Tuesday, February 20, 2007

need a list

  • finish job talk
  • practice job talk
  • review standard interview questions
  • make list of questions to ask them
  • research department curriculum
  • think about courses that I said I could teach
  • think about courses I proposed to add
  • get example syllabi of one or two courses
  • look up pubs of search committee members - read abstracts
  • review standard interview questions again
  • make list of proposed research topics
  • read review paper(s) of -ology of area
  • buy interview clothes for post-partum body
  • buy decent shoes for post-partum feet
  • pack clothes for interview days
  • pack extra shirts for leaking/spit-up accidents
  • pack clothes for Minnow
  • pack diapers/wipes/burp rags for Minnow
  • remind Fish to pack
  • make sure he packs appropriately
  • check weather
  • print out itinerary
  • pack breast pump, bottles, car seat, sling, stroller...

Given that I am home alone for 8+ hours a day with a baby that likes to be held, the above should keep me busy until the moment we leave.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Too little sleep makes you forget things

I just went out to the garage to pull a load of laundry out of the dryer and I discovered 4 earthworms on the garage floor. It's been really rainy the last few days and a lot of our backyard is standing water - I'm not sure how the worms managed to get into the garage, but it makes a certain amount of sense. However, their prognosis is not good if they continue to hang out there.

Anyways, thinking all this, I decided to rescue the worms and I found a scrap of paper to scoop them up with. As I tried to get the first worm onto the paper and was getting frustrated with how hard it was, I suddenly remembered.

Worms don't bother me. They are not gross, not scary, and won't make my hands dirty or smelly when I grab the clean laundry.

So I just picked them up and tossed them outside to relatively dry piece of lawn.

That's all.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

RBO Motherhood, etc.

  • Thanks for your comments on my last post. I think I've hit on an idea for framing the PhD work together with an ending on current and future research directions.
  • As you may have guessed, I have an interview at some point in the future. I don't really want to talk about because I don't want to jinx it - this'll probably be my only interview this year.
  • Minnow had her 2 week Dr's appointment yesterday. She's now 8 lbs 4 oz - more than a pound over her birth weight.
  • They did a heel prick to test for PKU, etc - this involves pricking the heel and then squeezing out drops of blood to fill five circles on special paper. They did one at the hospital too, but I wasn't with her for that. So I had no idea how traumatic this was going to be for either Minnow or I. After we got home, we both collapsed on the couch for a couple of hours.
  • Don't put your baby in a footed sleeper for their two week Dr appointment - they'll just end up being naked and cold for longer than necessary (due to the heel prick).
  • Fish went back to work yesterday, but ScienceGrandma came over for the morning and early afternoon, so today will be my first day all alone with her. Fortunately, I got a pretty good night's sleep (relative to some other nights of late).
  • Minnow hates her sling - or I simply can't figure out how to use it right. In either case, I am going to give up on it until we can get some outside expertise. So much for ever having 2 hands again (except when she's sleeping with her daddy, like right now).
  • Given the paucity of two-hands time, I'd better get back to work on the talk...and finish my breakfast...and get a shower...

Monday, February 12, 2007

What's the post-doc-job talk grace period?

Let's say you've been a post-doc for nearing six months....is it still OK to give a job talk based on your PhD research? If you do decide to give a talk based on your PhD, should you throw in a few slides mentioning what you are doing now? What if the post-doc research isn't methodologically or thematically related to the rest of the talk?

There's no way I can give a whole 45+ minute talk on my post-doc research - I don't have anywhere near the data analysis completed that I would need. I could give 5-10 minutes about the experimental set-up and preliminary results, but it doesn't connect with the rest of my nicely coherent PhD talk.

If you were me, what would you do? If you were on the search committee, what would you think about a candidate who gave their PhD work rather than in-progress post-doc work?

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Minnow's birth story (part 2)

When we got to the hospital, they sent me up to the maternity ward and hooked me up to the external fetal monitor for a routine 30 minute test strip. Karen, my nurse, checked my dilation and pronounced me to be fully effaced and 3 cm dilated. After my 30 minutes were up, we slowly walked up and down the hallways of the hospital. Then I got in the tub and labored there for quite a while. I had pictured being able to lie back and float in the water, but I was getting overheated, and every time a contraction started I wanted to lean forward and sort of double over. Eventually Doula insisted that I get out of the tub and walk around again.

At 11:30, Karen checked my dilation again and I had made it to 5 cm. This was really encouraging, because I knew I was making progress. By this time contractions were quite intense and happening every couple of minutes. I sat on the birthing ball and closed my eyes through each contraction – trying to do slow, deep breathing and making low-voiced helpful sounds, but I also had trouble not just wanting to whimper or scream with the pain. I remember thinking, “so this is why women get pain relief,” but I knew my basic choice was an epidural or nothing, and I wasn’t ready to give everything up and lie on my back not being able to move. The pain of the contractions was never so intense that I thought I just couldn’t continue to handle it, and I always wanted to keep handling my current level of pain because I kept thinking it would just get worse. I couldn’t quit now. I never asked for medication, and true to my birth plan, no one ever offered me any. I’m so glad, because now I know that I can handle it just fine.

At this point my sense of time starts to get a bit fuzzy. I know I sat on the ball for at least an hour, because the CD I was listening to got to the tracks where it skips. It seemed appropriate to hear the music stuttering, because I felt like I was lost in this never-ending labor. Fish fed me some red Jell-o, and I remember being annoyed because he was trying to be cutesy and do the airplane thing before sticking the spoon in my mouth. During the most intense contractions throughout the labor, my whole body would get the shivers. When I was sitting or lying down, my legs would twitch uncontrollably. Even at the time it seemed kind of funny.

Eventually, Doula wanted me to walk around again, but I really just wanted to get back in the tub. Doula had gotten some lunch while I was on the birthing ball, and as I got back in the tub, Fish went to grab a sandwich and give my mom an update. I had been in the tub just a few minutes, when I suddenly felt this tremendous pressure on my anus and an urge to push. Doula called the nurse, who managed to check my dilation while I was still in the tub. Imagine my surprise and delight to be 8-9 cm dilated. This was probably about 1:30, so things had progressed very quickly in the past few hours. We needed to get me out of the tub, but where was Fish? He wasn’t back from lunch, and his cell phone went straight to voice mail. Finally, after what seemed like ages, but was probably another 15 minutes, he came back. He’d gotten trapped in a conversation with my mom and still hadn’t managed to get a bite of his sandwich. As I got out of the tub, I noticed that I had lost the rest of my mucous plug. It was floating in the water, and I thought “so that’s what the mucous plug looks like.” It’s all so obvious in retrospect.

I got on the hospital bed and the nurse didn’t want me to push because I wasn’t fully dilated. Plus, my obstetrician was attending a C-section, so they didn’t want things to progress so fast that there was no doctor present. So I spent some time on my hands and knees. It seemed like the most comfortable position – sort of a modified child’s pose. I was waggling my hips around in circles, which seemed to help with the pain of the contractions. It felt very animalistic, and I still had to pant through the contractions. Eventually my water broke in a gush and after that the nurse said “just let your body do what it wants.” In other words, I finally had permission to push if I felt like it. It felt really good to be able to give in to what my body wanted to do. I was still on my hands and knees on the bed, and behind me I could hear Fish getting worried about the color of my legs. Apparently they were turning a deep purple (I couldn’t feel them), so Fish and Doula were trying to massage some blood back into them between contractions. But it still felt like the position my body wanted to be in.

After a while the doctor came in and checked on me. Well, actually Karen checked me and pronounced me 9+ with just a lip of cervix. The doctor promised to come back when the baby was crowning. About this time, we (somehow) moved me to semi-reclining position. I didn’t really want to move, but the concern in Fish’s voice over the color of my legs made me think that I should move. We tried having Fish or Doula sitting behind me on the bed, but for some reason that didn’t work. My memories here are vague.

In the end, for most of the pushing, Doula was on my left side and Fish was on my right side, and my feet were in the stirrups. This wasn’t how I’d envisioned myself pushing the baby out, but I was incredibly tired and supporting my body weight in a squatting or more upright position didn’t seem possible. For me, pushing was by far the hardest part of the labor. I was so tired and it was such hard work. I really struggled to use the contractions to push and not just to scream. And then to have to push 2 or 3 or more times with each contraction rather than giving just one push and sort of collapsing for the rest of the contraction – that required fighting with every fiber in my body. After a while I couldn’t even tell when a contraction was starting – my body was just so tired and sore. Fortunately, Fish could tell me when contractions were about to start – he could tell by the tensing of some bundle of muscle fibers in my knee. My left leg twitched uncontrollably during and between contractions – I felt detached from it and someone (Doula? The nurse?) told me not waste energy trying to stop the twitching.

It seemed like I pushed forever, even though it couldn’t have been much more than an hour. After a while, people would say that they could see the top of the head, but then the instant I stopped pushing it would be sucked back into the birth canal. This was very discouraging – no one had told me that pushing was two steps forward and one step back and that it felt like one step forward, two steps back. The doctor came back into the room around this time and said to a nurse, “I thought you said she was crowning” and the nurse replied “I thought she was” (or something of the sort). Everyone was being very encouraging, but I could tell that they were disappointed at how slowly it was going. The nurse was checking the baby’s heartbeat with the Doppler much more frequently now, and a couple of times, Doula whispered in my ear that I had been pushing long enough and it was time to get the baby out. I’m sure now that she meant those words to be encouraging, but at the time, exhausted, in pain, with the doctor and nurses there and everything else, I interpreted her words to mean that the baby wasn’t doing well any more and if I didn’t get the baby out soon that something was going to go wrong. That really made me want to push, and I know I even tried to do it a few times between contractions. If I could have managed to string together a sentence, I might have said “cut me open and get the baby out. I can’t do this anymore.” But I couldn’t muster the energy to form the words and there’s nothing they could have done to help me anyways.

And eventually the pushing did its thing. Even though I had my eyes tightly squeezed shut (I hate blood), I did manage to reach down and feel the top of the head – slimy and hairy and real. A few minutes later, the baby did crown, then the head was born, and one easy push later, the rest of the body came slipping out. Fish made the announcement, “It’s a girl!” and then she was on my chest, just like I wanted, slippery and bloody and so incredibly alive. I’m tearing up just thinking about it. It was such an amazing moment – to have my little girl in my arms.

Minnow was born on January 26, 2007 at 3:20 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time. She weighed 7 lbs 3 oz, was 20 inches long, with a head 13 inches in circumference. She was, and is, perfect in every way.

Much of the next hour is a blur, but Minnow spent most of it on my chest. Fish cut the cord, the nurses wiped Minnow off quickly, and the placenta was out in a minute or two. I tore when she was born, and it seemed like the doctor put in a trillion stitches, some in places that the lidocaine hadn’t reached. And the nurse was pushing hard on my uterus, helping it to contract. Now that my work was done, I complained loudly and cried about the pain of the nurse’s kneading and the doctor’s stitches, even though they were nothing compared to what I’d been through for the past day. And I tried to get Minnow to nurse, but neither she nor I knew what we were doing. Doula and the nurses tried to help – all these people trying to position her and my breasts, but I don’t think we ever succeeded.

After a while, I asked Fish to hold her for me. She needed skin-to-skin contact to stay warm, so he unbuttoned his shirt and tucked her in against his chest. It was adorable – though I was jealous of his time with her – but too exhausted to hold her myself. And I was less jealous after a while, when she let go her first big meconium poop inside his shirt and all over his chest. That’s a story that her daddy will torture her with for years.

I got exactly the birth I wanted – no IV, no drugs, just me and the baby doing all the work the way it’s been done for eons. Fish was amazingly helpful and supportive the whole time. He never expressed doubt in my ability or my choices and I couldn’t have done it without his reassuring presence. Our doula, Doula, too made the whole process so much easier. She kept Fish and I from freaking out and going to the hospital way to early. She was great about making me keep moving during labor and she provided Fish some relief. Just by happenstance, the OB that I had seen throughout my pregnancy was on call on the day I delivered, so she was the one to catch the baby. The pediatrician we picked out, who has a smile to melt any mother’s (or child’s) heart gave Minnow her first exam and checked on her every morning we were in the hospital.

People have asked me whether I would choose a natural childbirth again, and I’ve answered with a whole-hearted affirmative. It helps that my labor was relatively speedy and trouble-free, and that subsequent labors are usually even shorter. But fundamentally, I did something amazing and I did it all on my own. It wasn’t ever more than I could handle. Being aware of what my body was doing the whole time and giving birth to a healthy, alert child that I could in my arms seconds later are the best testimonials I can offer for a natural childbirth.

I am so blessed.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Minnow's birth story (part 1)

(So I didn't succeed in posting every day this week. So what? Instead yesterday I enjoyed a lovely visit from my cousins, whom we hadn't seen in months even though we live only a few miles apart. We took Minnow to fish's work to introduce her around, and then to Kmart, where they do NOT sell foldable changing pads like you would put in a diaper bag. And in the evening, fish went bowling and I went to craft night, where the little angel fell asleep in my friends' arms for over 2 hours.)

Minnow's birth story - early labor

In retrospect, Wednesday was the burst of “nesting” energy that people talk about. I woke up feeling great, and spent the day writing a status report on my work. I went to the office for a few hours and on the way home stopped at the co-op to buy fresh produce. That evening I made lentil soup and went to craft night. It was the most productive/refreshing day I’d had in weeks.

Thursday morning found me feeling sluggish and a little under the weather. I had none of the energy of the previous day. I had an OB appointment in the morning, and just before I left for the doctor’s office, I noticed a bit of bloody show. The doctor did her first internal exam and reported that I was effacing (cervix thinning and softening) but not dilated at all. I was totally discouraged, and we talked about my options if I went overdue. I spent the rest of the day at home, mostly just goofing around on the computer and working sporadically on a quilt. Every once in a while, I’d notice some discomfort in my belly but nothing that kept me from doing what I was doing.

My mom came over for dinner ~5:30 and I noticed a cramping sensation while we were eating, but I kept talking through it. After that I drove to Blockbuster and checked out some videos for what I thought might be a long weekend. On the drive there, I noticed another cramping sensation and vaguely wondered what would happen if I had a “real” contraction while driving. At this point, I wasn’t sure whether what I was experiencing were Braxton-Hicks or what – they were very intermittent and short-lived.

Fish came home from work at 8:15 and we watched some TV. I was lying on the couch and noticed cramping more frequently. I complained that nobody had warned me there would be menstrual-like cramping for hours or days before going into labor. Fish said: “I don’t think those are cramps; I think they are contractions.” I replied that contractions were supposed to start high up in the uterus and these were really low – near my pelvis. We consulted some books and decided to start timing the contractions. They were between 8 and 12 minutes apart, so we called our doula to let her know we were in early labor. She advised that I have something to eat, because it would probably be a long night, so Fish made me some macaroni and cheese.

We continued to time the contractions, which were now intense enough to keep me from walking or talking through them, and called the doula again when they were 5-6 minutes apart for an hour. She came over to our house around 11:30 pm and made me start walking around the house between contractions (I had been sitting on my yoga ball) and showing her the nursery and the quilt on which I was working. We labored this way for several hours, but contractions didn’t seem to be getting closer together or more intense. About 3 am we bundled up and went for a walk outside. It was a cold, clear night, and I immediately started shivering intensely, so we didn’t get very far.

Back in the house, the contractions still weren’t “very strong” according to the doula so she encouraged me to lie down and try to sleep for a while. Fish fell asleep in his recliner, and the doula and I curled up in bed. Both Fish and Doula got about 2 hours of sleep, but with contractions coming every 6 minutes or so, I don’t think I managed to sleep at all. The contractions were really uncomfortable lying on my side, and about every 20 minutes I would get up to pee to relieve the pressure on my bladder. Throughout the night, contractions were closer together but less intense when I was on the toilet compared to any other position.

About 6 am, I got up and moved around the house a bit, waking up Doula and Fish around 6:30. Contractions started getting closer together and at 7:15 Doula suggested that we get breakfast at the hospital cafeteria. That way we’d be close by should I decide it was time to check in at the hospital. I thought that we might as well wait until 8 am when my OB opened up and go get my dilation checked. Plus food didn’t sound at all appealing. Doula and Fish tried to get me to chew a calcium supplement, but I had to spit it out because it made me so nauseous. By 7:45 contractions were 3 or 4 minutes apart and more intense than anything else had been so far. The Jacuzzi tub at the hospital sounded very appealing. So I decided it was time to go to the hospital. Fortunately, it is only about a 5 minute drive, but I did have two contractions in the car.

What others can learn: (1) Everybody says you "know" when you are in labor, and eventually you DO know, but those early contractions may not feel like what you expect, and at the time you may not know you are in labor. (2) Eat when you first think you are in labor, because you might not be able to later on.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Just Minnow - Day 2

Oops. You missed it. Too bad.

Yesterday was a big day for my little Minnow. She had her third sponge bath by the kitchen sink. In the picture above she's exhibiting an excellent Moro reflex as we rinse her hair. For any future parents out there, let me recommend the Burt's Bees baby shampoo bar - it couldn't be easier with a newborn.

Her cheeks are starting to fill out and last night around bed time, she lost her cord stump. She's starting to look like a real baby - not just an itty bitty newborn.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Just Minnow week

In other parts of the realm, some brave souls are undertaking Just Science week - where they post at least one science-related post each day and nothing else.

I clearly don't have that in me this week.

Instead I will bring you, Just Minnow week - where everyday I promise (to try) to post a cute picture and some update of her amazingness.

Oops. You missed it. Too bad.

This picture is from 2 days ago and is the one we'll be sending out with her birth announcement. Of course, she'll forever resent us for doing so. I can hear it now..."Mom, I can't believe you gave people a naked picture of me."

Her latest feat: She'll now stay latched on for 8 minutes or so at a go. Which means she accomplishes her eating in ~1/2 the time it took when every minute or so she'd pop off and want to fuss and burp.

We've also settled into some preferred feeding positions. For the left breast she prefers the clutch hold, while on the right side she is content with the cross-cradle hold. And as the moms out there know, this means I am building some mighty left arm muscles while my right arm is mostly free to atrophy at will.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

overdoing it

I took Minnow for a walk this morning. She was all snug in a bunting (with little teddy bear ears) and content in her Ergo carrier. The sun felt wonderful on my face and the fresh air smelled fantastic. But I went a bit too far and the wooden park bench at the playground was pretty darn hard and then I had to turn around and walk home. Very slowly.

So the rest of the day will be spent very very quietly - watching the superbowl on low volume, napping, and cuddling with Minnow. And feeding every 1.5-2.5 hours.

And that's why even though I am thinking about work everyday - I'm not anywhere near ready to go back.

Minnow's latest accomplishments: (1) When sound asleep I can set her down and she finishes off her nap without me having to hold her at all. I'm getting longer chunks of two-hands time this way. A few days ago, I'd never have imagined this was possible. (2) She's managed to completely empty a breast a few times. It's thrilling. She's growing up so fast!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

back to work?

I got an email yesterday from chem guy - a post doc with a 2 year old and another on the way. He wanted to know if I was ready to go back to work yet?


He went back to work on his PhD 3 days after his son was born.

That's beyond the realm of possibility for me and it seems to typify the inherent disparities that form hurdles for women in science/academia/the workplace.

3 days after I gave birth, I was bleeding, unable to sit on chairs without pillows below me, trying to figure out breastfeeding with engorged breasts, trying to figure out what clothes would fit my newly oddly shaped body, trying to figure out what clothes would fit my itty bitty baby, sleeping in <2 hour intervals, etc. And all of that is true today (6 days postpartum). And all of it will be true for weeks (well, hopefully not the engorgement part of it).

And that isn't even considering that I am spending hours holding my baby, lost in the beauty of her face, learning to read her wiggles and cries, trying to fathom the miracle that brought her to me.

Am I ready to go back to work? Hell no.

And I'm not sure when I will be. But I am making time for email each day, checking my voice mail, corresponding with a potential post-doc mentor, and thinking about my upcoming interview. Wish I didn't have to do those things, but they are all necessary evils of this game I'm trying to play - the one where we all pretend that just because I'm a woman and a new mom, things are no different in the job market and in science.

Because in order to succeed at this game, I've got to make that deception.

But the truth is, things are different. I've got to appear to be just as good as the boys, but I've got to do while bleeding, engorged, and enthralled with this new life sleeping in my lap.

and that sucks.

babe in arms (one hand typing)

hi all,

thanks for the suggestions.

baby fingernails taste good !

i've got nursing pads, but leak so prodigiously i soak right through them when trying to nurse the other side. cloth diapers seem to be the best solution so far.

we are cosleeping. we bouhght a co-sleeper but so far she's spent about a minute in it. sleeping with her on my chest or by my side is just easier on everyone for now. but she won't nurse in the side lying position.