By Brenda L. George • January 05, 2017•Writers in Residence, Law School, Other Law School Issues, Issues, Balancing Private and Professional Life
I started law school a few months before my twenty-ninth birthday. Not only did I wait to go to law school after completing undergrad, but I had a gotten a full-time job as a paralegal that I loved. However, my passion for the legal field pushed me to follow through with that dream of becoming an attorney. My husband (then boyfriend of many years) and I had been discussing the idea of having children around this time also. We didn’t feel that we were getting “too old” but perhaps just that we were at the right age in terms of our plan. We thought for sure that we would be that couple that wouldn't get pregnant right away, but we did, right at the beginning of Fall Semester of my first year of law school. After a classic panic moment (I emailed the Dean and questioned if I should continue attending law school at all – so dramatic!) I got back on track and finished that first year strong.
Many law students will look back on their first year of law school and remember their study groups, student organizations, and most likely the dreaded Socratic Method. Here’s what I will remember:
I was not alone as a soon-to-be mom in law school. So many people shared their stories about having a child prior to law school, in law school, or just after law school. Even more people shared with me that they had a friend in law school that had a baby. Our pregnancy was planned, and so are many others in law school. But even if it hadn't been, there's a wealth of support for law students that are also parents. I was also not alone in the respect that I had friends that were genuinely willing to help me push through and succeed. They gave me rides, brought me anti-nausea remedies, and sent me notes when I missed a class. Some law schools have a student organization called Parents Attending Law School (PALS) – more on that at a later date, but it is essentially a support group for parents.
I slept on the way to school. I was exhausted. Law school alone is exhausting. I hear students saying it all the time. I try really hard not to get bitter and snap at them “try having a kid!” (joking!) – but I know that law school by itself is so demanding and tiring. People always ask me how I do it and I honestly just tell myself that someone else has a longer commute, a harder pregnancy, etc., and they are still here pushing through. I have met people that drive two hours to get to school. I am fortunate enough to take a bus and a ferry.
Being pregnant forced me to let the small stuff go. One of the first things they tell you is that too much stress is bad for the baby. So, if I didn’t know the answer to a question or if I didn’t have time to finish a reading assignment (because I was sleeping!) I just let it go and did my best.
That first trimester Socratic Method was BRUTAL. As I said before, this method is pretty much dreaded by all (with the exception of a few individuals that like(?) it). I guess it’s proven to work. We all come out “thinking like lawyers!” So, imagine on top of the sweaty palms, turning stomach, and clinched jaw, being nauseous to the point that you may have to run out of the room, experiencing a full-body hot flash, and being so tired that you can barely keep your eyes open.
Finals Week, Spring Semester. I was due in early June and finals were early to mid-May. My ankles were so swollen I couldn’t wear shoes (I wore slippers). I had to use the restroom every 20-30 minutes. I could barely reach my computer because my belly was sticking out so far (ok that might have been an exaggeration!). My school was so wonderful to provide me with special accommodations for exams. I felt like I was going to have my son early, and he arrived just twelve days after finals were done.