As she helped her daughter Isabelle blow out the candles that marked her second birthday, senior Christina Kaemmerlen marveled at just how dramatically her life has changed in two years.This time last year, she and her husband Joe were struggling to adjust to their dual roles as parents and undergraduate students. Now, as the journalism major prepares to finish her senior year, Kaemmerlen said things are looking up, but it hasn’t always been easy.“We had a really tough time during my pregnancy, just because we didn’t know anybody with kids,” she said.Kaemmerlen, 24, is one of many college women who are forced to find a balance between their academic goals and their choice to start a family.But while the University has explicit parental leave policies for professors and graduate students, there isn’t a similar plan for undergraduates.Many of UNC’s peer institutions don’t have policies either. Melinda Manning, an assistant dean in the Office of Student Affairs, said she expects stories like Kaemmerlen’s to become more common as the University continues to accept transfer and non-traditional students, who tend to be older and are more likely to have kids.“There is no policy for undergraduates, period. So it’s challenging,” Manning said. “I think as a University, we haven’t made it a priority.”Manning said she thinks the first step toward providing more support for pregnant undergraduates would be creating a central hub for resources and advice — giving students somewhere to go.“There’s not an information person in Student Affairs that’s like, ‘Oh sure, you’re a parent? Let me give you all this information,’” Kaemmerlen said.Finding supportThe Kaemmerlens found their support system when they moved from their tiny apartment near Timberlyne Shopping Center into an apartment in Baity Hill, the only on-campus community for students with families.“The one thing that I’ve learned through all of this is that I want to help other students,” she said. “I feel like Joe and I have been through so much, and we have so much valuable information.”Manning said she generally advises students to take a semester off because otherwise there isn’t a guarantee that they’ll be able to finish their classes.But because UNC doesn’t require students to say why they are taking a semester off or withdrawing, the number of pregnant undergraduates is unclear.While she was pregnant, Kaemmerlen worked closely with her academic advisors in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the admissions office to plan her absence.Because she had Isabelle during the middle of her junior year, she decided to take the rest of the year off and adjust to life with an infant.The value of leaveAccording to the Family and Medical Leave Act, the University has to allow faculty 12 weeks of parental leave to the primary caregiver for the birth or adoption of a child.Parental leave covers the primary caregiver, which can be either the mother or the father. If both parents are professors at the University, they have the option to divide the leave over the semester. Teaching faculty can receive up to a full semester of paid leave, and non-teaching faculty are eligible for 15 calendar weeks.“Working as a new mother is difficult no matter what,” said Jocelyn Neal, a mother and professor in the music department. “But leave is an invaluable way of keeping parents, but especially women, in the senior ranks of service at the University.”While she admits the ability to take a semester’s leave of absence is a luxury, Neal said emotional and physical bonding time with an infant is absolutely critical.Helen Lee, a graduate student in the English department, said she was happy to have her department’s support in her decision to start a family but she felt pressured to continue to do research while she was on leave.The graduate student policy is designed to allow students to maintain full-time status. The primary caregiver is eligible for six weeks of leave and a semester’s extension of their academic workload.“You have all of these assumptions about what things are going to be like when you get pregnant, but I didn’t anticipate the pressure I would feel as a graduate student,” she said.At 32, Lee said she’s older than most of her peers. She continued to do research in addition to taking care of her son during her absence. Now, Lee said every day is a negotiation between her family and academics.“Kids add something to your life that I don’t think anything else can,” she said. “There’s competition, and I want to excel, but it’s a matter of finding balance.”Contact the University Editor at email@example.com.