Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I miss pumping!

Little one is now almost 13 months old. Soon she will move to the toddler room at daycare where they will not deal with baby bottles. So a couple of weeks ago we dropped one of the bottles of breast milk at daycare and replaced it with a sippy cup of whole milk. She has been doing great with this, and since we have a reasonably large stash of frozen breast milk at home after my trip in January I have stopped pumping at work. Once the frozen milk runs out little one will get only whole milk at daycare ready for her move into the "big kids" room. I plan to continue to breast feed her while we're together for as long as is mutually desirable (as per the AAP recommendation), and I can't see either of us wanting to loose the evening snuggle time any time soon.

I always thought I would be delighted to stop pumping at work. Well here's the unexpected thing - after all my earlier whining about the time pumping takes out of my day, now that I have stopped I miss the breaks. Twice a day I had an excuse to go to our fancy new lactation room and read parenting magazines or listen to music. OK - I could take this break without actually pumping, but I never do. There always seems to be something more pressing (even if it's just reading the news online).

I guess I'm also a little sad about the end of this era in little one's life. I keep having to remind myself that she still gets a lot of breast milk in the evening, at night and in the morning. I feel funny about using up the frozen milk I worked so hard to build up and which I have been so protective of. I worry that an unexpected trip will come up and little one will need that milk, but of course she would be just fine on only whole milk and many babies are totally weaned at this age.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Just wanted to send a note of encouragement to Day By Day Female Scientist who recently had her baby. Her little one needs some extra help right now and is in the NICU. This time last year I had been home just about a week with my little one, who intially spent 10 days in the Level 2 nursery (next step down from a NICU - they just can't deal with the very sickest babies) because she was 5 weeks early. As "Day By Day" says it's exhausting, emotional and overwhelming to be a first time Mom (or any time Mom I suspect) of a NICU baby. I only have a tiny insight into what she's going through as my little one had no operations, didn't need a ventillator, was never in any serious danger, and mostly we could hold her whenever we wanted. She just had an IV, incubator, jaundice treatment and monitoring for Apnea spells - which was quite enough wires for me! When I look back on that time now it is almost nostalgic, but I still mourn for the loss of those early days in some ways. I wish I could have held little one longer right after birth, and breast fed her right away (so maybe shouldn't wouldn't have needed a sugar IV). I wish we could have slept in the same room so she could have heard my breathing (and maybe not have had so many Apnea spells), and that she wouldn't have been stuck under hospital lighting in that dreary room (and maybe gotten over her jaundice quicker). I also don't think it was so great for me to sleep on a hospital couch 3 days after giving birth and have to keep walking up and down the hall to see my baby, but that's another story...

Often the hardest thing for me was to see the happy faces of parents and visitors of "normal" babies. I wanted that experience for my first birth and I can never have it. I have told my husband that our next child should be born (at full term and healthy) on a weekend (so we can have lots of visitors), and that I need lots of balloons and flowers! I know that can't be ordered of course, and in fact it is slightly less likely than usual for me since I have a history of preterm birth. I know of course that the main thing is that our baby is healthy and developing well now, but I think it's important to acknowledge that the early days were traumatic, and we did miss something that most parents take for granted.

Anyway, to "Day By Day Female Scientist" I want to say - hang in there. It's worth it! Even though it feels like forever at the moment, this time will pass. I am thinking of you and your little one and hoping that the worst is now over and you'll be taking her home soon.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Don't Give Up

"Don't give up". Three little words, but ones that for some reason had been lacking from my current boss and my old thesis advisor. Funny thing is I hadn't even noticed that until the advice came from a totally unexpected source. Sure my boss and old advisor seem to assume I'll stay in astronomy and work out my current problems - but haven't offered much in the way of practical advice or encouragement for me to do so. Perhaps they think it's so obvious that it doesn't need to be said. I don't think it's that obvious. Especially in my situation - I know many women give up their careers once they have babies, so I would think it doubly important for people to tell me not to (well unless I want to)...

Anyway several potentially positive things have happened since my last post:

1. I discovered that only 30 minutes away from the location of my husband's new job is a new Institute of Cosmology, which looks like a pretty interesting place to work.

2. On getting in touch with people at that Institute I have had a very welcoming response - for sure I can have a desk, maybe a few months salary, and we are working on some grants together. This is much more positive than I expected considering I was basically throwing myself on their mercy....

3. On the phone with one of these people at the cosmology institute I had a long conversation about the poor funding situation in astronomy at present. We talked about how tough of a hiring year this has been, and how people are giving up and leaving the field. This person thinks that if I can "hang in there" things will be better in a few years, so I shouldn't "give up". This might be seen as empty advice, except that they seem willing to try quite hard to help me do this - even though I have never met this person..! Amazing!

4. I have another interview for a "cool outreach" position. One I thought I would never be considered for as it's way too exciting! It's "almost" within commuting distance of my husband's new job.... so it would add some complications if I was offered it, but it's very exciting!

5. I had a career counselling appointment, specifically for postdocs (it's a pilot at my current university run by a career counseller who used to be a biology postdoc). The conclusion - I should stay in Astronomy, maybe do more education and public outreach. Duh! Not really news to me, but encouraging that an impartial advisor sees the same things as me. Now I just have to figure out how to do this!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

My "successful" job search.

Well job season is drawing to a close in Astronomy, leaving behind in it's wake a bunch of people wondering "what next"? From the outside I seem to have had a pretty successful job season. I made two faculty shortlists, which I am very proud of, and was the second choice for another permanent position. However in this case there are no prizes for second, and I have come away with no job offer.... So what next...

At the same time as looking forward I'm also looking back, wondering what I could have done different to the outcome this year. I'm also wondering what would have been different if I didn't have the constraints of a child. As I mentioned in a previous post, I tried not to go all out this year. I was *very* selective about the postdocs I applied for... none of which I was offered. Without the baby I would have applied to more postdocs - but ones which I didn't think were such a good match... Would I really have had more chance of getting one of those? In a conversation this week someone mentioned that it seems most people don't get a faculty offer until their second year on the market. In fact the person who has now accepted one of the jobs I interviewed for did "very well" last year - getting on several shortlists, but recieved no offer. This year, she (very deservedly) got multiple offers, and will be a great Prof. So maybe I should have applied last year in order to up my chances this year. .. But last year at this time I had a 5 day old preemie... I really wouldn't have had the energy for the job search last year (maybe some pregnant women could, but not me) so I can't easily regret not doing that.

For the future - well my husband just accepted a job (he's also an academic) so I know the location. I'll be looking at options there, and trying to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life!