I’ve got a graduate education… OF COURSE.. I can handle this baby…

I received the following note this morning:

Dear DrDrA,

I never got the chance to thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping me through one of the toughest times in my life. No one ever told me that life after pregnancy could be so hard. But your phone calls and encouraging words after VERYcutebaby was born meant more to me than you could possibly know. I found comfort in knowing that someone knew what I was going through and that I didn’t have to pretend everything was sweet and rosy. Thank you so much for reaching out to me when I needed it the most (even though I didn’t know I did). etc etc.


I was in tears. Obviously. Sometimes we don’t realize our own ability to touch the life of another person. Watching this talented person struggle with handling everything with ease one day, then giving birth and being at a total loss for how to adjust to the fact that (a) you are no longer in control and (b) there is no perfect way to deal with the work-to-baby-to-work transition, hit me very hard.

I had a very intense flashback of how I felt when my older daughter was born, going from working overly full days in graduate school to home alone with newborn, no adult conversation, lucky to have five minutes to myself to take a shower. Sure I loved my daughter beyond belief (and of course still do!) and found her to be the most beautiful and precious creature that I had ever laid eyes on- but I cried every day- and I felt that no one understood how seriously down I was.  I was sure I needed psychiatric help and was unaccustomed to feeling things so desperately out of control. Not to mention that my body was wrecked and everything on me was painful.

Fortunately I made a couple of friends on my street…. cause no one I went to grad school with had kids… or was even married… and these new friends all had babies 2-3 months older than mine. It was invaluable for me to lay my sadness out for these women, who had all recently had babies themselves and felt some of the same things I was going through, and to see by their example that things were going to be ok. To know that I was going to come to terms with this new arrangement, in fact- that I would grow to love it so much that I would want to do it AGAIN.

I made a promise to myself then that I would try to extend the same kindness that was shown to me in that difficult time to others in the same situation.

I’m just glad I could help this time.


9 thoughts on “I’ve got a graduate education… OF COURSE.. I can handle this baby…

  1. DrdrA this is a wonderful post. I don’t know if I could even write coherently about all the feelings I had from this time of my life. But yes, a rollercoaster of love, exhaustion and isolation for a while.

  2. Its so true. I just didn’t understand why I could not cross five things off my to-do list. I can not just sit on the couch and nurse all day. Isn’t that a waste of time. OMG I am so lonely. Those feelings were so hard to communicate. I was so desperate for adult life. I still am. I love my son but sometimes I just need a vacation.

  3. Anon- It took me 11 years to get that out. I think the right moment just presented itself.

    ScientistMother- Yup, that about sums it up. I was overwhelmingly lonely- and DrMrA (bless his heart) wasn’t feeling what I was feeling, wasn’t hurt from giving birth, and didn’t lose his adult contacts for weeks after the birth…. but tried to reach me in every way he could.

    ‘I love my son but sometimes I just need a vacation.’

    If I recall correctly your son is <2- don’t feel guilty about needing a little space from time to time. I need that too at times, I think we all do.

    Isis- Just try to make it through every day- one day at a time. Things have a surprising way of working themselves out. I hope you had a good day. 🙂

    C PP- It is wonderful to hear that I touched someone’s life in a positive way when they needed help. It reminds me to make sure that I tell the people who have helped me up what a wonderful thing they have done for me. So let me take this opportunity to thank you for all of the incredibly insightful advice you have given me, on and off line, since I started this blog back in March. You were one of my very first readers- and through your thoughtful participation on many of my posts have led me to believe that I might actually write something worth reading! Not to mention that you have enriched my vocabulary with colorful expressions too numerous to count. Thank you so much, for all of that!

    Oh Fuck, this is starting to look WAY too much like a care bears tea party.

  4. I’ll join the care bears tea party. DrdrA, that is really touching. I’m so glad that you reached out to help this new mom. Part of why I am terrified of getting pregnant is that imminent isolation post-birth… being a scientist, and having that identity stripped to become a mom… anyhow, I’m really glad you were able to help! I imagine it makes such a difference, esp. coming from another scientist.

  5. Candid Engineer-

    Part of why I am terrified of getting pregnant is that imminent isolation post-birth… being a scientist, and having that identity stripped to become a mom

    I suppose the hardest thing for me to adjust to was that I had all these expectations that I didn’t realize that I had about how it would be to be someone’s mom. When the baby comes and the realization happens quickly that you never could have anticipated how this was going to work. Us type A professional women who are used to being in control of our lives (and destiny really)… just have a tough time being at the mercy of this little creature, and then having all kinds of professional angst on top of that was very difficult for me. And it was very lonely at first…

    I quickly learned to roll with the punches- as long as everyone is healthy- there is not that much else that really matters…

  6. yay, care bear party!

    I want to thank you DrDrA, your career posts (and responses to my strange questions) were INCREDIBLY valuable when I was on the job hunt last year. I really think they helped me get a job, in the sense that I had some advice from helpful senior folks. Heres to hoping I can be a good PI and mentor and share some of my fortune.

  7. Hi Pinus- I’m so pleased that you found those posts useful- I’m keeping my fingers crossed for your successful PIdom.

    After my own job search I found that I was the job-search-advice-giving center of my department- I just figured it would be easier (and take less time) if I wrote it all down somewhere. … and thus began this blog. I learned much of this in my own job search- but DrMrA is quite a few years ahead of me in academic rank- and he taught me pretty much everything there was to learn about this. So much of the things I write down are his little pearls of wisdom. He would just never write them down…

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