pregnant and husband offered a top post-doc position overseas: help!

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pregnant and husband offered a top post-doc position overseas: help!

Postby Saranneman » Mon Mar 23, 2015 12:08 pm

Dear all, I would like to share my story with you and ask you for advise. I can post this on different types of forums (mummy forums, America forums...), but I think it's nice to have different points of view.

Here's my story. First some background information: we're Belgians, I have a PhD in Biomedical Sciences and work since 4 months in a large CRO. My husband is currently finishing his PhD (his defense is in the end of May this year) and he knows already for years he wants to pursuit an academic career. I know I am biased to say this, but I'm not the only one saying he's a bloody good scientist and he's going to make it. So about a month ago, he got an exciting email from a guy he had talked to at a conference, who recently found out he could start his own group in the top notch research institute he's currently working at as a post-doc. So he emailed my husband saying he really would like him to come over for a post-doc. We were both thrilled, because this institute is THE institute my husband was dreaming of to work at (but thought he would never make a chance) and because we're already saying for years: one day we will go to the US for a couple of years ... He wanted us to come over as soon as possible, which would be around July or August this year.

But then 2 weeks later: I found out I'm pregnant for the first time in my life! Yes indeed, too much crazy changes on such a short time! I'm due November 2015, so I will be 6 months pregnant in August when we initially thought to move to the US. We immediately thought that the pregnancy would delay our US plans because of health insurance issues, but the HR of the institute already assured us that they will cover everything if we come over before my due date.

Although we are very excited about both becoming parents AND moving to the US, you can imagine in what an emotional roller-coaster we are now: WHEN DO WE LEAVE: BEFORE OR AFTER THE BABY IS BORN?!
Before = August. That's about the earliest we can leave to arrange everything on time, and the latest I want to travel as a 6 month pregnant woman. After = February, when the baby should be 3 months old, the earliest I think you can travel with a new-born baby.
It is an extremely difficult situation and feels like an impossible decision to make, also because now I'm only 7 weeks, and you only have some certainty about the baby at 12 weeks.

Why would we leave in August: My husband is sick of his current lab and is thrilled by the opportunity and that guy wanted my husband there asap. I'm not happy in my current job. Medical care is for sure as good as in Belgium. Moving overseas is I think easier as a pregnant woman than as a mother with a baby.

Why would we leave in February: we're both scared of me being lonely in the US the 3 months before child-birth, because it will make no sense of looking for a job at that time (maybe I'll ask in another topic advise on this). Also, I think it's difficult to make new friends (other moms or neighbors or whatever) in only 3 months time and after birth I will have to stay home of course, so again, scared of being very lonely. I'm pregnant for the first time and here in Belgium, we know exactly what to do, when and where to go,... in the US, that would be something to still find out, so staying in Belgium is like 'the easy option'. Also, I would of course really miss my family and friends in the last months of pregnancy and first months as a mom.

My husband is going to the institute end of April, when I will be 12 weeks pregnant, to talk to his future boss, but also to other European colleagues, HR, etc., so it will probably be easier by then to decide, but in the end, that's still 5 more weeks to make our heads crazy about this decision. If his future boss says that February is too late to come over, then I categorically say we leave in August because if there's one thing I don't want is to ruin my husbands career.

So, if anybody has any advise or opinion on when to go or what else to consider, I would be very grateful.
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Re: pregnant and husband offered a top post-doc position overseas: help!

Postby Rich Lemert » Mon Mar 23, 2015 2:40 pm

First off, congratulations on both the opportunity and the new addition to the family. I'm not surprised to hear you say you're on an emotional roller coaster. There are few things more exciting - or more frightening - than moving to a new country, but having a baby is one of them.

Here are my random thoughts on your situation.

1) It isn't clear from your post, but could you consider having your husband move in August, but you stay in Belgium until February? Pros: He would be able to start his new position in a timely manner, he'd be better able to make living arrangements and scout out support opportunities in your new community, and you'd be able to stay with family and enjoy their support. Cons: The time apart, and travel with an infant.

If you do consider/select this alternative, your husband should make every effort to be around for the birth. The world won't end if he isn't (it happens to people all the time), but I found my son's birth one of the most emotional events in my life.

2) Do you have family (on either side) with enough flexibility to spend maybe six months in the US. It would give them a chance to experience life overseas, and give you a familiar face to help you leading up to and following your child's delivery. It would also allow you time to get to know your new neighbors while still having someone you know around to talk to.

3) When your husband visits the institution in April, make sure he checks out the pertinent social scene in the area. There may be a married student's association - or a European ex-patriot group - that you could join to get to know people. You might even be able to write to them to find a 'pen-pal' so you can get to know someone even before you arrive in this country.
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Re: pregnant and husband offered a top post-doc position overseas: help!

Postby Saranneman » Mon Mar 23, 2015 2:55 pm

Hi Rich (hope this is your first name),

thanks for the quick response!

I'll respond to your first suggestion.
I don't see it as an option for him to go earlier then me. If there's one person I want and need, it's him, he goes above my family and friends. I'd rather feel lonely during the day but at least see him in the evening than to live for 6 months with my parents (in law). And he doesn't like the idea either :)
The good things is there is no urgent need for e.g. looking for housing or daycare: both are available on campus.
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Re: pregnant and husband offered a top post-doc position overseas: help!

Postby M.A. » Mon Mar 23, 2015 5:42 pm

Congratulations on all the exciting changes and opportunities!

I guess I would not be too hesitant to move before the baby is born. I did have some help when my son was born but to be honest, I did not really need it. As far as the loneliness, every person is different but I don't recall needing too much in the way of social interactions when I had a tiny new baby, and I think you can probably find things to do before the baby is born. A lot of European postdocs I know used their time in the US as the time to expand their families - meaning that since in many cases the spouses could not work in the US, this was a good time for them to add to their families and spend time with the little ones.
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Re: pregnant and husband offered a top post-doc position overseas: help!

Postby PACN » Tue Mar 24, 2015 3:55 pm

I wouldn't not go because you are concerned about being lonely. When your husband goes to visit, you will hopefully get a sense about the lab and the people in it, but it might be quite social. Many hospitals or local businesses or universities have childbirth classes and/or new mom groups that are good for meeting other new parents. Another consideration, however, might be potential maternity leave benefits you will be giving up by moving now. Your husband is also likely to get very little in terms of paternity leave in the US.
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Re: pregnant and husband offered a top post-doc position overseas: help!

Postby L. B. Gage » Thu Mar 26, 2015 9:03 am

I have three kids and a husband and went through a similar situation myself. First of all, being separated from your husband is not an ideal situation, at least for me. If I were you, I would move together before the baby is born. The positive aspects are: you are giving your baby a chance to enjoy the dual citizenship ( I think we still offer that!). Having a baby in a foreign country away from your family and friends is tough but it is doable, especially for a great cause. So, I would say go for it!
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Re: pregnant and husband offered a top post-doc position overseas: help!

Postby Chris » Fri Mar 27, 2015 1:26 pm

Although this is a stressful dilemma, it sounds like things are going very well for your family, so congratulations! While I guarantee that you are not going to be excited about moving with a very young baby, in my opinion this is probably your best option. You don't want your husband to move ahead without you - the birth of your first child is a very big and important event and those memories will stick with you. And your extended family will likely want to celebrate the new baby with you as well. I don't know much about the Belgian healthcare system, but my understanding is that most European countries take a different view of childbirth than the US. I think you'd be more comfortable giving birth in an environment you're familiar with. If any issues should arise, you'd have a larger support network. And your husband could probably take some time to just be home and enjoy the new baby with you! After the baby is born you could consider whether your husband wants to come to the US ahead of you. Perhaps he could come get an apartment all ready for the three of you.

Whatever you decide (and you don't have to decide until he has visited and you know more about how the pregnancy is progressing), congratulations! It should be an exciting year for you guys!
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Re: pregnant and husband offered a top post-doc position overseas: help!

Postby RGM » Sun Mar 29, 2015 4:14 pm

To be objective

1. Re: your husband's future as a scientist- No one can predict the future, so inclusion of his prospects/success in the USA is only speculative. The weight you put on that is up to you.

2. Baby- The USA has the greatest healthcare technology in the world, it does NOT have the greatest healthcare in the world, despite all the money spent on a per patient basis and the technology we have here. Which is not available to all who live here, if one doesn't make enough, you aren't getting the best here in the USA, case closed. This is true in medicine, law and many other areas of the USA society.

Knowing the USA system as I do, and what I have heard from people directly about the various EU countries' healthcare, I would not come here to the USA until after the baby was born.
"Some men see things as they are and say why, I dream things that never were and say why not"
"If you think research is expensive, try disease." - Mary Lasker
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Re: pregnant and husband offered a top post-doc position overseas: help!

Postby H.L.F. » Mon Mar 30, 2015 12:34 am

I suppose you have already considered that your husband will probably not get any of the paternity leave benefits he would likely be entitled to in Belgium and that our hours in the US are generally much longer (and fewer/shorder holidays) than in Europe. You might find this to be a bit difficult for you as a young family.

If I were in your situation, my biggest concerns would be 1 career trajectory and 2 cost of living.

1 Does the institute offer spousal placement? It could be hard to get back into the workforce after being out for a few years. About your husband's career, does he think it is wise to join a startup group? My impression is that your career trajectory is strongly influenced by who you work for at the PhD and postdoc levels. Postdocking in a startup group might put your husband in a worse position when compared to working in an established group with a well known professor who has a good track record of postdocs ending up where ever your husband wants to end up (PI/ industry/ etc).
2 Most prestigious US institutes are in very high cost of living areas. Could you guys realistically survive on a US postdoc salary? Look up the NIH postdoc pay scale and then look at the city's cost of living (try Numbeo)
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Re: pregnant and husband offered a top post-doc position overseas: help!

Postby Karen P. » Thu Apr 16, 2015 5:23 pm

Congratulations on the postdoc offer and your pregnancy!

I think that others have offered excellent advice. I wanted to add there there is no minimum required age for a baby to fly. My son was 19 days old the first time he flew 6 hours on a plane. It was SUPER easy because he just slept the whole way, and you will probably get the more roomy row 6 seats that they reserve just for parents. :-)

However, if I were in your shoes I would travel to the US and have the baby here, especially if you can get US/EU dual citizenship. That's a huge plus!
Karen P.
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