Microblog Mondays – they just don’t get it

microblog_mondays I just finished writing an application for a research award from a very large company – one of those companies who, upon digging, you realize own just about everything.

The award is for women, specifically untenured assistant professors in sciencey/engineeringy fields. It is to allow early career women to establish themselves as leaders in their fields. It is a very nice idea, and it is the first year this award has been offered.

The instructions are spare. Succinct. Lacking detail. Each section has one or maybe two sentences describing what is required. E.g., “attach a 1000 word summary of your awesomeness, in pdf format”.

There is a video component to this application, which is weird to begin with, but ok, industry does things differently. Included in the length of video, statement on lighting and background sound, and file format guidelines is a sentence reading “It is highly recommended that appropriate attire is worn for the video.”

The optics on that sentence aren’t great, to me. Approximately 1/8th of the instructions this company are giving early career women scientists is about their mode of dress. What is considered appropriate is left unsaid. If I am giving them the benefit of the doubt, they mean “if you are showcasing your lab in the video, have protective lab coat, etc. on so it is not a health and safety violation.” If I am being ungenerous, it reads as “laydeez, we are a family brand and please to cover up the cleavage”.

It feels icky. It feels like a table of men came up with this application, so they’d have binders of women to point to if need be. It feels like they missed the point.

I submitted it anyway*, because untenured sciencey female profs is a smaller pool of people than my usual competition (even if it is international), and because money is money is money, and grant writing is game playing for any application. I am here to play the game.

But it feels kinda icky.

* I was wearing a black top and grey blazer. No cleave. Hair washed thanks to Spud having a leisurely lie-in til 9:15 (!!) this morning**. No makeup, because I don’t own any. Pasta sauce stains on the black shift buffed vigorously with wet paper towel prior to recording. Glamorous!

** Spud had his 9 month appointment this morning, and I had to wake him UP to get to it on time, where the night before I’d been convinced he’d be desperate for a nap in the middle of it. Very accommodating, this baby of mine, who times his sleep-in for the day we need it, so his procrastinating mum can get a grant section done that morning, and the doctor didn’t get a fraught baby to poke and prod (Spud is healthy, still happily giant).


new frontiers

I wrote in August about pumping in a public washroom, as a rite of passage for pumping moms and one I was dubiously pleased to have fulfilled.

Yesterday I upped that ante, pumping in a tiny restaurant bathroom that, it turned out, had motion-sensor activated lights. I spent a full 7 minutes pumping in the pitch black after my attempts to trigger the lights back on from in the stall failed miserably. Thank goodness for smart phones and built-in flashlight apps, or I’m sure I would have spilled milk everywhere!

I doubled down on adventure-pumping that day, with a second session in the cell phone lot of the airport, having dropped my friend/collaborator off for his flight, and needing to pump before the rush-hour-traffic drive home. I have tinted windows in my backseat, and I parked as far from others as I could. This was only three spots from others, though, and one man was definitely surprised to see me rinsing out the pieces post-pumping.

All this in a week where I expressed 15 oz less than was used – meaning this week used two full weeks worth of my freezer stash. My deficit is growing, and we’re going to have to decide if I up my pumping game (either with domperidone or with pumping at night), or if we introduce some formula into the mix. I’m feeling very very stubborn about formula, but I really don’t like my other options. We’ve got a ways before the freezer stash gives out under the added demand, but the trend is increasingly clear.

tilt head, squint

Me: Spud, are you chewing on that megablok? Look, you could come knock over the house dad built. Looks at tall three-sided structure. Apartment building?

Pea from other room: Hugging dog.

Me perplexed, looks outside: Hugging dog?

Pea in doorway, pointing at megablok structure: Hugging. Dog.

Me tilts head, reconsiders blob on top of middle side: Hugging dog!

Spud: nom nom nom nom nom

curb your enthusiasm

Yesterday, we got the bill to keep our embryosickles frozen for another year. Our clinic much prefers we move blastocysts from their freezer to a storage facility, and so ups the price each year as incentive to make the move. We have twice now decided to just pay the bill to gain some time, as we’d otherwise have to decide if we’re keeping the blastocysts in Hilly Quirky, or moving them to Canuckia, which is a significantly different endeavour.

It got us talking about timelines, and whether we thought we’d try a FET within the next calendar year. I was prosaically talking about age gaps and tenure timelines. Pea at one point was exclaiming “but Spud is so cute! Imagine if there were two! How much cuteness there would be!” with a HUGE smile and, I kid you not, an unironic, unplanned kermit-arm-flail. It was possibly the most excited I’ve ever seen Pea.


It made me laugh. It made my heart burst with love for him, and his love of being a father. It made me wince, a little, because there are a lot of what-ifs with this. How long do we try on our own, assuming my cycle returns with the magical no-dairy diet? What if none of our embryosickles stick?* What if I decide I am done, for career reasons?**

I am still struggling with having brought Spud into a world where catastrophic change is likely to occur in his lifetime. Can I double down on that risk?

I am still picking up the pieces of my brain after seven months of sleep deprivation.

I am still catching up on work, and getting my research program back on track. I have an intense five years in the offing, both for what I hope to accomplish and for what is expected of me (for tenure and to renew my fancy chair, which is a higher bar than tenure).

I catch myself thinking that, next time, I’ll stay home a bit longer, because Spud is so fun right now. I catch myself thinking of what timelines make sense for daycare versus nanny if a sibling is in the mix. I catch myself refusing to mourn lasts with Spud, assuming I’ll have a do-over. I might not, but these moments make it clear to me that I’m not done yet unless I have to be.

I’m also not ready to start this game again. I want more time with my current baby. I want more time with my fledgling lab and research program. I want more time at this current level of break-neck pace, before making it even busier. I want at least a few months where I can eat whatever I want, without fear of damaging my son’s intestines or my reproductive chances.  I am not ready for daily needles for months and months, which I would face with a natural or assisted pregnancy because of the clotting disorder.

That said, FETs next summer would make a 2.5 year age difference, so it’s not a crazy idea as ideas go. It just makes me feel breathless.


* Thus far, we have transferred embryos four times (six embryos total). I have been pregnant three times from those transfers, if only briefly twice. This is either (a) a reassuring mathematical trend or (b) all of my implantation luck up front.

** There is a quiet unwritten rule in academia that it’s totally ok and encouraged and wonderful and lovely for a female prof to get pregnant and have a baby. Once. It’s arguably progress that once is now the “correct” way to do things (another post unto itself), but more than once has entirely different optics. I’m not going to make life choices around optics, and I have great support for leave and delaying tenure, and my lab would be in better shape later on. It is whether or not I want to permanently change the amount of focus I give my research again. Probably, but I do need to think it through and not just get caught up in muppet-style enthusiasm.

M to the A to the ASSSSS-titis

Fair warning, this one’s a bit gross and TMI

About three months ago, I had a nipple bleb on my right side. It was excruciating, but eventually I figured out what was going on, steamed it in a shower, roughed it up with a hot, wet facecloth, and poked it with a sterile needle. I was able to squeeze out a long stream of toothpaste-consistency milk*, after which the pore cleared normally and the pain disappeared.

Two weeks ago, I realized breastfeeding on both sides was hurting. I checked for thrush, but saw nothing convincing. I took a steamy shower and found two teeny blebs on the left side, which I was able to clear with some pressure. On the right, the exact same spot as before was showing signs of a bleb. I poked at it. I pushed on it. I squeezed it. I roughed it up and poked it some more. End result, I removed more of the skin off my nipple than was at all advisable, and caused some damage. Breastfeeding remained excruciating, but it wasn’t clear if it was a bleb or just that I’d wrecked my nipple. It has become clear that it is indeed both – a monster bleb that is refusing to come to the surface, AND a damaged exterior.

Yesterday the underside of my boob started to hurt. Upon investigation, it is hot and red, in a wedge shape. Helloooo mastitis! I don’t have a fever and I otherwise feel fine, so I’m currently treating it by pumping vigorously and starting Spud on that side to get the highest suction. Which is still excruciating. I’m giving it two more days and if it’s still red or sore, to a doctor I will go. Or if I spike a fever, then I’ll go immediately.

I neeeeeeed this bleb to resolve though, or it’ll still be painful even if the underlying mess clears (and it is less likely to if the pore is still blocked). It has been weeks of pain now, and I’m pretty frustrated.

Advice and miracle serums welcomed. Sunflower lecithin? Antibiotics right away? I am at a loss.


* Long. 8 inches of thick solid milk. It was soooooooooo satisfying, in the grossest way. Also it hurt like the dickens, but then the relief was palpable.

Microblog Mondays: in the eye of the beholder

 This weekend, Pea, Spud, and I flew to Windy City to celebrate Pea’s mum’s 70th. We took in architecture, we ate deep-dish pizza, we chatted and walked and visited. On our second full day, the whole clan spent four hours in a very large and impressive art museum to the delight of all, save two. 

I do not like large art museums. I like art exhibits and learning quite a lot about a given artist or era or technique. I don’t particularly like wandering disparate wings of art. I also have somewhat eclectic taste in art and have a hard time aiming for things I am likely to enjoy.

A large art museum is a bit of a challenge if you are eight months old. Spud looked at lots of art. He really liked Cindy Sherman’s photos. He really really hated the Chagall stained glass windows, inexplicably. He liked the cafe, and crawling around in a carpeted hallway. He took a nap in the carrier. Pea took a few hilarious photos where Spud’s expression is quite clearly “but why would I want to look at this? Look at the ledge over there! I could be standing over there, instead of looking at this red blob!”. He did really really well; better than his mother, who delighted in a paperweight exhibit, ogled an exhibit of miniature rooms with tiny perfect furniture, and then took rather more “nurse the baby” breaks than were needed because she had had her fill.

Microblog Mondays: Cramped days

microblog_mondays ‘Tis that time of year, the start of the academic semester. All of my new students are on campus. I have their schedules in hand, and today I sent out the email with our weekly lab meeting time, and our one-on-one times.

I then added it all to my calendar and had a mini heart attack. I’m very schedule and deadline driven, and a busy calendar can be a goad to productivity or anxiety fuel. I’m tired today (always, these days, thank you 8 month sleep regression), and so it is easier to skew panicky.

I have 3 meetings on Tuesdays, 3 meetings on Wednesdays, and 2 on Thursdays. Each are an hour long. Add pumping 3x into those days, and I’ll have enough time on the side to handle the daily flood of email and maybe some basic admin. Which leaves me Monday and Friday for anything substantive.

I left my mornings clear every day, as they are my best productive time. I’m going to learn to write in smaller time chunks this semester if it kills me.

Do you thrive on a busy schedule, or prefer quieter days you can fill as needed?



This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.