Wednesday, December 31, 2014

out with the old

Happy New Year, internets.  This year has not been a blogging year, but maybe next year will be better.  2014, what happened to you?

We had a crazy, colicky baby who still doesn't sleep but is far more pleasant as an 11-month-old and keeps getting cuter, so I hold out hope that things will continue to become more manageable as well.  Infants are a roller-coaster, and this one was no exception; all of my attention this year was here, and everything else just kinda happened around me. 

I got tenure, and barely noticed at the time in my sleep-deprived insanity.  Now I definitely notice the extra service work.

I taught in an immersion term for the first time and SUCKED at it.  Sucked hard.  I get to do it again in the future, without a four-month-old, so that should be a much better experience. 

I was a co-PI on my first NSF grant, which was a nice win.

I finished a final piece of writing with a research group that I am excited to be free from; especially after this year, I have no time for shitty collaborators and egotistical assholes, and I'm glad that I can be that much more blunt about it now that I have tenure.

2015, I have no significant expectations, which is probably good.  I am not as sad as some might be to be wishing the kiddo's babyhood goodbye.  I hope that this kid figures out sleeping before she turns 2. 

I hope that I figure out work-life balance before I get too far into my Associate Professorhood.  I hope that I figure out what I want out of my sabbatical before I need to apply.  I hope that I manage a successful shift to a new research area using a new instrument, and get some decent publications put together over the next two years. 

I hope that we all have an excellent 2015.

Thursday, August 21, 2014


I have now spent almost three weeks trying to get about six hours of work accomplished, and I have continued to fail.  Partly because life is crazy.  Partly because I have this weird guilt thing about giving the kid to Partner to deal with, since he takes her in the AM so I can sleep.

Related, we have registered for the only (new) daycare available.  They are not open yet, but plan to be soon, but have not provided any additional information.  They do not offer half days, and if we do it full time it will cost us roughly 20% of my (and our only) salary.  If we don't do this daycare, I have to find someone else to watch the kiddo piecemeal, and I have no leads except for finding new students who would hopefully not flake out on us (this is a real concern, as all but one of the students I trusted have graduated).  I have to do something, because even with both of us home with her we get zero things done.  I have no idea what to do about all of this.

I can't believe it's almost September.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

bullets for early August

- Why does a scientific society for a field that almost universally requires its practitioners to spend significant time doing research away from home during the summer require so much of the organization of its fall meeting to occur during July and August?

- It seems like babies who sleep like crap should really get a pass on additional sleep disruption during mobility developments.  Kiddo is starting to roll, and we are sleeping even less.

- I think I will have to pass on the camping trip I normally run for my fall course, and I am both sad about that, kinda relieved, and a little worried about the wrath of the students who were planning to attend.

- We still have no idea how we will deal with the babycare situation this fall, but I am looking forward to having something to do besides entertain a little cranky person. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

hello the internet

Hey, it's the middle of summer, and life is not less insane.  Surprise! 

The term ended and we spent some serious "no babysitters, no pumping" time in our house, so that I could go to bed earlier.  Then we went to visit my parents on the west coast, which was not as terrible as I expected (flying with baby was ok until another baby sent ours into empathetic crying jags) yet more frustrating (why I continue to be surprised that no one remembers that babies need quiet to sleep, or at least ours does, is a mystery to me), but at least kiddo got to meet her cousin and aunts and uncles.  Then we came home and realized that all that time without a bottle was probably a bad idea, as we now have to get her taking them all over again.

We are trying an occasional "babysharing" arrangement with a few other families this summer, in the hopes that we can continue something similar into the fall since Small Town essentially has zero child care for kids under 3 (not exaggerating, I believe there are a handful of home cares that take 2 babies each and perhaps 8 slots in an actual daycare, so obviously all of these have huge waiting lists).  We now have a 6-month-old who is refusing bottles again, has yet to improve her sleeping, eats every 90 minutes, and really hates being put down for a nap via any method other than nursing, so this is going to be a challenge.  We are working on all of that, and we will see how we are doing by the end of August.

I remain largely a sleep-zombie.

Given all the above, I have pretty much abandoned all hope of doing anything productive this summer.  We have FINALLY received an NSF MRI award this cycle for a grant where I am a PI, so yay for that and hooray in particular for not having to re-write, plus I will have a lot of work to do with the new instrument soon but not quite yet, so I will try to make use of my less insane research time right now to take a break.  I have one research student who will be starting next week on a few things that I hopefully won't need to oversee very often once we go through the initial methods, and then I need to prep for fall, and if all that works out I will call surviving the summer a win once I get to officially change my job title to Associate Professor.

Partner is super busy on house stuff, so I hope to be able to do more of the childcare so he can get more done, as I know he is frustrated by the limited time he has to work.  We need to babyproof over the next few weeks so we can host babyshare (and so that we don't have to do it during the fall term), we are putting in a bathroom/laundry room combo on the first floor where previously there was only a laundry space, and there are always little things that need doing in an old house like this.  We just need to be a little more realistic about how much we can accomplish, even with several months of open time.     

Saturday, May 31, 2014

on babies, teaching and tenure

The past few months have been challenging.  Being back at work has been harder than I anticipated, mostly because of the "no sleep" thing but also because I've been teaching part of an off-campus immersion term.  I was supposed to be in residence for several weeks as the faculty member in charge; this worked ok until the weather got warm, and then we had a baby who wouldn't sleep in the heat (no AC on site) and we had to move back home (it's within commuting distance of our normal campus).  I will say this: kudos to you single moms, I did it mostly on my own for two weeks and it almost broke me.  Apparently the 1-2 extra hours of sleep I get when Partner takes the baby in the morning are really make-or-break.

I am very lucky to have really flexible and understanding colleagues working with me - they were very accepting of stuff I had to miss like field trips and some class days, and they were ok with finding a solution when I couldn't stay on site any more.  I had a very hard time coming to that conclusion, though, and it took a) Partner coming out to see us and observing that I was a total mess and not functioning on my own, and b) a terrible night when it was hot and baby wouldn't sleep and everything was mentally pretty bad for me, before I finally gave in and told my colleagues I couldn't make it work.  I have done such a shitty job in general this term, with my sleep-deprived, no-time-to-prep crappy course, that I didn't want to fail at yet another thing that I said I would do.  But also I am the only female who has ever worked on this program and it's my first time doing it, so part of me really didn't want to fail and fulfill some stereotypical "women are weak and working moms are worse" image.  If anything, I have gotten a lot of "good for you for trying to do this with a baby" comments from everyone, so I have no reason to assume that this is what people were thinking, but being postpartum has made me all anxious and emotional and self-conscious about work-baby balance.

So, we made it through, and now we have a few months before I have to try to be a full-time working mom again, for which I am grateful.  If we can be sleeping by then, I think it will be easier, but I'm afraid to have any hope on that count. 

Also in recent news, I received notification that I am being recommended for TENURE, which is something I hadn't worried too much about lately and yet is still a huge weight lifted.  One of my colleagues on this immersion term was also on my tenure committee, so a little voice in the back of my head has been panicking specifically over his observations of my terrible recent work.  I think he is probably one of the most sympathetic of my colleagues when it comes to work-family balance, so I don't know why I insist on the anxiety, but it was definitely there.

And, as usual, baby sleep is a dominating theme.  We finally have a nap schedule established, or at least a normal awake time between sleeps.  Kiddo is currently messing with me by occasionally sleeping 3 hours at the beginning of the night instead of 2, so at the moment I am waiting for the wake up instead of going to bed, but I have been waiting longer than I expected.  So now I have temporary visions of tonight being the night we do 4 or 5 hours - I should just go to sleep, who knows what could happen!?  And I'm sure I'll see her wiggling any minute now, destroying those dreams.  I really need to figure out how to get dinner/shower/work/pumping done before I put her down, so I can get this longer chunk of sleep too.  

Thursday, April 24, 2014


That whole thing about babies eating your life...was expected, and yet is somehow more intense than we had anticipated. 

Kiddo is doing pretty well, is largely happy and cries for good reasons, but she does NOT sleep.  She had a few weeks at the end of her second month when she did a few 3-5 hour chunks of sleep at night, and then she suddenly went back to 2 hours max and we're still there.  On bad nights she sleeps 30-45 minutes at a time, all night long, and if we're lucky she'll sleep for one 3-hour piece after she first goes down.

Partner has class, and exams, and homework.  I am teaching, but I have a very flexible schedule this term (luckily) and very understanding colleagues.  So I try to do most of the work at night, until I lose my mind, which has happened a few times on bad nights.  Once in a while I am a complete zombie, most of the time I am a semi-functional zombie, and I assume that not every baby sleeps this poorly or nobody would have more than one.

Someday I will blog again about not babies.  I hope that it is soon. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

"maternity leave"

Academia is generally a nice place to take maternity leave from a strictly time-scale perspective; one term off isn't a bad deal, and I also appreciated having several weeks off before we had the baby, since late pregnancy is not a fun time to stand a lot or to go out in the snow and ice.  I am very much aware that the US has terrible leave requirements and I am lucky to have so much paid time at home.  Mine has been a little more hectic than it should have been, though.

- My department is hiring a new tenure-line colleague, so I have been participating in phone interviews (sometimes while breastfeeding and trying to keep the kid quiet), dinners (kid was home with dad and I pumped for her), and on-campus events (I skyped in for some of it, which mostly worked but was not ideal).

- I am teaching in an immersion program next term and needed to participate in some weekly meetings (kid comes too) and evening seminars (kid is home with dad), though I didn't start that until several weeks postpartum.

- I am supervising two student projects (mostly email, rare on-campus meetings) and am on a committee that needed me to come in once.  I also have random research/leadership stuff to keep up with via email. 

Some of this was me being too nice (supervising students), and some of it was self-interest (job search) or not wanting to bail on things I had agreed to do and/or worrying about backing out of things as I go up for tenure.  I should probably have been less worried about other people and more worried about my own needs, in hindsight.  It hasn't been terrible, but I could have done without the hectic schedule in February and the amount of time away from kiddo during the terrible screaming evening hours; I have guilt that I took away the magical boobs when they were most needed.  If I had it to do over again, I would do some of this stuff but certainly not all of it.

I have been surprised by the response from my colleagues in some cases.  People in general are pretty supportive, and some of my colleagues have been very flexible and open to me doing what I need to do in terms of missing or moving meetings, bringing the baby, etc.  Others have been surprisingly thoughtless when it comes to making things happen in a way that makes it easy for me to participate, even after having an initial conversation about how my participation would have to occur. 

One mistake I made was assuming that people with young kids of their own would "get" my needs - this has not been the case.  In fact, some of the more supportive and flexible people are childless, and the most frustrating has two kids.  It is probably significant that all of these colleagues are men; I should not have made assumptions about how involved they were in their babies' lives or how their families chose to feed their kids as newborns.  Still, after being fairly specific about what I could and could not do (I thought), I have in some cases had to act in my own best interest and say no. 

Most of this extra work is finished now, but I'm left feeling that I was too accommodating.  I put myself through a lot of hassle, and Partner through some very frustrating time with the baby, when I probably didn't need to do so.  I know that there's never true "time off" in academia, when we can be completely off the radar for months, but if I do this again I will try much harder to get closer to that "I'm unavailable" ideal and stick to it.  I will try harder to be selfish.  And it will help a lot to be tenured.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

birth story (2)

Birth Story!  Part 2!

So!  Heading to the surgical suite, I am kinda out of it and feeling every contraction and finally actually feeling the urge to push (which is incredibly unpleasant).  Of course, this means that my epidural isn't cutting it, which means that when they give me the drugs for the c-section through that catheter, those drugs also do not cut it.  When asked whether I can feel the sharp instrument being pushed against my lower abdomen, hell yes, I can feel that.  So, they had to put me under.  Which meant that Partner was not allowed in the operating room, and neither of us got to actually see the birth of our daughter.

This is the only part of my birth experience that annoys me; I don't know if I'm really angry about it.  Maybe I will be eventually.  The epidural was not exactly centered, and the anesthesiologist knew that because I told her.  The epidural wasn't enough at the end, or wasn't delivering, or who knows what, and my nurses knew that because I told them.  I am therefore annoyed that there were no other steps taken to get me numbed for the c-section - maybe there weren't any available.  But part of me still blames the anesthesiologist just a little for messing that up for me, even though I'm sure it's impossible for her to get that tube in the perfectly correct spot and meds will only do so much for so long.  Another part of me says, if only I hadn't bothered with the ECV and had gone right for the c-section, I would have at least been conscious for the birth.  Hindsight, and all that.  My rational mind says that I had to try to have the safest birth experience I could, and at the time that meant turning the baby and attempting a vaginal birth.  Hopefully my rational mind will win when I have these little regrets in the future.

Partner, after waiting around not knowing what was going on (poor guy), was allowed to hang out with the baby in the nursery.  I remember waking up (in that very bed, staring at the operating suite door, where I had had my ECV) and seeing Partner, and then my midwife brought in the baby.  I remember touching her feet.  Then I was treated to that wonderful "let's push on the uterus" experience, which is somehow excruciating even after everything else that has happened.  After that, I assume I was out again, as I woke up in a recovery room, which I don't remember very well.  I have a vague memory of being asked if I wanted to breastfeed, of holding kiddo for the first time.  But these are still pretty vague, and again I regret it only because I feel like I'm missing out on these parts of my life just because I can't recall them as well as I want to. 

Breastfeeding was hard at first - my milk didn't come in until 6 days after the birth, and I was pumping between feeds and feeding her the extra but she was still hungry and crying most of the time.  After two days I gave in to supplementing using a supplemental nursing system (SNS), which doesn't require artificial nipples.  Baby lost a full pound and we stayed an extra night in the hospital to get that working, and then I went home and used it until she was a week old, at which point my pediatrician had managed to convince me that I had enough milk to keep the kid alive. 

This was not the birth experience I wanted, but it was also not the worst birth experience to have.  Epidurals are still pretty awesome in my book.  C-sections aren't as terrible to recover from as I feared.  The scar is pretty minimal, and if I can get my abs back at some point in the future I will probably not care about it at all (seriously, how do they get a baby out of there?  It's tiny).  Baby is fine and her head wasn't squished, so she was super cute from the beginning.  We did get thrush, probably due to all the IV antibiotics (the crappy medical support for breastfeeding mother issues is an entirely different rant), but things are going pretty well.  And we get to learn all about our dysfunctional medical system by being billed for almost every procedure that can happen in labor & delivery, so there's that as a bonus.

Now that we're six weeks in things are getting better in terms of sleep and knowing what baby wants, plus she's starting to interact with us and smile, which makes it all much more worth while.  I'm told the hardest part is over; I'm sure that's relative.  Having made it through all of this so far, I'm not too worried about what comes next. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

birth story (1)

Kiddo is six weeks old now, and it's been both a very long time and an instant.  I'm not sure how that works.  I look at her newborn photos and can't believe how much different she is, yet how is it already the end of February?

In the haze that was our first month as new parents, I recorded much of what I remembered from the birth, though it's amazing how quickly it fades.  No wonder people manage to have more than one kid.   If birth stories are not your thing, that's all there is here, so skip this one.

We were due on Christmas and kiddo showed up on January 4th, so that was its own adventure.  After our successful ECV, she still refused to budge, and there was nothing going on that suggested she would be arriving any time soon.  On the 3rd I had an appointment with my midwife, who told me to report to the hospital that afternoon for induction.  It's weird to show up in labor and delivery with nothing imminent occurring, just waiting around for the nurses to have time to deal with you, but that was also a Friday and apparently the busiest day they'd had in a while, so we were lucky to even get a room.  My midwife is awesome, though, and had reserved us a room with a tub.

We settled in, I was put on an IV, and a nurse inserted a foley catheter since my midwife didn't want to use pitocin right away.  Partner and I watched TV, and I will now forever associate the Star Wars prequels with the birth of my daughter (maybe that's unfortunate, depending upon your Star Wars affiliations).  It wasn't terrible, I had pretty mild cramps for a few hours before a nurse was able to pull it out at 3 cm dilation.  Luckily I continued to progress on my own, which is not always the case, so they held off on the pitocin and gave me permission to eat/sleep/whatever.  Contractions got more intense, I spent some time in the tub (which was awesome), my water broke.  I threw up a few times, which was not awesome and made me glad I hadn't eaten much when they told me I could.

At this point I was back in the bed, and I was bleeding a lot more than they were comfortable with, so we still held off on the pitocin since they were worried about placental abruption.  A little while later they gave me a lowered dose of pitocin and waited to see how I would respond.  Contractions were increasingly tough, but perhaps they were getting us somewhere.

12 hours after we started, I was only 4 cm dilated, I was tired and in a lot of pain, and I was really disheartened by the lack of progress.  I asked for an epidural, though apparently there was still a bleeding issue and I had to wait while they figured out what was the most likely cause.  I remember being really annoyed that it was taking so long, and I was about to say something unkind just as the anesthesiologist walked in.  We did the forward-lean for the needle, and I honestly don't remember feeling anything after the local anesthetic.  That could be the labor pain talking, but the catheter was in (and slightly too far to the left, which was important later) almost immediately.  A minute later I was pain-free and wondering why there weren't songs and poems written in praise of the epidural.

The next 8 hours were pretty good - I was still pain-free, I didn't have to get out of bed and drag my IV stand to the bathroom any more, and I napped off and on.  Things progressed slowly, and pain management slowly became a problem.  Eventually the epidural stopped working as well on the right side - the issue of pain meds being delivered more on the left.  By the time I was 10 cm, the right side was feeling it and the left was not as numb as it had been, but I was still not able to stand, so it was a "worst of all worlds" kind of situation by the time I had to push - I could feel it, but I couldn't get myself into a better position for pushing and was stuck on my back.

I started pushing almost exactly 24 hours after we started the induction, and I remember it being very non-intuitive but doable with coaching.  I had no idea whether anything was happening, except that I was told that I was doing well.  I got myself into a decent pattern with each contraction, doing a long push and then two short ones each time.  Throwing up a few times.  For two hours (and poor Partner held up a leg for that entire time).  It turns out that kiddo was finally head down, but decided to come out face-up (posterior), making it more difficult for her to descend through the birth canal.  I was told that they could see hair, but she was still too high for any external help and she wasn't making progress.  The doctor (who had also done my ECV) came in to try to turn her head, but she wasn't going anywhere.  I couldn't stand up, I had a fever, baby was tachycardic, especially when I turned on my side.  I was told that we should really think about a c-section.

From my perspective, it wasn't presented as an emergency, but as serious concern.  My midwife told me that she estimated another 3-4 hours of pushing at the rate we had been going, and told me the c-section would be safer.  She offered me another attempt to see if we could get somewhere without causing problems for the baby, but I was so tired at that point that I said no and agreed to the c-section.  I think part of me had been prepared for that anyway, given the fact that the baby had been breech for so long and my sister had followed almost the exact same scenario with her son's birth a few years ago (long labor ending in c-section).

I don't know whether the epidural caused any of the problems we had, like the slow progress.  I don't feel bad about it as a "what if", as I know a lot of women do.  After 12 hours without any meds and with minimal progress, I was ready for the epidural and don't feel bad about having it, even if it slowed things down.  Given the induction, that might have happened regardless, and her posterior presentation may have led to a c-section no matter what I had done.  I say this not to cover some sort of secret guilt, but just because so many women who write about epidurals also write about how they feel guilty and responsible for bad things that come after, and fuck that ladies, medical science has some awesome perks and we should totally take advantage of pain medication when we are in labor for 28 hours. /rant

And...this is long!  To be continued!

Thursday, February 6, 2014