This blog is not intended to provide legal advice, legal services or legal anything else. Don't sue me. All I have is debt anyway.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ask a MILS

A new reader asks:

I just found your blog after googling "taking the bar exam while pregnant." I'm not in law school, but I am in the dead middle of a PhD. What is your take on the possibility of being pregnant during a major exam (in my case my "orals"). Terrible idea? Disaster? Not as bad as it sounds?

Just reading these comments on your blog makes me feel better about the prospect of pregnancy - so nice to see a bunch of women thinking about families and careers happening at the same time!

Congratulations on being a PhD candidate and not a law student! You obviously make better life decisions than I do. (I'm only half-kidding.) But I certainly understand the hard work involved in pursuing advanced degrees, in both graduate school and law school. To choose to become pregnant during such a time takes a special kind of determination, a special kind of insanity, and keeping a balance between the two.

The most important thing to realize is that your pregnancy could be a breeze, or it could be the most horrific experience of your life and you opt for immediate sterilization after it's over. Mine was somewhere in the middle, I think, although there was certainly emotional turmoil aplenty. Even the healthiest, lowest-risk women can have bad pregnancies, whether it's "morning" sickness the entire pregnancy, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, or a random congenital defect in the fetus that requires prenatal surgical intervention and modified bedrest for the remainder of the pregnancy, and results in delivering four weeks early right in the middle of final exams. Yeah, sometimes things just don't work out like you plan.

Also, during the later stages of pregnancy, I ended up with random baby parts shoved into my lungs. (I believe they were feet. Anyway.) I was incapable of standing up and speaking in front of a group of people without literally gasping for air from about seven months on. So, the timing of your pregnancy should also be a concern. You will likely feel your best between 16 weeks and 26 weeks. After that, you will likely feel like a beached whale. But again, every pregnancy is different, so you might feel like ass the whole pregnancy, or be one of those annoying people who "glows," still runs 5 miles every day up to delivery and leaves the hospital in their skinny jeans. You just never know. I certainly could have completed my oral exams for my master's degree during the latter stages of my pregnancy, but it would not have been good. On the other hand, I'm sure my program would have taken my physical condition into consideration, and it wouldn't have made a difference.

It's important to have flexibility and a back-up plan. If the pregnancy goes awry, can you postpone your exams? If the answer is no, I wouldn't take the chance. Do you have a job lined up that depends on you completing your degree requirements by a certain date? Yes? I wouldn't risk it. But what I've found with graduate programs (at least mine), and even with the law school, is that they will work with you if there are circumstances beyond your control. Personally, I do not plan to be pregnant during the bar exam. I'm a huge slacker as it is, and I don't need anymore distractions than I already have to study for that nightmare. I also can't afford to wait six months to take it on the next date if something were to happen. So, we're waiting awhile for the next kid. And personally I'm in no hurry to be pregnant ever again.

Overall though, I think having a baby while still completing your degree is a better alternative than doing it as you're just starting out in your profession. The legal profession, in particular, is not pregnant-woman friendly. It can be outright hostile, in fact. I've seen several women pushed out of jobs after having a baby. (Oh wait, I was one of them.) Especially in this time of recession, places will cut, or at least marginalize, the weakest link. And in the legal profession, that's going to be the lawyer who didn't bill for two months because she was on maternity leave. It's wrong, sexist, discriminatory, and even illegal, but that doesn't mean it doesn't still happen. And it happens frequently.

Also, depending on your situation, you might have the flexibility to take more time off or spend more time with your child. Although I didn't get much of a "maternity leave" after my daughter was born, I was able to spend a lot more time with her than I would have if I'd been working instead. The timing was really good.

So, yeah, it's definitely possible, and honestly, it's very unlikely to be disasterous. I'm one of those "worst-case scenario" survival people who has to have a back-up plan for everything that could possibly go wrong, so that's what I recommend doing before you make a decision. Most likely though, you'll go through the pregnancy with no hiccups, take your exams, and at the end you'll have a baby and a PhD. Which makes you totally awesome.

Hope this helps! I'm happy to answer any other questions!


In other news, I have recovered (mostly) from The Plague. Husband has since contracted it, and spent all last night violently ill. I was nice and got up extra early this morning to take Cora to daycare so he wouldn't have to.

If anyone has any tips on learning BA over the next three weeks, I would certainly appreciate it. I'm about 1/3 of the way through outlining for the class, still don't know anything, and wonder if I should even be wasting time outlining for a class that I'm guaranteed to get a bad grade in regardless. Perhaps I should be spending more time working on my immigration paper, or outlining for Con Law, in hopes of getting a better grade in there. Meh.

My lit skills trial is coming up. We're going up against one chick who's on our school's trial team and she's really good. This is something I'm pretty competitive in, so we're working hard on it. Also, we're hoping to finish up our memo for the international moot court competition this week so we have time to do a few revisions. It's due the first week of December.

Busy busy.


la critika said...

Thank you so much! Your thoughtful feedback is really helpful. Like many, I'm trying to figure this all out without really talking about it with my 1. adviser 2. friends 3. mom, so getting some anonymous tips is golden. Between privacy, the structural sexism of the academy, and just the overall uncertainty of embarking on something so totally unknown (to me), I feel like I'm flying blind. You just came through with a little bit of radar.

gudnuff said...

Check your email, protoatty. Also: great post! Thanks!

Dee said...

What a helpful post!

You are so right about being pregnant while in practise. Fortunately for me I was as strong as on ox and worked my butt off until the Friday evening. Son was born at 5:14 am Sat.

But to be honest I can't imagine doing a stick of studying while pregnant and as for exams, oh lord.

The fact is though that we women are inclined to rise to the occasion and cope well when confronted with all kind of circumstances. It is nice though when we can get some support.

PT-LawMom said...

I have a friend who worked full-time, went to law school at night and had TWO babies during school. Ack! Now she works in BigLaw. Yes, she is superwoman. But I totally agree with ProtoAttorney. You just cannot plan the smoothness of your pregnancy. Every woman is different. Hell, every pregnancy is apparently different! Some women fly through it and some end up smacked down and puking the whole way through. Hard to plan but I think if I was a full-time student, I would totally choose to have a kid during law school. For me, that first year was a breeze and totally productive. It's when they start walking that it all goes to shit!