Tag Archives: newborn

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.

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!

 

Baby and Tenure Update

Baby and tenure packet are both cooking along, so I thought I’d post a brief update.

Today I’m 28w pregnant and therefore officially in the third trimester.  While I do feel much more relaxed with this pregnancy, I had my first significant baby freak-out earlier this week — I had just been feeling off, and woke up with a sort of painful burning in my lower abdomen and then had two bouts of super-intense sharp pain over about an hour in the morning that freaked me out and sent me running to my OB worried about a repeat abruption.  She very calmly told me she didn’t think I was having an abruption, and that it sounded more like something GI-related, but if it would reassure me they’d check on ultrasound, which they did (just a quick, unofficial ultrasound).  Everything looked fine with the placenta, and baby has been kicking up a storm ever since, so I’m just left feeling a little sheepish.  I’m still glad I went in instead of stewing in worry, though.  While I am significantly more relaxed in this pregnancy than in my pregnancy with S, that’s like saying that my wind speeds have dropped from hurricane level to tropical storm level — I am still very, very far from the carefree blissful assumption of a healthy baby that I experienced for the first 18w of my first pregnancy.  But objectively, everything is fine.  I’m starting to drag a little and feel the achy pelvis and lower back that I remember from my pregnancy with S, but it’s still not bad, and I’m still immensely grateful for every day that I’m pregnant with a healthy, squirmy baby.

On the tenure side, I’ve drafted my research and teaching statements, gotten some feedback on them from my PhD advisor and my faculty mentor outside my department (who has served three times on our university tenure committee), updated my annotated CV, and am now revising everything and preparing to submit at the end of the month.  While my materials aren’t technically due until early November, I’ve obviously got another big deadline looming at the same time (i.e., my baby’s due date!) so don’t want to leave it any later than I have to.  I had discussed with my chair turning everything early and he’s totally on board with it.  So, my goal is to get my packet submitted by the end of August, before the semester starts, and then just allow myself to be distracted by teaching and the new baby while the process goes forward over the course of the year.

I am facing one tricky decision that I need to make in the next few weeks, which is whether or not to ask my department to solicit letters from former students as part of my tenure packet.  There’s a little bit of explanation required here: it’s not a standard thing that my department does, but other departments around the university do include it as a standard component of the tenure packet.  The only universally standard metric of teaching effectiveness at my university is the end-of-semester evaluations filled out by students in my classes.  Mine are good — consistently above average numerically, with lots of positive comments and relatively minor gripes.  But I’m also philosophically opposed to having my teaching evaluated only on the basis of those student evaluations, since there’s a ton of research showing that they are biased and not good indicators of teaching effectiveness.

So I’ve wanted to include multiple metrics of teaching effectiveness in my tenure packet.  I already asked my department to send faculty to observe some of my classes (which they’ve sort of done… last semester my chair visited one of my classes and had a really great conversation with me afterwards about his observations, and then another faculty member visited the last 12 minutes of one of my classes and said he thought he got a pretty good sampling of my teaching, blargh).  While I’m glad that I’ll be including peer evaluations to some extent in my packet (another component that is standard in many other departments at my university), the dimension that I think is missing is any sort of measurement of the longitudinal impact of my teaching/mentoring, including the work I do with research students (which falls under the category of teaching at my university).  So, I had discussed with my chair the possibility of soliciting letters from former students.  Apparently my department had their first meeting about my tenure case last week and discussed that they’d be happy to do it, and it’s basically up to me (1) whether or not I want them to do it and (2) what sample of students I want them to ask.

For example, I could ask them to solicit letters from only my former research students, or I could ask them to solicit letters from every student I’ve ever had in class, or I could ask them to solicit letters from only former majors in our department.  Whatever I choose, they will all get the same prompt (which my chair already drafted and shared with me), which is basically a letter from the chair saying that I am being considered for promotion to associate professor with tenure and asking them for any reflections they have on the quality of my teaching and mentorship, and how their experiences with me may have impacted their subsequent career development.  So, a pretty generic prompt, with no carrot or stick to encourage them to reply.

Philosophically, it seems like a great thing to do to assess a dimension of my pedagogy that is not otherwise reflected in my materials.  I suspect I might get some really strong letters — I think I have had a pretty significant positive impact on a number of our students (and I don’t think I’m being delusional about it — certainly I’ve had students tell me that they have felt that way).  But… part of me wonders if I should just leave well enough alone and not introduce an extra dimension of randomness.  My teaching evaluations are good, and on that basis alone I’d probably get tenure, so why rock the boat?  It’s certainly possible that I could get negative letters (though I can’t think of any former students who are out to get me), but the thing I’m more worried about is getting weird letters from students who don’t understand the tenure process and therefore say things in a way that they might think is positive but that might raise questions for the tenure committee.  Basically, the more data the tenure committee has in its hands, the higher the probability that there will be something a little odd for them to fixate on.

So, anyway, I’m thinking about it this week, and planning to talk to my aforementioned outside-the-department faculty mentor to see what her experience has been reading student letters as part of the university tenure committee.  My inclination at the moment is to ask my department to go ahead and solicit the letters, and for the sample to be all of our former majors.  My reasoning is both the principle that I would like my tenure packet to reflect the long-term impact of my teaching/mentoring as a dimension of my teaching effectiveness, and also that I think it’s likely that it will be an overall strength of my packet rather than a weakness (I just don’t think I’ve made any of our students mad enough that they’d be motivated to write and complain about what a horrible professor I am, and I know that I’ve had a significant positive impact on a number of our former students that isn’t reflected in my end-of-semester evaluations and would likely be reflected by these letters).  So, that’s the last big decision I need to make before I turn in my packet.

Overall, this is an exciting and busy time as I prepare for so many new things: a new semester, a new baby, and a new stage of my job.  It’s always easy to love life in August as a university professor, but I’m really feeling the gratitude this year for all of the wonderful things I have in my life.  My anxiety about the tenure process has been kept at a minimum both because I’m actually able to do something about it at this stage (e.g., work on my tenure statements) and because I have had the perspective of expecting a new baby and watching my friend land on her feet after her tenure denial last year — both of those have grounded me and reminded me that whatever the outcome of this case, I’m going to be fine, and in fact, much better than fine.  I’ve also had the wonderful distraction of preparing for the new baby.  My husband and I took most of last week off from work and had a lovely staycation — we did fun stuff with S that we don’t usually have time to do (like taking him on longer trips to the zoo and the aquarium and the beach), and we also kept him in daycare a few days so that we could get stuff done around the house (newborn and 0-3mo clothes are out of storage, washed, and folded, expired infant carseat has been replaced, and my baby to-do list has gotten longer since I finally had time to sit down and think about all the things we need to do).  The big-kid bed transition is officially a success, and I loved having the opportunity to spend more quality time together last week as a family of three — we have a really great family right now, and so much to look forward to.

Update: End of the second trimester

Well, here we are, past that oh-so-arbitrary point of “viability” (not that I’m eager to test it!).  I’m about 25.5 weeks now, and the time remaining feels both short and long.  If all goes well, living child #2 will be here before we know it, although when I think about everything I need to do between now and then it seems like a lot.

It’s been an eventful few weeks for our family: my husband’s parents visited for two weeks, in the middle of which I went to two conferences for a week.  Then, we transitioned S out of his crib and into a big-kid bed (so that we wouldn’t have to buy another crib), and this week he has his first case of croup.  Poor little munchkin’s life is all topsy-turvy.  But he’s recovering this weekend, and hopefully will be back to normal soon.  I missed him like crazy while I was away at the conferences, and I’m glad I won’t have to go on any more long (>1-night) trips before the new baby arrives.

I think that it’s pretty common to feel this way, but my husband and I are both feeling the bittersweet nature of the coming transition: eager to meet the new baby, but also worrying about having less time for S and disrupting what has been a really, really fun stage of his young little life.  Despite what everyone says about the terrible twos (and despite the occasional tantrum), we are still finding every age more fun than the last, and it’s hard to imagine giving up our wonderful little family of three — especially thinking about going back to the difficulties of the newborn days.  Even though it’s clearly what my husband and I both want, quite strongly, and even though we want our son to have a sibling.  One thing that made me feel better about this ambivalence was reading this article about how your first child fills your whole heart, and your second child makes you grow a new heart.  Kind of corny, but there are lots of corny things that speak to me during pregnancy and parenting.

The good news is that this pregnancy has definitely been easier than my pregnancy with S, anxiety-wise.  When I think back to my emotional state during that pregnancy, I think I must have scarred S for life somehow (presumably cortisol-mediated) — I was in a constant state of panic and worry.  This time around, even though three of my previous four pregnancies have ended poorly, I have at least one normal, healthy pregnancy under my belt, which makes me more relaxed.  Unlike my pregnancy with S, I now have a much better sense of what’s normal and what’s not — when I was pregnant with S, I only had the one train wreck of a pregnancy with my daughter to compare with, so everything that happened during that pregnancy, normal or not, was suspect.  This time, if it happened during my pregnancy with S, I figure it’s probably fine.  I definitely have my moments of worrying that making it this far in the pregnancy will mean that it’ll be all the harder if it all comes crashing down the way my first pregnancy did, as well as moments of remembering my daughter and wondering why she had to die, but overall I’m just much more even-keeled this time around than I ever was during my pregnancy with S.

And oh, is S ever a great distraction!  I feel like I should be writing down more of the adorable things he does.  Some of them are already gone — for example, he used to call our dog “Bubba” (her real name is Goldie), which was one of his first jokes, but now he just calls her Goldie.  I love his babyish pronunciations, like “Naka-WEEN” instead of “nectarine.”  He has such a great sense of humor, and is really into knock-knock jokes (his favorite is: Knock knock.  Who’s there?  Boo.  Boo who?  Don’t cry, it’s only a joke!).  He has picked up some adorable expressions like “No way, Jose!” and “Oh dear!” and one of his favorite words is “cockeyed” (courtesy of his grandpa).  He’s also been really into song mashups, and will often launch into epic renditions of “Rain, rain, go away, Old McDonald had an itsy-bitsy spider E-I-E-I-O!” and then laugh himself silly.

Anyway, he is a riot, and he’s also a total mama’s boy right now.  I feel a bit bad for my husband, who handles it really well despite clearly having to hide his frustration once in a while, but it’s definitely a double-edged sword being the preferred parent.  I get more of the “Mama, mama, mama!” and more of the “I wuv you mama” endearments, but I am also required to carry him around all the time, can’t take a shower some days without wailing outside the bathroom door, can’t drop him off at daycare without a meltdown most days, and often have a toddler on top of me half the night if he’s had a bad dream or just needs snuggles (like he did when he had croup this week).  My body is his happy place, clearly.  I have no complaints, and I am generally happy to savor the snuggles while they last (it already makes me teary imagining when he’s a teenager and wants nothing to do with me), but I do worry that it’s only going to make things more difficult when he has to start sharing me with his little brother.  Yesterday, out of the blue, he said “Baby sleep in S’s crib?” which we thought was very generous of him since he just transitioned to a big-kid bed last week and still clearly has mixed feelings about the situation.  Those were also the first words out of his mouth this morning, so it’s already on his mind.  I hope he doesn’t have too much trouble adjusting to his new sibling — my mama guilt is already pretty strong.

And that’s the rambling update on where we are right now.  There’s a lot to do in the next three months, from replacing our expired infant car seat to moving my husband’s home office and converting the room into the new nursery — we’re planning to tackle some of it during our week of August vacation, since I’d like to get as much done as possible before classes start in the fall.  There’s still the part of me that fears assuming that everything is going to turn out OK, but the practical part of me says that it’s better to get it all done while I’m still relatively mobile and not drowning in teaching, and also that we’ve been through the worst once and will deal with it if it happens again (although I really, really hope that it doesn’t).  So, onwards!  Even if it doesn’t seem possible, I can feel this baby kicking away inside me, getting ready to meet his new family.  It’ll be a whole new ball game come November.

Academic Pregnancy Timing

First, an update: we had our 10w ultrasound with MFM yesterday, and things are still looking great!  Little bean is growing right on schedule, nice strong heartbeat, and lots of movement.  It is just amazing how quickly this nugget is turning into something resembling a recognizable human — this week we could see arms, legs, head, profile, and even fingers.  Tomorrow I go for my first trimester bloodwork, including an NIPT screen.  I admit it: I’m falling in love with this bean in spite of myself, so I really hope I don’t get blindsided in the coming weeks.

I didn’t mention it in my last update, but one reason I was particularly relieved by this week’s ultrasound results is that the results last week showed a very small bleed around the gestational sac — the ultrasound tech downplayed it, and the midwife didn’t even mention it, but it was there.  Of course, it freaked me out.  So this week I grilled the ultrasound tech about whether he could see any sign of the bleed remaining, and he assured me that there was absolutely nothing to see.  So, it didn’t exist two weeks ago, was super-tiny last week (I had no vaginal bleeding at all), and this week it was gone.  I’m chalking this up to the down-side of all these extra ultrasounds, which is that this sort of thing probably happens all the time (which the first ultrasound tech and my mom have both sworn is true), but we would never have known if I wasn’t being monitored up the wazoo.  At any rate, it seems to have resolved on its own.

Now, the real point of the post.  It still seems early for me to be worrying about due date timing, but as I’m gearing up to start talking to my chair about this whole pregnancy thing in a couple of weeks, I want to prepare by writing down my thoughts.  I mentioned in my last post that a November due date is pretty much the worst possible pregnancy timing for a university professor — at least in the US, where maternity leave sucks.  My university offers a full semester of paid leave, which is actually pretty good by US standards.  But with a November due date, neither semester is a good time to take the leave.  If I take it in the fall semester, I’ll be sitting around twiddling my thumbs until November, and then I’d have to go back to teaching at the end of January when the baby would be only about 10 weeks old.  If I have a c-section, I won’t be medically cleared to go back to work at that point, I’d still be covered by FMLA, and I just really don’t want to put a 10-week-old in daycare (not to mention that our university daycare, where my son is enrolled, doesn’t accept infants until they are four months old!).  In a civilized country my husband might be able to take leave, but he gets literally no parental leave from his company (it is not covered by FMLA since they have less than 50 employees).  He can take vacation days, but that’s not enough to bridge the gap until the baby can start daycare in March.

Another possibility might be to try to power through the last few weeks of the fall semester with a newborn, and then take leave in the spring semester.  But there are a few problems with this one as well.  First, it’s technically not allowed by our university parental leave policy, which specifies that the semester of leave (which is only available to the “primary parent”) must be taken during the semester in which the baby is born or adopted.  Second, what if the baby comes early?  I can imagine powering through three weeks of the semester with a newborn… but not half the semester.  If (and that’s a big if) I could get around the university policy and convince them to let me take leave in the spring, I might be able to call in some favors and have other faculty cover my classes for a week or two, but it just so happens that in the fall I am scheduled to teach an upper-level (majors and masters students) course on my particular specialty, which literally nobody else at my university does, so it’s a bit ridiculous to expect my colleagues to teach a subject that they have no more clue about than the students.

Here I will point out that the “flexibility” of academia is in many ways a double-edged sword.  Yes, my daily schedule is pretty flexible, which is awesome, and it’s usually easy for me to leave early to pick up my son from daycare or arrive late after taking him to the doctor in the morning.  Except when it’s not.  If I’m scheduled to teach, I basically have to teach.  Maybe I can get someone to substitute for one of my intro-level courses, with a lot of advance notice, and maybe I can get away with canceling one class per semester, two at the maximum, but that’s about it.  The inflexibility of the start and end dates of the semester are another example.  In many other fields, it would be possible to move start/end dates of projects around, especially with as much advance notice as pregnancy provides.  But in academia, the semester is when it is, and you’re basically teaching for all of it or none of it.  Academics can’t schedule a random vacation week in the middle of April (seriously, it’s ridiculous for me to imagine just peace-ing out on my students to go to Jamaica for a week right now, much as I’d love to!).  Then there are long-term commitments that you can’t really back out on.  For example, I have been supervising a student for the past two years who is staying to write a masters thesis with me next year.  I can’t just tell him “nope, sorry, come back next year!” because academia doesn’t work that way.  And it would be super-unfair to him to try to get him to switch advisors at this point, since he has invested years into learning the methods and techniques and already has the bulk of his thesis work done.  So regardless of when I take parental leave next year, I will be supervising at least one and probably three theses in the spring semester, even if I’m also taking care of a newborn full-time.  And my main research facility’s annual proposal deadline is always in April, regardless of whether or not I am on parental leave, so either I suck it up and find a way to put in proposals or I just don’t get any new data for my research that year.

But, back to my teaching dilemma.  So, I think I have actually come up with the least awful solution — the problem is that I don’t know if my department/university will allow me to do it.  It turns out that the classes I’m scheduled to teach next year have a huge amount of overlap with the classes taught by the one research faculty member in my department.  He can’t teach my advanced class, but he taught a different advanced class that uses a lot of similar tools and techniques just last year — we could definitely put together a hybrid course where I taught the first half of the semester and he taught the second half.  Then, in the spring, we would swap and he’d teach the first half of the semester while I’d teach the second half, after the baby is old enough to go to daycare.  It works out perfectly in terms of his course load (which is lower than a normal faculty member’s), and also minimizes impact on the department curriculum since it would only involve canceling his gen-ed class that he’s scheduled to teach in the spring semester.  Gen-eds are the easiest to cancel, because they aren’t required for any major and we always offer several per year so students can just take a different one.  If they had to cancel my fall class, it would be a huge monkey wrench for curriculum planning, for various reasons that I won’t go into (planning the curriculum for the department seems to be a major logic puzzle that changes parameters every single year).  I don’t know for sure that this particular faculty member would be on board with my plan, but I definitely would if I were in his shoes — I think it’s a pretty good deal to teach for two half-semesters instead of a single full semester, and they’re both classes that he’s taught recently and wouldn’t have to do much prep work for.

So, that’s the proposal I’m hoping to float by my chair when I am finally up for discussing it with him.  I honestly don’t know what he’ll say.  One thing that gives me hope is that just a few days ago I had lunch with my most awesome female mentor from a closely related department (who is a full professor and just finished a stint as department chair, and has served on every university committee multiple times).  I did tell her about my pregnancy, and my worry about figuring out the course schedule, and before I even had a chance to tell her my idea she was just immediately all like “Well, you will teach two half-courses, one in the fall and one in the spring, and your department will deal,” like it was the most obvious thing in the world.  So, at least I know she’s in my corner, and my idea is not totally crazy.  And I really do think it is the best way to minimize the impact of this leave timing on our department’s curriculum, the baby, and me.

So, that’s the scoop.  I’ll continue to mull it over, and then the plan is to talk to my chair in about two weeks, once the NIPT results are back and I’ve had the NT ultrasound to make sure that everything is still looking good pregnancy-wise.  There’s not much urgency, so I could technically keep waiting, but for one thing my belly is already starting to pop (I guess being on pregnancy #5 will do that to you!), and for another thing I know that once I have a plan in place it will help me chill out and not stress quite as much, which I would really like to be able to do.  Then I can return to stressing about my tenure packet, which is due in exactly the same week as this baby!  Again, I fully recognize how lucky I am to have these sorts of problems: to be at the point where I have done enough high-quality work to be able to (mostly) confidently submit a tenure packet, and to be at the point where I can reasonably hope that I might be able to welcome another little one to our family in the near future.  It’s an exciting time of life, and I really don’t want to mess it up!

Early Days

IMG_0237We are so lucky.

Our son, Soren, is now three weeks old.  It simultaneously feels as if he’s been here forever, and also that he is this amazing and magical new creature of a human who can’t possibly be with us on this earth for real and forever.

I don’t want to minimize the very real difficulties of labor and delivery and life with a newborn, but so far (knocking crazily on wood as I say this) the start of his life feels charmed — it’s all gone as smoothly as I think it possibly could have.  The contrast with our first pregnancy is jarring, but having had that experience where everything went wrong has paved the way for me to appreciate how very right everything has gone so far this time around.

I hope I’ll find time to write up my birth story on the blog eventually, but the short version is that a membrane sweep sent me into labor the day before I was scheduled to be induced, and Soren was born the next day.  Since my water had broken and since I was positive for Group B Strep, they did have to augment my labor with Pitocin, but everything progressed smoothly despite the intervention.  Eventually I opted for an epidural, which is a decision I was immediately happy with, and after an hour and a half of pushing and some quick suctioning to get rid of his meconium-laced fluid, Soren was in my arms (while I sobbed tears of joy and relief).  I had two second-degree tears, which were stitched up quickly, and I was up and walking around only a few hours later.  Soren’s heart rate never faltered, he was born alert and latched on to my breast like it was the most natural thing in the world (and he’s hardly been off since!).  My milk was a bit slow coming in, but a few days later he was pooping and peeing like crazy and he’s been gaining almost a pound a week since then.

Amazingly, the recovery from this full-term delivery has been easier than the recovery from the delivery of my daughter at 4.5 months.  Two days after delivering my daughter I tried to go walking with my husband and our dog, and I was so dizzy that I had to sit by the side of the road until he could come pick me up in the car.  Two days after delivering our son, we all went for a long walk and it felt so good to stretch my legs.  I couldn’t believe it at first, but then I realized that last time around I didn’t know it yet, but I was dealing with both hemorrhaging from a retained placenta and a raging infection, not to mention the emotional impact of the loss of our daughter, whereas this time around everything was healthy and normal.  I didn’t even worry about whether or not I was healing normally, because I already knew what abnormal healing felt like.  This just felt a thousand times better.  And let me tell you, engorgement is SO much easier to deal with, both physically and emotionally, when you have an adorable baby to feed.  It wasn’t as painful and didn’t last as long, and I LOVE knowing that I am providing nourishment for my son — it made the (milder) soreness totally worthwhile.  Knowing how amazing I felt compared to the first time around — again, both physically and emotionally — just sent me into an emotional high those first few days after his birth.  Having a supportive husband and mom around helped too.  We decided that having three adults to care for one newborn was just about the right ratio!

And I know that putting this in writing is probably going to jinx me forever, but… I’m pretty sure we won the easy baby lottery.  No newborn is truly easy to live with, but we seem to have gotten it about as easy as it gets.  Sure, he fusses occasionally, but we can always calm him down with some combination of the 5 S’s (swaddling, swaying, shushing, sucking, side-lying).  And while we’ve had a few tough nights here and there, most of the time he sleeps in two- to four-hour chunks at night, and will wake for a diaper change and feed and then go straight back to sleep.  I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop — I’m convinced that there’s going to be some disaster, or he’ll get sick before six weeks and need a spinal tap and be up crying all night, or that he’s sleeping too much and it’s a sign of developmental delays to come, or he’ll suddenly get colicky in week four and we’ll be miserable for the next couple of months.  I guess this is just the beginning of a lifetime of parenting worries.  But in the meantime, I will enjoy this magical baby that we have been given!

After she went home, my mom commented to me about how healing it was for her to see everything going so well with my delivery and postpartum recovery.  She felt like it was healing for her as well as for me, since her experience giving birth and caring for me in the first weeks was also extremely difficult — she wound up with an emergency C-section, and I was colicky, and my dad was not supportive.  She’s seen a lot of deliveries since then in her work as a women’s health nurse practitioner, but it’s different when it’s your daughter, and when you stick around after the birth is over.  She said that watching me going through a healthy and normal delivery and recovery, and caring for a healthy newborn with a supportive partner showed her just how good things could be — how right it was possible for everything to go.  After being with me for the horrible end of my first pregnancy, she said it was so wonderful to see things finally going right and well and to see me finally getting to be a mother to a living baby as I’ve wanted to do for so long.  It really has been amazing, and I feel so extremely fortunate to be here at last.

This isn’t the end of our story.  I know there will be challenges ahead with Soren, and I know there will be challenges as we start to work towards conceiving our next baby (we very much want a younger sibling for Soren).  But these early days have been so very beautiful — yes, sleep deprived, and yes, full of the exquisite boredom and dull busy-ness of caring for a newborn… but also astonishing and full of truly momentous love and the incredible process of watching our son’s life unfold.  I feel that I will never tire of kissing his soft cheeks and watching his enormous blue eyes take in the world.

We are so very lucky.