Trying to balance books and a baby

Jessica Goodey, single mother and senior in LAS, plays in her off-campus apartment with her 18-month-old son Murry, in this posed portrait taken on Saturday. ME Online

By Danielle Urban

With a sneaky look on his face, 20-month-old Murry, with curly, dark brown hair and blue-green eyes, picks his way into a laundry bag.

“Get out of there, sweetheart,” Jessica Goodey, his mother, said. “He doesn’t like to let me talk.”

Murry sits on the bed, still playing with the laundry, as Goodey continues to unpack from her vacation in Acapulco, Mexico, for spring break this year.

“I had the time of my life last week,” Goodey said. “I wasn’t a mom for 10 days straight. But now it’s back to reality.”

The bills, school, work, the baby, their busy schedules and her plans after graduation are once again the main focus of Goodey’s days.

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    Goodey, 22, is a senior at the University, majoring in political science. She’s from Winchester, Ill., and in 2003 graduated from Winchester High School.

    In 2005, Goodey had been dating Murry Brown on and off for almost three years when she got pregnant, creating much tension between her and her parents.

    “My mom believes in abortion and wanted me to go through with it,” Goodey said. “I absolutely do not believe in it, so I refused to do that.”

    Part of the reason Goodey’s parents were so upset, she said, was because they thought Jessica was the only one of their kids who was focused and had goals, and her mom thought she had thrown it all away.

    “They’re OK with it now because I went back to school,” Goodey said. “That was their biggest concern.”

    Balancing school and her son is tricky, but the insanity has become part of their routine as well.

    “We get up in the morning, and I feed him while I get dressed, and then I used to have to take him to daycare,” Goodey explained. “His father is here and watches him during the day, so that’s a little easier and less expensive.”

    Daycare was eating up at least 200 dollars per week without the subsidy Goodey received and 30 dollars with it.

    “It was really hard to leave him at daycare; he would scream when I left,” Goodey said. “And it would absolutely break my heart.”

    Goodey and Brown agree to watch the baby one specific night of the week so the other can go out, too. Both still have time to go out or just have time to themselves.

    “Sometimes I’ll catch myself thinking what if I didn’t have him, I could go out every Friday and Saturday night and how much easier it would be to just get up and go wherever without packing,” Goodey said.

    Before her pregnancy, Goodey was involved at the University, as she rushed the Sigma Kappa sorority her freshman year, was vice president of Shi Ai, a service honors society, and was on the dean’s list for two semesters.

    “Over winter break sophomore year, she told me she had something important to tell me,” said Kim Thinnes, Goodey’s old roommate and good friend who also rushed Sigma Kappa. “I remember her being hesitant; it never crossed my mind that she could be pregnant.”

    Still, Goodey told Thinnes, and then shared the news with the rest of her roommates and in April; she told the sorority via E-mail.

    “Jess told me when she found out, she was scared and upset,” Thinnes said. “But then she went to all of her doctor’s appointments, read up online, researched baby names – she even played an ultrasound video of him – she grew more excited.”

    Goodey went to the sorority’s house mom, Doris Liestman, for advice and support soon after she learned she was pregnant.

    “She came in, and she told me that she was expecting, and I told her, ‘Jessica, you made a mistake, but this baby is no mistake and is part of God’s plan,'” Liestman said. “I told her I definitely did not want her to abort it, and she said she wouldn’t, even though her parents advised her to.”

    Liestman said she’s proud of Goodey for her determination to get an education and that she has definitely matured since Murry was born.

    “She still likes to go out and have a good time, but I think she has become more responsible,” Liestman said.

    During the pregnancy, Brown and Goodey argued up until the night before over what to name the baby. Brown wanted to name it after him, and Goodey wanted Sean.

    “We ended up drawing out of a hat, the name with the best of three draws winning,” Goodey said.

    They decided that whoever lost could pick the middle name.

    Goodey chose Michael making his full name Murry Michael Brown.

    The plan was to admit Goodey Thursday night so she would be comfortable enough to get some sleep, and then start the pitocin Friday morning, but they started it Thursday night instead.

    “And five hours later, he was born!” Goodey said. “It just went so fast – I was having contractions … they would come check me, and then it happened.”

    After Murry was born, it took Goodey some time to get used to the idea that Murry was her baby, her responsibility.

    “It took a minute to set in because I was high off the drugs,” she said. “Then it really took about two weeks to set in.”

    Goodey then took the first semester of her junior year off and lived at home with her parents until winter break, when she and Murry returned for second semester.

    “I didn’t have to pay anything while I was at home,” Goodey said. “I was pretty lucky.”

    Goodey’s mom helped her pick out a crib, but once Goodey returned to school, she paid all her own bills.

    “Having a baby is definitely more expensive,” Goodey said. “It was a huge adjustment trying to go to school and take care of him and myself.”

    The biggest expense for Goodey is rent. To help with the added expenses, Goodey works 10-15 hours per week in the account payables office for the University.

    “The hours are flexible,” Goodey said. “And teachers have been really great, too.”

    She had to miss class when Murry was sick in January, she said. She also explains to her professors at the beginning of the semester that she has a baby and might need to miss class occasionally, and they count it as an excused absence instead of penalizing her.

    “My schoolwork suffers a little bit, and then I have to stay up all night doing homework because I was taking care of him,” Goodey said. “It’s kind of one of those things you do because you have to, you have to make it work. It’s not easy, but I manage.”

    Although Goodey does get stressed, her hard work paid off as she was accepted at all the law schools she applied to and will attend the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.

    “Times when we normally get stressed, it’s harder for her,” said Rene Ruzicka, who went on spring break with Goodey. “She’ll admit it when she’s really stressed out and overwhelmed, and we’ll try and watch Murry for her.”

    When Thinnes watches Murry, she said it’s “constant care because he’s walking and moves fast now.”

    It worries her because there are also stairs in the apartment, and he likes to play on them.

    Along with having friends baby-sit for some free time, Goodey took a little break and went to Mexico with four friends.

    “The whole week she couldn’t stop talking about how much she missed her baby,” Thinnes said. “They really complete each other. I can’t imagine her without him now.”

    Ruzicka said she was upset she only talked to him once the entire week, but the girls could hear Murry babbling away when talking to his mom.

    “Every once in awhile we’d catch her looking at pictures of him,” Ruzicka said. “Then she’d ask us, ‘Did you hear how excited my baby was to talk to me?'”

    Goodey’s loving personality and her commitment to her activities and friends hasn’t changed since her pregnancy and has only gotten stronger.

    “Before she had the baby, she was working 20-30 hours a week at JC Penney’s and attending school and getting good grades,” Thinnes said. “And even though she is incredibly busy, she always makes time for others. She’s a great listener and great advice giver.”

    Thinnes said Goodey drinks and parties less but still enjoys dancing when they go out.

    Goodey wants to have more kids in the future, too, she said. She always thought about spacing her kids three years apart, but since Murry is almost two, her plan might be put on hold.

    “That would mean I would be getting pregnant soon, and that’s not happening,” Goodey said. “I’m not all about planning kids; when it’s meant to happen, it’ll happen.”

    Goodey will continue to juggle the different aspects of her life as she transitions to law school and make the necessary sacrifices.

    “Right now, the hardest part is trying to find a balance between my old self and the new part of me and still be a college student,” Goodey said. “If I could go back and change it, no, I wouldn’t.”

    “I do find myself thinking, ‘Oh, you know if you didn’t have him, you could go out and your life would be easier,’ but there’s no way I would trade him in for the old party me.”