‘I wouldn’t change it for the world’

Student shares struggles, joys of motherhood

Photo courtesy of Sarah Ryker
Sarah Ryker found out she was pregnant with Everett after she was told she could never have children. Now, the senior geology major juggles work, school, and a baby.

Sarah Ryker was told by doctors she would never be able to have children.

The senior geology major was set to graduate in the spring of 2018 when she realized she was 4 months pregnant with her first child.

The news set Ryker’s graduation date back another year and handed her a pile of new challenges to navigate.

“I was a little nervous,” Ryker said. “But I was also thrilled. I never thought I could get pregnant. It was a miracle and a blessing, and even though the timing wasn’t great, I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Ryker’s life, a packed schedule with an average of 18 credit hours per semester and more than 30 hours of work a week, needed to be adjusted for the life growing inside her.

She began to trim the edges of her life, making space for the son she would soon name Everett.

Her 18 credit hours a semester turned to nine and her 30 hours a week of work were lowered to a little under 20.

Now Ryker wakes up at 4 a.m., feeds Everett, goes to work from 4:45 a.m. until 9 a.m., comes back home to feed Everett again, gets herself and Everett ready, and leaves for school.

Despite Ryker’s diligence in working, she is still not able to afford childcare for Everett. Ryker is also unable to take Everett to the daycare on campus because he doesn’t meet the minimum requirement of two years of age.

Ryker is left with no other choice than to bring Everett to school with her.

Some days, Ryker’s friends will watch Everett while she is in class. Other days, Ryker brings Everett to class with her.  

Photo Courtesy of Sarah Ryker
Everett is pictured with Ryker’s World Mythology book. Ryker said she often reads her textbooks to Everett while she is doing her homework.

According to Ryker, Everett is quite the celebrity.

“People love him,” Ryker said. “They love holding him and they love talking to him and even when I have to bring him to class, he’s all smiley and when he enjoys himself it makes me enjoy myself.”

Ryker said while most teachers have been understanding of Everett, not all have.

“Days when Everett is teething and screaming his head off and won’t be quiet, I feel bad taking him to class with me,” Ryker said. “That’s also another reason why the teachers have told me I can no longer occupy the space I do.”

Ryker said the teachers around the clubhouse Ryker and Everett sit in between classes have complained about Everett being too loud. Ryker said she is no longer allowed to use the clubhouse and must find somewhere else to take Everett.

“There aren’t many places on campus we can go that can cater to our needs,” Ryker said.

Ryker received an email about complaints the Dean of Students has received about Everett being on campus. Ryker will meet with the dean Thursday.

“I’m afraid they are going to tell me I can’t bring him on campus,” Ryker said. “I’m afraid they are going to tell me I have to leave him at home because I really don’t have that many people that can watch him because they all work, and I can’t afford to pay someone to watch him. If I can’t bring him, I will probably have to drop out of school.”

Ryker said that while it is challenging to have Everett on campus with the lack of resources offered to her such as changing tables in the bathrooms or places to breastfeed, she isn’t surprised.

“College is for learning,” Ryker said. “You don’t really think about people having babies when they go to college. I don’t think there are many people here with little-bitty kids, and maybe there are, but they have more support than I do.”

Chad Hoppenjans watches Everett every day.

The senior mathematics education major has known Ryker for three years.

“I started helping out with (Everett) mainly this semester,” Hoppenjans said. “For me, that just means taking some time out of my day to watch Everett while she is in class.”

Hoppenjans watches Everett for an average of five hours a day, which includes playing games with him, feeding him and changing him.

“Mainly (Ryker) was worried about being able to juggle the kid and school,” Hoppenjans said. “But she was very determined.”

Hoppenjans said Ryker struggled her first semester after having Everett because she missed the first couple weeks of classes, but said she has doubled down on her efforts this year in her classes and with making sure she has time for Everett.

“I know it’s not easy for her,” Hoppenjans said.

While walking Everett through the halls trying to calm him down, Hoppenjans was approached and asked to go somewhere else.

“I understand,” Hoppenjans said. “Everett can be loud, especially when I don’t know why he is upset.”

Hoppenjans said he thinks there should be a place mothers like Ryker can take their children, so they won’t be a disturbance to others.

“It would have to be in a central location on campus,” Hoppenjans said. “So that way it is easily accessible to all students.”

Hoppenjans said Ryker is handling her situation as well as anyone could.

“I think she is doing a pretty good job with everything,” Hoppenjans said.

Ryker is still planning to get her surveyor’s license after she graduates.

“My original plan was to get my surveyor’s license and travel,” Ryker said. “I still want to get my surveyor’s license, but I don’t think I will travel until Everett is older, that way he will be able to enjoy the experiences with me.”