Oddballs

Since graduating I have mostly interacted with non-scientists.  Husband is a scientist, of course, and sometimes we go to his work parties, but by and large, nearly everyone I know here is not a scientist.  In talking to these non-scientist friends, I have discovered that not everybody has the same types of conversations that we have.  Two recent examples spring to mind:

1.  Most people, upon setting up an ultrasonic humidifier in their daughter’s room think merely in terms of making the air easier to breathe while their daughter has a cold.  Apparently, they do not have lengthy conversations about how an ultrasonic humidifier actually works, and they certainly don’t discuss the nature of temperature and what you are actually measuring when you measure temperature.

2.  Most people, when giving their daughter a bath, make words with the little foam letter bath toys that you stick to the tile and they probably put away the letters after the bath is done.  They do not keep rearranging the letters each time they use the toilet such that they have a silent argument about which is better:  PV = nRT or PV = NKT.

I’m sure there are more examples, but since I see nothing unusual about these conversations, I don’t realize that non-scientists don’t talk about these things until I tell a non-scientist friend about the conversation (they find these conversations highly amusing).

What if?

What would doing research be like if I didn’t have to worry about whether or not I was ever going to graduate?

What would it be like to be in a lab and know, if it all went pear-shaped, I could quit without losing everything I had worked for the last 8 years?

Would a string of experimental failures be as crushing as it once was if I was actually sane and had a good support system?

—————

Hello?  Anyone out there?  It’s been so long since I’ve posted anything at all here, that I’m not sure anyone is paying attention.  Actually, it’s been so long since I had anything to do with this blog and the email address that is associated with it that I had trouble logging into both accounts and had to prove to Google and WordPress that, yes, indeed, I am the owner of these accounts that have been dormant for so long.

It would be difficult to tell you everything that has happened in the past couple of years in one post and I’m not sure it would be particularly helpful or interesting.  The short answer is that I’ve been staying home with my daughter, Monkey, volunteering in certain places, teaching some at home science classes, and trying to figure out what to do with my life when/if Monkey starts preschool.  I will want/need to re-enter the workforce at that point but the question is, what sort of work will I do?  What do I want to do?

Among other things, I’ve been considering looking for a lab job.  Not a post-doc, some sort of senior technician/lab manager sort of job.  Something 9-5 with benefits.  Does such a thing even exist for people with a PhD?  I dunno.  Do I really want to go back to that life?  I dunno.  Although, I’m starting to realize that, in fact, it wouldn’t be going back to the kind of life I experienced in grad school.  The stakes are different and not nearly as high.  And, frankly, I care less about what people think of me and my intelligence.  I’m not sure when that happened or why.  I suppose graduating helped me with that, in a way.  It’s not like top tier schools hand out PhDs like candy, I must possess a fair amount of intelligence and tenacity or I wouldn’t have graduated.  What I forgot while I was there was that I always had that intelligence and tenacity or I never would have gotten in the program in the first place.

So, what would research be like without the constant pressure to prove myself, the overwhelming loneliness and desire to just finish already so I can get on with my life?  Maybe it would still suck.  But, maybe, it might be interesting or even fun.  It might be worth trying to find out.

What to do, what to do

I have been thinking about this blog lately and trying to figure out what, if anything, I want to do with it.  I haven’t posted in months and it seems to be collecting spam comments which is unpleasant.

I started this blog because I was in grad school and feeling tired, frustrated, unsupported, and in need of an outlet for my feelings.  I got that, plus I became part of an online community of women scientists.  It turns out that there are quite a few “disgruntled female grad student blogs” out there and this blog fit right in with them.  I enjoyed being a part of that community and it really and truly saved my sanity on more than one occasion.

However, I am no longer a disgruntled grad student (thank God) and so I’ve been thinking about closing up shop here.  The funny thing is, because this blog was so important to me for so long, I find myself quite emotionally attached to it.  I really don’t know how to let it go.  And yet, I really strongly feel that anything I might write here, now, just doesn’t fit in with what this blog has been about.  Thus my dilemma.

I am well aware that this is my blog and I can write anything I damn well please on it, no matter what the original intention of the blog.  But–and I really can’t explain why I feel this way–it seems wrong to suddenly turn it into a mommy blog and, for better or worse, being a mom is pretty much the focus of my life right now.  This isn’t to say I don’t do anything but be a mom 24/7 (I still have other interests and hobbies and friendships with people who are not moms).  It is simply that, for me, blogging is an opportunity to express my feelings about whatever I find challenging in my life and I have to say that being a mom is pretty challenging.  So, that is what I would write about if I were to start blogging again.

For quite some time now I have been considering starting a new blog, one that is more attuned to my current stage in life.  I haven’t done so because 1) I haven’t come up with a catchy name yet (don’t laugh; a good name is important and the inability to come up with a name for the blog reflects my inability to figure out what the focus would be) and 2) I’m trying to decide if I would like to be pseudonymous or blog under my own name.

At first, I thought I had no need/didn’t want to be pseudonymous.  After all, what would be the negative consequences of mommy blogging that could be ameliorated by being pseudonymous?  And, frankly, maintaining a pseudonym can get tiring if you are really trying to guard your identity.  But, the more I thought about it, the more I thought I might like to keep my pseudonym.  First, because I would like to be able to redirect anyone who still reads this blog and is wondering what the hell happened to me to the new blog.  Second, because I’m finding that parenting is way more controversial than being a disgruntled grad student.  Being a mom has somehow turned into a competitive sport.  And not a friendly one, like ultimate frisbee, either.  It’s more like rugby or World Cup soccer.  For instance, I know people who have had perfect strangers in the grocery store tell them that they are bad mothers, that they don’t love their children, that they are scarring their children for life.  Now, I know lots of grad students who have been told the scientific equivalent, but only when they were participating in the scientific process (in lab, at a conference, at a seminar, in a committee meeting, etc.) not when they were picking out produce.  As a grad student, you could be reasonably certain that you were safe from scientific attack if you were, say, at your knitting group or having dinner with your in-laws (unless they were scientists, I suppose), or just walking down the street minding your own business.  As a mom, you don’t have that luxury.  You can be, and often are, judged everywhere you go with your child in every venue by absolutely anyone you see.

Actually, now that I’ve written this post, I see that I would likely be happiest starting a new blog under my current pseudonym.  What, exactly, I would do with this blog is undecided.  I would like to leave it up in case my experiences would be useful to anyone else.  But, the spam commenting is bothersome.  I suppose I will either turn off comments or enable moderation for all comments.

It’s funny, I started this post wondering if I even wanted to keep blogging at all, given I have very little free time these days.  But, as I come to the end of this post, I find I am remembering how useful it is to get my thoughts down on “paper” and how the way forward can become clear if I write about the things that are troubling me.

Once I get the new blog set up, I will provide a link here to redirect anyone who is looking for me.

She’s here!

Introducing our little girl, born Dec. 5, 2011.  She weighed 6 lbs, 4 oz and was 18 in. long.  As you might guess from the last picture, after much drama, she arrived by C-section.  We are all very well.

In which there is “nothing wrong” but they keep me for testing anyway

So, I saw my doctor today.  The amniotic fluid levels had not changed, but I was able to convince her to put off the induction until Monday.  My cervix is actually effacing and dilating now (it hadn’t been before) so I’m hoping I just need a couple more days to go into labor on my own.

So, we went over to the hospital for my previously scheduled non-stress test.  This was at around 10:30 in the morning.  We left a little before 2:30.  The test is supposed to take 20-60 minutes.  In a non-stress test, they look for the baby’s heart rate to accelerate twice in a 20 minute period.  If, however, your baby is asleep, she might not move around that much and her heart rate might not accelerate as often as needed to meet the criteria of the test.  They will try to wake the baby up or they can do a contraction stress test in which they give you something to cause minor contractions and watch the baby’s heart rate in response to that (if her heart rate slows down after contractions, then that’s a problem).  Well.  Little Miss Whatsit might move (and her heart rate accelerate) twice in 20 minutes, but the acceleration wouldn’t last the 15 sec. or whatever to meet the criteria to count it.  Or, she might move twice and have a long enough acceleration in, say, 22 minutes which again doesn’t meet the criteria.  In the meantime, I was having contractions on my own and she did not respond negatively to any of them but I wouldn’t have 3 in 10 minutes, I might have 3 in 15 minutes.  So, again, didn’t exactly meet the criteria.  So, as the doctor and nurse repeatedly told me, there was nothing wrong with my baby, she just didn’t technically meet the criteria for “reactive.”  So, they kept monitoring me.

Now, as a scientist, I understand the necessity of creating a set of rigid criteria upon which to judge test results and discarding the ones that don’t meet the criteria.  But.  This was not a clinical study.  I was not part of any sort of experiment.  The purpose of the test(s) is to make sure that there is nothing wrong with the baby.  Therefore, if they can tell there is nothing wrong with the baby, who the hell cares if she doesn’t exactly meet the criteria?  I wasn’t going to lay around all day waiting for the baby to meet these criteria if she was fine.  So, I decided that, at 2:30, I was leaving whether she met the criteria or not.

At 2:25, the nurse came in and said the baby met the criteria and I could go.  She apologized profusely (she had been doing that all day, actually, and had been getting annoyed with my doctor, too) and I appreciated that even though it was my stupid doctor’s fault I was hooked up to a monitor for four hours for no good reason.

Still Pregnant

Not sure if anyone is still checking in on this blog, but I thought I’d drop by and give a little update, just in case someone really wants to know if I’ve had my baby yet.

The answer is no.

I will officially be 41 weeks tomorrow.  Little Miss Whatsit has her own schedule that I am not privy to.  :)  Unfortunately, my amniotic fluid levels have been low and if they haven’t improved by tomorrow, my doctor wants to induce.  I hear that doctors always want to induce you if you go past due, but at least she has a medical excuse.  So, tomorrow morning I will find out if we are going to speed things along or just keep allowing them to unfold in their own time.  I’m of two minds about it, actually.  I think that, in most cases, women and babies would be better off waiting until they were ready.  But, I’m getting a little tired of being “on call” as it were.  I’m not horribly uncomfortable or anything; I feel like I could stay pregnant a little longer without going out of my mind.  I actually feel better now than I did in the first two trimesters.  It’s just the waiting with no real notion of when things are going to start happening that’s getting on my nerves.  That, and all of the doctor’s appointments.  I see my doctor twice a week and starting this week, I’m supposed to be getting non-stress tests twice a week.  I had one on Monday and everything was great.  If we don’t schedule an induction, I have another one tomorrow after my doctor’s appointment.

In other news, I got an email from a journal today notifying me that I have been listed as a co-author on a paper that was submitted to them.  It appears to be my thesis paper and I am first author.  It would have been nice if Advisor had sent me an email about it.

We don’t need a damn dresser

Phone conversation between Husband and his mother:

DH:  This weekend, we ordered a crib.

MIL:  Oh!  I want to buy you the matching dresser/changing table.

DH:  Actually, we already have a dresser for the baby.  It was Mrs Whatsit’s mom’s when she was a kid.

MIL:  But, what about a changing table?!

DH:  We’re going to put one of those curved changing pads on top of the dresser.

MIL:  But you need something with a lip so the changing pad doesn’t fall off!

DH:  Look, we have a small apartment.  If a new large piece of furniture comes in then we have to get rid of some of the furniture we already have and we’re not getting rid of Whatsit’s mom’s childhood dresser.

MIL:  Okay, don’t get excited, I’m sure the baby will get changed somehow….