Monika Berankyte (MBA ’22) reports on the experience of two families having a baby while studying at Harvard Business School.
Thought business school was hard? Try having a baby while at Harvard Business School. Two families share with us their stories.
Adriana Cruz Martins (MBA ’22) and Andras
“How does it make you feel when people tell you that you are amazing?,” I ask Adriana Cruz Martins (MBA ’22). “I am flattered,” she says, “but I don’t think I am doing anything extraordinary.”
Cruz Martins is a first-year student in HBS and is seven months pregnant expecting a little baby girl to join Section J in April.
Cruz Martins found out that she was pregnant three weeks before she had to move to Boston to start her HBS experience. “I was very happy when I found out and I didn’t even consider how difficult it might be or anything like that.” It was Cruz Martins’ mom’s question that brought her back to reality: “She asked me what I was going to do—I was moving across the ocean to Boston all by myself and I was pregnant.”
Andras, Cruz Martins’ husband, was not supposed to originally move to Boston during the RC year, but after receiving the big news, both of them tried to arrange for Andras to move in January, but unfortunately, he could not come due to visa regulations. “It’s harder for Andras than for me,” shares Cruz Martins. “He feels that he is missing out and not helping me. It’s hard for him to not see the baby belly growing daily. However, we talk to each other every day and he talks to the baby. We are together in this even if he is not physically here.”
When I ask Cruz Martins who brings her food when she has the most random food cravings in the middle of the night, she tells me she goes and gets it herself. “In the beginning, I was craving pickles and lemons. And tons of mango and lemon sorbet ice-creams,” laughs Cruz Martins.
Cruz Martins honestly shares that the most difficult part of her pregnancy was fatigue and morning sickness that lasted most of the day. “I would just turn my video off during classes and go throw up,” says Cruz Martins with a huge smile on her face. It is not easy to juggle multiple aspects of HBS life—academics, recruitment, social experiences, and health. Cruz Martins says that she has her priorities clear and is very deliberate about it—her and her baby’s health. “Need for napping and rest deleted my social experiences—I gave most of them up,” admits Cruz Martins.
“My discussion group was crucial during the first semester. Discussion group meetings were in the mornings and that time of the day was very tough for me. All of them were very supportive: they spent time with me to help me understand cases in-depth and go through the numbers in detail, which gave me the confidence to participate in class.” Cruz Martins also warmly shares her appreciation for professors: “They have been so amazing. To help me anticipate what is important to study in advance so when the time comes to give birth, I don’t have to worry about class content and can feel ready for the finals.”
This summer Cruz Martins will be moving to London to do an internship in investment banking. “The silver lining of Covid-19 was that I could recruit virtually, so my pregnancy was not obvious to recruiters and I was advised by the CPD to disclose it only after accepting an offer.” Cruz Martins suspects that she would have been discriminated against in the recruitment process because of her pregnancy and all the stigmas that are attached to mothers-to-be or women with young children.
“I am very excited about investment banking. I am changing industries and I believe this is the right one for me, so I can’t wait to start,” tells me Cruz Martins with the palpable excitement in her voice. “You know,” she says, “Some people judge me for not deferring and going into such a demanding industry. I never felt that the HBS environment judged me in that way, but these expectations are coming from back home. I still don’t know if I will make it, in the end, it will be a very demanding summer in many aspects, but I hope I will. We will see—I know my priorities so I’m not afraid,” tells me Cruz Martins and gives me a wide heart-warming smile.
Anja Do, Aaron Gan (MBA ’21), Albert, and the cat named Gandalf
I met Anja Do over Zoom—she says society embracing digital get-togethers is a silver-lining when you are a mother— she can talk to me while Albert, her almost 4-month baby boy is napping next to her. Do is a partner at HBS, who says that being pregnant in an HBS environment is a lovely experience—“You have a community that supports you.” She shares that old section B (which is a “very cool and extremely tight section”) threw her and Aaron Gan a wonderful Covid-19-adjusted baby shower and after Do gave birth, the section organized a meal trail: sending the young family prepared meals every day for two weeks. “Lots of people offer help,” shares Do, “but it is rarer than more frequent that I feel comfortable taking that help—sometimes you don’t even know what you need help with.” Do shares a story of the kind of support that she found very helpful: “A friend of ours just sent a message that she is free for a few days and wants to help us with Albert. She didn’t really ask if she could come over, she just told us that she will come on those days. She stayed with us for three full days and helped me with whatever came up. She did not need to take care of Albert all the time. Sometimes she read cases or just hanged out with me while Albert was sleeping. But knowing that she was there if I needed someone, was very kind and actually extremely helpful.”
The hardest part about Do’s experience was to not have her family nearby—similarly to Cruz Martins’ situation, due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, her family could not come to visit neither to help her during pregnancy nor to see a newborn, “and then help in a ‘nanny’ capacity,” says Do laughing. However, because classes can be taken via Zoom, Gan is always nearby rather than in the classroom and therefore can help much more with the baby at home. “It would be much tougher for me if Aaron had to go to the classroom,” says Do.
When I ask Do to share a piece of advice for any other woman going through a similar experience, she highlights two things. “First, have an open mind towards your birth experience, let go of all the expectations that you may have had. Second, be present, be in the moment with your baby, play with him/her because time will fly by. Before Albert was born, I was very involved in the community—I like to squeeze every possible activity from every part of the day. But I had to tell myself to stay in the moment. I still need to remind myself to stop thinking about what I still have to do once Albert goes to bed. I am so behind with so many things and plans now, but it is a choice, and I am at peace with it.”
I ask Do if it is a well thought-through plan that all their names start with an “A” (triple A family), and she swears to me that it just happened to be so. “Our cat, Gandalf, helped to pick our baby’s name. We gave him some options and designed a very rigorous test with treats that we repeated ten times to ensure replicability of results,” explains Do.
My last question to Do is if they already have a Harvard onesie for Albert—“Yes!,” she says, “I will send you a picture!,” and as Albert announces that his nap is over, we swiftly say our see-you-soons and hang up.
Monika Berankyte (MBA ’22) is from Lithuania and lived in London prior to coming to HBS. Monika is a whole-foods plant-based enthusiast, who loves the outdoors and swimming in particular. She describes her happy place as reading an exciting book coupled with fresh mint tea.