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02/01/2017

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Anonymous too

Thanks, Anonymous, for your post - I, too, was pregnant and a new, breastfeeding, mother in grad school, and I think you have captured much of what the experience is about. Just to reiterate a couple of points: the biggest difference between the experiences of pregnancy/birth/nursing/motherhood and being a new non-birthing parent, as you point toward, is the sheer physical exhaustion. Pregnancy can be exhausting. Giving birth can have long-term effects on your body and mind. Nursing daily reduces your energy stores and takes up a surprising amount of your time. As a fellow philosopher, I found the biggest effect of all this physical exhaustion--and the one I hadn't really expected--is how difficult this sometimes made doing my (mental) work (even things that were previously easy for me, like reading and taking notes). I had expected the loss of sleep, but hadn't thought through the toll it would take on my body. As a result, I ought to have taken much more time for myself than I had planned and ultimately was able to do, resulting in anxiety, a lot of lost weight, and, of course, more exhaustion. Thus, it is really important to get a handle on the resources your grad program, the university, and the broader community might have to allow you to maximise the break you may need.
The other point I'd like to emphasise is the reason you (and I) choose to stay anonymous. Despite all the rules against it, showing potential (and even current) employers, even really understanding ones, that you have children makes a mark on their expectations of you. I would say I haven't suffered much in the way of outright stigma, but a lot in terms of lowered expectations about my willingness to take on projects, my ability to complete things by deadline, and especially on my capability as a 'professional philosopher' to participate fully in activities like conferences etc. There may be childcare on offer at more and more conferences, but that doesn't mean I can attend the speaker's dinner, or that I'm perceived as 'independent' from my spouse as others are (another thing I fear is specific to women's experience...), which has a ripple effect on others' and my own confidence about whether I can hack it as an academic. The only cure for this, of course, is for more of us to have our babies in grad school and early career, stigma be damned. But in the meantime, be prepared to have to assert yourself as equally capable.

pregnant grad student

Thank you to the poster for taking valuable time to write and share such a comprehensive, thoughtful and information posting. It is useful not only to those who may experience pregnancy in graduate school, but hopefully is also useful for educating departments and colleagues about some of the specific challenges pregnant persons might face, and how these could be supported.

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