For some reason or another, a few recent online conversations have got me thinking about pregnancy and grad school. (I suppose visiting a friend with a month-old baby probably had something to do with it, too.)
One of the recent posts on Female Science Professor asked readers to explain whether they had children and why, giving a very brief statement of what you do (grad school, professor, other, etc..). At this point, the comment count is already up to 190. As I read through about half of them, I started to feel a little sad and discouraged by the number of people who said they didn't want kids (usually for environmental or career/productivity reasons). I'm not even sure why; I suppose it was partially due to the fact that these comments supported what I had heard at various gatherings for women in computer science before - having children is hard for academic women! Luckily, there were still many people who commented that they had children and didn't regret it at all.
I've had more than a couple of opportunities to ask other women their advice on good times to have a baby since starting with CU-WISE. The most common answer I get is that if you want one before you are done your PhD, a great opportunity is after courses and comprehensives, since you are really just getting into your research and can (hopefully) do some lit-review at home. Otherwise, if you wait until after your PhD, it seems that you more or less need to do your post-doc, get a job, and establish yourself at your new institution before it's a "good time." (Incidentally, this seems to be what a good number of FSP commenters did.)
So far, for me, it sounds like within the first two years of PhD might be best. I would like to take advantage of the only mat-leave money I'd ever be able to get via my NSERC scholarship, and I only have my NSERC for the first two years since I also had it for both years of my Masters. NSERC will give you an extra four months of your scholarship for leave. Plus, I want to have kids before I'm 30, so I can't wait until I'm done my PhD. The scariest part of this situation is that it means I have to try to get pregnant within about a year! Eep!
I would love to hear from some of my readers (male and female) about their experiences with babies in or after grad school. Or, if you want, just a little encouragement. ;)