Monday, April 16, 2007

Bringing baby to the field

Yesterday was a 12-hour field trip to check out sites for some work this summer. Since it was such a long day and bottle-feeding is still a bit iffy, minnow came along. Minnow did great on the 3 hur drive to the field area - playing, napping, and only needing to feed at abut the same time the adults were ready to pee. It probably helped that my colleague, Superwoman, volunteered to drive, so that I could sit in the back seat next to Minnow. So far, way better than expected. I feel much better about more upcoming 2-3 hour car-rides in Minnow's near future.

We were doing reconnaissance - which basically meant driving along gravel roads and stopping at predetermined sites to decide whether they were suitable. The first part of the day was kind of hard on me (and minnow), because the stops were short and cold, and I missed at least half of each discussion attending to minnow. Plus, she was tired of the car and the frequent stops kept her from getting a decent nap. I started to question why I had even come along the trip. Sure, I was a co-PI on the project and had technical expertise relevant to site selection, but if I wasn't going to be able to contribute, why had I subjected Minnow to the long hours of confinement?

After lunch we went to check out another set of field sites, but this time we were confronted by a gated, closed road. This turned out to be the blessing that saved the day. We decided to walk to our potential sites about 1 mile down the road. It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon and Minnow soon fell asleep in her front pack. I got to fully participate in the site discussions and see some *really* cool scenery. I had to limit my off-road scrambling around because my center of balance is a bit off when I am wearing Minnow, but I felt like a real member of the research team. Yay!

On the trip home, we combined our dinner/gas stop with Minnow's feeding. Then, Minnow got fussy around her bedtime. She decided to scream right as we were pulling onto a freeway, so we hoped that the smooth car ride would quiet her to sleep. But no luck, and a few exits later we pulled off and I nursed her again. I had brought along my iPod playlist full of womb sounds, so I turned up the volume on that, quieted the conversation and soon she was asleep. She slept until about 20 minutes from home, and fortunately I was able to keep the fussing to a minimum until we got to my house.

In the end, the trip was a success. The biggest ingredient was the world's best baby, but that was helped out colleagues who were flexible and patient (and moms themselves). It was also a totally different field trip than my normal, more vigorous data collection outings, so that probably helped, too. One suggestion a colleague had after the fact was that I could have brought along a bottle of expressed breast milk for use during the fussy period. But I hadn't thought of that in advance and since Minnow is so picky about the bottles, I'm not sure it would have worked. I also think it helps that Minnow is ~3 months old. She's old enough to not be too delicate and needy but young enough not too be too mobile and full of energy for the long car/pack confinement.

So the moral of the story: field work and baby parenting can be combined with the right mix of luck and patience.


SportyChick said...

:( seems like my post disappeared...

Anyway, meant to say that I love the name Minnow, very cute. Adorable name.

Sara said...

glad it went well!

my dad is a theorist, thus no field work, but there are some funny pics of me around that age, fast asleep across his lap, with papers spread out all around (and one on) me.

Anonymous said...

Yay!! I'm so happy for you. Sounds like a really great experience. I'm so proud of little Minnow for being such a good little scientist...
Are you taking pictures of these field trips?
I LOVE Minnow stories..thanks for sharing.
Goat Mama

Sicilian said...

I think you are doing a great job with work and minnow. I do hope you document your experience with pictures. Minnow will know where the desire for Science come from in the futures.

Chuck said...

Very cool, and well-executed, it seems.

navigating academia said...

This is a very cute story. very cooperative baby :)

I don't know if I can even do what you are doing. You're great!

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