PhD: Year one with a one year old. Ammara’s story.

Ammara is a WISDOM member, PhD student and mother to a beautiful one year old daughter. Bareera was born just before Ammara started her PhD and, just as Ammara enters her second year, she tells us about her experiences over the past year.

ammaraIn March 2015, Dr. Stephen Wolthusen accepted me as his PhD student while I was just two months pregnant. I was very excited to be accepted as I am the first female in my family to do a PhD. By the end of April, I received a formal offer letter from Royal Holloway, followed by the Higher Education Commision of Pakistan providing me with an award letter. I had initially refrained from telling Dr. Wolthusen the truth about my pregnancy, but I had to delay the start date of my PhD because the baby was later than expected and when I did tell Stephen, he was very supportive and understanding. My daughter was born on the 4th October and, just 13 days later, I travelled to Egham and started my PhD on the 21st October. Unfortunately, I had to leave my daughter in Pakistan as I could not manage to complete the paperwork to bring her with me ready in time.
I quickly learnt that the most important factor affecting one’s academic performance is your mental state. I was very sad to leave my daughter in Pakistan and found seeing her on Skype, sitting on other people’s laps and not mine, very upsetting. During this period, I had plenty of time to study but missed her greatly. But, finally, time passed and when she was eight months old I was able to go back to Pakistan to see her. With a bit of difficulty, I managed to bring her home to England with me. I loved having my daughter with me again, but found it very challenging. I spoke to a number of colleagues in a similar situation to me about how they manage completing a PhD with a baby and found myself googling ‘how to manage a PhD with a baby’ many times! I was comforted by hundreds of other stories like mine and found myself motivated and determined to juggle everything.
Underlying my motivation is my supervisor’s support. Countless times he has surprised me with his kindness. He has been incredibly supportive and helped take responsibility for all my problems. During meetings, he will happily hold my daughter if needed. If any woman, anywhere in the world, has someone like Stephen around, I am sure they will be able to achieve their dreams.

Ammara Gul (PhD Student)