At the end of part 2, I had just dropped the baby-bomb on my unsuspecting advisor. Happily, he did not have a cow about it. Now, as we move into the stage of this story that is A.P. (after pregnancy), we lose the coherent narrative structure for awhile.
Given what the first several weeks with a newborn are like, that’s entirely appropriate.
This, also, is the part of the story where particulars start making a huge difference. The decisions we made were contingent on the range of options that were open to us at any given moment; with different circumstances, we might have been on a completely different trajectory. In a number of instances, we were lucky things worked out as well as they did.
Two months before due date: Second trimester burst of energy is replaced by third trimester fatigue. Also, the weather is hot. Progress on remaining thesis chapters slows to … well, a full stop.
One month before due date: Still no indication that we’ve made any movement at all up the waiting lists for the two on-campus day care centers that accept infants. Apparently, I should have gotten on the lists as soon as I had an inkling that I might someday want to get pregnant.
Still hot, which is my excuse for trying the how-could-it-hurt advice for turning a breech baby (what I’ve got), namely, doing handstands in the university pool. How it could hurt? If I minded teenagers openly laughing at my very-pregnant upside-down self.
Also, we’re still in the process of finding an apartment so my better half doesn’t have a 2 hour (each way) daily commute, the better to share the parenting duties. It turns out some landlords are not at all psyched at the prospect of renting to you if you’re expecting a baby.
Two weeks before due date: Attempt at “external torsion” to turn the baby is unsuccessful, so we schedule a C-section. We sign the rental agreement on a flat in the Mission (where things are sunny, flat, convenient to highways and mass transit). Still no leads on daycare.
Finalize my Fall teaching schedule. Mondays and Wednesdays are full to the gills: lecture plus three back to back 90 minute seminars. I figure Thursdays through Sundays I’ll get to what remains to be done on the thesis.
Elder offspring arrives. Seems pretty cool to us. Two days later, first medical issue is detected. Three days after that, second medical issue is detected. Spending hours of time on the phone scheduling doctors visits and fighting with the insurance company was a time-sink I hadn’t planned on up front. (It becomes a fairly regular feature of the first couple years.)
Two weeks after birth: The accumulated sleep debt has gotten to the point that I’m literally amazed we aren’t dead. There is no way a human body is supposed to feel like this. Coffee (which I’ve been free of since before the start of the pregnancy, and to which I was always rather sensitive) does absolutely nothing.
Oh, and it’s time to get our boxes packed and move.
Three weeks after birth: The term starts in 5 weeks and we still have no daycare arranged. I visit the university’s work-life office where, as luck would have it, they have just updated their list of licensed daycare providers in the area. One home-based care provider indicated, during the update, that she had a couple of infant slots open. We call to make an appointment to see her later in the week.
We like her a lot, as do the two other families with infants vying for the two open slots. Because we’re only asking for a Monday through Wednesday schedule (and the other families have similar and complementary schedule needs), it ends up that the three infants can share the two slots.
The price? Average for the area around the university (which is to say, astronomical). We can, kind of, swing it, because my teaching gig is officially a “postdoctoral” fellowship (yes, I’m still finishing my dissertation in philosophy, but I already have the Ph.D. in chemistry, so I qualify on a technicality), better half is earning a postdoc salary, and we’re only buying three full-time days of care a week. I do not know how we could pay for this without both postdoc salaries to draw on.
Eight weeks after birth: Offsping starts daycare and is totally into it. An environment with two or three adults and five to seven additional kids is way more interesting than anything mom has been able to deliver so far. Bringing a cooler of bottled-mom every day obviates the need to deal with mom until it’s time to go home.
I start teaching again. It’s a fairly exhausting schedule, with breaks between seminar sessions ranging from 15 to 25 minutes — just enough time to set up with the pump and produce more bottled-mom for the next day. At least all my seminars meet in the same (windowless) classroom, so I don’t have to travel and pump in that interval. However, the classroom door doesn’t lock from the inside, so I have to train the students not to walk in on me.
Three months after birth: The dissertation is languishing while I grade piles of freshman papers. Given that the course I’m teaching is a new prep, I probably shouldn’t be surprised. Also, my offspring is not entertained by paper-grading or my futile attempts to grab 15 minutes at the computer and write something. Trying to work while offspring is asleep seems the only workable option, but by the time I’m done marking papers and doing the reading for the next day’s class, I’m zonked.
Sleep deprivation is a harsh mistress.
Five months after birth: Gearing up for winter quarter (and another new prep). Advisor enquires how dissertation is going. Informed of current lack of progress, he asks, “Can’t you get writing done with the baby there?” I offer to lend him offspring for 24 hours so he can try it himself. He declines.
Six months after birth: Increased pressure from the teaching program employing me to finish the philosophy dissertation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is exhausted. Still, it has to be done.
Better half agrees to take offspring on expeditions on Saturdays and Sundays. I leave for the neighborhood cafe while they’re still puttering in the house. I occupy a table with my laptop and cafe au lait (or two) until I’ve written for a good two hours, then return to the empty flat, express more bottled-mom, do some laundry, and write some more.
We maintain this weekend pattern for another six months, until the damn thing is written in its entirety and fairly well polished.
By this point, however, my advisor is gearing up to leave on a sabbatical, which delays my defense.
13 months after birth: Offspring is a fairly well-tempered, resiliant, fun critter to have around. We figure a sibling would be a good way to socialize our offspring (and to keep us from becoming the obsessive parents of an only child) and decide to get moving with that.
(Note from the philosophy of science information board: one doesn’t know, from a single data point, how long it will take to get pregnant.)
14 months after birth: We add a fourth day of daycare each week. I gear up for another rigorous teaching schedule (and another new prep!). And, I get ready to go on the academic job market. My dissertation is in good shape. I have reasonable enthusiasm for the process of writing the cover letters and pulling together materials.
And, by the end of December when philosophy’s big job-seeking convention takes place, maybe I won’t be showing yet.
To be continued.