New UNC Greensboro School of Nursing graduate Abby Bailiff poses for photographs while holding her son, Bodie.

Abby Bailiff had ordered her doctoral regalia with every intention of wearing it to her graduation from the UNC Greensboro School of Nursing on May 4.

But then Bailiff went into labor and gave birth to her first child, a son named Bodie, at 3:08 p.m. on May 3. She still thought there was a chance she could make it to her graduation, which was set to begin 24 hours later inside UNCG’s Fleming Gymnasium.

Bailiff, 28, didn’t have much time to get ready for the School of Nursing’s graduation ceremony after leaving Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital with Bodie at noon on May 4. She didn’t make up her mind on attending the ceremony until 90 minutes before it started.

“I remember walking into the gymnasium for graduation, and everybody’s just cheering and standing and there’s a huge crowd,” Bailiff said. “I don’t know if it was a mix of the hormones or just how overwhelmed I was feeling, but I just started crying. It was just an overwhelming feeling of I just accomplished so much within the last couple of days. It just felt really good.”

Bailiff has enjoyed an unbelievable series of events over the past two weeks. Along the way, thousands of people across the country have celebrated her accomplishments and even found inspiration in what she was able to do in such a short period of time.

In a span of 24 hours, Bailiff gave birth to her son and then walked across the stage after graduating from UNCG’s doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program. She earned her DNP in the adult-gerontological primary care nurse practitioner (AGPCNP) concentration.

Bailiff became a mom right before Mother’s Day and earned her doctorate just as National Nurses Week was about to begin. As if that weren’t, she went viral after her sister, Hannah, posted a video about Bailiff’s wild 24 hours on TikTok.

The nine-second clip shows photographs of Bailiff in the hospital after giving birth to her son, followed by footage of her getting hooded by School of Nursing faculty member Dr. Autumn Henson at graduation. Heavy music plays in the background.

The short video has been liked more than 120,000 times since it was posted on TikTok. It has received more than 1,000 comments, many of them from women who see Bailiff as a great example for other women.

“Gosh, it made me feel so good. I guess in the moment I didn’t think anything of it. I’m just doing what I need to do because I deserve to accomplish my dreams, but then after all these people were commenting, I was just like ‘Wow, you know, I really am an awesome woman.’ We can do whatever we want to do as long as we set our minds to it.”

Moving to the Frontlines

Bailiff became a nurse like her mother and her grandmother. Her sister and her husband, Ben, also work as nurses.

Bailiff has spent the past five years working night shifts on the neurotrauma intensive care unit at Moses Cone. As much as she loves her job, she said she decided to enroll in the UNCG School of Nursing’s AGPCNP concentration in Fall 2020 with the hopes of becoming a gerontological nurse practitioner.

“We see a lot of really bad strokes, a lot of people that just don’t get educated on how to stay healthy and what they can do to prevent strokes,” Bailiff said. “So I really wanted to get on the frontlines of it and really just work on education and primary care and really helping people kind of manage their diseases, so it doesn’t get to the point where they’re on my floor and it’s too little too late.”

Bailiff continued working at the hospital while pregnant and wrapping up her DNP degree requirements. Bodie was initially due to be born on April 27, and Bailiff thought that would give her enough time to recover before she attended the School of Nursing’s graduation ceremony.

“God had other plans. Bodie had other plans,” Bailiff said, laughing. “And it just happened to be a little later than I thought.”

Making It In Time

After Bodie was born, weighing 8 pounds, 11 ounces, Bailiff said her colleagues at Moses Cone worked to get her discharged from the hospital as soon as possible on May 4. They knew she was scheduled to graduate that day, and they wanted to help get her there in time.

UNC Greensboro School of Nursing graduate Abby Bailiff celebrates her graduation.

“I don’t know if it was still adrenaline pumping in my system from delivery, but I was like ‘I think I can do this,’” Bailiff said. “And my husband and my family were here, and they were like ‘You know what. If you feel like going, do it. You deserve it. We’ll go. We’ll support you.’ And my husband was like ‘I’ll stay home with the baby.’”

Bailiff made it to graduation dressed in her black regalia. In a moment that’s captured in the TikTok video, she takes the stage and then ducks her head to get hooded by Henson.

“From entering our program during the heat of the COVID pandemic and becoming a Health Resources and Services Administration grant scholar to continuing to work as a nurse, be a wife, and all her other endearing titles, she has now become a sweet mother to a sweet baby boy the same week she achieved her DNP degree,” Henson said. “This just goes to show all the dedication, hard work, and loving support, and you can accomplish anything you wish.”

Soon after the graduation, Bailiff’s sister posted the video she had made to celebrate Bailiff’s accomplishments on TikTok. A few hours later, Bailiff was told she needed to log onto the social media website and check out her video because it had gone viral.

“I want other women to know, especially people that are in school and they get pregnant and they want to do this or they want to do that, we can do anything we want to do,” Bailiff said. “We just have to set our minds to it. I know that sounds cliché, but that whole video kind of just put it into perspective.”

Story by Alex Abrams, School of Nursing

Photography provided by Abby Bailiff