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Research and pregnancy: My story (Part 2)

This post starts where my previous post about my academic work throughout my pregnancy ends. For your reference, I also wrote a post with some advice related to doing academic work while being pregnant, and here you can read my reply to a reader who worried when would be the right time to have a child if you want an academic career.

As I am writing this post, my wonderful little baby is already four months old – and I finally manage to write about the third trimester of my pregnancy. I was planning to write this post towards the end of my pregnancy, and since everybody told me that a first child usually comes past his/her expected date, I thought I still had plenty of time.

When I went for my checkup at 39 weeks of pregnancy (on a Thursday), and she was still in breech, the doctor said I would have to go in for a scheduled c-section next Wednesday. He told me to confirm on Sunday, as my husband would be arriving from Ecuador on Saturday. Breech delivery is forbidden for a first child in the hospital where I go. I was worried, especially because of the amount of paperwork we’d need to take care of before returning to Ecuador with the baby. I couldn’t imagine running around government offices while trying to recover from major abdominal surgery, and then dragging 10 suitcases to the airport while not being allowed to lift anything.

But my little rebel decided otherwise. With a speedy labor and delivery of less than 2 hours, she was born less than half an hour after I arrived to the emergencies of the hospital. Originally, they planned to do an emergency c-section, but things moved along so fast that there simply was no time to get started before Adeline arrived. Sorry hospital policies! Looking back on that day, there were some signs that something was happening, but since I didn’t really experience pain or discomfort, I didn’t pay much attention to it. In fact, I wrote a conference paper while I (apparently) was in labor *___* By the time I got settled into my hospital room with my newborn, I had the proofs of a paper in my mailbox and the notification that another paper had been published. So far for combining academia and pregnancy/childbirth.

Most of the third trimester of pregnancy was uneventful. I went to a conference in April, and while I thought I had a red face and was wearing maternity dresses, nobody made any comment about it – they must not have noticed. Then, in May, I returned to Delft. By then, I had become a bit 9OK, a lot) clumsy in my movements. We had to furnish my studio in Delft, and let me tell you: assembling IKEA furniture when you have a rugby ball sitting in your abdomen is not very practical. But somehow it all worked out.

From mid May to mid July, I worked on my research in Delft. I was more tired than the other years, and didn’t work out at all, besides biking my commute (10 km in total) every day. I couldn’t do lab work or field work, but there was some nice desk research that I could do. I also had to take the long train ride to Belgium frequently for medical checkups. Towards the end of my annual research stay, I was extremely tired though. I remember that the last 3 weeks were tough. At some point, I went home at 4:20 pm. And even though I had been at work since 7:30 am, and thus had a regular workday behind me, it felt like slacking. During those weeks, I took a nap of about an hour right after coming home from work. I literally walked in the door, dropped my backpack, and crashed into my bed. The tiredness of pregnancy, combined with the discomfort at night, had exhausted me.

During the third trimester, I didn’t worry about reactions of colleagues anymore. The last conference I attended was when I was 34 weeks pregnant, and it was nice to have many international colleagues come to congratulate me on the pregnancy. It also turned out to be a conversation starter – people telling me about the maternity leave rules (or lack thereof) in the country where they work, or tell me about the adventures of their kids. It was heartwarming.

What I did worry about during those last weeks was my baby’s position. I must have read every website that mentions “breech baby”. The doctor told me to be on hands and knees as much as possible, so I spent my entire evening on hands and knees. I kept trying to feel where her head was positioned. More than anything, I wondered if I had done something wrong: Did I not exercise enough? Or did I exhaust myself too much on the bike? Was it my personality (there’s a theory that claims some moms have a “breechy” personality)? Is it just because I, too, was a breech baby and it runs in my family? I tried everything possible to make her turn, and everything my gyn/ob said there was no medical reason for her to be breech and that she would turn, but at every appointment she was still sitting happily with her head close to my heart. Admittedly, I was so obsessed with her position, that sometimes at work I had difficulties concentrating.

In the end, all went well, and on July 22nd 4:28 am Adeline was born with perfect (10/10) Apgar scores. She’s been the light of my eyes ever since she was born, and the love that I feel for her, since that first moment when the midwife passed her on to me, is beyond words. In a next post in this series, I will write about my maternity leave, and after that, I’ll chronicle my adventures as a working academic mom to a newborn.

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