Young mum who had two ‘awful’ pregnancies during uni studies opened her own business instead of taking maternity leave
A young mum who gave birth to two children while at university in her early twenties, including going through contractions as she was handing in an essay, did not take any maternity leave from her job or time off from her studies despite “awful” pregnancies, instead opening her own booming business.
Bethany Sharp, 24, who lives in Fair Oak, Hampshire, with her husband, Tom Sharp, a builder, 29, and their daughter and son, who they wish to remain unnamed, started having contractions at her desk while handing in her final assignment in her second year of university and gave birth later that day.
Within five months, she fell pregnant again.
The business director has no regrets about not taking maternity leave and would recommend it to other mothers “determined to achieve their dreams”, saying she hopes she acts as a strong example to her children, proving that if you work hard enough, you can achieve anything.
Bethany graduated from university with a BA in graphic design from University Centre Farnborough, and credits not taking maternity leave as the reason she now has her “dream job” running a bridal shop with her best friend, adding she “wouldn’t change anything for the world”.
“I didn’t want my children to grow up and not think that they can’t do what they want,” Bethany said.
Bethany met her partner, Tom, in 2019, on the dating site Plenty Of Fish, and after being together for two years, she fell pregnant.
At the time, Bethany was in her second year of university, and was sure she was going to keep the baby and continue her studies without a break.
She explained how she felt when she learned she was pregnant, saying: “It was a shock, but we were so pleased.”
To Bethany’s delight, her family and friends, as well as her peers at university, were supportive of the news.
She said: “There were other people in the course that were mature as well, and they had kids, so it was like a normal thing.
“My family and friends were literally so supportive, and there were no negative comments or anything like that.”
Throughout Bethany’s pregnancy, she juggled university assignments and lectures and married Tom.
She said: “It was really difficult, but I wasn’t going to give up on university.
“I had really bad pregnancies. They were awful.
“I had no energy, I couldn’t even get out of bed, so my teachers gave me extensions so I could relax a bit.
“But my second year was online because of Covid, so I had the luxury of being in my pyjamas and doing university work while pregnant.
“It worked out nicely.”
In May 2022, Bethany had contractions while handing in a university assignment at her desk – later that day gave birth to her daughter.
She said: “I started contracting on the final day of my second year when I was handing in my work.
“So I was on my computer to read through what I was just about to hand in, and I just had to send it in without proofreading – otherwise I wouldn’t hand it in on time because I was ready to have a baby.”
After giving birth to her daughter, Bethany was surprised that she did not feel she was missing out on her social life.
She said: “A lot of my other friends are a bit older than me anyway, and they have children, so they would be happy to come to my house and just sit and chill.
“So I’m quite lucky in that sense.”
Just five months after the birth, in her third year of university, Bethany found out she was pregnant again.
She said: “My parents were shocked when I got pregnant for the second time, but we were all so excited.”
Bethany left her part-time job a week after she found out she was pregnant, and so decided to not take maternity leave.
She thought it was the perfect time to start a new adventure, despite being still at university.
She said: “It was definitely intense and stressful, but I knew I wanted to finish my degree.
“If my children want to do something, I want to show them they can do it.
“I’m very lucky to have a husband who helped me.”
Bethany and her best friend had always spoken about opening a bridal shop together, called House of Boemia, and after applying for a business loan, their dream became a reality.
She said: “While I was in my final year of university, I wrote up our business proposal, then we found out we got the loan and the shop just as I graduated, and we were super excited.
“We’re lucky enough to have the shop in an old chapel, and it’s like a dream come true.
“We’ve had a lot of appointments already, and they’ve all been through word of mouth.
“It feels very surreal because we spoke about it for so long.
“It’s insane that it’s actually, this is our reality now.
“I can’t quite believe I’ve got my own business, two children and I’m married, all before finishing university really.”
To anyone pregnant at university and unsure whether to take a break, Bethany recommends asking teachers and loved ones for help.
She said: “Definitely speak to people around you, especially if your friends and family are happy to support you, and just don’t be afraid to ask for help.
“I’d recommend not taking maternity leave to other mothers who are determined to achieve their dreams.”
Looking back on the last few years, Bethany says she has learned a great deal and thinks if you put your mind to something, you can achieve it.
She said: “My mindset was, I really want this, but I’m probably never going to get there.
“But you can get there if you work really hard.
“Not taking maternity leave led to me having my dream job, and I wouldn’t change anything for the world.”