The Financial Implications of Having A Baby While In Grad School

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When I announced my second pregnancy and our five financial plans earlier this year, I was overwhelmed with the positive feedback from you all.

Many of you complimented us on our careful planning for the second baby and said that we would be great parents.

While flattered, I have to admit that Mr. FAF and I have not always been in the best position to be parents.

We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs with our parenting journey.

And today I will share with you the story of how we welcomed our son, Baby FAF, to this world so that you will have the full picture of our situation.

Back then

I had Baby FAF when I was finishing up the last semester of my Master’s program.

During my pregnancy, Mr. FAF was living more than 10 hours away, and our whole family was in Asia.

I was living with two other roommates throughout most of my pregnancy. I was a full-time student and worked part-time 20 hours a week.

Baby FAF is the best thing that has ever happened to me. He’s worth all the trouble and the pain I went through.

But as I’m telling this story, I don’t know if I’d want to give birth while in school again.

Being pregnant and stressed about graduation and money alone in a big expensive city like Washington DC is not something I want to experience again.

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The beginning

Mr. FAF was in his early 30s at the time and was ready to be a dad. Our parents anxiously awaited their first grandchild. Three months into our marriage, our moms had already started wondering if we should see a fertility doctor.

I was reluctant to have a baby. Mr. FAF was in a PhD program that would take him at least 3 more years to finish.

I had just finished the first year of my Master’s program and had plans for the next two years, none of which involved a baby.

Both of us got tuition remission and a small monthly stipend to live on. The stipends were enough for two people living separately in two cities. It wasn’t enough for daycare and all baby-related expenses.

To make a long story short, Baby FAF was conceived. Mr. FAF was ecstatic when he found out. I was scared and depressed for the first month, feeling tired and anxious about an uncertain future.

I remember the days when there were snow storms in DC, I’d walk in the snow with a heavy belly for 30 minutes to get home from school at 9 PM, a walk that would normally take me only 15 minutes.

I didn’t have a car at the time. I felt hungry, cold, scared, angry, guilty and everything in between.

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The help

During my pregnancy, I’d get a lot of surprised and concerned looks when people found out I was pregnant and living far away from Mr. FAF and my family.

In fact, one roommate didn’t want to live with me because she didn’t want to be bothered by a pregnant woman. I understood why she thought that and never asked her to help with anything. I never had even before I got pregnant.

The other roommate was nice and supportive, which I was thankful for. We became good friends until this day.

My classmates in the Master’s program and my colleagues at my part-time job reached out to me with advice and offered a lot of hand-me-down baby items.

I got a bouncing chair, two high chairs, a stroller, a crib, 2 boxes of toys, 3 huge boxes of baby clothes, and many other great things.

I also got a lot of emotional support from friends, colleagues, and family (though they were far away). I was really touched by their gestures and will never forget what they did to help me and Mr. FAF when we were in need.

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The schoolwork

When I found out Baby FAF’s due date was close to the finals week of my last semester, I got really worried. I didn’t want to spend another semester in school since we just couldn’t afford it.

After reaching out to all the support networks at school and didn’t find many resources, I decided to talk to my professors. Though supportive, they suggested I plan ahead and consider having an incomplete grade for any course I couldn’t finish.

Not completing the semester wasn’t an option for me. I needed to graduate and find a job to make money and to have health insurance.

Besides working 20 hours a week, I spent most of my time reading course materials, writing papers, and doing homework in advance. Fear turned out to be my strongest motivation.

Though exhausted with morning sickness, late night hunger, and back pain early in the pregnancy, I was too scared to slow down. I had to graduate. There was no other option.

I also tried to save as much as I could to prepare for an uncertain future. It gave me peace of mind knowing that I had some money saved up for emergency.

Worrying about graduating motivated me to work harder. 

The delivery

On the day I went into labor, I had just finished working from 9 AM to 5 PM at my part-time job on campus and headed straight to my class which was supposed to last from 5:35 to 8:00 PM.

My water broke at 6 PM. In class.

I called a cab which took me to a nearby hospital. I called Mr. FAF, and he showed up after 30 minutes. Mr. FAF and my mother-in-law were in DC waiting for the baby to arrive at the time.

After giving birth, I just couldn’t think straight for a month. When I tried to read something, I found myself just staring at the words without understanding anything.

When Baby FAF turned one month old, I frantically resumed the job search I had started before his birth.

One time, I went to an interview when I was 9 months pregnant. I didn’t get the job.

A month before Baby FAF was due, we moved to a 2bd/2bth apartment so that Mr. FAF’s parents could come to live with us and help out.

They were very hands-on in helping me take care of Baby FAF, feeding him (I used a Madela breast pump to store the breast milk), changing his diaper, and giving him a bath.

I had more time to spend on the job search and interviews. But I went through a whirlwind of emotions. I was mad at the whole situation since it slowed down my progress.

When I was breastfeeding Baby FAF, I thought about how I could have spent that hour studying for the finals and filling out job applications. When I was doing work, I felt guilty for not spending as much time with him as I wanted.

I wanted my single life back so that I could focus on school and my career. But it wasn’t the case anymore. I was married with an infant who I was responsible for. I felt burdened and helpless.

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The graduation

In the end, I finished all of my classes and got straight A’s for the semester. I was invited to two ceremonies: one for a paper selected for the school journal and the other for an honor society.

I missed both of them since I was busy with the job search and Baby FAF. I didn’t attend the graduation ceremony either.

I eventually landed a full-time internship for the summer and then a full-time job afterwards. Things started to look up.

Looking forward

Mr. FAF had to go back to his city for the PhD program, but my in-laws stayed with me to help with the baby. I’ve been working at the same job since and feel grateful my employer took a chance on me.

Mr. FAF recently got a job offer from a great company in the DC area. At one point in this whole journey, he did consider quitting the PhD program to get a job and provide for the family. We’re glad he stayed on to finish his degree.

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I rarely share this story with anyone unless they ask me about the details of how I had Baby FAF while in school. But I feel comfortable sharing it here with you all. I want to be able to go back and read this one day and see where life has taken us.

I’ve gone through many scary phases and moments in my life. At the end of each ordeal, I always felt grateful for my friends and family, who helped me out when I was in need.

I’ve also realized that I can’t completely control what will happen. But I know I can plan ahead and save now to weather any financial storm that comes my way in the future.


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22 thoughts on “The Financial Implications of Having A Baby While In Grad School”

      • I was in my last year of undergrad when my parents separated. I thought that year was tough, but clearly not! I find this amazing!

  • I can’t imagine how stressful that was. Did you take the finals after you gave birth? That’s pretty crazy, but I guess you have to do what you have to do.
    I’m glad to hear it all worked out somehow.

    • It was a highly stressful time for me. And my emotional state was pretty messed up as well.

      I took the finals after I gave birth. I had two final papers which I had written before I had the baby since I knew I wouldn’t be able to do much during the first month. We knew the topics of the papers months before they were due (thankfully!) I just had to learn all the materials by myself beforehand to have the knowledge to complete them. My profs were shocked to receive the papers so early, but they also understood why I had to do that.

      I’m so happy I’m DONE WITH SCHOOL!!!!

  • I can’t even begin to imagine, when i went through grad school i thought i had it rough between working part time, being a teaching assistant and actual school work and completing my thesis. I can’t comprehend throwing a baby in the mix lol

    Glad it worked out though, you are so strong!

  • This sounds incredibly tough, thanks for sharing. I saw only a few of my classmates have kids (or their spouse had the kid) during grad school, and I often wondered how they could handle it. With small stipends and huge pressure, grad school is such a tough environment to start a family. Glad you had support and we’re able to make it work! I wish there were some easier way, but the career vs family struggle is real.

    • Thank you, Jess! I’m just glad I didn’t have to choose one or the other. Juggling both family and a career is not easy, but it’s all worth it in the end 🙂

  • More power to you for finishing.

    My wife pulled plug on graduate school around pregnancy. She already had a full time job and the child made her re-examine priorities. What she found was her graduate degree wouldn’t help her towards her career goals. It was more doing it to do it (work was paying). So she pulled the plug.

    • I think it’s a good decision to pull the plug is the rate of return is not high or worth the money/effort you put in. It’s great she had a full-time job back then. Prioritizing can really help us big time 😉

  • Freak. I wrote a long ass comment but clicked on something and lost the page.

    I didn’t know any of this!!! That’s insane. You’re so brave. What was your grade / score for that class and semester? Your water broke in class? Is it noticeable or just like *pop* and then some water…(this is a huge mystery to me.)

    If it was me I would have taken the semester off because of the stress. Like if I do bad on my finals – a D grade is worst than a Withdrawal on my transcript.

    “Three months into our marriage, our moms had already started wondering if we should see a fertility doctor.”
    Lol!! Asian parents do that. You two are so hardworking. Two very good qualities in parents.

    • Ahh I’m so sorry to hear that! I hate it when it happens. Thank you for writing a long comment though. xoxo

      I got 4.0 that semester. My water broke in class. It popped and started finding its way out slowly but surely (is it TMI?) @_@ I wanted to take the semester off too, but then I would have to pay for 4 classes in the summer and have no stipend that semester (aka totally poor and broke). It wasn’t a very appealing option for me either >_< Our moms urged us to see a fertility doctor. And we're like "Mom, there's something called contraception!"

  • That must have been a crazy and stressful time for you. Going through school, working and having a baby all at the same time. You must have some type of super powers to go through all that. All the credit to you for having the drive to finish school during that time. Awesome story Ms. FAF!!

  • Damnnnn, see you are pretty awesome. 4.0 while dealing with challenges of pregnancy.

    May be one day, but I would like to hear about the challenges of raising your son whilst still in the midst of both of you just starting your careers.

    It seems more common for people in America to have kids during their Master/Postgraduate studies, but somewhat of a rarer occurrence (imo) in the UK.

  • I can’t imagine being pregnant and in school at the same time! You must have been so exhausted- I remember I couldn’t do anything for the first trimester except stare at my todo list and fall asleep beside it. You are supermama!! Congratulations on the second pregnancy, I wasn’t aware of that until I visited your blog today! 🙂

  • I just randomly found this article and the feelings you described is 100% how I feel. My son is 1 and I’ve been in school for a 2 years now. I took a break when I had him and now I’m back. I love my son more than anything but having a baby in school is really hard. Trying to find time to do schoolwork, feeling guilty when you are doing your schoolwork, and never having any money is just tough! I think about quitting all the time but then I don’t know what I would do for work. Thank you for writing this, I could really relate.

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