Isobel Cohen sits Cambridge final exams 28 HOURS after giving birth to first child – and gets a First!

That's what you call a Double First! Mother sits Cambridge final exams 28 HOURS after giving birth to first child – and gets a First!
Isobel Cohen took exams in hospital while baby Beatrice was in intensive care

|

UPDATED:

15:37 GMT, 2 July 2012

Giving birth is one of the toughest things a woman will ever do – and taking her university final exams is another.

But one talented Cambridge student took on both challenges within mere hours of the other – and has triumphed in both.

Proud new mum Isobel Cohen, 33, has graduated with a first class honours degree in English from Cambridge University's Lucy Cavendish College – despite sitting her final exams in a hospital bed just 28 hours after giving birth to her first child.

Bright spark: Isobel Cohen said she was 'fixed' on completing her Cambridge English degree, despite being heavily pregnant with her first child, Beatice

Bright spark: Isobel Cohen said she was 'fixed' on completing her Cambridge English degree, despite being heavily pregnant with her first child, Beatice

Hours after giving birth on May 23, Ms Cohen left baby Beatrice – who weighed 6 pounds 10 ounces – in the capable hands of neonatal nurses in the intensive care unit of Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge.

She then sat her practical criticism paper in her dressing gown and slippers, completing her Shakespeare and Greek tragedies exam the next day in the hospital.

Despite the exhaustion of labour and the final weeks of her pregnancy, the talented academic – who was 'fixed' on finishing the degree even after she learned of her unplanned pregnancy – still came through the rigorous exams with top marks.

The new mum said: 'I was absolutely terrified when I fell pregnant, but I was fixed on going on with my degree.

'I had the opportunity to delay my degree for a year, but I didn't think I would care about it as much when I had Beatrice.'

Double first: Cambridge super-student Isobel Cohen, 33, with newborn baby Beatrice, to whom she gave birth just 28 hours before sitting her final exams

Double first: Cambridge super-student Isobel Cohen, 33, with newborn baby Beatrice, to whom she gave birth just 28 hours before sitting her final exams

She continued: 'Those first few hours are when the mother and baby bond and I was sitting my
exams. It has taken us a while to get used to each other.

'I was not as concentrated as normal in my exams and I was thinking of Beatrice. But I knew there was nothing I could do and she was being cared for in intensive care.

'The decisions we made were always what was best for the baby. If I had had to miss an exam I would have.

'I was foolish enough to accept pain killers before the first exam. I didn't realise how strong they were and felt a bit doped up.

'People say I am heroic, but I think it is more heroic having a child in your second year and managing your studies alongside caring for a baby.'

Top priority: Isobel Cohen's baby Beatice, pictured at just a few hours old, was always the talented student's number one priority

Top priority: Isobel Cohen's baby Beatice, pictured at just a few hours old, was always the talented student's number one priority

Isobel was initially told she could
not take the exam in Addenbrookes' Hospital becuase it was not a
registered Cambridge University building.

But her senior tutor persuaded the university that the hospital was a university, because it is part of the teaching campus.

The
exam board sent a proctor in her full gowns to supervise Isobel, who
had to complete her exams at the same time as her fellow students.

Ms Cohen said: 'They said I was lucky not to be an Oxford University student as they have to
wear their gowns for their exams. At least I was allowed to wear my dressing gown.'

Baby love: Isabel Cohen pictured shortly after giving birth to baby Beatrice

Happy family: Isobel Cohen with baby Beatrice and husband Ewan Campbell

New beginnings: High-achiever Isobel Cohen plans to take six months off work to care for Beatrice, before continuing in further academic study

Luckily, baby Beatrice slept the whole way through Ms Cohen's graduation, so she was able to enjoy the day. She added: 'I was less lucky when I picked up my results and she vomited on me.'

Ms Cohen, who had a government loan for her degree since it was her first, has taken six months off work to care for Beatrice but plans to do further academic study.

Her experience has also changed her views about paternity leave.

'There should be more,' she said. 'My husband was my support and his maternity leave was used up very quickly.'

Before beginning her degree, Isobel danced professionally all over the world and was part of the cast which debuted an operatic version of George Orwell's 1984 at The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.

Isobel's husband Ewan Campbell is Cambridge University's resident composer.

Graduation day: Baby Beatrice slept all the way through Isabel's graduation, but did throw up on her degree results

Graduation day: Baby Beatrice slept all the way through Isabel's graduation, but did throw up on her degree results