By Mariam Nouser
Content warning: suicide attempt, mental illness
Last February, I was waiting to be discharged after a 12-day stay at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s (CAMH) women’s inpatient unit. I had been admitted after a suicide attempt on Feb. 14. My life leading up to that stay was quite chaotic, from being a full-time journalism student, dealing with long commutes to Ryerson, running a business and being a part of multiple student groups.
Much of this was normal for me, but I had added stress on my plate as my husband and I were trying to start a family and had yet to be successful.
During my last few days in the hospital, I noticed my period was missing. Although I mostly thought this was because of the stress I put my body through that month, I felt something was off.
I told my husband Omar that my period was absent and I was feeling different. My appetite, which usually was non-existent, was in high gear and I couldn’t stop craving random things.
“How am I going to fast during Ramadan if I can’t even control my hunger?” I asked him. I didn’t think much of it after that. Ramadan was still two months away.
On our way home, I swung by the pharmacy to pick up pregnancy tests to put my mind at ease. I didn’t think I was pregnant, but I just wanted to make sure.
I got home, took the test and waited for the results to come up. When the sound of my timer went off, I just assumed it would be negative—I was so used to getting negative tests over the last year that I became numb to the stark negatives. It was heartbreaking to be told no by the lack of lines or words.
I flipped over the test and it read ‘pregnant.’ My eyes widened so much that I could have sworn they were going to pop out of the socket.
I called my husband upstairs.
“I am pregnant and I am not being delirious this time,” I told him through shock. I showed him the positive test. In that moment, our lives changed forever.
After going through many health issues, along with the new one that occured while trying to become pregnant, I had lost hope that motherhood would be destined for me. I had spent so much time crying and praying, just hoping my dream would become a reality.
Omar and I wanted to have our first child in our twenties. We both felt that having our children while we were younger would potentially allow us to be in their lives longer.
Omar grew up with his siblings close apart with younger parents while my closest sibling is almost 12 years younger than me. To me, I always dreamed of having a permanent playmate. In the place of a sibling, I had a lot of toys. I was blessed to have them but I really thought having a sibling would have made me more content.
I never aspired to live on other’s timelines, and being a mother has been one of my biggest hopes for a long time
Bearing a child through school
Reading this, you may think I am a bit out of my mind. University with a baby? I won’t tell you it’s easy. I had a rough pregnancy, to say the least—but the fact that my work and school are online has been extremely helpful. It truly takes a community to make this happen and I am grateful for mine.
I wholeheartedly believe that life should not abide by the timeline that society instills on us. School, career, marriage and babies, only in that specific order. I never aspired to live on other’s timelines, and being a mother has been one of my biggest hopes for a long time.
Married at 23, a mom at 25 and hopefully a graduate at 27. That is my timeline, one I chose all for myself.
According to a 2018 study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 22 per cent of all U.S. undergraduate students were parents. Of that 22 per cent, the large majority of parents (70 per cent) were mothers.
This is not something new. My own family is a tremendous example. My mother was a night-time college student and a full-time employee at TD Bank while having a baby at home. She had far less support than I have; all she had was my father who worked nights and took care of me in the daytime.
Life was hectic, but to quote my mom, “I would have not had it any other way.”
Many people have given me unsolicited advice, saying motherhood will destroy my identity and my dreams. While I cannot discount those lamentable experiences of others, my aim is to not go into motherhood thinking that my dreams of being a journalist are going to be crushed.
To me, being the best version of myself will allow me to be the best mother I can to my unborn child. I am Mariam before I am any other title. I believe when the mom is cared for, the baby will thrive.
I’ll be honest: I am nervous. I am worried about how I am going to manage a newborn while finishing off my first semester of my second year and how I am going to cope with my pre-existing mental health issues while dealing with postpartum blues.
However, this is the life path I chose to take, one that was destined for me. With the supportive community I have built around me, I know I will thrive.
This personal essay was written on Oct. 7. On the morning of Oct. 19, Mariam delivered a baby boy, Ziyad, at Mount Sinai Hospital. “He came out curious as ever, just like his mother did 25 years prior. He is the most precious gift I have ever received and the motivation he gives me to be the best version of myself is indescribable.“