Doing your Leaving Cert 13 days’ Post-Partum


My parents were quite strict when I was growing up. So, I became a master at bullshit stories about where I was going or what I was doing. Sorry, I’ll rephrase that: – I thought I was a master. It was more like I had done a six-week course that I didn’t complete in Successful Bullshitting. Still that was all going to change when I hit 18 though. I was going to be an adult and I could do whatever I wanted, I would have total freedom. That’s what I thought and that’s what I was living for

The plan worked for all of 2 months before I found out I was pregnant. So, to say I peak to soon is an understatement. I had a bad feeling I was pregnant. Protection had been used but I had this pain in my gut that told me something was up. Like when you just know they’ve forgotten your garlic sauce when you order takeaway. That times a million zillion kinda thing. I went into town to buy a pregnancy test. I didn’t want to buy one locally in case I’d bump into someone I knew. I went into boots in Stephen Green Shopping Centre. I was in and out as quickly as possible. I went to the toilets and did the test.

I could see the result coming up pretty much straight away. I slid down the wall of the cubicle and cried silently for about 20mins. It wasn’t shock, it was grief. The carefree life I had planned for myself was died.

Apart from my friend Laura I had told no one. At the time my parents were out most evenings at the hospital because my Grandma was dying. For the next few weeks I was pretty much in a haze. I’d cry myself to sleep and pray that I would wake up covered in blood. In my mind at the time this would mean I had had a miscarriage and the whole thing would be over. It was the only thing on my mind 24/7. Every time I found myself involved in a conversation- the Leaving Cert, Debs, summer holiday with school friends, college choices all that was going through my head was I’M FUCKED, I’M FUCKED, I’M FUCKED. I drifted away from family and friends. I wasn’t laughing, or singing ridiculously catchy songs like I always had (I still do this and it’s very irritating for everyone around me). I had completely checked out. I had a huge secret which was only quite literally getting bigger and bigger.

When I was about 2 ½ months pregnant I decided to tell my mother. I wrote a letter. Left it on the kitchen table and ran across the road to Laura’s house. It was the easier option yes but I physically could not say the words- ‘I’m pregnant’.  What seemed like a very short time later my mam followed me over to Laura’s . She came in, gave me a hug and told me to come home when I was ready.

So that’s when the pregnancy became real. It was no longer a secret. And things got a lot better but very real very quickly. The first thing my dad said to me was ‘I quite like the idea of being a grandad’. Which at the time meant so much to me because being the youngest and only girl I really felt I had disappointed him. I slowly realised that my parents were on my team and were going to do everything to help. It now seems so obvious to say.

The next few months were challenging. I continue to go to school where I felt like a bigger alien day by day. The plan was always to do my Leaving Cert. I become obsessed that if nothing else I would get to do my Leaving Cert, I could have control over this. The thoughts of having to do it again and repeat 6th year was just too much.

I went for an appointment in Holles Street on my due date. I was waiting for a stretcher to be pulled out and for all the staff to tell me this baby was coming.

But it wasn’t. I’d have to be 2weeks overdue to be induced. ‘Don’t worry plenty of women have done their Leaving Certs in here’ I was told.  It was just over 2 weeks to the Leaving Cert starting. With this bombshell, I just broke down.

Mother nature did end up throwing me a bone though and I had my daughter 4 days later. 13 days after that I sat my Leaving Cert which was a surreal experience. I was given my own room to sit the Leaving Cert. At the time, it was an option for a student if they have been through an illness or I suppose in my case child birth. It did make the process even more intense looking back at it now. I’d do an exam in my old class with the school receptionist as supervisor and then walk home and feed my daughter. I remember one of the girls Jill Seery came over to me and asked me how my baby girl was. It was so nice to have one of my peers who I haven’t seen in what felt like a lifetime acknowledge that the outcome of a stressful pregnancy had been my beautiful daughter. I think though in many ways I was still the alien and people just didn’t know what to say to me.

When the Leaving Cert was over just like everyone I could take a breath. I wasn’t going on holidays with all my friends. I had a very different summer. I didn’t really know the person I was before I was a mother but I didn’t even recognise the person in the early weeks of my pregnancy. She was completely gone. I was just like any other first time mother: -full of love, fear, exhaustion and new found wisdom.

As a parent now to 3 children one of the things I really take from the experience is (apart from my girl, the light of life of course) is how my parents dealt with the whole thing. I always try to remind myself that my children are their own human beings and I can’t make decisions for them. But if they need me in difficult times it’s how I deal with that. They have been my rock and my biggest supporters when I didn’t make it easy. And that’s the real test- being there for your child when they decide to feck off to work in a chipper in Court town for the summer and come home pregnant.

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