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!

22 comments:

drdrA said...

OMG, with LittleA I had morning sickness 24/7 for 9 whole months. I was completely miserable.

Right after she was born, the nurses were asking me to rate my pain on a scale of 1-10, and I proudly declared that I felt NO PAIN, and was without nausea for the first time in recent memory- it was so awesome- then I hoped up off the delivery table and walked straight in to the bathroom to pee. Epidural and all.

The nurses nearly passed out.

I'm just going to say one thing about preganancy/childbirth/raising kids- expect only one thing- that almost nothing will go like you expect it to. It'll be awesome anyway though!

Nat Blair said...

So glad Tam you're posting again. And this is why.

There's a whole lotta weirdness going on with kids, but it doesn't go away when they're born. I've learned to smile and nod and act stupid when folks around here tell me about this or that old-country folk remedy I should be using on my kids.

And yes, morning sickness is a huge lie. Though my wife didn't have is as bad a DrDr, as it went away somewhere around the early 2nd trimester. But it was horrible. Of course she talked to the OB about it, and her helpful advice was, "well, you know one of my co-Docs, she had it so bad, and was loosing so much weight that she had to take a leave of absence and the other docs wanted her to go on TPN. So it's not that bad, right?"

If you look up "beside manner" in the dictionary, this anecdote is not there.

Hang in there!

Prof-like Substance said...

There is CRAZY peer pressure for everything to do with kids. It starts with what to do with pregnancy, gets worse with HOW to give birth and don't even get me started on the pressure to breast feed. My wife didn't have enough milk production to feed our baby when she was born, but we kept trying because it was what was "best for the baby". Well, losing lots of weight and becoming dehydrated is not best for the baby, nor is feeling inadequate that early in motherhood best for the mom. We switched to formula, it worked out great and the Wee One is healthy and despite being on formula for a year, she doesn't drag one leg behind her mumbling "brains, must get brains".

The "uber mother" groups make me want to scream. If someone tries to talk you into long-term co-sleeping, stab them with the nearest object and run away as fast as you can, because that is basically what they would be doing to your sleep for the next three years.

drdrA said...

Prof-like Substance-

So true about nursing. The point is to grow a healthy happy baby and a keep the parents sane simultaneously... there is more than one way to accomplish this.

Like I said earlier- almost nothing will go like you expect it to- and that's fine. It's difficult for us Type A we-want-our-lives-to-be-perfect women to let go of expectations and go with the flow a little.

ScientistMother said...

Happy mommy = happy baby Or as Mr.SM says, happy wife = happy life. That is my motto. I loved loved loved BFing and found that going back to work early totally screwed my milk production, but eh, that was me. Go back to work, don't go back to work, co-sleep, don't co-sleep.Do what makes you happy and works for you. Monkey still comes to bed at 6:00am some days and other days he's like "I'm a big boy screw you". The only advice is enjoy it. have fun.

Patchi said...

Happy mom = happy baby, so just relax and do what you think is right. Quality is better than quantity (that goes for work & family).

Morning sickness sucks and I had to take the meds to be able to go to work (because I wanted to, it made me sane). Just remember to ask for the non-drowsy ones (my mistake on the first pregnancy).

~profgrrrrl~ said...

The only advice I'd give someone (now that I'm 8 weeks into this having a kid experience) is do what feels right for you and when preparing/planning build in enough of a cushion so you can change your mind about what you want to do/what feels right along the way.

For me so far, not teaching has been a blessing. Some weeks I've connected a lot with my PhD students. Others I've wanted to hide away and not be bothered. Having flexibility to do both has been great. I thought I would hate BFing and was only doing it because of the peer pressure, but I kind of enjoy it and will probably do it for longer than originally intended (and it helps that it works easily for us and I have ample supply). But I've already had to spend 3 days doing other things professionally and left behind bottles and pumped milk -- and she survived! I do know a few other recent academic mamas, and they both quite BFing around 2 months because it wasn't going well and was inconvenient. One is at work every day with her kid. The other has scaled back work a lot. All a matter of choice. Interestingly, the first had planned to be away for a while and got bored while the other thought she would get a lot of work done.

Oh, and morning sickness. Yeah. I was ready to punch anyone who told me it ended with the first trimester. I was a 27-week survivor of morning/night/noon sickness.

Fia said...

Peer pressure is best ignored.
Use common sense and pubmed. I actually found a paper that said babies were more relaxed in the first half year of their life's when mothers were eating more chocolate during pregnancy :-D

Morning sickness: mine came every day at 18:00 until 21:00, and once I had to puke into a trash bin in a supermarket. The personnel was understanding (thank you!). Usually it's over after 3 month. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Judith Warner's "Perfect Madness" about all the perfect-mommy craziness is good read to help give some perspective on the pressure women put on each other about parenting.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

My thinking on all this child-rearing "advice" is that mammals that can't even fucking talk--and thus cannot possibly give each other advice--manage to raise their offspring just fine.

Isis the Scientist said...

Chaos, the most important lesson to learn is that when people give you unsolicited advice, offer them a hearty "fuck off."

Including me for offering this unsolicited advice.

Toaster Sunshine said...

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.

My own mother recently admitted that I was raised on Benadryl and whiskey to keep her sane. And formula. And I turned out all right! She then told me when and how I was conceived. I didn't need that.

Drugmonkey said...

first Congrats to you and Gen Dis! woot!

second, the only way to stay sane with the data-free-advice-advanced-with-great-confidence is to analyze which bits are actually subject to an empirical answer and point out (to self when it is MIL or GMIL) those bits. while requesting the citations.

(at least you will be amused, even if nobody else is...)

Larkspur said...

I'm not a mom. I'm a spinster lady who cleans houses and walks dogs. One dog I walk belongs to a family with a five year old and a 10 month old. Both parents are physicians. Baby #2 was a surprise. (They tried so hard for Baby #1, and figured that was their only shot, especially since she is in her mid-40s.) She stayed home with the baby for six months, unpaid, of course, and only grudgingly agreed to by her hospital-employer. Now she is back at work (very much by choice) and life is a three-ring circus of bottles and breast pumps and a day-time nanny near her work, and not a whole lot of money left over. Everybody's exhausted. But happy. Really happy. The little one is thriving, as is big sis. Sometimes the common wisdom isn't the obvious one: sometimes if a thing is worth doing, it's worth doing in whatever slap-dash, half-assed, mis-matched, hoping-for-the-best way we can.

The dire advice is, I think, a form of hazing. People who are normally generous do it sometimes, but they should be ashamed. The best response, as people have noted, is a general "Hmmm, you may be right", leaving the "and you may be wrong, ya little troll" part unspoken.

However, my advice is awesome, though you won't have to worry about it for a few years: resist the massive Birthday Machine. Children can grow up healthy and happy without attending years of parties with goody bags and expensive entertainment and face-painting and blah blah blah. Possibly it's just my neighborhood, but a family on a budget could go broke trying to keep up the party circuit. I'm not in favor of families going broke, because they tend to cut back on things like dog-walking.

Candid Engineer said...

Haha, you had me smiling with this one. This is how I imagine myself if I were pregnant, too. I am not about to get caught up in the unfounded fears of a wing-nut generation of mothers. Good for you for keeping it in perspective. Looking forward to more of your stories, and again, congratulations. Hope the sickness retreats sooner than later.

Mad Hatter said...

I know more about mice than I do about babies, so I have nothing intelligent to add. But congratulations to you and General Disarray!

Shannon said...

BTW - have you looked into the whole pasteurized cheese thing? While I believe the FDA (or some government agency) makes this recommendation, I don't think there's actually much science behind this. Apparently, pregnant women in Europe eat unpasteurized cheese all the time (THE HORROR!) and their babies turn out just fine. In fact, if you do some research, you'll find that A LOT of the CW (another example: there's very little research behind the recommendation that you need to keep your heart rate down while pregnant and exercising) was just created because it "seemed" that this was how it should be. Sigh - it's really hard to make evidence based decision making with pregnancy and parenting!

Ink said...

Have you ever heard of the book Mama, PhD?

I always recommend it to fellow mom-profs. Really made me feel less alone, having a (gasp) baby in academe!

And good luck with everything...especially the morning sickness (I had it round the clock the whole time, like drdrA, and I am so empathetic to what you're going through!).

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Kathmandu said...

Are you getting this 'sick days and then disability leave' routine from academics or from HR? Because academics tend to feel that university policy is everything; HR tends to be aware that state laws apply even if the university has no specific policy. And your state laws may guarantee you better treatment.

sallyrogers said...

I was wondering if you had any suggestions about Conception/Pregnancy forums that might be beneficial to an academic? I've had such trouble finding one that seems to speak my language.