You think finals are bad? Trying writing them while in labor

Star Reports on Laboring Pupil

It’s that time of year again.  No – I’m not talking about the time of year for shiny things, happy hymns, frantic shopping sprees, and that fat old guy in the red suit.  I’m talking about two hour sleep cycles, caffeine induced delirium, and computer vision syndrome.  Also known as – FINALS.

On Thursday, The Star (Kenya) printed this story about a 16-year-old pupil who completed the examination for the Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education, while she was in labor.  Last month, The Monitor (Uganda) reported a similar story, about a 14-year-old who “endured two days of due labour to sit this year’s Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE).”  Meanwhile, Tanzania Daily News reported in September that a 14-year-old pupil was forced to leave her Standard Seven exam due to severe labor pains.  She promptly gave birth to a baby boy and then returned to finish her exam.

Of course, we can’t isolate this phenomenon to just East Africa.  Last year, a woman in Illinois finished the state bar exam while in labor.  As the Huffington Post reports, “Remarkably, the recent grad actually finished the bar… and gave birth to a healthy baby boy two hours later.”

My first response to all of these stories is amazement.  As I am writing final exams for my first semester as a PhD student, I can’t help but use the thought of these women as an inspiration.  In all of these situations, they faced much more stressful exams that would determine the course of their lives, all while at the same time experiencing the pain of labor and real mortal fear.  These women are total badasses.

At the same time, I also can’t help but criticize the institutions that made these events possible.  The situation is abhorrent – that a woman would feel as though she must risk her health and the health of her unborn child because the systems in place would penalize her for missing or leaving an important qualifying exam.  Labor should definitely be a legitimate excuse for postponing an important exam without penalty.

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One Reply to “You think finals are bad? Trying writing them while in labor”

  1. Interesting insight here. I know men do not suffer the same consequences, but don’t you think that labor/delivery is only a natural consequence of act(s) that preceded it? You really cannot eat your cake and have it. It may be hard to see how both genders may reap the consequences equally, but clearly the world should not stop because of births (it didn’t stop for me). However there should be measures to preempt women from being edged out of the workplace because of delivery. They should be encouraged to keep working.
    Best r.

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