Pregnancy: Is it like food restrictions and requires forewarning?
February 9, 2015 1:44 PM   Subscribe

I received an admissions offer from a doctoral program, which is good news. They have an admitted students visit day, which they will cover costs for. I plan to attend. I am also pregnant. Third trimester pregnant. They are not aware of this yet. I also haven't gotten my funding package yet, but this should come before the visit. My question is this: do I need to tell them when I RSVP to the visit day that I'm pregnant?

I would do this mostly as a courtesy to myself and them to, hopefully, avoid awkward conversations (although, probably these would still have to occur because apparently that's what happens when you're pregnant). I would prefer to wait until I have my funding offer to let them know, but am not sure whether this really matters.

Also pertinent: I'm in a generally female-heavy field, and folks in the department have, without prompting or questioning, commented on how family-friendly it is.
posted by robot vacuum to Education (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Nope, I would definitely definitely wait until the funding package comes in, and I don't think there's any reason to mention it before showing up at all.
posted by brainmouse at 1:51 PM on February 9, 2015 [18 favorites]

There is no reason to tell them unless you require some kind of accommodation. It seems unlikely that they'll offer you nothing to eat but raw-milk cheese, deli meat, sushi, champagne, and coffee (though, sign me up to go to a school that spends that kind of money on visit day!), so unless you are worried that some event may require sitting/standing to an extent you can't manage, no. It'd just be weird, and you're right, someone's going to say something dumb but it doesn't matter whether you forewarn, it's still going to happen.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:01 PM on February 9, 2015 [7 favorites]

Nope. There's really no benefit to you. And, it'll be a great litmus test for how family-friendly they really are.
posted by quince at 2:10 PM on February 9, 2015 [6 favorites]

Folks in the department have, without prompting or questioning, commented on how family-friendly it is.
This is usually their way of trying to ascertain whether or not the idea of "family friendly" matters to you, which is to say, it seems like a nice thing for them to say but really it's borderline illegal. I was just on a campus visit for a faculty position and was told by no fewer than three people that a certain area of town was really great for families. They were carefully paying attention to my reaction to the phrase. I'm unmarried, have no kids, have no plans to ever have kids, but that is no one's business but my own (and my boyfriend's). It is not my employer's business. I just asked an unrelated question after they told me that, because I do not want to get into "family" stuff at work. It's not their business.

I would not mention this to them. It has no bearing on your performance at work and no bearing on visiting the campus either. To be honest, I personally wouldn't go to admitted students day at all if I didn't get my funding offer before it occurred, because seriously: pregnancy is a problem in the academy, and you already know that you are going to accept their offer, so what's the point of attending? It could do more harm than good if you don't have funding yet.

Being a woman who is married is a problem in the academy, whether or not you have kids or are planning on having kids. Being a pregnant woman will be a problem even (or potentially especially) in female-dominated fields and if you don't have a funding offer before you have to accept the invitation for visitation day, hold off and just say you can't attend for work reasons. It's not false. You could easily get stuck with a much, much worse funding offer (being a graduate assistant for someone who just makes you photocopy, for example, rather than getting to work in a lab and getting some publications out during your coursework) if they decide that you won't be capable of doing "real work." I know people who have been put in this position and they finished coursework with exactly zero publications and now they can't even find good postdoc opportunities, and it's largely because they got "tracked" differently than their male counterparts.

The academy is unkind and unforgiving. Letting anything about your personal life out before you have funding is always foolish.
posted by sockermom at 2:17 PM on February 9, 2015 [35 favorites]

I'd say only if you are asking them to do something specific/different for you. For example, if you were going to be post-baby and needing a room to pump, you'd need to let them know so they could make sure there was a space for you. Having not been pregnant, I'm not sure if there's anything specific you will need! But I would just generally think ahead to whether there are any visit-day activities where you will need an accomodation and let that be your guide. For reference, my visit days for grad school typically involved:
--meetings with faculty
--sometimes a "trip" to some local attraction
--casual coffee/meals with current grad students
--campus tour

Definitely involved a fair amount of walking, so that's something you might want to ask about if you're worried it could be an issue for you.

I would not send an email to say "I'm pregnant, just FYI!" because what it the world are they going to do with that?
I think it would be fine to send an email saying something like "I notice the schedule you sent out involves a 5K to a sushi restaurant as one of the activities. I just wanted to give you notice that I won't be able to attend that part of the day because I am pregnant." (Obviously extreme, that will not be an activity!!)

Either way, perfectly fine to wait to send any communications about this until after your funding package is communicated.
posted by rainbowbrite at 2:19 PM on February 9, 2015

Unless you literally go into labor and have a preemie like the day before or something, nope, don't say a word.

If this is really the goal: hopefully, avoid awkward conversations

Is there any way you can dress to try to play off the pregnancy as "I'm just fat"? I have known women who were large women to begin with who did not "show" as obviously pregnant. It would be rude for anyone to comment on your weight problem.

I will also suggest that you need to work on learning how to side-step awkward conversations. Feeling obligated to engage people on something like this is a good way to get yourself in trouble at some point in the future.

Think through some possible your response options. Start with the most extreme, humorous ones you can think of, like "Eek? I'm what? I never noticed!" or "Oh, sure, I will tell you about my pregnancy just as soon as you tell me something about your (insert awkward counter question)." Then try to bring it down to something more polite and socially acceptable.
posted by Michele in California at 2:50 PM on February 9, 2015

Don't say anything. When your baby comes, they can just deal with it.
posted by oceanjesse at 2:56 PM on February 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

If it were your husband who was attending the school, would you feel the need to tell?

It's YOUR business and presumably you can parent and learn at the same time. Just like a dude.

So no, say nothing.

And Mazel-Tov!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:12 PM on February 9, 2015 [6 favorites]

I would advise you to tell them, because: the visit is for admitted students. The purpose is for you to decide whether you want to go there, and whether you will get what you need to succeed there. Part of that might be things like daycare arrangements, breastfeeding room, and school neighborhoods. They admitted you because they want you, and at this point they want to know what you need. They cannot help you or give you what you need if you don't tell them.
posted by Dashy at 3:31 PM on February 9, 2015

You want them to focus on your academics, so no, don't prompt it as a topic of discussion. You've got a plan for succeeding in the program, that's all they should infer. Make good use of your time and ask good questions about the program and how it aligns with your academic interests and aspirations. Use your time with them as you expect to when you are in the program.

Many, many people have children, men as well as women.For X months, most can tell when someone is gestating one. It would be a colossal mistake to make an assumption based on limited information/misinformation. There is ample, recent guidance on pregnancy from OCR. You may want to look at the graduate student handbook to see what helpful information is there.

Regarding the family-friendly comment above...I take that as this-is-what-we-know ...not perfect for everyone, but naming a starting point, if you could see yourself there. Elder care? Bike paths? Robust parks? You don't need children to have an interest. It's tougher to say Dr. G and Dr. K found homes for a great price in X community and G is happy as-is, and K is doing a stem-to-stern rehab based on "solid bones". Dr L is renting there and saving for a down payment to move into family-friendly-ville. Most hiring departments want you to settle in, perform well & stay, whatever that looks like. If you want different information, ask after it? Maybe if there is a Habitat for Humanity group on campus and where do they work on projects?
posted by childofTethys at 3:59 PM on February 9, 2015

To you original question, they should presume health and ability, unless you need something that day, such as to sit and put your feet up at hour 8, or a quick stop at a restroom. I've worked with attorneys who have argued motions in court in their third trimester. Keep the focus on The Day, don't mislead, and be forthright & confident. BTW, congratulations!
posted by childofTethys at 4:13 PM on February 9, 2015

Thanks so much, everyone (for the well wishes and the advice). I have been out of school for some years, so navigating academia and pregnancy (and people's reactions to pregnancy) together has been a bit of a riddle
posted by robot vacuum at 4:56 PM on February 9, 2015

My general thought is that "warning" professional contacts about one's pregnancy reinforces the idea that pregnant women are so out of place in professional contexts as to need warning labels. I agree that if you need accommodations for the day you should ask, but even then I'm not sure I'd give a reason why you need the accommodations (that is, it's ok to say, "I will need to sit down after several hours of walking" (or whatever) without saying, "I will need to sit down because I'm pregnant").
posted by jaguar at 10:09 PM on February 9, 2015 [4 favorites]

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