Tenure/Baby Update

This is a big month for tenure and baby!

Tenure first: the university-level committee has now had two meetings about my tenure case, one on its own and one where they brought in my department to discuss any questions they have with them.  That latter meeting took place on Friday.  Afterwards, my chair sent me a formal, uninformative email basically telling me that the meeting had taken place but that they couldn’t officially vote because one of the committee members couldn’t be at the meeting, but that everything was recorded for the absent committee member and we should find out the outcome after March break.  However, after that I got an email from my awesome faculty mentor — she was actually elected to the university-level committee (for the third time) this year, and while she has had to recuse herself from voting on my case because of her role as mentor, she is present for all the meetings.  In her email, she congratulated me for making it past the university-level committee!  I replied to her and was basically like, “Um, thanks… but did I?” and then she was all like, “Oh, oops, I guess they won’t officially tell you the vote until they can record the absent member’s vote, but um, basically, yeah.”  So, thanks to my faculty mentor spilling the beans, I now know that the vote from the present members was very positive (which my chair confirmed when I mentioned it to him today).  So, unofficial yay!!!  As I mentioned in my last post, this is basically the last major hurdle — if both my department and the university-level committee vote favorably, then the odds of my case getting overturned by the university president or board of trustees are astronomically low.  I still won’t get the final, official, irrevocable decision until sometime around Memorial Day, but I’m breathing a sight of relief to know that nothing weird is happening at the level of the university committee.

Baby: He is four months old!  The transformation from three months to four months is just phenomenal.  He’s like a different baby — so interactive, so giggly, so much more aware, and just clearly soaking up so much about the world.  I remember this phase from when S was little — it’s the phase where they still can’t do much, but they are so curious and get bored so easily that we basically hop around the house to different “stations” to keep him from getting fussy: the play mat in his room, the bouncy chair while I cook in the kitchen, a blanket on the living room floor, sitting up in the boppy while I fold laundry in our bedroom, etc.  He is also starting to tolerate the car better, and loves to go on outings (especially now that he can stay awake for longer, and now that I can wear him facing out).  We go to the university for various baby-friendly events, we’ve gone to the grocery store, and shopping for clothes for me and the kids (two of my old pairs of pants gave out spectacularly in the same week, which left me with exactly one pair of non-dress pants that sort of fit and didn’t have holes in it).  We haven’t been able to do much walking outdoors because it’s been cold and snowy, but the forecast is nice for this week so I’m hopeful.  I’ve also mostly mastered handling both kids after picking up S from daycare (not really any trick to it — honestly it’s just easier as L gets bigger).  It’s so much fun to take the kids to the local children’s museum or the library together at the end of the day, and mostly S has been really well behaved when he knows I have to take care of L too.

That said, everything changes next week, when L starts daycare!  It’s such a bittersweet transition.  On the one hand, I’m very, very ready to get back to using my brain to think about physics again and to have multiple-hour stretches in which to concentrate on a task.  On the other hand, I will miss the special time with my sweet and amazing little baby, and I find it so hard to think of him getting overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of the busy daycare environment.  Fortunately, we’ve worked out a plan to keep him in half-day daycare until the fall semester.  For the six weeks that I am teaching this spring, we’ll shuffle our schedules so that I’ll pick him up M/W/F afternoons, and my husband will pick him up T/Th afternoons (which is when I teach).  Then in the summer, I’ll just work half days. I worked half-days all summer when S was a baby, and I LOVED it.  I was super-productive in my 4.5-hours of daycare time, and then I still got to spend most of the day with S.  I am really looking forward to doing the same with L this summer.  I feel so fortunate to have the flexibility to arrange my schedule this way — I’m basically getting a Canadian or Nordic-style parental leave despite being in the US.  My babies are only babies once, and the closeness with them at this age is so intense and so important, and I am grateful that I’m able to devote so much time and energy to my baby while also keeping up with the career that I love (and that I know will sustain me as they grow and need less and less of my time).

Basically, I’m on cloud nine these days.  Even though there are difficult moments during the days (and nights!!!), overall I am just so appreciative of everything that I have in my life right now: a wonderful husband who shares all the good and bad parts of parenting, a great job to come back to very soon, and above all these two wonderful tiny humans with whom I am sharing the most remarkable relationships of my life.  I think I’ve mentioned it before, but I am just enjoying L’s babyhood so much more than I did with S, mostly because my anxiety level is so much lower.  When little old ladies at the grocery store tell me to savor every moment, I can honestly smile back at them and tell them that I do.  (I mean, clearly not every moment, but most of them!)  It’s been a long road to get here, and I mourn the little lives that I never got to know, especially the daughter that I didn’t get to raise, but I am above all grateful for everything that I have — particularly S and L.  What amazing little humans, and what a wonderful family we have.

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One big step closer to tenure

Guess what?  My department unanimously voted in favor of my tenure case today.  Hooray!!!

To back up a bit, there are four steps to tenure at my university: the department recommendation, an “advisory” committee of faculty from across the university, the university president, and the board of trustees.  In practice, the department and the university committee are the two major hurdles: if you have positive recommendations at both of those levels, it is extremely unlikely (though not impossible) that you’d be denied at the president/board level.  It makes sense — after all, your department presumably contains the people on campus who know the most about your research and how to evaluate it, while the other faculty are the ones who can look at the big picture of your research, teaching, and service within the broader context of how the university functions, and keep an eye on any shenanigans that your department might be undergoing.

I knew that my department had to make its decision and give its recommendation to the university-level committee by February 15, but I didn’t know when they were going to make the actual vote until this morning.  Since I’m still on parental leave, I haven’t been around the department much (I’m currently making trips to campus about twice a week for a couple hours at a time to meet with my thesis students, and that’s about it).  This morning I drove to campus to walk our dog while pushing baby L in the stroller (campus is only 3 mi from our house, and it’s a nice place to walk with actual sidewalks, unlike the area around our house which is on a busy road).  As I was loading baby, dog, and stroller back into the car at the end of our walk, my department chair walked out to the parking lot, offered to hold the dog’s leash while I juggled baby and stroller, and nonchalantly told me, “Oh, by the way, the department will be meeting to discuss and vote on your tenure case this afternoon.  Is it OK if I send you an email about it afterwards?”  I was like, “Um, yes, please don’t keep me in suspense!”  Then he cooed at the baby and the baby gave him a chubby-cheeked grin that was totally adorable (good job buttering up the chair, baby!).

I mostly managed to keep my mind off of it for the rest of the day — childcare is a great distraction.  I picked up S from daycare at 4, and took both kids to our local children’s museum, which was lovely (L fell asleep in the baby carrier on my chest, leaving me free to engage with S).  But as soon as my husband finished working and my kid-juggling responsibilities eased up, I was glued to my phone waiting for the email, which came in around 6:30pm.  It was short, just informing me that the department had voted 3-0-0 in favor of my case, saying congratulations, and reminding me that the university committee was the next step.  Phew!!!  I immediately decided to take the big kid out for ice cream to celebrate while my husband put the baby down for his last nap of the day (and yes, we brought ice cream home for my husband).  I texted my mom and three friends to let them know the news, and enjoyed the congratulations rolling in.  It sounds like the celebration will drag out a bit, since one friend offered to bring dessert by this weekend to help celebrate, and another wants to celebrate next weekend — since my birthday falls in the middle of the two weekends, I find this a most desirable state of affairs!

So, that’s the news!  As I’ve mentioned before, tenure has been this big heavy weight hanging over my head, and it’s such a relief to have successfully cleared the first hurdle.  Please send good vibes to the university tenure committee, which will meet to evaluate my case sometime in the next couple of months!

Two kids, OMG

Little L is now 7 weeks old, and the sweetest little bundle of love we could have hoped for.  In true second baby style, he is more laid back than his older brother — much happier to just chill out in the bouncy chair rather than being held all the time, very smiley and outgoing with all of our family including grandparents and aunt.  He seems to fall asleep easier and cry less, though he is definitely all-around more alert and tends to wake up at little noises or changes of light in a way that his big brother didn’t as a newborn.  He is also not as good a night-time sleeper as his big brother was, and is still mostly doing 2- and 3-hour stretches at night, with an occasional longer stretch thrown in (his record so far is 5.5 hours, but we’ve only gotten a 5-hour stretch twice, and once was when he was sick).  At this age S was sleeping 7-hour stretches pretty much every night, and he got up to 8- and 9-hour stretches by the time he was 2 months old.  But, then he stopped sleeping at just over 2 months old and drove me insane with sleep deprivation for the following two months, so I’m hoping that L is just gradually building up and won’t regress the way his big brother did (I can dream, right?).

Our big scare so far has been when big brother S brought a nasty daycare bug home when L was 3.5 weeks old.  S was out of daycare for 3 days with a fever, and despite our maniacal handwashing and isolation campaign, poor little L got the bug and was miserably sick.  There were multiple middle-of-the-night calls to the pediatrician wondering if we needed to bring our newborn to the emergency room because his breathing was so labored.  Then, just as things seemed to be looking up, he woke up at 2am one night, wouldn’t let us put him down for the rest of the night, was hardly nursing especially on one side, and by 10am I had brought him to the pediatrician and confirmed what I already knew: he had his first ear infection at 4 weeks old.  Cue his first round of antibiotics.  I would have liked to wait longer, but at least those antibiotics are miracle drugs and he was back to his happy self within 24 hours.  Now everyone is finally healthy again, and has been for the last couple of weeks, and we’re finally starting to figure out how to do this whole family-of-four thing.

Which, by the way, have I mentioned that it’s a challenge? My husband and I have agreed that going from 0 to 1 kids was more challenging emotionally/psychologically, but that going from 1 to 2 kids is much more challenging logistically.  I mean, I know that people do it all the time, and with many fewer resources (family support, financial, etc.) than we have… but I just don’t know HOW.  I mean, when you have a newborn and a toddler around, the newborn pretty much always needs something, and the toddler often needs something, so if you have one parent per kid it works pretty well, but then you basically can’t get anything done other than watching the kids.  I mean, maybe you can take the toddler to the grocery store, or engage the toddler in a cooking/laundry project, but not all the time.   So, how do people do it all???  Especially single parents or stay-at-home parents?  There is a single mom of two young kids who is a professor at my university — since she was a single mom by choice, she has been flying solo since Day 1 of their lives.  I have SO MUCH respect for her — always have, but now I want to study her life to figure out how she makes it work, because I literally have no idea.

At some point soon I am going to have to start taking both kids to do stuff at the same time, because my husband is already back at work, and our last family support leaves on Tuesday.  I seriously have no idea how it is possible to take care of a newborn and a toddler at the same time, but I guess people do it all the time, so I’m just going to have to try it and figure it out as I go.  I suspect that my toddler’s screen time will increase like crazy, especially while I’m nursing, because already it is difficult to pry him off me. Without intervention by another adult, he will reach across his brother to try to grab my face wailing “Mama, mama, pick me up!!!” the entire time that I am trying to feed poor little L.  I have to say that overall he’s an outstanding big brother, very gentle and sweet, talking and singing to little L… but not when I’m nursing — that’s when the jealousy really hits.  Ah, well… we will figure it out, and it will get easier as they get older, or so I am told!

Having family around has been wonderful — my mom was here for most of the first two weeks, and then my husband’s parents came for a month (they stayed at an extended-stay hotel, which was phenomenal, if expensive).  My sister-in-law was also here for Christmas week.  They just left today, and my mom will be back Mon/Tues, and then we’re on our own.  Both my mom and my husband’s parents are wonderfully helpful — I haven’t had to cook or clean since the baby was born.  So, now it gets real!  But other than the two weeks of illness sweeping through the house, and other than the sleep deprivation, my parental leave has been truly wonderful so far.  I have been just drowning in love for my two little babies, and I love seeing them starting to play together.  My husband has been a total trooper — he is a true partner in this whole parenting game.  Our family is such an amazing thing — it’s hard to believe how much we have grown in love since my husband and I met just over seven years ago.  While I never forget our missing little daughter, and the two babies we lost so very early, I feel incredibly fortunate for everything that we have, and excited for everything that is to come.

He’s here!

Meet Leif, born last night.  Here he is with his mom (that’s me!) and big brother.

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Induction was quick and easy (A+ would do again!).  Took a while to get started, but once they broke my water, he was out 3 hours later after about 10 minutes of pushing.  He’s a whole pound heavier than S was (8lb, 2.5oz), but seems to be very healthy so far.

We feel so lucky and happy to welcome this new little life to our family.

Full term, and the end is in sight!

Hard to believe, but here I am at 39w1d — officially full term!  I just had what is looking like my last prenatal appointment this morning — one more NST and ultrasound, and then the midwife checked my cervix which is looking like it’s starting to do things (2cm, 60% effaced, medium, soft, and -1, for those who like the stats).

I’ve been talking about the possibility of induction with my providers for the past few weeks — my favorite doctor in the practice is on call next Friday, and L&D had openings, so we went ahead and scheduled an induction for next Friday.  I’m a little nervous about induction, but I’m more nervous about going too late and risking the complications that come with that.  I feel good about being induced at 40w2d — my dating is extremely precise (was tracking ovulation and had several ultrasounds around 6-8w that all agreed with ovulation) so there’s no chance of accidental prematurity, baby was measuring 76th %ile as of last week (bigger than my first son), and since my first son was born at 40w5d (after labor at 40w4d) and my cervix is already ripening I think the chances of my body not being ready for induction are pretty low.  I found some great statistics online, and with a Bishop score of 8 (or more by next week) and a previous vaginal delivery, it looks like my odds of needing a C-section with induction are about 6% or less.  Plus it’ll be good to have a date when I know I can stop taking the Lovenox — I just hope I don’t jump into spontaneous labor an hour after my dose sometime in the next week!  (I actually skipped it this morning, just in case the cervical exam got things moving — last pregnancy a doctor did a membrane sweep at 40w4d without warning me, and I had my first contractions within an hour after that appointment!)

It’s so hard to believe that by next week we’ll almost certainly be meeting our second son.  I mean actually hard to believe — it just doesn’t feel real yet, somehow.  We’re as ready as we can be, and now I’m just hoping for no surprises, no emergencies, and maybe even a similar textbook labor and delivery as we had with S.  It’s so helpful to have the memory of S’s birth to ground me — I feel much less fearful about going back to the labor and delivery ward of our local hospital than I did last time, when my only association with that place was the awful delivery of our daughter.  I now know that things can go well, and I even have an expectation that they might go well, rather than feeling like I’m constantly in emergency mode.  Part of me wonders if my more even-keeled emotional state in this pregnancy will affect the baby.  Maybe this baby will be more laid-back than his big brother?  We can hope!  (S was actually a pretty great newborn — he’s mostly just a bit more clingy and anxious than the average toddler, I think.  But if I got another like him, I’d be thrilled!)  Wish me luck!

 

37 weeks

Well, this is it.  37 weeks.  Officially early term.

I had my second NST + AFI with the local OB today, and everything is looking good.  Baby has finally flipped, so hooray for head-down!

Today I was pleasantly surprised to be seen by my favorite OB in the practice rather than the one I had been scheduled with — I think I’ve only seen her once early on in this pregnancy, but she’s the main doctor I saw during my pregnancy with S and she’s really the reason I came into the practice, so it was nice to reconnect with her.

She did ask me about how I was feeling about induction vs. waiting for spontaneous labor.  I told her I don’t want to go much past my due date, and she said that she understood and agreed and they’d be willing to induce me anytime at 39 weeks or beyond.

That was actually kind of reassuring to hear — I’m not into interventions, and I was really pleased to go into spontaneous labor one day before my scheduled induction date at 40+5 in my pregnancy with S.  But at the same time, I worry a lot about the small but rising risk of stillbirth after 39 weeks — for me, even though the probability is low, my experience with late loss tells me that I would not want to torture myself with wondering if I could have avoided it by inducing earlier if I ever did wind up in that situation.  In addition, the closer I get to my due date, the more stressful it is to have to worry every morning about whether or not I should inject myself with Lovenox (which I’m staying on right up until delivery thanks to the Heparin allergy we discovered in my pregnancy with S).  I was a huge fan of my epidural while delivering S, and I know I can’t get an epidural until 12 hours after my last dose of Lovenox, so if things start on their own and happen quickly I could end up with an unplanned, unmedicated vaginal delivery, which I am just not interested in (though I know and respect that many women are) — obviously I’d deal with it if it happened, but I also worry about what would happen if I ran into complications and had to have a c-section.  Without the option of an epidural or spinal, they’d have to put me under general anesthesia, and I both find general anesthesia pretty creepy and also would be sad to be unconscious for the birth of my son.  Induction offers a nice way to have a little more control over the timing of stopping my medication and not worrying about the small but real risk of developing clots.

So, the way I left it with her is that I’ll wait to see what my cervix is doing in a week or two, and we’ll take it from there.  As a multigravida who had a totally textbook vaginal delivery last time, the risk of c-section is pretty low this time, induction or not (especially given the results of the ARRIVE trial).  My plan at the moment is to aim for induction during the week of my due date, unless my cervix is totally unfavorable, in which case I’d wait until the next week (the end of week 40) to induce.  But I am not interested in the risks of going into week 41 and beyond, so if I haven’t gone into spontaneous labor by then I will stop caring what my cervix is doing.

And there it is.  Unbelievably, our baby could be three weeks away… or even less!  It’s thrilling and terrifying and unbelievable all at once.  I can’t wait to welcome him to the world.

Random potty win

So here’s a thing that happened tonight… S both pooped and peed in the potty!  Without any training whatsoever!

We’ve been talking up the potty, of course.  Mostly when he complains about diaper changes.  We tell him, “Oh, I know you don’t like diaper changes.  Did you know that once you learn to use the potty, we’ll never have to change your diaper again?”  But he’s shown almost zero interest, and usually refuses to sit on the potty when we ask.  Everything I’ve read has said to either train way before a new baby comes or way after, and since he was showing almost no signs of readiness a few months ago we have just been ignoring potty training as a thing altogether.  Still, sometimes he asks to sit on the potty, and of course we let him, but nothing has ever happened when he’s done it before.  Honestly, mostly it’s been after he poops, as a way of stalling before a poopy diaper change.  But hey, whatever, sitting on the potty is sitting on the potty, amirite?

Well, apparently something is starting to click in his brain, because tonight after his bath he was sitting on my lap wrapped in a towel when he said

“S almost peeing!”

“Do you want to go sit on the potty?” I asked him.

“Yeah!”

So daddy whisked him off to the potty, where he proceeded to both pee and poop like a champ!  And he even told us that he wasn’t done and needed to keep sitting on the potty, and then pooped some more.  We had a celebratory dance and lots of praise and talked about how cool it was that he pooped and we didn’t have to change his diaper!  (Though, wiping is a challenge — he wanted me to wipe him while he was sitting on the potty “like when mama and dada go potty!”  I tried, but I was like, “Um, sorry buddy, I’ve never done this before either…”  Any tips for toddler wiping???)  Then we had him say “Bye-bye poop!” and he got to flush, and he seemed very proud and excited about the whole thing.

We are reluctant to go full-on potty training mode a mere 4.5 weeks before my due date, but at the same time, this seems like it might just be a real opportunity to seize.  I think we’ll just go with the flow (I mean, hey, it’s worked so far!) and see if he continues to be interested, or if this is just a one-time fluke.  But if he shows any more interest, I think a trip to Target to let him pick out some big-boy undies might be in the cards for next weekend.  I have to say, I could never have imagined that I’d be this excited to watch someone else go to the bathroom! 🙂