It was Valentine’s Day 2019, and Tosin Balogun squeezed into her desk in Dr. Sophie Kernéis’s classroom. Nine months’ pregnant, she was determined to not let anything get in the way of her goal to be a nurse – not even a few contractions.
Balogun, who had moved to Canada from Nigeria in August 2018, had enrolled in Upgrading classes at the college last fall to prepare to enter the Bachelor of Nursing program offered by the college and university. “So I needed anatomy, physiology, statistics and microbiology – and it had been over 10 years since I had taken these courses. And the last time I took microbiology, it wasn’t so easy for me.”
This time around, there was another factor adding to the challenge: Balogun was pregnant and due in mid-February. “But I was determined to take these courses,” she said. “And I was so happy to have Sophie, who made the class very interesting.”
On the first day of class, Kernéis said she always reminds the students that they will be working with microbes, and she asks that they inform her if they think they might be or know they are pregnant, “as they need to take some extra precautions,” Kernéis explained.
So Balogun went to tell Kernéis about her pregnancy, but she had something else she wanted to run by her. “I wasn’t sure that my mom would be able to come to Canada [for the birth of the baby], and I needed to say to her, ‘Sophie, in case I give birth and my mother cannot come and I need to bring the baby to class, you don’t mind?’”
Kernéis was ready to ask the class if it would be okay for Balogun to bring her baby – if needed – and told Balogun it should be possible. (In the end, Balogun’s mother was able to make the trip).
As Reading Week approached, Balogun admits she “wasn’t feeling great.” On Thursday, Feb. 14, she woke up hoping the baby would be born that day as she “wanted a Valentine’s baby,” and she headed off to class. “I was walking slow. It all was a bit heavier than normal.” She got through that last class with Kernéis, and the next day, welcomed her daughter, Ilerioreofe, which means “promise of God’s grace,” into the world.
Eleven days later – on the Tuesday after the Reading Week break – Balogun was back in Kernéis’ class. She was there in her seat every day of the rest of the semester except one, when she missed a class because her daughter, nicknamed Ivy, was sick. And in the end, despite Kernéis’ offer, Ivy didn’t have to come to class as Balogun’s mother was able to make the trip to southern Alberta and help look after her granddaughter while Balogun finished the semester.
Ivy seems to relax at the sound of Kernéis’ voice, though, especially when Kernéis holds her and starts speaking to the infant in her first language, French. « Bonjour Ivy, comment vas-tu? Te souviens-tu de nos cours de Microbiologie. Tu cherches ta maman? Elle est là… »
Balogun smiles as her daughter looks content in the arms of her microbiology teacher. “It’s like Ivy has already taken microbiology, physiology and introduction to psychology,” she says with a laugh. Kernéis says Balogun’s story can be inspirational to other students looking to push themselves during challenging times.
“I think Tosin is a very big inspiration to our students,” says Kernéis. “Students who are a bit younger are sometimes overwhelmed by our program. I think that it is important to share Tosin’s story, as it is a good example that students can push their limits when they have their goals set. It is also a reminder of the importance of talking to their instructors to let them know about special situations. We are willing to help students succeed and we understand that life can bring challenges.“
All of Balogun’s effort paid off. She successfully completed her Upgrading courses and, this September, she will begin the two-year Bachelor of Nursing after degree program. “I just wasn’t ready to miss anything or to give up or say maybe I’ll start next year,” Balogun says quietly as she watches her daughter relax in the arms of Kernéis. “I just didn’t want to lose time. There were moments I thought ‘I’m not feeling so good,’ but trust me I am determined to do this. And I did.”