Tag Archives: baby shower

Tenure/Pregnancy update: End-of-summer edition

30 weeks pregnant and all was well at our monthly ultrasound this week.  Little guy is bopping around in there, currently lying sideways across my belly.  My husband and I have settled on a default name (unless we come up with something we like better by the time he is born) and are setting up the nursery.  I don’t remember at what point we did all this with S, but I think it was later.  I do remember that this was the point in my pregnancy with S at which our dear friends offered to throw us a shower, and I broke down in tears and just couldn’t handle the idea of planning for a living baby (the upshot was that we agreed on a “sip-and-see” a few months after S was born, which was a lovely compromise).  Some days I still can’t handle the idea of planning for another living baby (how lucky can we possibly hope to be???), and some days that’s all I can think about.  I still feel plenty of pregnancy impostor syndrome — like, this pregnancy isn’t actually going to last, there’s not actually going to be a new baby, it could all come crashing down at any moment.  But I’m at least able to act more normal this time around, mostly not responding weirdly to people’s innocent inquiries about whether this is our first (standard answer: “No.  We have a 2.5-year-old at home”) or jibes about how we’ll have our hands full with two boys (standard answer: “I sure hope so!”).

On the tenure side, I submitted my materials to my department today!  Hooray!  Now comes a long, long wait.  If I’m lucky, I’ll have a final answer by May 2019, and if I’m not lucky, I’ll have a final answer by December 2019.  The big steps in the process are:

  • This fall the department solicits letters from experts in my field around the country/world who can comment on my research portfolio.  This process typically takes a couple of months, as I understand — it happens in two stages, the first of which involves sending letters asking people if they will agree to write letters, and the second of which involves sending letters asking them to actually write the letters and then waiting for the responses.
  • Hopefully by the end of fall, but possibly later if there are delays, my department will have collected all of the external letters and will meet to go over all of my materials and vote on my case.
  • After my department has made its recommendation, presumably sometime in the spring, my case will go to a university-wide faculty committee for evaluation.  This committee currently includes members from the departments of English, Music, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Economics, Sociology, Chemistry, and Biology — there’s also one from Earth and Environmental Sciences, but she can’t vote on my case (unfortunately, since she’s the most qualified to evaluate it) because she’s officially my faculty mentor.  I go to the end of the line for the university-wide committee this year, since most faculty start at the university in the fall, but I started in the spring, so I’m on a one-semester-late review schedule.  This is the main reason for uncertainty in when I’ll get an answer about my tenure case — they will review my case in the spring if they have time, but if they are overwhelmed with fall cases they aren’t obligated to review it until next fall semester.
  • After the university-wide committee votes on my case (if the vote is positive), it goes to the Board of Trustees, and then the university president.  If I’ve gotten positive reviews at each stage up until this point, it’s usually a rubber stamp at the upper levels, but there was a case in recent memory that was positive at the department and university level but was overturned by the president, so there’s always the possibility that something weird will happen.  Since the Board of Trustees meets only a few times per year, this is another potential source of delay, depending on when the university-wide committee reviews my case.

After all of this, I’ll get a yes or no answer: either yes, I can keep my job essentially forever (barring unlikely circumstances like a major failure to meet my duties or major reorganization of the academic structure like eliminating my department), or no, I’m fired and I have to go look for another job.

It’s a long time to be in limbo, and many faculty find the uncertainty torturous.  My goal is just to try to relax and let the process play itself out, and allow myself to be distracted by the hopeful new addition to our family in November.  It’s the sort of setup that could either be really great (because I’ll be so busy with a new baby that I won’t have time to fret about tenure) or really awful (because being home with a new baby is psychologically challenging and so is waiting for news about your tenure case).

But either way, both of these big projects are looking like they’re in good shape at the moment, so I have to focus on that.  And now that I’ve turned in my materials, they have something else in common too: there’s essentially nothing I can do to change the outcome of either at this point.  The work I’m submitting for tenure has been done and documented, and this baby is baking away and the only thing I can do is to take care of myself and wait to see what happens.  I should avoid doing stupid things, like starting a feud in my department or suddenly becoming a binge drinker, but otherwise I have to accept that I have little to no control over the outcomes of either my pregnancy or my tenure case at this point.  And that’s hard for someone who likes to plan and act!  But if nothing else, my experience with pregnancy loss and infertility have given me plenty of practice at waiting, accepting lack of control, and dealing with difficult outcomes.  So, I’m pretty sure that whatever happens, we’ll make it through.

Why I don’t want a baby shower

This week one of my closest friends (the father of the little girl who was born a few days after my daughter’s due date) called to chat, as he does every week or two.  At the end of our phone call, we had the following exchange:

Him: “Oh, hey, I wanted to talk to you about something.  I really need your help, or at least you need to go along with this.”

Me: “OK, what can I do to help?”

Him: “[Wife] and I love you guys a lot.”

Me: “We love you guys too!”

Him: “We want to throw you a baby shower at our apartment in January.”

Me: That… is so kind of you… and I… [Bursts into tears]

I surprised myself as well as my friend by bursting into tears that way.  I wish I could say they were happy tears, but they weren’t.  They were “but we can’t have a baby shower because I still don’t actually believe that our baby is going to be born alive” tears.  And they continued for about 10 minutes as we finished our call, and then started again when I tried to talk to my husband about it.

The way we left it was that I’d think about it and I’d talk to my husband, and then we’d talk again this weekend.  I really want to say yes to my friend — I found out afterwards that my mom was in cahoots, and thought that he should be the one to ask partly because she knew I’d have a harder time saying no to him (she was right)… but I think I have to say no.   It’s taken me a while to figure out why.

My poor friend was confused too.  “I just thought… you’ve started letting your mom buy some baby clothes, and you’ve started letting people give you hand-me-downs, so I thought you’d be OK with it.”  And he’s right… I am more or less OK with those things, at this point.  Partly it’s that we had some hand-me-down baby stuff when our daughter died, so I’ve already dealt with that.  Partly it’s that my anxiety over not having things ready when the baby arrives in January is getting stronger than my anxiety over having to pack up a bunch of baby stuff if our son dies, so the practical side of me is ready to start acquiring stuff.

But my feelings about a baby shower are really not about the stuff.  We’ll acquire stuff for the baby one way or another — that much is clear.  I’m not about to burst into tears at the thought of our friends giving us baby gifts.  We’ve already gotten a few, and I’ve been able to thank the givers profusely and write thank-you notes on the cute baby-ish stationary I bought for the purpose.  I also know that if this baby dies, we will use the baby stuff on our eventual future baby (since we will be parents one day, one way or another), just as we’re planning to use the stuff that people gave us for our daughter when our son is born.  So I really don’t think my discomfort about the idea of a baby shower is about the stuff.

When I think about a baby shower, the part that freaks me out is imagining sitting in a room full of friends and family with everyone excited and happy about a baby who might never be born.  I’ve gotten pretty good at pretending to be a normal, happy pregnant lady on a day-to-day basis, but I’m really not.  Every time I answer a well-meaning “Is this your first?” from an acquaintance with a “yes” (twice today!), I feel sad and anxious.  Every time I keep my mouth shut about my fears for our son and my memories of my daughter, it hurts, and imagining the concentrated pretending I’d have to do even in a room full of my nearest and dearest just makes me dread the idea.  Most days I manage a pretty good impression of a normal pregnant lady who’s getting ready for her baby to be born, but there’s still a surprisingly large part of me that doesn’t believe he ever will be.  Somehow the smaller doses of gift-accepting and even the little bit of looking at baby items that we’ve done have felt mostly manageable, but this larger celebration does not.

As my husband said, it’s not as though we really need to have a shower.  Babies don’t actually need that much stuff, and we are fortunate enough to be able to afford the stuff that we do need on our own.  I get that our friends and family want to honor this exciting transition in our lives, but I think there are other ways to do that (many of which they’re already doing, because we are lucky that way!).  I’m also pretty certain that the decision to skip a baby shower is not one that I’ll come to regret later.  I was also not into the idea of a bridal shower, for much less significant reasons than this time around, so I didn’t have one, and I’ve never regretted skipping that ritual either.

So, I’m planning to say a very loving and appreciative “no” when I talk to my friend later this weekend.  I think I will probably suggest that we aim for a “meet the baby” gathering at their house (which is in a major city two hours from us, where many of our friends and family live) a month or two after our son is born instead.  That will give our friends and family a chance to honor the transition in our lives without freaking me out about having a party for a baby who might not be born alive.  And I’m sure there’s still plenty of baby stuff that will be useful at that point, if people want to give us gifts (like, clothing for older babies!).  And if they want to give us gifts before the baby is born, that’s fine too — just not in the context of a baby shower.

Baby shower drama aside, things are still going well.  I’m currently 29w2d, which means I’m firmly in the third trimester.  Our growth scan this week was right on target (55th percentile), and our little guy now weighs three pounds and is still very active.  I’m still feeling physically fine — my day today was extremely active (two 45-minute dog walks, three hours of volunteering at the therapeutic riding center, laundry, cooking, and a chorus rehearsal), and I’m just sitting here with a slightly sore back, but feeling good about everything otherwise.  My biggest medical concern at the moment is that our baby seems to favor a breech position and hasn’t flipped over yet, but they tell me I shouldn’t start worrying for another few weeks (easier said than done!).  All in all, things are looking good, the end of the semester is in sight, and February keeps getting closer.  It still can’t get here fast enough.