Monday, February 28, 2011

An apology to female academics and career mothers everywhere

My tenure process has been set in motion. (For those of you who don't spend tons of time around academics, this is an elaborate evaluation that will determine whether or not I get to keep my job FOREVER, so it's supposedly a big deal.) This stage of the process is not inherently stressful, but just knowing it is afoot creates some ambient anxiety. In addition, next week is spring break, and WOW, I was supposed to have accomplished A GREAT MANY THINGS before then. WHOOPS. The semester is more than halfway over and my ability to focus on my research is...nonexistent. I keep thinking it's just a question of making a list and a plan and having a hearty go at it, but then my brain floats off and I think about babies.

Leading to an amazing revelation: I didn't appreciate the ways in which this was going to be hard.

Just as I was an asshole about infertility before I had some personal experience, so I was blasé about the physical and psychological effects of gestating a fetus before I had some personal experience. I always imagined that when pregnant, I'd just push through the pain and work smarter. That knowing I had a Major Life Change coming would motivate me to be super productive. That I would churn out massive quantities of top quality research in this remaining semester. And importantly, that having a baby wasn't such a hurdle in the life of an academic woman. That the life of a female academic parent isn't that much harder than the life of a male academic parent. That women who let motherhood get in the way of their careers must not have cared too much about their careers.

I know. What an ASSHOLE I was.

I'm not sure how much infertility has skewed my perceptions. I mean, I'm coming to the experience of pregnancy with two years of depression under my belt, and it's possible I would have operated more like my Model Lady Academic had I not felt that a certain degree of focus on my fetus was justified. Had I not been so terrified of losing him for Part 1 and so overjoyed to have him with me for Parts 2 and 3 that I felt like it was pretty much FINE to spend every moment thinking of him. But even had I not gone through IF, it would still have been exhausting to be pregnant and very, very hard to stay focused on intellectual shit when I can barely remember what words are. And I've had an extremely easy pregnancy. (KNOCK ON WOOD.) And pregnancy is the easy part of being a parent.

Anyway, I would like to revise my former opinions. Having a baby is a massive hurdle in the life of an academic woman. The life of a female academic parent is massively harder than the life of a male academic parent. (And I don't even know that from personal experience yet, but as I watch some of you deal with career/family challenges, I can tell.) Women who let motherhood get in the way of their careers may or may NOT have cared about their careers. At the moment, there's a tiny...something or other... poking out of my belly, and I can't image caring about anything but that.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Goodbye, tiny collection of sharps!

I had another 30-second OB appointment last week. (Heartbeat = check, belly = measuring on target, any questions = nope.*) Every time I've had one of these appointments, I've planned to bring the trigger shot needles from my five IUIs and dispose of them in the attractive container they have in every exam room. And every time I've forgotten. Not this time! I know some of you are laughing at my tiny, itty, bitty collection, but it was still a powerful moment, watching those bitches disappear down the chute.

They kept accumulating. I kept moving them around. It feels like they've been sitting in the bathroom drawer for a million years.

It wasn't until after they'd vanished from sight that I was struck by the fact that one of them triggered the ovulation of the egg that turned into my Bun Bun. I felt like I should have said a little something to that one, but it was too late, and anyway, I didn't know which one it was.

On the way out, I walked past a grim-looking couple who'd just come out of the infertility clinic consulting room. I hope their journey leads them to a moment like mine, as soon as possible.

*And as far as I know, I don't have gestational diabetes. Unless it's just taking them a looong time to let me know.

Monday, February 21, 2011

No, I'm STILL not glad I went through IF

In our brief time together the other day, BFB and I were discussing how delightful it is that I get to have a baby bunny in the year of the rabbit. Then she said something along the lines of it will be interesting to see if you end up being glad you didn't have a baby sooner. Now, before we throw down on her ass, she wasn't saying, oh I bet you'll be glad you went through infertility because now you get a year of the rabbit baby! Nor was she spouting any of that clearly it was meant to be, whatever happens is for the best bullshit. She was saying something more like once you meet your child, you might feel like that particular child couldn't have come into existence at any other time, and you'll be thankful that she is she or he is he, and therefore pleased about the circumstances of his or her conception.

I get the idea. Each life is so individual, so irreplaceable. Each time one flames into existence, it sparks a million hopes and dreams, which--I clumsily imagine--is part of what makes it so devastating when one is extinguished. And if you have a sibling or multiple kids, you must have marveled over the amazing variety that the same basic genetic material can generate. So it's totally possible that when Bun Bun is here, I'll look at him and think thank God you weren't conceived any sooner, because if you had been, you would not have been YOU. In fact, I feel like many of you have expressed something similar to that sentiment when your longed-for child is born: everything you endured makes sense when you gaze into those eyes, because it brought you to that particular moment.

But that's not the same as saying that it was no big deal to wait two years--two years filled with nights and days of complete and utter despair--or to have my heart broken a million times or to get gutted like a trout.

I struggle with perspective on this issue. On the one hand, I see many of you going through such agony (and this week seems extra bad for some of my favorite girls: Egghunt, Andie, GingerandLime, I'm lookin' at you), and I feel like a poseur. Was my experience really so bad? It was just two little years. It was just a lot of little procedures and one little surgery.

On the other hand, I know I have a tendency to minimize things. For example, I was sexually assaulted a long time ago (like the way I dropped that intimate little bomb on you with no warning?) and when I talk about it, I tend to add I'm grateful it wasn't worse. A therapist once pointed out that I shouldn't feel the need to have grateful in a sentence about being sexually assaulted. Some experiences don't need any caveats, they're just awful.

So I guess this is really just a reminder to myself. It's okay to acknowledge that something was wretched, without any need to compare or minimize. You don't believe in a deterministic world, Bunny. You don't have to be thankful for the shit-tastic things that happened on the way to the land of unicorns and rainbows. You can be grateful for what IS, without being grateful for the causal chain.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

And the winner is...

Mother in law, by several lengths. My own mother was actually perfectly nice. It's true that she was well distracted by birthday festivities, but she also made it clear that she had no intention of intruding unless invited. Of course, her meek attitude made me feel bad, too, as I've clearly been so harsh with her that she's now afraid of me, and what kind of person can I be to have brought that about? But my feeling bad about this is my deal, and she's not to blame for it.

ANYWAYS, this weekend I got to masquerade as Regular Pregnant Lady around my brother's and mother's friends. It was fine for the most part, though at one point, I found myself surrounded by women telling me how hard motherhood was going to be. Some were young women in the thick of parenting small children, while some were of my mother's generation, but they were unanimous in telling me that there's no single issue on which there's not controversy. For example, I thought the whole "back to sleep" thing was pretty solid, but my sister in law revealed that after several sleepless nights listening to my niece aspirate her spit, she started putting her on her stomach, and she slept much better and had fewer digestive problems. FUCK! (My sister in law is a speech pathologist who works with small children with swallowing disorders and other stuff in that region, so I'm not inclined to blow off her experiences.) So after half an hour of horror stories and general moaning, I started to pretty much panic. OH MY GOD WHAT IF I CAN'T DO THIS!!!! WHAT IF I'M JUST AN OVER-EDUCATED INTELLECTUAL WITH NO INSTINCTS FOR ANYTHING WOMANLY?!?!?!?

I feel a little better now that I've escaped from those monsters, but now that I'm in the third trimester (OH MY GOD I'M IN THE THIRD TRIMESTER!) I think it's classic to start freaking the fuck out.

The best solution is action, and now that the bathroom renovation is over, we can start taking some of that. Which leads me to a request: if you know anything about babies, would you be so good as to read this plea for information?

And if you don't know anything about babies, don't feel left out. I've got a request for you, too. LP 2 had her 8 week ultrasound on Monday, and I'd asked her to e-mail to let me know how it went. I also said if it didn't go well, I'd understand if she wasn't up to getting in touch. No word yet. Is it time to e-mail? Do I just say thinking of you, or do I say something more like thinking of you and won't be offended if you don't get in touch, but please get in touch if there's nothing wrong? 'Cause maybe she's just busy? I always assume the worst when you guys go quiet, and often you're just living your lives.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Enchiladas, here I come!

My mother is turning sixty this weekend, so I'm off to New Mexico for some family interaction. I'm looking forward to eating lots of enchiladas. And seeing my older brother and his family, and my younger brother. But mainly the enchiladas. Definitely not the part where I end up in a horror film. Definitely not seeing my mother.

As you may recall, we don't have the best relationship. And while all the pregnancy books tell me I'll "increasingly turn towards her".......I betcha I don't. Part of me wishes I could, because it's not like I know anything about raising an infant. But then I imagine actually asking her advice on something, and I remember that those are the moments she likes to stab me in the heart with some well-intentioned but utterly devastating remark. So my plan is to make every effort to let her feel included and appreciated without actually opening my heart to her. Sound plausible?

I'm also curious to compare her passive-aggressive style with my mother in law's bullying approach to my pregnancy and future child-rearing abilities, to see who will win the Most Intrusive and Offensive Maternal Unit award. Place your bets, y'all.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Your husband was an ugly baby

Friday was BFB's campus visit. (Recall that she's a candidate for a job in my department.) The intersection of professional and personal wasn't as weird as I'd feared, perhaps because I e-mailed her ahead of time to let her know I was super busy and frazzled and that a) we'd have no real interaction other than our scheduled meeting, and that b) if I seemed grumpy, it wasn't her, it was the drywall dust up my nose. But it turned out that she had a bit of free time in her evening, so I brought her home for a drink before we went our separate ways. Thus it transpired that she intersected briefly with Mr. Bunny's mother. Naturally they spent the whole time ooohing and aahing over pictures of BFB's baby, Jane. Jane really is a very pretty child, but watching this kind of interaction is...boring and irritating. Particularly when I should clearly be the center of attention. And then...Mr. Bunny's mother turned to me and said that Mr. Bunny was not a particularly attractive baby, so I should be prepared for Bun Bun to not be as cute as Jane.

Wow. WOW! First of all, lady, please don't insult my husband, whom I totally adore. Second, please don't imply that my astonishing beauty* is insufficient to counteract whatever ugliness your side of the family might be contributing. Third, please don't insult my unborn child, who will quite obviously be the most beautiful baby ever to grace the earth with his presence. And if you're going to simultaneously insult my husband, me, and my future child, please don't do so via comparison to the child of someone with whom I already have an unpleasantly competitive relationship and a whole lotta baggage.

So I stabbed her AND BFB in the face, cast a spell on Jane so that she will grow up hideous, and Mr. Bunny and Bun Bun and I went out to dinner. THE END.

*A friend of my mother's recently sent this photo of Little Me. See? Bun Bun will be adorable.

And will love stripes, just like Mama.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Holy mother in law!

First, Sarah had an online auction this weekend to raise funds for her adoption, and I totally missed my chance to support her. I basically didn't pay attention to the details of the timing, and since I'm typically offline on weekends, I BLEW IT! Luckily, there's still the option to make a donation via paypal. (Since this sometimes means giving up your anonymity--depending on how you have your account set up--I'll just mention that she's totally not a psycho old man pervert posing as a long-suffering infertile woman. Or if she is, the illusion is so convincing that you'll never know it.) If you can spare a dime, I know even the tiniest donation is such a precious show of support. Though if you have a million dollars you don't need, that would probably be even more precious.

So what was I doing this weekend instead of spreading the word about Sarah's auction? I was entertaining my mother in law. Mr. Bunny's mother and I have always had a cordial relationship. A few hours after she arrived, it became evident that this was simply because we'd never had any point of conflict before.

Things started off pleasantly enough. She's a labor and delivery nurse, and walked me through the c-section process in a way that I found very helpful and enlightening. I got to ask lots of specific questions, like and when will the catheter come out? Good times. But then she started pressing for an answer to the question of how soon she could meet Bun Bun. We'd been dreading this: since she found out about Bun Bun, she's been talking in terms of hours after his birth, and we've been thinking in terms of weeks. You see, we don't want visitors for a month. That's right. A month.

You're probably thinking, wow, what a SELFISH WHORE you are, Bunny. Maybe so, but when I think about the reality of a new baby, what seems nicest to me is total privacy and uninterrupted solitude as we get to know this child. What seems not nice to me is a lot of scrutiny from a very pushy and opinionated person. Anyway, I'm amenable to persuasion, and this is her first grandchild, so I understand the RABID eagerness (a bit like a famished tiger chained a few inches away from a terrified goat). It wasn't so much the actual issues, as the approach.

I didn't have much control over how this child was conceived, less still over how he will enter this world. The idea that, from his very first breath, she's going to privilege her desires over mine made me exceedingly anxious about, you know, the rest of our lives. Then she started giving me shit about eating enough protein. Then she said something else that annoyed me so much I'll have to write about it separately.

On Sunday, Mr Bunny took her aside and smacked her around a bit, pointing out that making us angry was counterproductive. When I left for work this morning, she apologized. And of course the moment she did, I became a million times more likely to make concessions. In the end, she'll probably get to visit while I'm still hospitalized (all drugged up and barely mobile and terrified that my milk won't come in and my baby hates me), which doesn't sound ideal to me, but sounds infinitely better than having her in my house.

This is a classic conflict and it's just the beginning. It's also a great problem to have. But I must say, when I watched other people go through it, I always thought I'd be able to handle it. Now I appreciate that it's not so easy to protect your own interests and priorities without feeling like an unreasonable control freak.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Now I know why they rub their bellies

I used to think pregnant women rubbed their bellies all the time because they wanted to hurt me. And I'm not entirely ready to give up on that hypothesis. It seems so reasonable. But since I've taken it upon myself to do some research on this whole pregnancy deal (no need to thank me--I live to serve) other possibilities are beginning to seem viable.

1. To provide data for proprioceptive adjustments. A couple of times I've gotten stuck by attempting to go places I no longer fit, and my Bun Bump is still small. But I've had about 20 years of being a particular shape, and my brain hasn't figured out yet that things are different. Giving my somatosensory cortex constant input about my changing dimensions helps.
2. To maximize the experience of fetal movement. It's still not enough for me to feel Bun Bun from the inside, I want to feel him from both the inside and the outside simultaneously. Which means Constant! Vigilance! is required.
3. And, okay, FINE, an overwhelming sense of love and protectiveness. Although I know that when I lovingly rub my belly I'm just rubbing myself--which is quite foolish when you get down to it--it's as close as I can get to hugging my little one, and it just seems to happen without my really intending it. The tender stroking simply flows out of me. In the grocery store this weekend Mr. Bunny found me standing in the produce section tenderly stroking a pear.

So the next time you see a mooney pregnant lady groping herself, just be aware that while she's probably doing it because she knows you're struggling with family-building and she wants you to suffer, she might have some other, secondary reasons.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Relatively fertile WHORE

Thank you for telling me how awesome I am (*preens*), and for reminding me that baby showers are weird American traditions, and can get a whole lot more freaky and off-putting than my experience was. Meanwhile...

I had coffee with the Lady Professors yesterday. There are three of us (We kicked LP4 out because she talked ceaselessly about herself, instead of understanding that we need to take turns talking ceaselessly about ourselves. Also she started sleeping with LP1's postdoc, which LP1 claims reduced his productivity, though it sounds to me like he was never much good as a post doc, though apparently quite good in bed.), and we became friends because we all started our jobs at Mediocre Institution at the same time. LP1 has gone through two totally normal pregnancies in our time together, while LP2 got married a couple of years ago, and started trying to get pregnant about a year ago. She was still feeling fairly ambivalent about the whole parenthood thing, but they figured they'd either have to take the plunge or miss their shot. Anyway, they'd been having well-timed intercourse for long enough that she was starting to talk more and more about ART. How she couldn't handle having twins because of her back problems, so the ART options were going to be problematic...Then she got pregnant. She's only about 6 weeks and so still very cautious, but I was absolutely thrilled that she might be spared what I went through, let alone what some of you have gone through. I was bubbling over with excitement and asked her to tell us her positive test story. She did, and said that her first reaction was surprise...and her second was to wonder whether she'd made a terrible mistake in getting knocked up.

I felt all my happiness for her evaporate.

I know that this is actually a very normal, classic reaction. It's a totally fair reaction, particularly if you're not 100% convinced that parenthood is for you. In fact, I bet there are women who have endured IF and still feel this reaction, it's so damn natural. But it made me want to smack her. And it made me so incredibly grateful that I'm safely pregnant, because if she'd made a crack like that 26 weeks ago, I would have thrown down right there, and while she's taller, I'm a lot more feisty, and what with those back problems I'm pretty sure I would have fucked her up good.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

One is the loneliest number

Other Best Friend (the one who made the tiny cardigan with elbow patches) visited this weekend, and surprised me with a sort of proxy baby shower. She'd collected gifts from several people and agreed to deliver them. It was very sweet. It was also very pathetic. This is stupid and selfish and ungrateful, but indulge me for a moment, because I can't say this to anyone else, but feel like I've got to say it.

I've always been someone who wasn't interested in fitting in, and anyway, it wasn't gonna happen even if I'd given it my very best shot. If you're a weirdo, you mainly think of it something you've chosen, but the truth is, it typically involves a certain amount of exclusion by others, too. Certainly in my case, my introversion is partly a product of being shunned by my peers during my childhood. That part is less charming, and it's a sore spot that sometimes leads me to yearn to be just a regular girly girl. The kind who likes shopping and knows about makeup. The kind who would make a seamless girly-girl transition into pregnancy and motherhood. The experience of infertility was an isolating, ostracizing one, like I really needed more of those in my life. But now that I'm great with child, it's not like I suddenly belong somewhere. I don't belong with my weirdo friends, most of whom don't want kids and so don't really enter into this experience with much enthusiasm. I'm still not a girly girl with lots of girly girl friends who love talking about babies. I'm just a pregnant werido.

When the surprise was revealed, I burst into tears, and it took me a moment to realize they weren't all tears of joy. I had to leave the room to sob convulsively, and that's not what happiness does. Maybe I was secretly hoping my friends would find a way to surmount the obstacles of difficult schedules and travel and do something real, but for whatever reason, this pathetic excuse for a baby shower made me feel...pathetically pathetic. I really think nothing at all was working better for me.

Of course, I'm also very grateful to OBF for making this effort, and the logical part of my mind understands, and like I've said before, I don't have a very baby-shower appropriate group of friends, and I should just shut up and be thankful for my Bun Bun, which, dear God, I am. And if I wanted to have loads of girlfriends, maybe I shouldn't have been such an anti-social bitch all the time.

Anyway, here's one of the gifts I received. I joked to BFB that Mr. Bunny and I were going to refuse to find out Bun Bun's sex even after he was born, and do all diaper changes and baths with our eyes closed, and dress Bun Bun only in grey. It's the only way to avoid gender socialization, I said. So she sent a little grey-striped onesie, which just happened to match Mama's striped shirt. My friends may not love me enough to come to Ohio, but at least they're funny.