Kelsey Hudie felt the first signs of labor when she was about to graduate from college.
The 27-year-old was determined to attend the ceremony and get her diploma.
She told Insider she wanted others to know that nothing should get in the way of their goals.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Kelsey Hudie. It has been edited for length and clarity.
By the time my baby daughter, Nylah, reaches the age when she's ready for college, I hope she'll have drawn some inspiration from me.
I will probably tell her this her whole life: Nothing should stand in the way of success.
On May 6, despite being in the early stages of labor, I walked across the stage to receive my college diploma.
I was 38 weeks pregnant. My doctor had told me that I was already dilated. I was supposed to be resting up before the delivery. But even though my family was worried, I told them I was determined to attend the ceremony.
I studied for my college degree and worked in a school at the same time
My fiancé, Brandon Bunch, and I got pregnant in September. I was working as a paraprofessional in an elementary school and studying for an associate degree at Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Michigan.
I'd wanted to be a teacher for as long as I could remember. I graduated from high school in 2014 and signed up for Henry Ford College the same year. But I didn't complete the first semester. I decided that college life was not for me.
Next, I worked as an assistant manager at a dollar store. When I missed out on a promotion, I started thinking about returning to college. I knew I couldn't become a teacher without further qualifications.
I juggled my shifts at the store with part-time classes at the same college I'd left four years earlier. This time — between 2018 and 2023 and delayed by COVID-19 — it felt very different. My goal of becoming a teacher no longer felt so distant.
My pregnancy didn't really change anything. By then, I was employed at the elementary school. It got tiring keeping up with the little kids, especially toward the end. But I loved the job.
I wound up being first in line at the graduation ceremony
I felt things happening on the morning of my graduation. My water hadn't broken, and I wasn't in pain. I knew the speeches might be long and I'd have to sit through them. But I said, "I'm going." I put on my cap and gown.
We arrived at the college — my mom, brother, grandmother, aunt, and me — and were met by another of my aunts who worked there. Mom told her that I was in the early stages of labor, and she said she'd help.
Unbeknownst to me, she spoke with the people in charge of the ceremony. They'd told Russell Kavalhuna, the president of the college, about my condition.
Before I knew it, I was taken backstage so I didn't have to climb up any stairs. They'd changed the order and moved me to the top of the list of students. I was first in line.
The president announced to the audience that I was about to give birth. He said he'd have to move quickly. He presented me with the diploma and shook my hand, saying that students at Henry Ford College had grit and determination. The crowd clapped and cheered.
My water broke on May 8, and I went to the hospital that night. Nylah was born after an active labor that lasted for hours.
I'm now heading to college to get a degree in teaching
I'm so glad that I received my diploma before she arrived. It was proof of my accomplishment. If I hadn't walked on that stage, I wouldn't have felt complete. Next up, I'm going to Eastern Michigan University for my bachelor's degree in teaching.
I hope my story will inspire others to work on their qualifications — especially moms-to-be.
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