Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What I've learned about pregnancy...

...in an academic setting.

1) Even highly educated normally well-adjusted women seem to go insane. Not me. I'm still highly rational (just don't ask General Disarray, he's biased). No, I'm not talking about random fits of crying. I'm talking about the women who keep stopping by my office to give me mothering advice. Things like: "You're going to take the year off from work, right? You'll need to stay home for at least that long with the baby because of all the breast feeding. It's best for the baby"; "If you don't only buy 100% organic cotton for the baby's clothes horrible things will happen"; "I went ahead and had by baby vaccinated and I'm hoping I did the right thing". Reason is completely lost in these discussions. Counterarguments like: I do have a husband, breast milk has this rare property of storing well under refrigeration, that's what baby bottles were invented for, and my job keeps be sane and what's best for the baby is that I don't go insane and murder it, make no dent and only illicit bizarre counter-counterarguments. Apparently baby bottles are bad for babies, fresh breast milk is the only milk that will keep your child's brain from shriveling into a raisin, what good mother wouldn't want to stop working, and god knows that husbands are good for but apparently they're only sperm donors anyway. The interesting thing is that, unlike Fia's recent conversation with her departmental secretary, these are fellow professors....SCIENCE professors. So, when my fellow science professor told me that parmesan was on the list of things I can't eat because it'll harm the baby, I was petrified because a) I love parmesan like some people do opiates, and b) I had assumed she had actually looked at the scientific basis for such a statement instead of just parroting something off some chatroom. (For those who are curious, it turns out that it's fine if it's pasteurized). I have become convinced that there's some weird peer-pressure that occurs in chat-rooms, daycares, playgroups, etc, that results in all women, regardless of education level, being afraid of having their baby vaccinated and believing that being a working mother is a crime. I'm with Fia, fuck that shit. For the record, I have also been avoiding drinking the kool-aid they keep offering me.

2) Having a child is a disabling illness. Apparently my university does not have a maternity policy. Instead, I can use my sick leave and when that runs out I can switch to short-term disability. Now, I'm not looking to take a year off to stay home and be an udder (I am the personality type that would go on a murderous rampage if trapped at home for long periods of time with day time TV and no adult company), but I would really love to have some time where my time split was "research, advising my students, and not accidentally killing my newborn because I have no idea what I'm doing", and not "research, advising my students, teaching a full course load, serving on my overloaded committee schedule, and not accidentally killing my newborn because I have no idea what I'm doing". The former scenario gives me some shot at staying afloat and not flushing my career or ending up in jail. I suspect the latter scenario ends with me insane or in prison.

3) Submitting two proposals for the same deadline will seem easy from here on out. Once you have submitted two proposals while teaching a large lecture class and dealing with intense morning sickness (see lesson 4 below), "difficult" takes on a whole new meaning.

4) Morning sickness is a big fat lie. Morning sickness will not necessarily occur in the morning. It may not even be confined to half of your day. Furthermore, it can be triggered by things that used to smell really good to you but suddenly smell like someone took a crap in a bag and left it sitting on your desk for several days. (ah, coffee, one day I'll be able to face you again).

Well, that's about it for now. I gotta get back to work or my next academic pregnancy lesson will be that universities have no problem firing unproductive pregnant assistant professors during a budget crunch! Ciao bellas!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Professor Chaos: She's not dead yet

I've been feeling guilty of late for my complete blog silence, especially since in response to my last post everyone gave me such great feedback about contacting editors about bizarre reviews. I haven't had a chance to test that advice (despite a manuscript currently getting bizarre blow back from some reviewers), but that's really a story for another post. So I came back and visited my orphaned blog the other day and saw that I had 10 or so new comments. This made me feel even worse until I realized that 9 of them were spam ads (do they move in to neglected blogs like meth-labs into deserted buildings?). But one was a very sweet note which arrived just as General Disarray was trying to convince me to return to my blog:

"River Tam, a search party has been dispatched to determine whether or not you still have a pulse. Results hopefully to follow..." -- Prof-like Substance

Yes, I am still alive (technically).  My utter blog silence is the result of a confluence of events that have put me in extreme survival mode. Over the past few months I have: been teaching my large lecture class (for a sampling of my experiences in this realm see this post by new blogger Professor Anonymous), served on the departmental "oh my god how are we going to meet the current budget cuts" committee (depressing work for a  number of reasons best left for another post), worked on a proposal for a bold, ambitious (read: slight crazy) project that I love but know has little chance, battled one of my lightening rod manuscripts into acceptance (I still won't believe this one until it's in print), had a biopsy for breast cancer (clean, thank God), and found out I was pregnant (when my doctor monitoring the suspicious lump found out I was pregnant all thoughts of not cutting into me went right out of his head. This either indicates that he was less willing to take a risk with a pregnant woman or has deep seated issues regarding pregnancy better not explored; my experiences as a pregnant assistant professor are undoubtedly my next post).

Every single one of these things has been happening concurrently, so the best I could do bloggospherically was keep up with my favorite bloggers as a lurker while Professor Chaos languished in silence. But I have been keeping up with everyone. Some of my favorite story lines have been: PiTs continuing TP2 saga (I both laugh and cringe with every post since I have TP2s in my department, but my department is big enough for me to hide from them), Prof-life Substance's battles with his collaborator on a proposal and grant office (loved the grant office story so much that I considered doing the same to my voicemail), posts over at Drugmonkey on the NIH responses to the stimulus bill (and then me comparing that with the flurry of emails I've been getting about NSF), PhysioProf's random spewings on basketball (I don't give a rat's ass about football, but at least in college basketball I have a couple alma maters I care about that get to the NCAA tournament), and Isis' flashbacks to being pregnant and a new mother which I have found most timely! Oh, and thanks to both Isis and Odyssey for blogrolling Professor Anonymous. If you haven't read that blog yet, go over and check Prof Anon out - I haven't laughed that hard consistently in a long long while!

I'm hoping to get back up and running here soon...I may not be real regular until school ends, but I promise I haven't given up on Professor Chaos! When I started Professor Chaos I promised myself I would stop  if a) academia stopped being absurd (for some reason something about pigs and wings comes to mind) or b) the absurdity stopped being funny to me. The former has definitely not happened and now that I'm getting some energy back, my sense of humor about academia is rapidly returning. Thanks to those who haven't given up on me!