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pregnant - no friends or family except my partner - worried about loneliness and ability to cope

(25 Posts)
BBLucy1891 Tue 07-Jul-15 09:18:25

I'm sorry if this is a bit long but would REALLY appreciate some advice. I'm 13 weeks with my first pregnancy and have suffered from terrible morning sickness for at least 8 weeks. I'm a PhD student which meant I was lucky in that I can work from home, but unlucky because I don't see or talk to anyone from one week to the next, especially when I'm too sick to leave the house most of the time. Its easing off now thankfully, but seems to have been replaced with terrible anxiety and stress. I'm stressed about my lack of progress with my study (I've fallen behind and cannot concentrate), money (I'm not entitled to maternity leave or benefit as I'm a student and my only option in order to keep my stipend money is to keep studying), housing (our small rented flat is unsuitable and yet we can't afford to move because rents have gone up. We were turned down for a mortgage too), but mostly - my lack of support. I live in my partners home town where he works in a job which doesn't pay much at the moment but has potential for advancement later on. Permanent jobs here are not easy to come across. I moved here 2 years ago but because I study from home and my university is in a different city I succeeded in making NO friends. My partner leaves for work at 8 and is back at 7 in the evening and takes any overtime he gets because we need the money. My family and friends live in my home town a 3 hours drive away. Up until now we've been perfectly happy - I was progressing with my study, I am very self-contained and usually had social events (in other towns) at weekends. I also travelled either with my partner or did overseas volunteering. So I never felt lonely. But now - everything will be different. I feel I will be totally unable to cope in the house by myself all day every day with a newborn and trying to study for a PhD. My partner tries so hard to be understanding, but he's so busy trying to earn enough money for us to move house that he is tired and stressed himself. The question is: should we move back to my home town where I will have support after the baby is born? To do so now will be detrimental to my partners career and short-term income. My family are poor and can't help us out with money or housing but will be there to help with babysitting. There are also other issues with moving such as changing birth plan. My sub-question is: does anyone think its possible to study a full-time PhD with no maternity leave and no help with a newborn baby? Maybe I'm worrying over nothing. My hormones are CRAZY so I'm not sure I'm even thinking straight!! Thanks for reading

TreeSparrow Tue 07-Jul-15 09:38:35

You must have the option of interrupting your studies for a year for maternity leave. It's the law. I know you'll lose the income from the bursary for a year but isn't that better than falling behind on your study and ultimately failing? Speak to your university counsellor about your options. If you don't want to interrupt, maybe you can switch to part-time study if your bursary allows for it.

lilac3033 Tue 07-Jul-15 09:46:23

Honestly I think you will struggle if you try to continue studying full time. Part time might be manageable. It is just my partner and I here, I'm American and his family are 2 hours away. It is totally manageable with me home with baby, but studying full time would be way too hard. I would look at going part time or delaying it for awhile.
I would very much suggest a trip to Citizens Advice to discuss benefits that you may be entitled to. I imagine if you are struggling that much there is some assistance available that would lessen your financial concerns!

Skiptonlass Tue 07-Jul-15 09:47:43

A phd can be a lonely business ! Well done to you for doing it pregnant too...

Your best point of call is your university pastoral care person. You should be entitled to maternity leave as a staff member at the uni (pretty good leave at that.) yes you're a student but when I was doing my phd everyone got mat leave if they were pregnant - you need to look at the terms of your contract. Who is funding you ? Who is your contract with ?

Pastoral care and hr - take a copy of your contract with you.

You say you're home based so I assume you're not a field or lab student ? If I'm wrong you also need a risk assessment ASAP.

It's possible to do it (someone in my lab did) what you need is good advice and support. There will be support at your uni - they are better than you'd think at supporting pregnant students, whether undergrad or postgrad. Most have subsidised chill are as well.

bluishskies Tue 07-Jul-15 09:49:09

I'm sorry you are so stressed. I moved to a different country when I met my husband and I struggled to make friends. But to my surprise, having DD 20 months ago lead me to making more friends than I had made in the previous 3 years. But I wasn't working or studying. I think your main challenge is to see if you can go part-time and still keep your stipend.

Skiptonlass Tue 07-Jul-15 09:49:43

Child care, not chill are

happygojo Tue 07-Jul-15 09:52:45

Ok.... right now you probably feel horrific.... I did until about 16 weeks, from 17-32 weeks I felt really good (feeling poop again now but at least I am on the home straight at 35 weeks. You will probably have to really cram some work into those good week. Have you spoken to your supervisor? you will not be the first (or last) PhD student to fall pregnant. University should also be able to advise. Even if you have to take a break from your stipend, you should try and find out what else you are entitled to benefits wise officially. If your partners income is low you should be entitled to a fair bit of help (i would hope).

You are obviously highly educated, could you take on some tutoring in September? For my A levels I had a PhD student tutoring me through biology.

As for friends.... I have heard that baby's are friend making machines. Libraries have loads of free stuff on which might be good? also maybe free antenatal classes?

Have you joined your antenatal group on MN? maybe there is someone in your area?

I think the main thing is to try and keep positive

NickyEds Tue 07-Jul-15 10:26:32

does anyone think its possible to study a full-time PhD with no maternity leave and no help with a newborn baby?
Sorry op but no, I don't think it's possible. What's the nature of you Phd (just generally if you don't want to give specifics)? Have you spoken to your supervisor and Uni pastoral care and HR departments? What year are you in?

I feel I will be totally unable to cope in the house by myself all day every day

I would worry less about this. If you have a local sure start/childrens centre near you there are loads of baby classes and groups you can do. In our area the hv team also ran one. Babies are great for making new friends.

our small rented flat is unsuitable
You'll manage I think. New babies really don't need as much stuff as people often imagine. If you're settled and your dp is in a decent job with prospects it might be best to stay where you are. Are your family in one city, your uni on another and your home now in a third? Or is your uni in your home town?

I think your mat leave and benefits need to be the thing you focus on first. After taking care of yourself of courseflowers

BBLucy1891 Tue 07-Jul-15 13:48:30

Thanks so much everyone. Just to answer a few questions; I did talk to my supervisor and she said that I can take time off but I wouldn't be entitled to my grant while I'm off.

I went to the Social Welfare office and they told me I'm not entitled to any maternity benefit or payments during any time off because I wouldn't have worked up to 14 weeks prior to the leave (I live in Ireland so I guess some things are different to the UK, I'm not sure). My boyfriend works but his wages are only barely enough to cover our rent and bills and we couldn't get by without my grant, even for a few months, particularly if we move house. The problem with our place is not just that its small but that its old and damp. We are over the income limit for social housing and under the limit for a mortgage so sort of caught in the middle.

My family live in one town, my uni is in another and I'm here.

I'm in first year of my PhD, which is awkward because I have no real ground work laid, just reading. Its in the social sciences anyway so I don't have to worry about lab work or risk assessments.

Anyway, I know many people have it a lot worse, I think its just the combination of things and feeling like I have nobody I can just call around to for a cup of tea.

I NEVER expected to feel so awful being pregnant - I knew having a baby was hard but wasn't prepared for weeks of sickness and insane (seriously - insane) moodswings. My poor boyfriend never knows what mood I'll be in from one minute to the next. I actually threw all my college books at the wall last week. If anyone saw me I'd be committed!!

I'm sure everything will work out, it just seems to me that the one time in your life you should be able to relax, suddenly everything is so stressful and you feel like shit! Roll on this alleged second trimester 'bloom'!

Oh to have heaps of money and be able to sit around by the pool somewhere sunny drinking (non alcoholic!) cocktails!!

Elllimam Tue 07-Jul-15 14:03:51

Oh that does sound hard. Could you go part time? I am doing a (very) part time doctorate at the moment and it is manageable. Babies do help you meet people, could you do a class one evening a week? I found the daisy baby classes good or the NCT classes are great but expensive (although I think you get a student discount)

Embolio Tue 07-Jul-15 14:56:04

I think a full time PhD would be next to impossible with a newborn and no help, is there any way you could go part time, at least for a while? Does your uni have a student union? I wonder if there is a welfare officer that could advise you?
I moved to my dh's home town where I knew no one and having babies has been a great way to meet people locally.

WeePoppy Tue 07-Jul-15 15:39:11

I did a PhD a number of years ago and I did take a one year break from my full times studies to go on to full time work (same uni, same department, different subject). I wonder if you could do the same and take on part-time work? You would still get an income but wouldn't have the stress of your studies...

It did me a lot of good as I was going through a pretty bad depression and (among other things) I needed a break from the PhD.

BlueBirdBlue Tue 07-Jul-15 15:50:22

Go to www.turn2us.org.uk/ or call their helpline to find out what financial support you may be entitled to.

InFrance2014 Tue 07-Jul-15 16:20:31

Hello,
I echo others here who say trying to work full time on a PhD with new baby will be awful, you will risk feel like you are failing at both things. Much better to try and get a suspension or go part-time if you can.
I know this link is for a British organisation and you're in Ireland, but I wonder if they might have some advice/ideas about funding. bfwg.org.uk/bfwg/
Best of luck

HeadDreamer Tue 07-Jul-15 16:31:13

There is no way you can work full time on your PhD with a baby. They are a lot of work. You will only be able to study when he's either asleep or when your partner is home. If I understand correctly you need to finish in 3 years and the 4th you have to go nominal. (Worked as postdoc but PhD overseas). If you spent a year not working on your PhD it will come and bite you later on.

WinterOfOurDiscountTents15 Tue 07-Jul-15 20:15:37

If your partner is on a low wage yiu should be entitled to Family Income Supplement in addition to child benefit after the baby is born. Look at citizensinformation.ie

austengirl Tue 07-Jul-15 22:34:02

Lots of good suggestions already; I don't know how the NCT operates in Ireland, but I know they have lower fees for lower-income parents in the UK. It could be a good way to meet other people, but I understand if you think it's something you can't afford right now. Their website might have some other useful advice about benefits and things you may be entitled to. Can you talk to your midwife or GP about what other resources or support you're eligible for?

Best of luck to you, I hope you're feeling better soon. flowers

EffinIneffable Wed 08-Jul-15 13:16:12

I'm nearly three years into my PhD in social sciences and about to have a baby, so have been going through some of the same questions as you. I'm in England so things will be different, but:
- my supervisor and school level admin were completely clueless about what I was and wasn't entitled to. I have a stipend from the University, and actually they match research council conditions, which is to pay the stipend at normal rate for 6 months of mat leave. So I would scour your university websites, finance office, NUS equivalent, etc to find written policies on postgrad maternity, just in case your supervisor isn't fully up to date.
- you won't be the first postgrad to have a baby during your studies. At my university there is a facebook group and a new university support group for postgrad maternity and new parents. If you don't have one of these yet, you could set one up if you can email all PGRs in your faculty/uni. I've found they are often more knowledgeable about what's available and supportive than some of the official channels! You might not be up to this if you're feeling sick, but hopefully that will pass.
- If you can go in to the uni a couple of days a week, do. I've found that really helps with the feelings of isolation.
- You may be entitled to additional hardship funding based on income, either via your university or social services, even though you're not entitled to maternity benefits per se.
- I would second what others have said about not trying to look after a baby full time and do the PhD full time at the same time as you'll most likely fall behind on the PhD and store up problems in the future. Does your partner have any paternity leave entitlement or the option of working compressed hours so you could work a day or two per week? Could you change to part time study and pro rata your stipend?
- Look out for ante natal classes, baby events and free/cheap baby groups (search facebook in your local area, ask midwives and anything like Children's Centres or libraries) as that's another way to meet people you can turn to for support and company while you're looking after baby.

Good luck! I'm sure you can do it.

Mawsymoo Wed 08-Jul-15 13:49:54

Lucy you may not be entitled to maternity benefit but have you popped into a Citizens Information Centre to ask if you would be due any social welfare? They are very helpful.

EdgarAllenPoe Wed 08-Jul-15 14:04:18

Others have given you great advice regarding your studies and juggling motherhood.

As for being lonely I worry about that too since I don't know anyone around here other than my husband. Thankfully his family are not very far away but I don't have any friends here, mine are all miles away. However I think we could both benefit (I'm also 13 weeks!) from taking part in some kind of antenatal classes and meeting other mothers. That is my hope. Even if it's just meeting up for tea and cake at someone's home once a week with babies in tow, it's something cheap to look forward to! Or going to a mother and baby group. Anything to get out of the house and slightly more social really.

I have friends who live a long way away who've made great local friends this way. I hope it works for us too!

WinterOfOurDiscountTents15 Wed 08-Jul-15 19:56:42

* I don't know how the NCT operates in Ireland, but I know they have lower fees for lower-income parents in the UK*

Um, in Ireland, NCT refers to the National Car Testing, sort of like your MOT. Your NCT doesn't exist in Ireland, its a UK organisation. OP can access free classes through her midwife is she wants.

Nolim Wed 08-Jul-15 20:06:57

does anyone think its possible to study a full-time PhD with no maternity leave and no help with a newborn baby?

Being a phd student is basically a full time job so unless you have reliable childcare, i dont think so. It is not realistic to complete your disertation while your baby naps.

As you i had no friends or family other than oh when my baby was born. Going to baby groups at the childrens centre was the highlight of my week.

Good luck future dr mum! flowers

StripyStrawberry Wed 08-Jul-15 20:07:11

Hi there - a few things...

1. As people have said, new babies are friend-making machines...

2...But not if you are trying to do a ft PhD at the same time. It's a really bad idea, for you, the baby, and your chances of success at the PhD.

3. As mentioned, your supervisor may not know what they are talking about re funding and mat leave. In England, the ESRC fund 6 months' paid mat leave. Who are you funded by??

4. If you're on facebook, there are several PhD mums and dads groups you could join for further advice (and camaraderie !) I know there are Irish PhD parents on them so they may have useful specific info.

5. Does your uni have an access fund or similar? - Spare money for students who need it to continue successfully. In England, they tend to prioritise parents...

StripyStrawberry Wed 08-Jul-15 20:17:36

And I forgot to say - congratulations! And you should start feeling a bit better in not too long, I hope...most people do...

BBLucy1891 Wed 08-Jul-15 20:31:10

Thanks so much for all the helpful advice and words of encouragement. Its good to know that I can use the baby as an excuse to meet new people - even if it is a mother and baby group or whatever. Its also good to hear from others who had no friends or family other than their partner and that its not necessarily a good idea for me to uproot and go running home to my mom (tempting as that is - seriously never appreciated my mom as much as I do now!!). I spoke to the college again today and to social welfare and it seems that if I work, even a day or two a week, for the next few weeks, I will have built up my tax credits sufficiently to get maternity benefit next year. So I think that's what I'm going to do. Luckily I rang my an old employer and there might be a chance of him giving me a few days work. It does seem strange that the university doesn't have a better plan for maternity, but my scholarship comes from the department itself rather than a research body so perhaps they just don't have a proper policy in place. I should follow up on it. Thanks again for all the comments. I'm off to eat MORE kiwi fruits...!!

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