I was sitting down to write my new "Frequently Asked Questions" page when I realized two things. One, this question must be included as it is by far the most frequent email that I get from readers, and two, that the answer is way too long to put in an FAQ. So I'm going to write out my thoughts here and then link to it along with a crib notes version on the other page.
If I wanted to be both rude and completely honest my answer would be, "I have absolutely no idea whether you should have a baby in law school." That question is so deeply personal and the answer depends on so many things that only you can know. But I understand the impulse to ask it because in the middle of my 1L year I sent out four emails to women I didn't know, but who the dean of students told me had had babies in law school, and each of them were nice enough to write back. I knew even then they couldn't tell me what to do or how to do it, but that's not really what I was looking for, nor do I really think that's what the people who email me are looking for- I just wanted to know that someone had done it and that I wasn't completely crazy for wanting to do it too.
So instead, I usually ask that if you took law school out of the equation entirely, would you still want to have a baby now? And if the answer is yes- if you are in a very solid place with your significant other, if you are in a financial position to support a child, if you think you are ready to take that enormous leap into a physically and emotionally exhausting unknown- then don't let law school stop you. If there is anything I've learned from having Landon it's that there is never a perfect time to have a baby and that you can do far more on far less sleep than you ever imagined possible.
And law school can be a great time for lots of reasons. You have the flexible schedule of a graduate student. Yes there's lots of work to do, but it really doesn't matter when you do it. Our first year with Landon was very difficult and there were a lot of doctor's visits involved and I am so glad I was a student and not a full-time attorney while trying to take him to all of them. I continue to be glad that I have had to balance my family and my career from day 1 and that was able to be at the firm for nearly two full years before taking my first maternity leave.
As for any advice I'd give, this is once again hard because it is so personal. So with many grains of salt and the huge caveat of "every situation is different," here is what I'd say to a good friend if she asked me for my thoughts:
1. Wait until after 1L year. 1L is so difficult- you're learning a new way to read, think, and write and it took 98% of my time and energy to stay afloat by the end of that year. I think I was very nearly clinically depressed by Spring quarter and I cannot imagine wading through that while being pregnant or caring for a newborn.
2. Make friends. Always a good idea and not one you should do with ulterior motives, but this is another reason why I'd recommend waiting until after 1L year, particularly if you're in a new city. The friends I made 1L year are the reason I was able to graduate law school at the end of 3L year (really) and they also gave me reasons to look back on that year and smile. They were amazing- my support and my family in a city where we arrived knowing no one.
3. Arrange for more childcare than you think you'll need. Originally, I thought I would only need 20 hours of childcare for Landon- after all, I was only in class for 12, sure I wouldn't need much more than that! Yeah, no. The idea of studying at home while watching your baby sounds great, but I found it nearly impossible. Babies are jealous and demanding masters. Landon knew when I was looking at a law book instead of him and he didn't like it. Also, I came to love the newfound separation between school and home, which was excellent practice for my future as a lawyer mom. I rarely took books home 3L year and instead got to spend all of my home time just playing with my baby boy. (Though I did write most of a 35 page research paper while he slept on my chest after a surgery.) I also used that childcare time to make phone calls, talk to professors (those relationships were invaluable when I had to drop nearly all my classes Fall Quarter because of our DCFS nightmare), and see my friends. I learned early that making time for yourself and your friends is still important- really, even more important than before.
4. Stay positive and trust in yourself. This applies to anyone having a baby at any time, but it's particularly important when you're also in grad school and most people think you are insane for purposefully getting pregnant. Once people found out I was expecting it seemed like all they wanted to tell me was how hard babies are and, from what I could tell, how horrible it was going to be. And those were all people who had kids! Family, strangers, it didn't seem to matter- I quite seriously couldn't figure out why any of them had more than one child if it was so bad. So, while of course it's going to be hard, and of course you can't really understand how hard it's going to be until you do it, it is also completely wonderful and if no one else will tell you that, I will. Also, you know yourself, your spouse, and your personal situation better than anyone else, don't forget that.
The last thing I can say is maybe the most important. If given the choice to do things over, and even if the universe could guarantee that I would get to have the exact same Landon 3-4 years later, I wouldn't change a thing about the timing of his birth. I found being pregnant while working to be much harder than being pregnant as a law student. And while there have been days where I wished I was a carefree new associate who didn't have to (and desperately want to) get home to see her kids before bed, I think it has been a huge benefit in figuring out how to manage my career from the beginning.
So that's my extremely long answer to a question that really can't be answered. I hope that maybe a little piece of it will help someone looking for an answer of their own.