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Testimonials from Parents

Insurance Policies (prenatal care, birth, pediatrics)

  • I wanted to have a midwife and deliver at Alta Bates, which was really difficult to do with SHIP, despite there being several midwives which have labor and delivery privileges at Alta Bates (this was at the end of 2015 — I gave birth in March of 2016).  The SHIP office told me in person that they would cover my prenatal care under a midwife which would deliver at Alta Bates, which is why I chose to sign up with SHIP once I became pregnant. They provided me with a long list of those midwives, and when I called them, every single one of them said they were no longer in-network.  So, I had to go out of network to have a midwife. I confirmed in person with the SHIP office that we would pay the out-of-network rate for the midwife. After delivery, SHIP claimed they weren’t responsible for any of the midwife charges. I brought the issue to the director, who reimbursed me the difference for all of the misinformation I had been given.  The lessons here are: (a) probably avoid having SHIP if you want a midwife, (b) trust nothing SHIP says, and (c) if you do have to trust something SHIP says, get it in writing. After all of this mess, we switched to Kaiser through my spouse, and we were very pleased with Dr. Dessler and Dr. Kruger at the Richmond Kaiser Pediatrics Department. It’s a good office all around, and very easy to get to by car from the Village.  The waitlist for those doctors is long though, so try to contact them before you give birth if possible. (Hilary, May 2018)
  • For prenatal care, I chose Dr. Vineela Poddatoori. She is an OB affiliated with Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation. I made this choice because my first delivery (12/2006) had been a c-section and I wanted to deliver at a hospital that allowed VBACs (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) and had a reasonable success rate. SHIP insurance covers the majority of prenatal care (in-network) and the majority of the delivery cost.  However, at the time of my daughter’s birth I believe we paid ~1.5k for the delivery (which would have been greater if it had been a repeat c-section). Also, in order to increase my chances of VBAC success, I received acupuncture for the 6 weeks leading up to delivery (covered by insurace with co-pay) and would highly recommend it. We chose Dr. Salsburg at Kiwi Pediatrics on San Pablo in Berkeley for our daughter’s pediatrician and were happy with the care we received. (Kayleigh, May 2018)
  • Giving birth counts as a “life event” which allows you to change insurance outside the typical window in Nov. when you can change insurance. But you can only do this after having given birth. I chose PPO initially and regret it very much as PPO charges a co-pay that is by percentage (something like 11%) rather than by a set amount. So I ended up paying more than 1k for giving birth whereas for the postoc HMO plan the total you would pay seems much less. So choose HMO if you can. I went to the Sutter East Bay @ Milvia street for prenatal care. They are a group of around ten OBs. They deliver at Alta Bates. You don’t get a set OB. Whoever is on duty will end up delivering your baby on the day you are in the hospital. I was ok with that arrangement and had a different OB for each of my prenatal checkups. The baby’s insurance follows the mom’s for the first month after birth. (May 2018)


  • I had my first child during the last year of my graduate program. I defended two months before delivery, and spent a few months writing my thesis after giving birth. I had my second one during the second year of postdoc here at Cal.  (Ming, May 2018)
  • I became pregnant with my first and only child about 8 months after completing my qualifying exam to become a PhD candidate in physics.  Being an experimentalist while pregnant was difficult in that my advisor was not understanding of the extra safety concerns I had (radiation, chemical, and electrocution risks which were small, but not insignificant).  I had to rely on my fellow labmates to follow extra safety protocols and to perform lab tasks that I believed to be unsafe. Without them, my work would have come to a halt while I was pregnant. I found EH&S and the generally great safety culture in physics to be completely ignorant of extra safety protocols for pregnant women; I was even ridiculed by my advisor for bringing up concerns.  (Anonymous, May 2018)
  • I was pregnant during my fourth year in graduate school (before reaching candidacy). Any information regarding extra safety precautions I had to seek out myself (beyond what EH&S provided) by speaking with other women I had known to have a child while working in a lab. The safety culture does not incorporate pregnancy well or really at all. (Kayleigh, May 2018)

Maternity Leave

  • I had my first kid while a graduate student at Stanford. There was a program that paid for graduate students for six weeks off for having a child. I had my second one as a postdoc here at Cal. Back then there was no paid maternity leave. So I piled together my sick leave and paid time off for a total of a month before coming back to work. There is now a postdoc paid maternity leave of four weeks aside from PTO and sick leaves. (Ming, May 2018)
  • I found the HR department in physics to be unreliable in determining how much maternity leave I was entitled to take as a GSR.  Specifically, I was told that I could take 6 weeks paid leave. However, I was an NSF GRFP fellow at the time, and under those rules I was allowed 12 weeks of paid leave.  I had to look up this information in the GRFP handbook myself and inform the HR department of it. I took the full 12 weeks, but would’ve only had 6 if I had taken the HR department at its word.  Always read up on policies yourself. (Anonymous, May 2018)
  • I am a GSR, and I took two months completely off, followed by one month part-time in lab, before returning full-time (or what counts as full-time while juggling a part-time daycare schedule, pumping, etc…). I did extensive research on the official policies for GSRs, and found them to a) not be well understood by anyone in my department or in the grad division, and b) not be practical for me. My options were to take 6 weeks off before returning full-time, or to take 1-2 full semesters off without pay or health insurance. If I took off any intermediate amount of time, per the official policy, I would be paid for the time worked but would not be on fee remission, so I would have to pay my own fees and insurance. Fees + insurance = way more than a GSR earns, so I’d be paying to work. Eventually I worked up the courage to talk to my boss, and we figured out a leave policy that worked for both of us. The moral of the story is that you don’t necessarily have to stick to the administration’s policies, if you are lucky enough to have an understanding boss. Just ask. (Anonymous, June 2018)


  • I had a great delivery with Gwen Haynes (midwife) at Alta Bates.  The labor was long (24 hours), but I felt supported and in control the whole way through.  Gwen practices with Lindy Johnson and Ellie Griffinger across the street from the entrance to Alta Bates — I highly recommend them if you’re looking to deliver with a midwife.  There are a variety of types of rooms in the L&D ward at Alta Bates; ours had a bathtub, which was so helpful to me during my labor. You can sign up to take a tour of the L&D ward before you deliver, so you can ask for the type of room you’d like if it’s available when you arrive for delivery.  (Hilary, May 2018)
  • I loved everything about my experience giving birth at Alta Bates (except maybe the nurse in triage who stuck me three times while trying to place an IV). Everyone on staff was friendly and supportive, and we especially loved the birth class we took with Jennifer. We used Sutter East Bay so we didn’t know who would deliver our baby (we had a doula so that we could at least be sure of one friendly face), but the doctor we had was amazing and I’m sure any of them would have been great. (Ella, June 2018)


  • Scattered around campus are breast pumping rooms you can use. LBL has them too. Some of them even have fridges for storing milk. Checkout the link on the resource page for a map of the rooms. There was no shared fridge in my building. So I ended up asking for a key to the kitchen shared by the admins in physics and used the fridge there.
  • Ask your building manager if there is a room you can use for pumping if you don’t see a convenient room on the list.
  • I found it really helpful to have a small table next to a sink in the bathroom near the pumping room I used, so that I could set my pump parts down as I washed them.  You can contact the campus lactation program if you need a table like this to help you clean your parts, and they’ll put one in the bathroom you use.
  • I pumped while traveling for work. I brought an electrical pump with a battery pack, which is useful for pumping on the plane as well as when traveling internationally where the power outlet has a different standard. I have a medela pump which came with a small cooler compartment useful for storing milk that is pumped along the way. I would also bring a large foam cooler for storing the frozen milk on the way back as a piece of checked luggage. For going through the airport, you have to take the electrical pump out of the luggage when going through security because it counts as a medical device. Note, anything not frozen (ice pack or breastmilk packs above 100mL) needs to be checked and scanned by the special bomb detecting machine going through security. So try to freeze everything before going through the security helps. I would bring two frozen ice pack for the small cooler compartment. Most airports nowadays have special lactation rooms. On the airplane, do not use the water from the lavatory to wash the pumping parts. That water is not clean. Usually I ask a flight attendant to fill up a water bottle for washing pumping parts. Most of the time they are very understanding and helpful, although I have gotten refused by one person once. So do prepare some water before getting onto the plane. Some lavatories are larger than others on the same plane. Use the one with a diaper changing station for more room. After arriving at the destination, look for a fridge with a freezer. I would freeze all my pumped milk as that makes them easier to transport on the way back. Bring lots of blue ice packs for the form cooler. I used a cooler with an inch of insulating foam. When packing, I also put lots of air-trapping clothes surrounding the icepacks and frozen milk. I’ve not had any milk melting for about a day of travel. When traveling for conferences, you can ask the organizer for a lactation room. Most places now do have rooms for this. If not, they will try to find a way to accommodate you. (Ming, May 2018)


  • We found a nannyshare to be the least expensive option for us while our child was under 2.  The best place to look for a nannyshare is on the Berkeley Parents Network. We were very happy with the trade-off of having our child get a lot of personalized attention from his caregiver, as well as having him develop social skills with a limited number of other children.
  • We started sending our older one to Cornerstone since she was six months old. It’s a nice childcare center where the kids are organized by age into seven classes. We have now gone through all seven classes. You can also choose how many days a week between 2 days to full 5 days. So there is quite some flexibility.
  • Our baby (now 6 months old) attends Cornerstone. We love the staff and especially love how close it is to campus, so I can drop her off on my way into lab. BPN is also great for daycare recommendations. (Ella, June 2018)


  • Berkeley Pediatrics Group (Dr. Lang and Dr. Franks are both great)
  • Kaiser Pediatrics, Richmond (Dr. Dessler and Dr. Kruger are highly recommended)

Biggest change you feel/what you wish to tell yourself from the past before having become a mom 🙂

  • You hear about becoming more efficient once you’re a mom, but I didn’t understand how very true this was until it happened to me.  Even though I was putting in fewer hours at work after having a child, I became so efficient and accomplished more on average every day than before I had a child.