I don’t have any topics that I’m currently hot under the collar about (which is a good thing right now), so I thought in the spirit of the family friendliness discussion that we have been having, I would share with you my own experience about having a child as a grad student.
DrMrA met while he was in grad school and I was a technician, and he stuck with me through two years of vet school and several years of graduate school before we got married (now he is stuck with me for the duration!). We got married in the mid 90s- I was a second year graduate student. Near the end of my project I found out I was pregnant. This news wasn’t completely unexpected- I was 29… and waiting for a ‘good’ time for this would have been 5 or 6 more years… that wasn’t happening. Anyway,- I remember distinctly the day I went to the grocery store to buy the pregnancy test,- excited and strangely feeling scared of telling the grown-ups (as a 16 year old unwed mother is to tell her dad this kind of news)… knowing that this meant I was going to have to tell my thesis advisor. I was terrified of having to tell him- not because of any fault of his- just because he was an unknown entity where these topics were concerned. No previous grad students in the lab had been pregnant, or even married.
Anyway- you already know the test was positive.. and I waited as long as I could to say anything. About 15 weeks we had a scare, I was shortly to have an amniocentesis, and so I had to tell him. I worked up all my courage, walked into his office, made sure everyone was sitting down, and dropped the bomb made the big announcement. Turns out ALL my fear and anticipation of this moment was for nothing. GradAdvisor reacted spectacularly well to the news…. I believe the first words out of his mouth were ‘Congratulations! you will have to take 3 months off!’. You can not imagine my immense relief at his reaction.
I worked until the day I went into labor. I was spectacularly productive during this time- knowing that I was going to be out for a while and wanting to get things to a state where I could sit and do some writing independent of doing experiments. The day that I went into labor I was running protein gels and doing a few Western blots. I had my weekly appointment with the OB/GYN that morning- and being a week over my due date we scheduled an induction for the following week. She (the OB) said I looked like I wasn’t going to need the induction though- she thought I looked ‘ready’- I remember going home and telling DrMrA how odd that was- and what kind of a doctor was she anyway??? That night I was in labor.
Because I am a data junkie and never like to leave an experiment hanging- I had prepared and labeled all the solutions for developing the Western the following day. The hospital where I was laboring is directly across the street from my grad lab… so …. once I had that epidural… DrMrA got instructions to go over and develop my Western blots. I was in labor for a very long time- plenty of time to develop a blot and not miss a thing… that evening the Western blot failed, but our healthy daughter was born.
GradAdvisor was just awesome. Even organized a surprise baby-gift from himself and the lab, which I had not expected. Came to visit us in the hospital- left me alone during my maternity time to deal with the wholesale change in my life that was now upon me. This time was a difficult adjustment for me as I was used to going to work every day and having adult conversation,… and getting things done. Now, if I got the chance to take a shower, it was a big day. GradAdvisor patiently allowed me to start back in the lab 1/2 time- to allow a gradual separation from the little one. I hope it is obvious from what I have written here- that GradAdvisor handled this situation perfectly from my perspective.
In fact, these days when I return to the grad lab- I often hear a tally of how many children have been born to grad students and postdocs since I have gone…. and I know that he has a reputation for family friendliness among his employees and the wider community of our field.