to go to school or study for big tests.

Courtesy of Leisha Joanne Claudio Rivera

We moved two months before I graduated from my master’s degree. When I got to march on my graduation, I felt proud that I completed the degree and I could finally hold the diploma in my arms next to my son. I was so excited that in the next two months I would be starting law school, but I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. Once the first semester started, I had to take 5 classes, which meant a lot of credit hours and a whole lot of stress. I thought to myself, ‘Is this normal? How am I supposed to survive 3 years like this? Is this what I really want?’ I loved almost all of the classes but I was struggling to stay afloat, to prepare for every class, to study enough to take and pass the midterms and the finals.

Courtesy of Leisha Joanne Claudio Rivera

While I went to school, I was in full student mode. My 3-year-old was in daycare, but once I picked him up and went home, I struggled because I felt I was failing to be a good mom, a good wife and part time stay at home mom. I sat with some school friends at lunch every day and out of the blue, one of them started crying, saying they couldn’t deal anymore with the stress and the lack of sleep. When the midterms and finals week came, all I could do was cry while I studied and all the time. I hated to be that absent mom who had to be reading in front of a computer or drowned with so many books around her all the time, who didn’t have any time for my son. Don’t get me wrong, I always kissed him and told him I loved him, but he was always asking me to play with him and I just couldn’t because I didn’t have enough time to do everything. I hated to see the mountain of unfolded clean clothes and to see all the mess in my house (you know, the mess when you have a little one).  To make matters worse, my son was getting sick exactly during midterms and finals week. One time he even got hospitalized.

Courtesy of Leisha Joanne Claudio Rivera
Courtesy of Leisha Joanne Claudio Rivera

My husband is always there to cheer me up. I told him once, ‘I really don’t know how I’m going to do it, I feel like I’m a failure.’ He told me, ‘Everything will be alright, and once you get the hang of it, you’ll be ok.’ When the first semester was over, I knew I had to take less credit hours the next semesters or I was going insane, even if it meant to graduate one year later than my classmates. I needed to be there for my son, to be present in his life – I needed to feel like myself again. I did take less courses, but that didn’t mean that everything would be easy. Some holidays when my son didn’t have school, I had to bring him to my classes because I didn’t have anyone near that could take care of him while I went to class. It was challenging, I’ll tell you. I didn’t have any choice but to give him a tablet to keep him entertained next to me, in order for me to be present in class. Since he was pretty quiet the whole class, except when he asked me to give him some snacks and to take him to the bathroom (just to hang out in the hallways because he was bored), the professors didn’t mind if I brought him to class.

Courtesy of Leisha Joanne Claudio Rivera
Courtesy of Leisha Joanne Claudio Rivera

As the semesters went by, my daily routine became easier and on my third year of law school, I had baby fever. I thought it would be a good opportunity to have a baby because I wanted to have enough time to enjoy him during his first year. I know, what was I thinking? Very masochistic of me, but I wanted to have a baby so badly and we decided to try for one. My wish became a reality, I finally became pregnant and I went to school during my whole pregnancy.

Laurie Liz Photography
Laurie Liz Photography

I knew there was a possibility the professors would let me bring my son to class, so on the last trimester of my pregnancy I went to talk with the Dean of Academic Affairs to get her advice. I told her, ‘I don’t have any support system near me, my husband works full time and he takes night courses here. I’m supposed to graduate next year and I don’t want to fall behind.’ She looked me in the eyes and said, ‘Tell me who are going to be your professors next semester. I will talk personally with them.’ I felt like a weight falling off my shoulders because that meant I had a chance to have my baby with me.

Courtesy of Leisha Joanne Claudio Rivera

On my last month of pregnancy, I took a two-hour Monday through Thursday summer class during June and I took my 5-year-old with me every day by agreement with the professor. In July, I gave birth to my second son.

‘You can bring your newborn to class,’ I received an email two weeks later from the Dean.

I felt so relieved, but at the same time, I was afraid to bring my newborn baby to class. Is he going to be sleeping during every class? Will he cry all the time and I’ll have to get out of class all the time? Finally, my first day of my last law school year came – I was really nervous. I left my oldest at school and I went straight to my school with my baby, got there super early, fed him, changed his diaper and half an hour before the class began, I rocked him to sleep. My baby likes to sleep on my chest; he falls asleep like that very easily.  The class went smoothly, and he slept the whole time.

Courtesy of Leisha Joanne Claudio Rivera

It’s been two months since school started and I don’t regret a thing about bringing my baby to class. Yes, it’s exhausting, but I’m thankful for the opportunity I have to have him next to me, sleeping on my chest while I use a very comfy baby carrier to have my hands free to take notes during class. I know I can bring him to daycare, but I want to enjoy every little second I can have with him. He’s officially my last baby and they grow up too fast and I want him next to me while he still wants to be wrapped in my arms. It’s very difficult and I’m still getting used to this new insane routine, but I love being a mommy, I love everything about it, even if I feel like they drive me crazy sometimes. My babies mean everything to me, I live and breathe for my two boys. Whenever I think I can’t go on any longer, I just remember I have two miracles that need me and I want to do everything in my power to give them a future filled with opportunities so that they can someday be successful men.

Courtesy of Leisha Joanne Claudio Rivera

My husband and I we both have a semester and a half left to graduate, and I really can’t wait for that moment when we march together to go and pick up our diplomas that cost us so many tears and sacrifices.  I’m excited to take pictures with our children and celebrate our triumph. It hasn’t been easy, but I know everything will be worth it in the end.”

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Courtesy of Leisha Joanne Claudio Rivera

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Leisha Joanne Claudio Rivera of Puerto Rico. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more empowering stories from working moms:

‘I used to bring my daughter to the office before we had childcare. She was only 8 WEEKS OLD!’: Mom ‘privileged’ to have employer who ‘allowed, encouraged’ her to bring newborn into work after maternity leave

‘She makes it look easy. This picture was snapped by my boss in the middle of a work day at the office. I think more places can be more flexible than they are currently.’

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