Lexi Greytak is a former student athlete, an aspiring sports broadcast reporter, and a recent college graduate who just earned her degree after four and a half years of work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. And she received her diploma while carrying her nearly 2-year-old daughter across the stage.
The 22-year-old Wisconsin native posted a slideshow of photos on Instagram to celebrate the milestone but didn’t neglect to give her little girl some credit for the accomplishment. From being a part of nearly half of Greytak’s college experience to entertaining the crowd throughout the ceremony that brought her schooling to a close, Grace has been an integral part of her mother’s success at UW, the graduate says.
“WE DID IT GRACIE!!!!” Greytak captioned the adorable photos. “I can proudly say I’m a 2017 University of Wisconsin Grad! I couldn’t have done it without this little girl by Mommy’s side.”
Photos throughout the post show the pair accepting Greytak’s diploma together, just before the young mom gathered with friends to celebrate. As best they can, the series of photos captures the unique normalcy of the graduate’s time in college, although she tells Yahoo Lifestyle that there were times she felt “stuck.”
As a sophomore in college, and an athlete on the women’s golf team, Greytak found out that she was expecting a child with her football-player boyfriend at the time. The news was difficult to process herself but became even more so with the pressure of others.
“I was stuck. I didn’t know which way to go,” Greytak shares. “I had people telling me to get an abortion because I had a bright future ahead of me, and I had others telling me that that was not the right thing to do. But at the end of the day, I had to trust my gut and do what I felt was right for me.”
The decision she made was to have and keep her baby, in addition to maintaining a life as close to normal as possible. For Greytak, that meant continuing her college education, as well as staying on the golf team that showed her so much support. Throughout the entirety of her pregnancy, she remained active in practices and training, even though she wanted to throw in the towel many times.
“My trainer was so good to me. She helped me feel a part of the team when I was ashamed and wanted to hide. When I got too big, I had to head over to [the school’s stadium] to start doing some underwater workouts,” Greytak says about her time on the team while pregnant. But the accommodations made for her continued when she had Grace. “While breastfeeding, as you can imagine, it got very hard to play five hour rounds of golf while needing to pump. Let’s just say our locker room definitely was my pumping station.”
Greytak’s adjustment to motherhood happened pretty quickly, as she took only two weeks off from school and the team, coincidentally giving birth over her school’s winter break. Immediately after, she was back at UW taking 14 credits of classes, attending golf practices, and taking care of a newborn.
The then-20-year-old and her boyfriend were living in the football house on campus with Grace, where Greytak says all of the players truly treated the little girl like their own. Along with the help of Greytak’s mother, the couple had a lot of support, but the journey was still difficult for a number of reasons, including the college student’s mental health. While she now understands that she was struggling through postpartum depression, Greytak says her boyfriend didn’t believe in it and simply thought she was crazy.
“I could not have gotten through my postpartum depression without the help of the trainers and doctors at the University of Wisconsin,” she says. “Whenever I was stressed and down, I went to my trainer Jen and she just let me cry to her. Then she would help me get on track by making a schedule for me to follow because she knew it would be harder for me to just lay in bed and be sad. My trainers, doctors, and family helped me to realize that it was not me, I was not ‘crazy,’ and it’s OK to seek help.”
Since splitting with Grace’s father, Greytak has been living at home 35 minutes from campus and left the golf team to focus on her studies and work as the associate producer and videographer for Badger Sports Report. With a diploma in hand, and her adorable daughter, it seems to have all paid off.
“I did this for my baby girl and so I could give her the best life possible,” she says. “I didn’t give up, and when there were times I wanted to, I reminded myself who I was doing this for. I can finally say I graduated from the University of Wisconsin in four and a half years while being a proud single mommy.”
As for other single moms out there, Greytak hopes her story serves as some sort of inspiration about how it’s possible to still accomplish any of your goals while raising a child.
“I want single moms to take away from my story that you can do it, and it is OK to leave and become a single mom if that is what’s best for you and your family,” Greytak reassures. “I also want single moms to take away that it is OK to ask for help.”
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle:
- The feminist symbolism connecting TIME’s most recent covers is pretty powerful
- Postpartum depression may be influenced by when you give birth
- “I have postpartum depression, and the holidays are hell”