comScore

Harvard Law Student and Single Mom Briana Williams Gets Law Degree After Taking Final Exam While in Labor

I went into labor in April- during final exam period. I immediately requested an epidural so that my contractions wouldn’t interfere with my Family Law grade. And, with tears in my eyes, I finished it. This “biting the bullet” experience is quite quintessential of my time at Harvard. To say that my last year of law school, with a newborn, and as a single mom was a challenge would be an understatement. Some days I was so mentally and emotionally fatigued that I did not leave my bed. I struggled with reliable childcare. It was not atypical to see me rushing through Wasserstein to the Dean of Students’ office with Evelyn in her carriage, asking DOS can they keep her for a few until class was over. If not, she’d just have to come with me to class. Evie attended classes often. So I’m going to be honest with you guys.. I didnt think I could do it. I did not think that, at 24 years old, as a single mom, I would be able to get through one of the most intellectually rigorous and challenging positions of my life. It was hard. It hurt. Instagram can make peoples’ lives seem seamless, but this journey has been heartwrenching. However, I am happy to say that I DID do it. Today, Evelyn in my arms, with tears streaming down my face, I accepted my Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School. At first, I was the anomaly of my [marginalized] community. Then, as a single mother, I became a statistic. Next, I pray that- for the sake of my baby, I will be an example. Evelyn- they said that because of you I wouldn’t be able to do this. Just know that I did this BECAUSE OF YOU. Thank you for giving me the strength and courage to be invincible. Let’s keep beating all their odds, baby.

A post shared by Briana Williams, J.D. (@lovexbriana) on

If one were to adhere to commonly accepted narratives about women, education, career, and motherhood, one would believe that getting pregnant and having a baby as a single mother is a surefire way to “ruin one’s life.” Briana Williams thought that was nonsense, and she wasn’t about to let a tiny thing like “going into labor” keep her from taking her final exam at Harvard Law School.

At the end of last month, Williams proudly posted the above post on her Instagram after graduating from Harvard with her Juris Doctor. In the photo, you see her holding her degree and her new daughter, Evelyn, in one arm, visually symbolizing the extreme multitasking she needed to master in order to make her dreams come true.

Wanna talk serious multitasking? As she says in the post above, she took her final exam in April while in labor. Williams wrote, “I went into labor in April — during final exam period. I immediately requested an epidural so that my contractions wouldn’t interfere with my Family Law grade. And, with tears in my eyes, I finished it.”

PS – I love that you can “request an epidural” at Harvard and apparently get one and continue with a test.

However, Williams would be the last person to want to present her experience as a breeze. She writes:

“To say that my last year of law school, with a newborn, and as a single mom was a challenge would be an understatement. Some days I was so mentally and emotionally fatigued that I did not leave my bed. I struggled with reliable childcare. It was not atypical to see me rushing through Wasserstein to the Dean of Students’ office with Evelyn in her carriage, asking DOS can they keep her for a few until class was over. If not, she’d just have to come with me to class. Evie attended classes often. So I’m going to be honest with you guys.. I didnt think I could do it. I did not think that, at 24 years old, as a single mom, I would be able to get through one of the most intellectually rigorous and challenging positions of my life. It was hard. It hurt. Instagram can make peoples’ lives seem seamless, but this journey has been heartwrenching. However, I am happy to say that I DID do it. Today, Evelyn in my arms, with tears streaming down my face, I accepted my Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School.”

There are several important things to note here. First, having a baby need not “ruin a woman’s life” any more than it need be a necessary part of a woman’s life. If a woman decides to have a child, she remains the woman she was before having that childgoals, dreams, and all. Does the plan on how to go about achieving them have to change? Of course. But they don’t need to be changed, or even deferred.

Second, if we truly value families the way we say we do in this country, we can no longer punish people for making the decision to have children. If we want to encourage women to have children, we as a culture must be prepared to offer those women a support system. It can’t simply be left to chance on an individual basis, but rather, something that all of our workplaces and institutions take into account.

I’m impressed that Williams was able to leave her daughter in the Dean of Students’ office on occasion when childcare was difficult to get so that she could go to class, or allowed Williams to have her child in class with her. This is what all of our institutions should provide for people of all genders. We can’t say that we care about families while we’re penalizing people (particularly women, as they are more generally the caretakers, but this goes for all parents) for having them by not allowing for family-based decisions in our workplaces and schools.

We need to take care of each other, and a big part of the feminist fight is ensuring that childbirth doesn’t relegate a woman to second-class-citizen status professionally and otherwise. It’s ensuring that men who are parents are provided for when they decide to take time off (or bring their child in) to parent and relieve the burden on their partner. It’s making sure that people who choose not to be parents can make that choice freely, and that people who choose to have children aren’t punished for it.

Now that Williams is on her way to being an attorney, maybe she can do something about some common-sense maternity and paternity laws, huh?

(via CBS News, featured image: malone545 on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-ND)

Want more stories like this? Become a subscriber and support the site!

The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—

Have a tip we should know? tips@themarysue.com

Filed Under:

Follow The Mary Sue:

For more info, go here: https://teresajusino.com To support my other endeavors, go here; http://patreon.com/teampomonok