A few weeks ago I have discussed with other PhD students the topic “pregnancy during the PhD”. I was devastated, when I heard that one of the PhD students with whom I discussed this told me that she had an abortion two weeks prior to our conversation. Of course this is completely personal and every women has definitely to make this decisions for herself. I was devastated because she told me that she believed it was not possible for her to have a baby during her PhD trajectory and that she felt not supported at all by her supervisors.
I could relate to her chaos of emotions and thinking “will I manage it all”, as I also was pregnant with my first child half way through my PhD. Although, I felt at first overwhelmed with this life changing situation, I was very happy after this initial shock.
Throughout, my unfortunately difficult pregnancy with a lot of pre-term contractions, I felt very supported by my husband, family and also by my promoter team. They all told me not to worry and that my baby and my health always comes first.
Still I felt guilty and on top of that I was on bed rest from around 20 weeks on until the end, when I delivered my son at 38 weeks. It took quite some time for me to adjust from working almost around the clock to not being able to work anymore at all.
Despite being on sick leave for many months and being on maternity leave I managed to get everything done, once I was back at work and even finished my PhD within a bit over four years. This was a massive learning experience and now I know that it is not about working 24/7, but doing your best and being efficient in the time you have.
I am still doing long shifts in the lab and I am working more than the usual 40 hours per week, but no matter what my kids always come first. And when they are sick for a week and I cannot work, so be it.
In hindsight I wished I would have been happy immediately, when finding out I was pregnant. Everything turned out fine and everyone around me was extremely supportive.
It makes me sad, that this is not in every case like that. Maybe my story gives a little insight that it is possible to combine the PhD, being pregnant and having a child.
by Anna Schueth