September 28, 2018
Story and portrait by Brandon Steinert
Hayley Ross is tough, in the way only a mom can be tough.
Her story starts with an uphill climb, when she dropped out of high school due to an unexpected pregnancy at age 18 and held down a job to make ends meet and care for her son.
Four years later, she had her second child, another boy.
A year after that, in 2015, she was expecting her third, which is when she committed to earn her diploma and college degree and start a career to support her growing family.
“I was determined I was going to get it done, and so I enrolled while I was pregnant and taking care of two kids,” she said. “Having three kids and no high school diploma would not be a good situation; so, I went to class.”
Complications arose in the sixth month of pregnancy, which required her to make two trips out of town for doctor appointments each week, in addition to working and attending classes.
In November of 2015 her daughter was born, but a rare defect left her baby girl unable to move or function on her own; she was completely unresponsive. Less than a month later, Ross had to tell her goodbye.
It was a dark time in her life, but Ross knew she had a choice: she could let the sadness consume her, or she could use it to bring something valuable into the world.
Moved by the care she received from the nurses in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), she decided to commit herself to serving others in the same way, as a NICU nurse.
She dove back into her pursuit of an education with renewed momentum. Only a few months later, she finished her high school diploma through Barton Community College’s GED services and earned credentials to work as a Certified Nurse Aid. She plans to apply to Barton’s full nursing program once she finishes her general education requirements.
It’s quite poetic: her daughter’s life that would have been is now fueling Ross’s purpose and aspirations to care for others. Her pain, channeled and focused with education and love, will be transmuted into a source of comfort for others going through similar difficulties.
Ross has also made it clear that none of her trying experiences are going to hold her back from living life fully, and on her terms. On November 12 of 2017, two years after losing her first daughter, Ross held a healthy newborn baby girl in her arms.
“Now I have her, and I strive as hard as I can for all three of them,” she said.
Make that five of them, she added, as two stepchildren have also been welcomed into her life.
Ross hopes her story will motivate others to further their education and improve their lives, and ditch the excuses. She managed to get this far taking care of a large family while holding down a job and taking classes.
“If I can find time, anybody can,” she said.