Sciencewomen

Bittersweet

i-9dc84d4d9156dccb30d5f62466b4219a-swblocks.jpgThe last few weeks have been completely chaotic, over-crowded, and exhausting. On top of the end-of-term crunch, with its usual flurry of grading, review sessions, and exams, I was also trying to finish revisions on a paper, and get some research done in time to make the poster for AGU. The unintended, but entirely predictable consequences of all this was longer and longer hours working, more and more caffeine, and less and less time with Minnow.

I was getting so much done! I discovered that if I just drank more caffeine, I could reduce my nightly sleep to 6 (badly interrupted) hours. And in that clarity of caffeine and sleeplessness, I had all these great ideas for how to restructure my spring courses and move forward with some research projects. I finally felt like I was accomplishing things at the pace expected of me. And once I worked “just a little bit later” and ended up missing dinner, it was easier to justify missing dinner and bedtime the next night. Or picking up Minnow from daycare and bringing her back to my office until Fish was able to take her home. I even managed to get my milk supply down so that it wasn’t too uncomfortable to go 18 hours without nursing. It was liberating and terrifying all at the same time. For the first time since having a child, I could understand how academics get sucked into working all the time. Though I didn’t want to admit it, deep down I knew that what I really wanted was to spend time with Minnow, to store up those grins and giggles and hugs and cuddles for what was to come…the first time that she and I will be separated for any extended period of time.

And then with the simple acts of printing the poster, giving one exam, and handing off the other, I made it to a reprieve. Friday night I went home, enjoyed dinner with Minnow and Fish, and went to bed at 9:30, sleeping for the better part of 10 hours. Saturday was spent returning the house to some semblance of order and greeting Fish’s mom, who arrived to help for the week that I am gone. I took lots of time to play and snuggle with Minnow, and she did her darndest to get that milk supply back to her liking. By Sunday afternoon, with the Christmas tree up and the house cozy, I was quite ready to just spend the next week at home, curled up with my family (and a stack of grading). Forget this conference business, I was ready for a vacation.

But instead, I write this on a long flight with a laptop, a poster tube, a neatly packed suitcase full of professional clothes, and a pump to relieve extreme discomfort. My daughter is at home with her father and grandmother, and she’ll have a rough couple of nights, but she’ll be well cared for and well loved. I’ll have a much richer and more fun conference experience without a toddler in tow. I’ve tried bringing Minnow along to a conference, and I’ve tried bringing along a babysitter. This time the decision was right to leave her at home and let me be an unfettered professional for a few days.

It’s a bittersweet end to an era of trying to meld professional travel with mommying a baby, maybe (hopefully?) the era of nursing, and conclusively an end to an era of seeing Minnow every day of her life. When I go home, in just 5 days, I know we’ll rebuild our connection and our relationship will continue to be strong, joyful, and loving. But right now I miss my little girl and I feel like I’ve severed a connection that can never be remade the same way. I hope it is worth it.

Comments

  1. #1 Carrie
    December 16, 2008

    Oh SW. You’ll have a great conference. And you haven’t severed a connection. Really. The bond is still there and will ALWAYS be there. Enjoy SF all dressed up for Christmas!

    And FWIW, it’s so much easier now. Because once Minnow is about 5, she will KNOW you’re leaving and then get upset that she can’t come on the airplane too. (Happened on my last trip — both funny and upsetting at the same time).

  2. #2 ScienceMama
    December 16, 2008

    *Hugs*

    And congratulations on nursing Minnow for 2 straight years. That’s a rare feat for working moms and I hope you give yourself a pat on the back!

  3. #3 ScientistMother
    December 16, 2008

    Letting go of nursing is a bittersweet event, so liberating yet hard because of the lost connection. You are so amazing for nursing for 2 years. Wow. enjoy being baby free, drinking and sleeping in!

  4. #4 Jessika
    December 16, 2008

    I didn’t spend one night away from my Baby Grrl until just this past summer, when I went to a conference for 5 days. She was 2.5 then. So I also send you a big *hug*, ’cause I know the feeling you’ve got.

    The best part of the day was when I’d call her right before her bedtime and hear her voice. Like Carrie said, the connection isn’t severed. It may feel like it, but you’ll get back into the groove when you get home.

    And a big congrats to nursing for that long! I ditched the pump after Baby Grrl turned 1, and I admire working women who can make it past that.

  5. #5 Tinkering Theorist
    December 16, 2008

    Good job getting so much done! I hope you and Minnow take this change as well as can be expected, and that you have an awesome presentation!

  6. #6 D. C. Sessions
    December 16, 2008

    But right now I miss my little girl and I feel like I’ve severed a connection that can never be remade the same way. I hope it is worth it.

    Does music help?

    Sounds like you did a great job of making the most of the time Nature gives us. That’s really all we can do — so on to the next adventure! (Says /me, after hanging up on $DAUGHTER who’s clear across the continent.)

  7. #7 Ivory
    December 16, 2008

    I went to a conference two months after my son was born and it was great. Lack of sleep kills me and having that hotel room to myself for half a week was heaven. I must have spent 40 hours just sleeping. The most annoying part was people asking me where the baby was and then expressing their surprise and dismay that I had left him with his father and sister at home. I was asked over and over “How can you sleep? Aren’t you worried your husband won’t be able to handle it?” OMG – he’s their FATHER not some ignorant bum. What’s he going to do? Put them outside in the yard and leave them there the whole time I’m gone? I’ll be interested in hearing if that happens to you as well.

    This is almost certainly harder on you than it is on Minnow. Much is made in this culture about the “need” kids have for constant attention that only their loving parents can provide. That may be necesary for some kids but I think most don’t need that kind of attention. I certainly didn’t.

    My mother worked a job for years where she lived in a different city from us half of the time (every other week). It was great for us (because Dad let us get away with murder) and good for her to because she could be the professional she needed to be. But I remember it being very hard on her to leave – and we missed her – but I don’t remember it being very traumatic. My point? If this is right for you and your family, do it and don’t look back. There’s a self indulgent aspect to guilt – you are not severing anything by being gone for a few days. The sooner everyone in the family learns this, the better for all concerned. And maybe this will let Fish come into his own as a parent. At the very least it should make him appreciate you more.

  8. #8 Isis the Scientist
    December 16, 2008

    Oh, SW, the things we do for our wee ones. You are marvelous, sister blogger. Completely and simply marvelous.

  9. #9 Carol
    December 16, 2008

    Be strong and firm when you get home so the breast feeding doesn’t restart. Congratulations on making it 2 years and working too.

  10. #10 soil mama
    December 16, 2008

    I just wanted to warn you that separation weaning can be even more rough than weaning without the distance… or so I had been warned.

    I went to a conference for 5 days when Z was ~22 mo and she did well with her dad, but wanted to nurse mroe than ever by the time I returned! She was attached to me for days, which was ok since I wasn’t planning on weaning, but it really showed me that this approach to weaning would have been very hard. It would have been VERY hard on Z if I tried to wean after that trip…

    If you want to wean and feel that it is time, then go ahead and do it, but don’t be surprised if it is much harder than you think… just a warning.

    have a great trip, I found that I actually got less sleep at my conference that I do at home while nursing all night since I was up late visiting and up early to shower at be ready for talks by 8am. It was nice to do what I wanted when I wanted though.

  11. #11 Jenn
    December 17, 2008

    SW, Minnow will miss you, for sure! But she’ll be fine, and maybe even enjoy that extra special time with Fish and grandma. Have a great time at the conference and try to spend it with stimulating, encouraging sciency thinking and not worry (too much) about Minnow at home

  12. #12 estraven
    December 17, 2008

    I think that you are changing your relationship with Minnow, whether you keep breastfeeding or not. I think you chose a very good timing. BTW, I’m envious you made it so long! My kids stopped nursing way earlier.

    My 2cent is: what is special this time is that it is such a clearcut moment, so you can understand it and process it. Similar such moments will come in the future. When she starts choosing her own clothes and putting them on. When she starts reading on her own and hence starts reading whatever she wants. When she’s too big for you to carry around in your arms. That’s as far as I’ve come: for me it always takes some processing, whether it’s clearcut or not.

    For a depiction of such a passage rite in a recent movie, check
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Upn1pXynmbw
    I went to see the movie with my daughter. She didn’t notice I started crying halfway through this scene.

  13. #13 Mommyprof
    December 17, 2008

    I feel for you, and I know it’s hard. It’s the weird duality of being a Mom:

    Why won’t you grow up? at the same time as Why do you have to grow up so fast?

  14. #14 Nic
    December 17, 2008

    Too bad a science meetup wasn’t planned as all the cell biologists are across the street. ;)

  15. #15 Comrade PhysioProf
    December 17, 2008

    But right now I miss my little girl and I feel like I’ve severed a connection that can never be remade the same way.

    Comrade PhysioProf is no expert on this shit, but it seems a little dramatic to conclude that leaving your child for five days is severing a connection that can never be remade.

  16. #16 Isis the Scientist
    December 18, 2008

    Comrade PhysioProf is no expert on this shit, but it seems a little dramatic to conclude that leaving your child for five days is severing a connection that can never be remade.

    I think SW is talking about her decision to stop nursing that is coming in conjunction with her being away. It was very difficult for me to stop nursing Little Isis when I did. I was at a point professionally and emotionally when I realized that it needed to happen for both of us, but it was so, so hard. I valued that special thing that we shared that only I could provide for him. So much of his other care was/is provided by someone else but this was something that we could share in a way that was completely special and different. I cried the last time I nursed him…big, splashy, inconsolable tears. I was so afraid that by breaking this last thing that bonded us exclusively that we would lose our special relationship.

    Sometimes I still miss it, but the connection between us has remained. It did not become damaged when the nursing stopped. If anything, it has grown and evolved for which I am incredibly thankful. He still nuzzles up and occasionally trys to nurse, but then he is satisfied to simply snuggle and there are times when no one but Mommy will do. Looking back I feel so blessed for the time I had to share this with him and for the way it has bonded us in a way that being a way at a seminar does not change. It is a time I can look back on warmly knowing that I have made the best choices I could along the way.

  17. #17 Comrade PhysioProf
    December 18, 2008

    I think SW is talking about her decision to stop nursing that is coming in conjunction with her being away.

    Got it. I misunderstood.

  18. #18 Kate
    December 18, 2008

    I ached for you while reading this post.

  19. #19 Donna B.
    December 18, 2008

    I was forced by an extreme infection with high fever which completely dried up my milk to stop breastfeeding my firstborn when she was a mere 3 weeks old. All I could remember in feverish daze were her screams when offered a bottle by her father and grandmother.

    As a result, I chose not to even try to breastfeed my next two children for fear something like that would happen again.

    Call me a wimp, or whatever. My children are fine, but I think they (and I) missed out on a wonderful experience. What I want to convey is that mothers who do not breastfeed (and there are a number of reasons, mine, for the second and third child is not even close to a reasonable one) that the bonding is still there.

    Be thankful for the education and support young mothers have today. My youngest is 27 years old, and other than my mother and aunts, information was non-existent even though I did have regular visits with my OB-GYN and pediatricians.

    We have come a long way, baby!

  20. #20 Kim
    December 20, 2008

    I wish I’d read this before running into you! I went to GSA and weaned my son at the same time. The meeting was in Denver, so I ended up leaving right after my talk, a day early, because I really missed him.