I had a baby during my senior year of college. My friends helped raise my daughter so I could graduate and continue working.

Riho Maruyama had her daughter in her senior year of college, and her friends helped her raise her.

Riho Maruyama is a 25-year-old college student in Utah.She got married in her freshman year and found out she was pregnant in her senior year.A village of college friends who helped raise her daughter has allowed Riho to finish college.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Riho Maruyama. It has been edited for length and clarity.

During my senior year of college, my husband, who I married in my freshman year, and I found out we were expecting a baby. The news surprised us. It was a total shock.

I felt like there was this stigma that once you have a baby, your life would be over. That you can’t do all that you love anymore.

At the time, I was in the thick of classes, work, and playing rugby.

My team had won a national title the previous year, and we were training for another one. It was terrifying to tell my coach I was pregnant and couldn’t play anymore.

I also really wanted to graduate from college. With only a year left, I was so close to finishing. Work was a necessity. We needed the money, so quitting wasn’t an option.

I was determined to have my baby but not to give up on the things that I loved most.

Our friends became our support system

Already living in a two-bedroom house, we spent my pregnancy preparing for a new baby. Our house is in a college town with many students living around us. My brother only lives two doors down from us.

They started to become a support system even during the pregnancy, but once our daughter Hinami was born, their help was amplified.

Since my husband and I were both getting degrees, playing rugby, and working part-time, we were going to need all the help we could get with Hinami.

Soon after her birth, our group chat became a day care forum to talk about who could take care of Hinami, with different people volunteering to have her when my husband and I weren’t around.

A typical day for me started at 4 a.m. when I would wake up to pump breastmilk that my husband could give her when she woke up in the morning. I’d leave the house at 5 a.m. for rugby practice and get back at 7 a.m. When I got home, I’d start working from home while my husband went to classes. Hinami often slept, only waking for feeds, until 11 a.m. so I could get on with work pretty easily, even with her there. By the time Hinami was born, I was getting my master’s degree, which didn’t require me to go in for classes as much. My husband would come back from school, and I would work all afternoon while he had the baby.

We’ve only paid for childcare 3 times since she was born

There have been plenty of times when work, rugby, or school kept both of us from being able to watch Hinami. Friends have stepped up to the plate to help when we’ve needed childcare. At times, it is a bit like a baton toss, with her staying with one friend for an hour and then another friend having her the next.

Since we’ve had her, we’ve only had to pay for daycare at most three times. Having a village of friends around has saved us so much money.

This group of friends hasn’t only been childcare help — they’ve continued to be our social circle, which we see most evenings. Everyone will come to our house and Hinami will stay up with us, often until 12 a.m. She’ll be awake and around when everyone watches sports in the evening or while we study. They’ll volunteer to do her nighttime feedings and make her laugh by throwing her up in the air. All of them are incredibly protective of her.

Luckily, our group of friends aren’t drinkers or smokers, so we’ve been able to trust them to be around Hinami in the evenings.

One of my favorite things to watch is how the guys have been with her. I expected my girlfriends to have a motherly instinct with Hinami, but to see college boys playing with and nurturing a baby who isn’t even their own has been shocking and incredibly sweet.

Maybe it is Hinami’s personality, or perhaps the impact of being raised by college students, but she is very adaptable to both change and people. Since birth, she’s learned to be around many different people in different environments and routines.

Raising her around people who don’t have children has allowed me to become a first-time mom without fear of judgment. We are all learning what it means to take care of a baby together.

I wouldn’t have been able to raise Hinami without this village of friends around us. It’s been a game changer. Because of them, life didn’t have to stop. I could be a mom, an athlete, a student, and an employee, even with a newborn.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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