Pregnant in Grad School

I wrote way too much today and got tied up in some insider gossip about freelance writers, so I really should walk away from the Internet. But first I wanted to point to a blog post in the New York Times about maternity policies (or lack thereof) in graduate and medical schools. KJ asked what provisions and policies exist for pregnant parents in graduate programs. 

Jonah was a grad school baby. Both Steve and I were working on our dissertations when he was born. My health insurance came from a policy job that I had through the graduate center. The school itself offered no insurance to students. The school did not provide students with any stipends. We lived off the salary from my policy job, adjunct professor money, and student loans. After Jonah arrived, I quit my policy job. My parents gave us some money, so we could finish the dissertations. We also relied on WIC to pay for formula. 

There's been a lot of talk in academic circles about drastically shortening the time spent in graduate school. Yes. 

8 thoughts on “Pregnant in Grad School

  1. Both of my babies are graduate school babies, my oldest was born when both K & I were ABDs (I passed my comps while 8 months pregnant) and my youngest was born a couple of months before my husband defended his dissertation (it took me four more years after that). The whole story is here (my rejected submission to Mama Phd — it’s too long and unwieldy for sure, but I think my story matters). We had a stipend and excellent, full health insurance in MA.

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  2. Yes, there does need to be a policy on this other than ‘why did you go and do this?’ asked disbelievingly by the professors. Many of the grad students in my program ended up on food stamps when they added family members to the grad school mix.

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  3. My husband and I were both ABD when we had our eldest, but we were working full time outside the department at the point so we really didn’t feel like graduate students any more. We had taken dissertation completion grants the year before so we were ineligible for any more money.
    What I was when I had my eldest was a full-time adjunct on a year contract. That was stressful in its own right. I couldn’t skip the whole year and had signed a contract that included the spring and didn’t feel they would rehire me if I left them in the lurch in the spring and my daughter was due at end of March with 5 weeks to go in the semester so I said I’d come back after two weeks and I did–with baby and caretaker in tow so I could bf (consecutively husband, mom, mom in law). I had a difficult delivery and infection cannot believe I did that. Why did nobody stop me? Later the president of the union told me that I should have taken leave, that I was protected, that I could have used the sick bank to take the leave even if I hadn’t accumulated enough, but I was sure they would be annoyed and use it against me when rehiring the next year. Even though everyone there was really nice.
    Aah, she’s fifteen in a few weeks…for all the difficulties, I miss those days! I miss babies!

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  4. At my grad program, we had to buy the grad student insurance or you couldn’t register for classes. That took about $1000 of a $13000 grad assistantship, but it covered me when I got pregnant.
    I am still paying off student loans from grad school but I wouldn’t advocate shortening the time to degree. Undergrads today bring so much less intellectually to the table that graduate school has even more educating to do. I would rather see a system in place that doesn’t allow grad programs to exist unless they can fund students all the way through.

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  5. I’ve been thinking about babies and how they effect staffing. Say, for example, in a school. If your workforce is 25-35 and folks take leave (of 3 mo or 1 year) for each baby (and have two babies in that time), you loose 5% or 20% of your workforce over that period of time. If both men and women took leave, and age groups were evenly divided in you profession (i.e. you had an even distribution of workers 25-35, 35-45, 45-55, . . . ., you could spread the cost more evenly across your labor pool (like spreading insurance risk).
    In practice, women are much more likely to take leave, and some fields are dominated by women, and by young people. In an elementary school, for example, guaranteed leave means you have to hire more people to do the same work. The same is not true for a tech start-up, which will be less likely to have women in the workforce (under current trends). The difference makes the tech company more productive (and cheaper) than the school.
    My bottom line is these leave policies can only work if the costs are nationalized and spread throughout the workforce; otherwise I think they create unsatisfactory incentives in favor of particular workforces over others, and create incentives to not hire women of child-bearing age.
    The grad student population is an example — if the cost is too narrowly spread, there’s a real impact on productivity in having a too many women in your program or your lab; in the end, those programs who are generous with leave won’t survive the competition.

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  6. My first was born while I was FT adjuncting too, and I can also remember hiding my pregnancy until I got my contract for the next year. I thought I was doing a pretty good job of hiding it, until I found out that my students used to speculate before class as to whether I was pregnant or putting on weight. Needless to say, it made what should have been a very happy time very stressful.

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  7. At my grad program, we had to buy the grad student insurance or you couldn’t register for classes.
    It was like that at my school also. You had to prove you were insured otherwise or take the insurance. But I don’t think it was like that when I started. They switched at some point but I can’t recall when.

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  8. I was sheltered from the US system by doing my grad work in Canada, where I had two kids, health insurance, daycare and gov’t support. My degree took longer to complete and was not without stress, but seeing now how much more stressful academia becomes I’m certainly glad I was able to have kids with relatively little responsibility.
    The support for grad students these days is pretty appalling, but a lot of young workers (those 22-22-22 people, for example) suffer the same plight. People waiting to have kids drive up the amount of $$ young parents have, setting higher expectations for what income is socially ‘acceptable’ to ‘start trying’. It’s a vicious cycle.

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