Saturday, December 7, 2013

Mommy Situations

D woke up the other morning with gunk in his eye. I sent an FB to all my mommy friends from my Mom&Baby classes and one said she had put breast milk in her daughter's eye and it had cleared right up. Guess what I did? Put breast milk in eye three times yesterday. It cleared up within an hour.
Moral of that story: Breast milk is magical.

We went to my co-worker's holiday party last night. It was all fun and games until about 7pm, when D decided to have a meltdown. Crying uncontrollably and nothing Alex or I could do would change it. I felt so embarrassed that I couldn't soothe my baby. And I felt super bummed that I couldn't hang out more with my friends and catch up (it's been such a long time it feels like). I was also super bummed that they didn't get to see the happy, smiling, laughing baby that D is. Of course, everyone understood (and some actually said that they missed their kids being that way - huh?).
Moral of that story: parties at night time for a 7 week old? Not the best idea....
Another moral of that story: You live, you learn.
Another moral of that story: The best situations might be going to someone else's house instead of having them at your house - this way you can leave whenever you want!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

So few women in science...

*another post I started a while back but completed now

The NY Times published an article today on why there are so few women in science. This is a subject that hits home with me (obviously, as I am a woman in science). The article is pretty light on studies and facts, but it does highlight some anecdotes that reminded me of my journey through this crazy science career I've had.

  • Gender bias started early - in elementary school I can remember the boys teasing me for being "too smart". What an odd thing to get teased about, but, really, anything that makes you stand out as a kid was something to be ashamed of.
  • The first subject I really struggled with was calculus in college. I had always been good at math, and had always been able to figure out the logic behind it. However, calculus was a whole new ballgame and I just didn't have the toolbox to figure it out. I thought I was too stupid to go to office hours or to ask anyone for help, so I never did. I barely scraped by.
  • The second subject I really struggled with was (is) physics. I have a firm belief that this is because I didn't have toys that displayed the principles of physics (like Hot Wheels, or dump trucks), so when we started talking about principles, it was really hard for me to grasp concepts I couldn't visualize. I decided to take a different tack with physics and I started going to the learning lab and TA office hours. Those helped immensely, although I think my lack of calculus really hindered my abilities to understand the principles completely. However, I did end up getting mostly As in physics, which was better than the Cs in calculus I got. 
  • I don't remember if I talked about going to graduate school with other people or not. I just always kind of "knew" I was going to graduate school. After working for four years, I felt ready to get my feet wet in academics. I applied somewhat blindly, and I applied to UPenn on a whim (Ivy League? c'mon - like I could get in there!) I don't know what made them accept me as a graduate student. I think my grades in college were good, but not stellar. My GRE scores were not that great. But I had work experience, which I think accounted for a lot. I think that also I was personable and likable on my interviews, which is always a good thing. 
  • When I got to Penn, I felt incredibly overwhelmed. I had "forgotten" how to study. The concepts and ideas were fed to us at a much faster rate. And we had to read real, scientific papers. These papers would take me hours to get through. Talks were overwhelming. I couldn't even begin to grasp concepts, and forget critiquing science. That was beyond my abilities. There were also a lot of things that I was too embarrassed to do. I didn't attend office hours, and I didn't ask for help. I was so intimidated by other people in my class sounding like they knew what they were talking about. I hated to take a risk and sound stupid in front of other people.  
  • To make a note, my incoming class was about 30 women and about 5 men. I was intimidated by both men and women, and was pretty sure my admittance into graduate school had been a fluke. 
  • My parents visited me for Thanksgiving my first year of graduate school. It was really fun to see them, and it was great to show them what I was doing. They met my advisor, Dan, and he said something to them that was probably a one-off comment to him, but which has stuck with me to this day. He said, "Christine really made the right decision coming back to school." It made me feel like I might actually belong there someday. And, truth be told, I did feel like I belonged by the time I graduated. 
  • I can remember going to bars with friends and talking with guys trying to hit on me. When they would ask what I did for a living, I would say I am a scientist. When they ask what kind of science, I would say, molecular biology or embryology, or developmental biology, or something like that. You should have seen how quickly they would run from me to the other end of the bar! Mostly, I found it to be funny. Why would you want to date a guy you met in a bar anyhow? But I know a lot of women find this to be upsetting. This actually still happens to me at parties, or when I meet new people. I can quickly shut down a conversation by bringing up what I do. I don't see this happening as much with my husband. I think, to some people, it's less intimidating to meet a smart man, because they are the gender that's "supposed" to be smart. 
  • The nice thing about having a class full of women is that, once I got out of the larger "weeder" classes in grad school, I started having mostly women in my smaller, group discussion classes. It turns out that women, to me, are much less intimidating and dominant than men. A lot of men in science try to dominate conversations, and don't let people get a word in edgewise, which can be incredibly frustrating (especially when a grade depends on class participation). These smaller classes with mostly women really helped me to come out of my shell, to see that my opinions and my thoughts DO matter, and that sometimes I can see things from a slightly different perspective than other people. 
  • On my floor, there was one woman faculty member (out of, lets say 8). She did not get tenure. Then there were none. I had one female on my thesis committee. I was mentored by an additional two other female faculty. In the time that I was at Penn (8 years), I can think of 2 women who were hired as faculty, and both were already established professors. The women who mentored me had exceptionally strong personalities, and could be very intimidating. I chose not to be intimidated by them, but I know a lot of people were put off by their personalities. Women "acting" like men can be intimidating to people. 
  • The majority of women faculty who started when I was at Penn did not receive tenure. The majority of men did. 
  • I've seen more women than men struggle to get funding. This is shown in statistics as well - more men receive grants than women.
  • The successful, top of their game women in science rarely have children, and usually have a husband with a much less demanding job.
  • More female faculty are divorced or single (as compared to male faculty). 
  • When I got to Stanford, things seemed different. My boss is female. She is a rock star, and she has a family (and a life). There are a large number of female postdocs, and everyone seems to be more on equal footing. Until faculty hiring began. We have roughly 50/50 female and male postdocs but all the new faculty hires in my department this year were male. Talk about frustrating.
  • Starting a family has made me realize just how tough women in the workplace (not just in science) have it. My pregnancy was not particularly difficult or challenging, but I missed a bit of work due to doctors appointments, fatigue, morning sickness, etc. My mind just wasn't in the work 100% (maybe because I was building a baby). To some bosses, this may seem like I am "less committed" to my work. I was not (am not) willing to work long hours, to give up my weekends, to sacrifice time with my family just to get work done. Don't get me wrong, I love my work. And there may be times when I do work some overtime. But for now, it can seem like I am not the "best fit" for a position. 
  • Now, I am on maternity leave. I will have a total of about 4 months off, which is literally 1/3 of a year. This time off does not extend my contract. I do not get "extra time" to complete my postdoc. In the meantime, my husband had about 2 weeks total off, but was able to keep things going during those two weeks. He's not usually dealing with sleep deprivation or the physical challenges of birthing and caring for a newborn. He can use this time to work a bit, while my working is wholly unrealistic since I have no predictable and consistent blocks of time in which to work. 
All of these points and more constantly make me rethink my goals of being faculty, and are likely factors in other women deciding to leave academics. While I'm not sure yet what the future holds, I do know that my climb will likely be a lot tougher than a man's.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

6 weeks in one post

Born 7lbs, 2oz

1 week 6lbs, 6oz

2 weeks

3 weeks 7lbs, 15oz (back to birth weight!)

4 weeks (his first hike!) 8lbs, 11oz

5 weeks - 9lbs, 11oz

6 weeks - 10lbs, 6 oz

first trip to Daddy's lab - 6 weeks

Introducing Little D

I started this post, obviously, when D was one week old. He's now 7 weeks old. But I finally finished it!

One week ago I gave birth to a little boy. He was 7lbs, 2oz, nearly 20 in long, and started crying immediately upon birth. I wanted to write down some of my recollection of his birth before I forget everything. So, warning, this may be "too much information" for some of you...

The last few weeks of my pregnancy had been pretty rough. I got bigger and bigger, and more and more uncomfortable. Work became challenging, chores even more so. Sleeping was really hard and eating became really tough too. I went for OB appointments every week, and at my last appointment my blood pressure was high. I had driven myself to the doctors, against my better judgement (my belly was nearly pressed up against the steering wheel) and I was feeling some cramping. The doctor was concerned, so she asked me to do a 24 hour urine collection, take a blood test, and head over to the hospital for a non-stress test. Needless to say, Alex and I both decided my driving days were over. My first non-stress test went well. His head was down (and we got yet another picture of his testicles - yup - I'm positive he's a boy), his heartbeat looked good. All was well. I was having some contractions, but none that I could feel. I tried the 24hr urine collection, but I failed miserably. They gave me a container that was too small, so I had to repeat the test. On Friday, I went in for another non-stress test. Something was weird. They were looking for a certain pattern of heartbeat (what they called "accelerations"), but we weren't getting any. I wasn't too concerned. I could feel D moving and shaking in my belly, so I figured they would just send me home with instructions to come back on Monday. However, that was not the case. They sent me to Labor and Delivery, where they placed me in a tiny, tiny room, and they monitored my blood pressure and the baby's heartbeat for nearly four hours. We watched some of the movie "Identity Theif" (not as good as I wanted it to be), and I kept thinking, OK, they are going to send me home any minute now. My cervix wasn't dilated, but my blood pressure seemed to be trending towards high. The doctors were concerned I was getting pre-eclampsia. At the end of our stay in Labor and Delivery, we were told to return on Sunday morning for a scheduled induction. The doctor thought D would be born on Monday.
Needless to say, I was in shock. I had pictured a quick labor, I abhorred any idea of interventions. I was sure they were setting me up for a c-section, which filled me with dread. I shook the entire time we drove home. I was so out of sorts, I had a glass of wine to calm my nerves. I tossed and turned Friday night, with nightmares of all the horrible things that could go wrong. On Saturday, I felt a little bit better. I tried to use my mindfulness techniques - just get through this minute, this hour, etc. We cleaned the house pretty much top to bottom. We packed our bags for the hospital, and we purchased all those last minute things we needed. Saturday was another fitful night of sleep, and we awoke on Sunday morning knowing we would leave home and return as three. What an odd feeling.
Checking into the hospital was odd. It was like checking into a hotel, but with incubators and medical instruments all over the place. They asked me to undress and put on a gown. They inserted a IV line that hurt like hell. They told me that the doctors would come in and talk to me about what was going on. We decided on induction by Cervidil, which is basically some prostoglandin placed near the cervix to help "ripen" it (god, I hate that word). It went in about 1pm, and Alex and I spent the day watching football and baseball playoffs. I was getting contractions, but I couldn't feel them. The biggest bother was my IV line, which was getting more and more painful. Around 8pm, my night nurse, Fely, came in. She checked my IV line and told me it was not good. My hand was swelling like crazy and it continued to be pretty painful. She decided to replace my line, and placed an IV into my other hand. It was hard to be tethered to this huge IV machine. To keep my spirits high, I named the IV pole "Fred" and then he became a little cartoon-y to me, instead of something scary and medical. At 1am, the doctors came in to remove the Cervadil. It was the most painful thing I had experienced until then. It was so uncomfortable to have it removed that I cursed the doctor. I am sure it wasn't the first time for her, but it was certainly the first time for me. It was also the first time that I thought that maybe I was in over my head. Maybe I couldn't find my way out of this situation like I thought I could.
With the Cervidil removed, they thought they might give me some other prostoglandin drugs, but I was contracting too often. I still couldn't feel the contractions that much. They decided to start me on Pitocin. I was really, really against Pitocin, but I felt like there was no turning back now. I washed my face, brushed my teeth, and settled in for a night on Pit. I got some sleep, and Fely took amazing care of me. She upped my Pit every half an hour, but, for the most part, I got to sleep through the night. In the morning, they checked me again. I hadn't really progressed that much, but I was still contracting, so we just kept moving along. I ordered some breakfast, turned on the TV and just waited. I did get up and walk around some, and I tried to remain standing for as long as I could. I remember reading somewhere that keeping pressure on the cervix could help it dilate. Who knows?
Around 1:30 or so in the afternoon, Alex had had enough of the hospital room. I was still contracting, and things were moving along, but it was slow and steady progress. He decided to go out and get some lunch and walk to the bookstore. We had come wholly unprepared for this long labor, and we didn't have many things to do except stare at each other and wonder what would happen next. Plus, daytime TV on a Monday - not that good.
I decided to rest some - take a nap. At some point, I had to get up to go to the bathroom and I felt a gush come out. The nurse didn't think it was my water breaking, but then, a little while later, it happened again and she said it was my water breaking on it's own! It was about 2:30PM, and she told me my son would be born by 2AM the next day (turns out, she was right!).
I called Alex and he came back to the room with 4 different books and a card game. Guess we don't need those now! I tried to keep walking as much as I could, but I started to feel the contractions. They were getting stronger and stronger and I was working to get through them. Eventually, I decided to get the epidural since I was unsure how much stronger the contractions would get. I was dilating by that point, so we called in the doctor. Contractions got increasingly more and more painful, to the point where I couldn't open my eyes, I had to vocalize and I just had to breathe through them. The change occurred so quickly, it took me by surprise. I got the epidural (along with a dose of fentanyl to keep me still), but it just didn't take very well. I was still experiencing alot of pain, and the contractions were getting worse and worse. I was also getting tired. The doctors decided to give me another epidural (try again, I guess), so with another dose of fentanyl, I sat up, put my feet on Alex's legs and got another epidural.
This one took effect almost immediately. They gave me a spinal block, and my blood pressure dropped significantly. They doctors and nurses worked without drama, but I could see the white face of my husband watching me. They pumped massive amounts of saline into me, gave me three doses of some drug to raise my BP, and put my head below my feet. I was freezing, shaking and all of a sudden so, so itchy. I felt like a drug addict or something. I was finally comfortable, after several hours of pain and discomfort. When the dust settled, Alex turned on The Hobbit, and we settled in for the night. They told me to tell them when I felt like I had to go to the bathroom. Around 11:30PM, I said I felt like I had to pee. They checked me, and I was completely dilated and ready to push. Pushing was a scary thought, I have to admit. I was so tired, but I was also scared. I had to push this baby out now? Yikes! For two and a half hours, I pushed. Or, I guess, I learned how to push. Alex held one leg, my nurse Cassandra, the other. Every contraction, I pushed. And pushed. And pushed again. I assume I got the hang of it at some point in time. Time seemed to both go really fast and really slow. At some point, people started coming into the room. Doctors, residents, attendings, other nurses. I remember one of the doctors was pregnant. Things were assembled, the baby bed was turned on. My nurse from a couple nights ago, Fely, came in to tell me she was there. I was so glad to see her. Cassandara was amazing too. They were my cheerleaders (and Alex was too). I was so lucky to have to care I had. I would breathe oxygen between contractions, and then take the mask off when I was pushing. Alex would give me endless sips of water. Over and over and over again.
I got really, really, really tired. I have never been so tired in my life. Even opening my eyes was exhausting. And then the doctors were at my feet, covered in splatter shields and then many many people were telling me to push - just once more, you can have this baby! I was literally so exhausted at this point that I didn't think I could do it. I was also in a bit of a epidural-drug haze. After several pushes, several more contractions, out came our little guy - pink skin, screaming literally as he emerged, and was placed right on my chest, vernix and all.
All of a sudden, I was awake. It was over? Oh glory be. Such relief. Alex cut the umbilical cord. And D was taken over to his little station where Fely took care of him. I was delusional from exhaustion and epidural. And all of a sudden I was STARVING. But he was here. We had done it. We had survived.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Home Stretch

  • I'll be 38 weeks pregnant on Sunday - meaning we have made it to full term! Wahoo!
  • The kiddo is moving both more and less. His movements are much more jarring, but I think he's pretty squished in there, so he doesn't seem to move as much as he did a few weeks ago.
  • He now gets the hiccups 3-4x a day, and sometimes they last for 10 minutes at a time.
  • His head is still down (thankfully!)
  • My belly seems to be literally growing by the minute. I look at myself in the mirror and think, "When did I get this big?"
  • The belly had become quite the hindrance. Not only do I forget that I can't "squeeze" past anyone anymore, but it's also eliminated my lap. Reading a magazine? Typing on the computer on my couch? Yeah, not really an option anymore. I also can barely fit in some booths at restaurants (and I really feel like, in the grand scheme of things, I am not that big!).
  • My blood pressure is normal. I've gained about a total of 20 lbs until now - will maybe gain a total of 25 when this is all done. I'm happy with that number because I plan on breastfeeding as long as I can so hopefully it will all come off!
  • In case you couldn't tell, I've now passed into the "uncomfortable" phase of pregnancy. I'm not sleeping super well, I can only sleep for a few hours at a time, and I require a ridiculous number of props to be able to sleep. I toss and turn, too, which I know has been hard on Alex. I find that, mostly, I just can't get comfortable, no matter where I am or what I am doing. 
  • My muscles are always sore now. Even when I do yoga, or give myself a couple days off, muscles are sore, tired and stiff. I can only assume this means that, with all this extra weight, my body is working hard to keep me all upright. Or maybe I am just tensing up all my muscles all the time.
  • Movement and doing things are becoming harder and harder. Walking gets tiring quickly, and I've definitely slowed a lot (which drives my husband crazy, as he never does anything slowly!). Yoga is getting harder and harder and I find there are some poses I just can't do anymore. I find this somewhat frustrating, as it seems to have happened all at once. I am just trying to accept it and move on with my life.
  • I'm experiencing both nesting and exhaustion. Some days, I have a ton of energy and I can get lots of stuff done. Other days, there's not much I can do other than use all my energy to get one or two things accomplished. This hit-or-miss inconsistency is tough on the psyche.
  • I can no longer wear my wedding rings, but I don't yet have cankles. 
  • The baby can now punch me in the bladder. Literally.
  • I'm experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions pretty regularly now. Meaning, I get them at least once a day, usually when I wake up in the morning and I'm dehydrated. I try to actually drink water in the middle of the night, which is weird.
  • I find I need about 130-160oz of water a day. This is way more than your 64oz they tell you to get daily. Since everything else is normal (blood sugar, blood pressure, etc), there are no concerns with requiring this amount of water. However, it's kinda a pain to make sure I have water AND a bathroom close by.
  • I think this will be my last week of work. My work schedule has become more and more erratic as I get more and more uncomfortable. I hate to take the time off, but I have to be honest with myself and my body. It's no longer feasible to be working as hard as I do and to have as long hours as I do. Plus, there are a million things I have to get done around the house. 
  • I both can and can't imagine having a baby. I have some anxiety surrounding the labor and delivery part, and then there's this great, big black box associated with caring for an infant.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Anniversary Weekend Pictures

Monastery Beach

Spotting humpbacks feeding right off the coast

I swear there are whales out there!

I can't believe I've been married to this guy for two years!

Yup, went hiking on a cliff over the ocean. 9 months pregnant. In flip flops (not my best idea). I needed proof I actually did that!

Point Lobos State Park - those are harbor seals on the rocks. 

Seriously, I couldn't take a bad picture.

Those are whale bones. 

Gorgeous coastline.

I climbed those steps.

See? No bad pictures, right?

The sun was setting - it was the perfect day.


At the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I had this song going around and around in my head for several days a couple weeks ago. Pregnancy is weird.


More birds.

Even more birds.



Alex looking at jellies.

This is what Alex would look like if he was radially symmetrical, like a jellyfish. Aren't you glad we evolved a bilateral asymmetry?

Terrifying, right?

Hard to tell, but these jellyfish express a protein called "Green Fluorescent Protein", or GFP for short. The discovery of this protein was awarded a Nobel Prize not too long ago, and it's now used in millions and millions of experiments all over the world. Pretty amazing that the simple jellyfish held this invaluable protein, right? This is why basic science is so important!

More harbor seals and come cormorants.

Cormorants are the most beautiful birds. The have these feathers that are black, but when the sun hits them right, the feathers light up with this amazing sheen. Can you see the cormorant on the rocks with the green-ish sheen? Native Americans used their feathers for adornment because they are so beautiful.

More harbor seals.
We had a fantastic time just hanging out and re-setting in Monterey. I would say that Monterey is the absolute perfect weekend spot. There are a few things to do, but it's not overwhelming. You can find some pretty affordable places to say and eat (just don't go to Carmel...) and this time of year, the weather is lovely - warm and inviting, and cools off at night (but not too much). Plus, we avoided the summer crowds, which was awesome. It was a great weekend. I wish we could have stayed longer.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Two Weekends in One Post

Last weekend, we went to the Cantor Arts Center here on campus. It's the art museum, and it's free. 

Leland Stanford, Jr's death mask (creepy, right?)

It rained for a change. 

The Thinker by Rodin

I loved this sculpture by Rodin

Totem poles

We got some baby presents and Alex was happy to try them on

Moo in particular loved the ribbon

Ducky gave himself a concussion - notice hi left pupil is larger than his right?

Dusty and Alex at the top of Hoover Tower

I am HUGE! at the beach


I don't look so big in shadow form...

The ocean.


Pigeon Point

Me and the lighthouse

Dusty, Jen and me at Pigeon Point

They got a flaming drink.