Home National Rutgers PhD student delivers dissertation hours after giving birth

Rutgers PhD student delivers dissertation hours after giving birth

After giving birth, Tamiah Brevard-Rodriquez (right) took a nap, ate a meal and was ready to rock her defense presentation. (Photo: Courtesy Tamiah N. Brevard-Rodriquez via CNN Newsource)

(CNN) — In late March, Tamiah Brevard-Rodriguez had a plan leading up to her April 24 due date.

Coined “Operation Dissertation Before Baby,” the plan included Brevard-Rodriguez completing her dissertation and having her baby in time to celebrate graduation and the summer with family. In that order.

Brevard-Rodriguez’s dissertation presentation – for her doctorate at Rutgers Graduate School of Education – focused on the beauty pressures placed on Black college women while enrolled at predominantly White educational institutions.

But while she was in the middle of fine-tuning the dissertation early on March 25, things went decidedly off-plan.

After working for a few hours and lying down to get some rest, Brevard-Rodriguez’s water broke. While this was a happy moment, she was scheduled to deliver her dissertation that very day.

Tamiah’s wife, Alyza Brevard-Rodriguez, tried to calm her.

“I’ve witnessed her work so hard, tirelessly working on the presentation, a six-year program, a two-year study. I’m just like, ‘don’t let today be the day,’” Alyza told CNN. “I walk into the bathroom and I look at her and she is just shaking in tears. As much as I knew that this was a happy moment for the both of us, I can see the sadness on her that you know her day was possibly going to be ruined.”

They were planning to go to a birthing center, but their doula told them to get to the hospital quickly. Alyza helped Tamiah to the car and they sped down the highway in the dark, in what Alyza called a “race to the finish line.”

When Tamiah started to go into labor, Alyza worried they wouldn’t make it to the hospital in time for the baby’s birth. They didn’t. Tamiah had given birth in the car.

“When I looked over, she had the baby in her left hand and the umbilical cord in her right,” Alyza said.

They got to the hospital with baby Enzo. Doctors and nurses checked him out and cut his umbilical cord, joking that Tamiah “did all the hard work for us.” Now was the time to rest, but Tamiah still had a dissertation to present.

Alyza discussed possibly rescheduling the meeting with Tamiah’s mentor. However, Tamiah worried if they rescheduled, it wouldn’t happen in the time frame needed to graduate this year.

“As I was laying there, I was just thinking to myself, ‘I can do it,’” Tamiah recalled. “The baby’s here. Let’s just get this over with.”

And so she did. Alyza brought her clothes, laptop and a makeup bag.

“I took a nap, ate a meal and then I was ready to rock and roll,” Tamiah said.

As she logged onto her laptop from her hospital bed, the only person who knew about her delivery earlier that morning was her mentor. He didn’t want anyone to give her sympathy, so he kept quiet. For about twenty to thirty minutes, she gave a stellar presentation, Tamiah says. With the presentation over, she took down her Rutgers background on Zoom, revealing the hospital.

“Everyone was in complete shock,” Tamiah said.

Tamiah’s graduation ceremony is this Sunday, on Mother’s Day. She says she will celebrate with a dinner with family and friends. Alyza also finished her doctorate recently, and their daughter Aubriel is soon graduating from preschool.

“It’s incredible to uplift women and show how incredibly powerful they are,” Alyza said. “I hope that people really take away from this that women are strong and resilient, tenacious, ambitious grit and they can do anything.”

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