By Katrina Richards • April 15, 2010•Writers in Residence
I was eight and a half months pregnant with our second child when I started law school. And I was terrified.
Add that to the fact that I was wait-listed and only allowed into the school three weeks before classes started, I did not feel like I belonged there. Needing reassurance, I called up the Dean of Student Services the day before orientation to inform her of my condition. (Translation: Is it actually okay for pregnant women to come to law school?) My inquiry must have sounded something like, "I'm pregnant.... orientation.... due date..... um....?" The Dean, being a very kind woman, asked if I thought I would go into labor before orientation and would not be able to make it. Otherwise, she reassured me that it would not be a problem. Even taking time off to give birth would be just fine. (Oh, good.)
After I started classes, I realized that there were two other pregnant ladies in my class and that several women had been pregnant law students in the classes before me. In fact, my situation was not that spectacular. (Sigh of Relief!)
Because having this baby was imminent, I met with each of my professors individually to discuss how much class I would have to miss and how much time I would have to make up the work.
I was slow getting around and up the stairs, which made me late to a few classes. I had to leave class a few times for much-needed bathroom breaks. Sitting for hours in the hard plastic chairs was difficult, especially when the little guy inside me would settle underneath my ribs and push for more room. And, it being August in New Mexico, I was always, always hot.
Luckily (this time) the difficulties of being pregnant only lasted for my first two weeks of law school. I went into labor on a Tuesday, gave birth to my 10 lb. 7oz. baby boy and was able to rest over Labor Day Weekend before returning to school a week later. My husband stays at home and was ready for the hand-off when I had to go back to school. I even ended up making honor roll that semester.
Fast forward to August of my third year.
A few weeks after starting classes that year, I discovered that I was pregnant again. This time, I would get the mixed blessing of being pregnant during my entire last year of law school, with my due date coinciding with finals week.
I had the baby a few weeks early, took my finals, and was able to rest a few weeks before graduation and the beginning of bar review classes. Long story short, I survived. And you can, too.
Here's a Panic List for your reference in case you find yourself knocked up and in law school.
- Wear comfortable shoes
- Look into getting a backpack on wheels to avoid heavy lifting, if your reputation and sense of style can cope.
- Bring healthy, quiet snacks to munch on during class.
- Map out each classroom's nearest bathroom & aim for a seat near the door in each class.
- Check your school's facilities:
- Is there a breastfeeding/pumping room or a clean, quiet place that would work?
- Are there changing tables in the bathrooms?
- Is there a place where baby can cry that is out of the hearing of the classrooms?
- Discuss your plan for maternity leave/ time off with each professor and with your Dean of Student Services. Find out policies on make-up work and missing classes.
- Avoid missing classes unless you really need them - this will build clout with your professors and stave off the impression that you're milking your "condition" for all it's worth.
- Try to schedule prenatal appointments for times when you don't have class.
- Have a designated note-taker ready to take lecture notes during your absence. Better yet, ask two or three different people to do it simultaneously so that you don't miss anything.
- Have someone on stand-by who can drive you to the hospital from school, in case of emergency.
In short, the most helpful tool to surviving pregnancy and childbirth while in law school is having a plan, a back-up plan, and then planning for things not to go as planned.