I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since I optimistically posted that I would still be blogging, but just not as frequently. Such a lot has happened in that year – I now have a fourteen month old Ally, who has completely changed my life, and we are all living through a global pandemic.
I clicked on my blog today looking for something else, and felt really sad that it was gathering dust and not active anymore – it was a place where I made so many lovely connections with people, and I would like to resurrect it.
I would like to use this blog to tell you all that I handed in my PhD thesis the day before lockdown officially began! When I found out I was pregnant, I was about to start the third year of my PhD. I remember googling ‘can you finish a PhD with a baby’, frantically searching for women that had managed it, trying to squash my rising level of panic. And that was before the severe morning sickness started…
I know it is useless in a way to say that yes, you can finish a PhD whilst having a six month old baby, because everybody’s circumstances are different, but I also want to say it is possible, because I did it. Although it was also hard, and put a strain on my finances. But if there is someone out there quietly panicking, I want to tell them it could be ok, and if you can make a human, of course you can make a PhD.
I wrote 80% of my PhD between the hours of 8pm and midnight, once Ally had gone to sleep. I was relatively lucky in that in that period, she WAS sleeping.
I made myself a chart and coloured a box in every time I wrote a hundred words. This was a great motivator for me – and it is really the only way I work. It is how I saved up £1800 to buy my first trumpet when I was 17. It is how I get anything done.
I was lucky in that my husband is self-employed, and he basically spent his time either working or looking after the baby. I spent my time looking after the baby or writing my PhD, and also fitting in a few bits of freelance writing work. Well actually, quite a lot of freelance writing work, because finances. We did put Ally into nursery when she was about nine months old so that I could get a bit more time to write.
I am lucky in that I have a supportive partner, unlucky in that I don’t have family nearby to help, lucky that I had enough money to put Ally into nursery for two half-days, unlucky that I couldn’t afford more and alleviate the stress a little. Somehow we muddled through, and I wrote a thesis which is probably the thing (apart from Ally) that I am most proud of.
I was talking to a friend about how hard it is to let the good things in, how it is easy to let negative things seep inside you, but the good things often bounce off me as I spin around looking for the next thing to achieve. But finishing this thesis is one of the things I let myself feel. I can still feel it now – I hope it will always be a warm glow inside me.
I now have the viva to do which is in mid-august. Strangely enough, I’m kind of looking forward to it. I want to get my PhD, and this is the last hurdle I have to get through. I am hoping I will be blogging here a little bit more, but this time I’m not making any promises.
I’ll leave you with a poem that was commissioned by Ledbury Poetry Festival called ‘For My Daughter’.
For my daughter
And later, when she asks, I’ll say
some parts of it were beautiful –
how in their brightness
and sudden opening
the faces of the neighbours
began to look like flowers.
I’ll tell her how we began
to look back at photos
of our younger selves
with our arms around a stranger
or leaning on the shoulders
of friends, and saw that touch
had always been a kind of holiness,
a type of worship we were promised.
I’ll tell her that in some ways
our days shrunk to nothing,
being both as long as a year
and as quick as the turning of a page.
I’ll tell her how she learned to crawl
in those days, in those times
when we could not leave,
when bodies were carried
from homes and were not counted,
that she began to say her first word
while death waited in the streets,
that though I was afraid,
I never saw fear in her eyes.