Sunday, May 8, 2011

Almost Amusing Adventures of the Sleeping Fatty

I have always liked to sleep, it's one of my favorite activities in the whole world. However, since I became a mom for the first time 11 years ago, I have never had sufficient time to engage in this wonderful passtime. At 32 weeks of pregnancy (so 8 weeks to go), I can no longer resist the unbelievable urge to sleep non-stop. Since I stopped vomiting, I have been drinking decaf coffee, but that's apparently not enough to wake me up or get my blood pressure above 100ish/60ish. Today, after 8 hours of sleep at night, I got up and barely got dressed, and then spent the entire day till 3 pm just napping in my home office (my office chair is the most heavenly butt-and-back support object known to mankind), with my feet propped on my husband's chair. At 3 pm I finally felt I was ready to wake up. So, yeah, in case it's not obvious, I am one Sleeping Fatty.

Yesterday, I had an ultrasound to check the baby's growth, because 3 weeks ago, at 29 weeks, my fundal height was 33 cm (fundal height -- the distance from the pelvic bone to the tip of the uterus -- should measure, after week 20ish of pregnancy, the same in centimeters as the gestational age in weeks, +/- 2 cm. So, at 29 weeks of pregnancy, I should have measured 29+/-2 cm, so 33 cm was too much). The scientist in me had two concerns: my regular nurse wasn't there and the other nurse who measured me looked like she had a problem locating the tip of my uterus; there was a single measurement (reproducibility anyone?) But I didn't say anything and didn't want to downplay the potential for something wrong, so I didn't object when my OB recommended I get a growth ultrasound. Lo and behold, the ultrasound showed I have a big but not gargantuan baby (over 5 lbs, 85th percentile), who will likely be 9+ lbs at birth, but I already knew that (my first two were 9 lb 1oz and 9 lb 2 oz); the amniotic fluid amount is perfectly normal. So nothing weird there. Btw, my regular nurse also measured my fundal height after the ultrasound, I was at 34 cm at 32 weeks -- so only 2 cm ahead as I had been the entire time except at that apparently off measurement at 29 weeks, and perfectly consistent with just a bigger baby. This all means much ado and an expensive ultrasound about nothing. I bet this all could have been avoided with a repeated measurement of the fundal height at 29 weeks, but it's cool I got to see the baby again. He's already head down, and I now know that all the kicks into my diaphragm were the feet on the left and apparently him shaking his little butt on the right.

My low levels of energy and perpetual sleepiness are of course interfering with my work big time. I wanted to draft 2 proposals to be submitted in September/October. There are 4 papers from my group alone that I planned on sending out before delivering (3 of them comprehensive regular articles for a reputable society-level journal and the fourth a 4-pager rapid communication). All of the papers are at the 3rd or 4th draft stage, which would normally mean I would go through 2 or 3 more educational back-and-forths with students, before taking over and cleaning the manuscripts up into submission-ready versions. Now, since I have only 8 weeks left, I have to take over sooner so they'd get submitted while I still have my faculties intact. I do tend to get kind of stupid in the first few months postpartum (sleep deprivation plus hormones) and I really wanted a little break from work. But my motivation has been zero. And I don't even feel guilty enough about it. Clearly, a killer combination...

Since I got pregnant, I have been avoiding taking on responsibilities that I knew I would not be able to fulfill efficiently. I was pregnant before, so I knew that I would be miserable vomiting for a long time, and then near the end of the pregnancy I would be sleepy and big and won't be able to travel. As a result, at the beginning of my pregnancy, I removed myself as the PI from several collaborative proposals and became a co-PI since I knew I could not herd the cats as needed. I also took part in a center grant (many PI's) but refused the role of a co-leader because I knew I could not do it efficiently at this time (and, as it turns out, I would have to fly to DC in month 9 of pregnancy, which is totally not happening).

I am still doing my share in collaborations -- doing stuff when asked and promptly -- I am just not presently able to go above and beyond my share (such as partake in leadership activities). I do feel guilty that someone else might have to do the heavy lifting on some collaborative papers or grants for the time being. One could ask: why should anyone else have to accommodate my personal choice to be pregnant? Prodigal Academic nicely put it in her comment to a recent post that you help out one another because everyone has some sort of family and needs accommodation at one time or another. Unfortunately, I have several colleagues who do not agree with this assessment -- they have stay at home spouses who take care of the children or are childless, and have unequivocally expressed that they resent the fact that some of us may need a bit of slowing down at times, because it's unfair to those who don't need to slow down.

You know, if people never need or want to slow down for personal reasons, I don't see anyone stopping them. I am quite happy to applaud and send them flowers when they get their NAS/NAE memberships, MacArthur Fellowships, or Nobel Prizes. If they are resentful of me for having to slow down temporarily, they can go ahead and find a replacement (only I suppose that's not exactly easy, because I am awesome and irreplaceable... On top of being modest. :-)

My most hard-to-get-a-hold-of colleagues are men with grown children. I am way more responsive to the demands of a collaboration than them even in the most pukey, sleepy, heartburny, or postpartum stupid state, so WTF? But no one ever has anything to say against a perpetually unavailable Prof. BigWig while he's globetrotting, whereas any hint of anything but complete and utter devotion to work (such as utilization of one's uterus or mammary glands) is often greeted with near disgust. Sadly, some of the most terrible comments about having children while in academia that I have ever heard in real life came from a recently married, childless-by-choice female colleague from another department, who started at the same time I did; she took over the co-leadership position on the multi-PI grant after I had turned it down. You'd think she'd know better than to bash childbearing in front of me. We women are truly amazing: we judge each other so harshly and so bitchily that we certainly need no man to make us look like crap or feel like crap about our life choices.


inBetween said...

I am so happy to hear things are going great with the baby even if he is making you very, very sleepy. I am beyond impressed with how much you have gotten done at school while pregnant. I became an unproductive blob almost immediately and still have a serious focus/time problem.

But like you say, there are times when we should have the right to step back and slow down.

I hadn't thought of it before but yes, the colleagues who are the most difficult to work with (in terms of being responsive, etc.) are men with grown children or no children. They profess to be too busy with work to reply or review that manuscript on which they are a coauthor. If I did the same now it would always be blamed on the fact that I'd had a baby, not that I was so wonderful in my research... interesting double standard.

Good luck these last 8 weeks!!!

Namnezia said...

You know, life is too short to be worrying about what other people think about your life choices. If they choose not to collaborate with you or grumble because of this, you can always find better more normal collaborators.

Dr. Sneetch said...

Take naps, you deserve it. Enjoy this time to the extent possible. It goes by so fast.

I know what you mean by childless women being the harshest. Often the guys tend to be more careful about what they say. Sigh.

I have observed that my colleagues (in more than one institution) are generous in cutting me slack when I slow down due to a cold. But slowing down even a little bit due to pregnancy or needing a particular teaching schedule was always a huge problem for everyone.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I thought it was just me! I'm 36 weeks and almost in tears over my lack of motivation. I have the opposite problem - I measure small, instead of big. Drives me crazy if it is a different nurse, different ultrasound tech, etc taking whatever measurement each week. I really want to talk to the medical professionals about experimental reproducibility. Seriously, why is that not incorporated in their techniques? Ah, nutty pregnant scientist women. :)

Anonymous said...

I believe in a good work-life balance but it is amazing how much we are supposed to pretend otherwise.

Anonymous said...

A childless tenured male reader appreciates the insight of this post. It's too bad some of your colleagues are such heels. Good luck to you.

Anonymous said...

Dear GMP:
Childless scientists hate you because we want to take time off to learn to hang-glide. Until there are 'hang-gliding sabbaticals' you are privileged and we're not.

To you motherhood is a calling, some divine blessing. To us, it's your weird, expensive hobby that creates more work for us.

GMP said...

Anon at 3:03 PM, this sounds like it's about perceived maternity leave. FYI, as a faculty member, I have zero maternity leave. Any leave I do have comes from fortunate delivery timing (early summer), teaching overload in previous semesters, and buyout from research grants. If you want to hand-glide, you can do the same and have exactly the same amount of time off as me.

FrauTech said...

As a childless by choice individual I know I've probably said some careless things in front of others with children (probably not mothers since I don't personally know any who I work that closely with).

It's an insecurity because you are right that if OldDude Prof decides to go take three weeks to "work" in some tropical location and doesn't answer anyone because he's surfing the whole time, he's not questioned. But if a woman has a child and works "only" 12 hours a day, she's criticized. Unfortunately, for all of us childless by choice people we experience some of the same crap. This expectation that they shouldn't bother with us now or trust us because one day we'll be useless. So I suspect the bitterness and vitrol from your female colleague is some of that famous girl on girl "i'm not like them!" overcompensating because she hopes it will score her points with the old boys club. That doesn't make it justified of course, but shows how she's somewhat of a victim of the workplace's attitude towards families as well.