From diapers to books, single mom shares her story

Ann Kopecky

Ann Kopecky

Maureen Schaefers’ apartment is far from the typical college student’s pad.

A mixture of blue, red and yellow Crayola crayons are scattered across the rug in the living room. A purple ball rests under a chair after a long day of rolling and tossing. “Blue’s Cool Ideas” sits patiently on the couch, waiting to be read. A multi-colored rocking chair and a large red Little Tikes airplane decorate the southeast corner of the room. Each wall is covered with framed pictures of a blond-haired, blue-eyed little girl.

The apartment is not just home to Schaefers. It’s also a home for her 18-month-old daughter, Lilyanne Moses-Grace.

Lilyanne, or Lil as her mother calls her, dances around the room, throwing balls, laughing and energetically calling, “Mommy,” when she finds a new toy.

Schaefers pats her daughter’s head and smiles. “I just can’t imagine a world without Lil,” Schaefers said.

Life before Lil is a haze for the 22-year-old mother. It happened so quickly that there wasn’t time to reflect on what happened.

In the fall of 2001, Schaefers, a sophomore pre-med student from Orient, decided to take a semester off to figure out her future. Working at a gas station and living in Brookings, Schaefers made plans to come back to school in the spring.

But then around the beginning of November, Schaefers found out that she was pregnant and far along in her pregnancy.

She had dated her boyfriend for a long time but a part of her still felt she wasn’t ready for this new role. After a lot of crying, Schaefers said she decided to keep the baby and raise it herself.

“I decided to be a mom and my boyfriend decided not to be a father,” Schaefers said as she reviewed what happened to the relationship.

Schaefer’s family supported her through the pregnancy. During the last few months, she even moved back home.

“There’s no way I could’ve been able to make it through without the support of my family, especially my older sisters, who are parents,” Schaefers said.

It was blizzarding outside the night Schaefers, her mother and her aunt, who used to be a registered nurse, rushed to Avera St. Luke’s Hospital in Aberdeen. It was a long hour-and-a-half ride but Schaefers felt comforted by her aunt’s calmness.

From the time the family reached the emergency room doors to the moment the doctor announced it was a girl, eight minutes had elapsed. Lil was born prematurely on Mar. 15.

“The first time I touched her, I can’t even tell you,” Schaefers said. “I didn’t know what love was until I saw Lil in the nursery.”

Schaefers said that she was filled with joy at that moment but a feeling of loneliness soon came over her.

“It was kind of lonely,” Schaefers said. “Once my mom and aunt left, it was just me and Lil and it’s been that way ever since.”

After Lil’s birth, Schaefers found she had to be organized and disciplined. Life had changed.

“I was used to being self-sufficient but not solely responsible for someone else,” Schaefers said.

Fall semester classes started and Schaefers returned to school with her 5-month-old baby. Finding a daycare, scheduling classes around Lil’s feeding times and providing for two presented new challenges for the single mom.

Schaefers changed her major to nursing, not because it was easier than being a doctor, but because of Lil. After the delivery, Schaefers and her newborn daughter stayed in the hospital for 17 days due to complications. The daily interaction with the nurses gave Schaefers an idea of what she wanted to do with her life.

Now at the end of her sophomore year, Schaefers will apply Thursday to get into the nursing program.

“It’s the big day,” Schaefers says with a nervous grin.

Schaefers has two and a half years left, so she has prepared herself. She has a daily routine that keeps her busy from sunrise to sunset.

A typical day starts at 5:30 a.m. for Schaefers. After getting Lil and herself ready, packing a lunch and eating a quick breakfast, it’s off to daycare. Schaefers makes a point to spend a few minutes with Lil at daycare before rushing off to her mammalian physiology class on campus at 7 a.m.

Classes last until noon and then it’s off to a workstudy job for the remainder of the afternoon. Then it’s time to pick Lil up.

If there’s rugby practice that night, Schaefers tries to find a babysitter. Often she is unsuccessful and stays home.

“My teammates are really good about it,” Schaefers said.

After practice Schaefers arrives home, makes supper, gives Lil a bath and tucks her in around 8:30 p.m. By 10 p.m. Schaefers finds herself yawning and retires to bed.

As Schaefers looks down at Lil, who stares wide-eyed at a green motorized toy insect, she says she has no regrets. Through the daily routine, the dirty diapers, the long hours at class and the time she has to spend away from Lil, Schaefers has enjoyed being a mother.

“Motherhood was the easiest choice I’ve ever made,” Schaefers said. “I can’t imagine what I’d be doing now without her.”

#1.886841:1536611253.jpg:schaefers.jpg:Maureen Schaefers takes time to read a book to her 18-month-old daughter, Lilyanne. Besides being a full-time mom, Schaefers is working to get a nursing degree at SDSU.: