Breastmilk isn’t free: high points and challenges as a Professor + Mother

During pregnancy, I heard a lot of scary stories: scary delivery stories, scary stories about in-laws visiting after the baby arrives, scary stories about allergies in small children. When I was visibly pregnant, I got advice from strangers, especially in public restrooms (most often I was told “get the epidural”). Parents with small children are founts of advice: “see lots of movies now, because you won’t later”, “sleep now, because you won’t later”. One coworker told me pregnant women are like lambs heading to slaughter (“they don’t know what horror awaits them”). Something about our culture leads us to focus on the negative, and so I felt confused while pregnant. I wondered a lot about how my life would change, and my biggest question was “Will I have to give up having the career I worked so hard for to be the mom I want to be?”

Being a parent has been so much more fun than I imagined it could be. I often said the beauty of the natural world motivates my research, but my eight-month-old daughter has shown me more about the magic of the world and life than I knew before. I am also much happier as a professor and researcher than I was before I became pregnant. Taking after drmsscientist, I want to write a positive piece about being a female professor with a baby, and discuss the biggest challenges I have experienced on this journey thus far.  Continue reading

What’s in a name?

I married young—at the age of 21.  I come from a conservative, traditional family, so the decision to change my name was never really a question.  Of all the married couples I knew, almost all of the females had changed their name upon marriage.  So I, too, changed my name, without much thought to the matter.  It was exciting and I felt like an adult following in the footsteps of the cousins and siblings before me.  But, not too far into the marriage I started experiencing a bit of an identity “crisis.”  After the novelty wore off, and especially when on autopilot, I wouldn’t always respond to my new name.  For 21 years, I had been Gracie X and suddenly I was Gracie Y.  Who exactly is Gracie Y?  I don’t know, it just didn’t sound like me.  In my mind, I was still Gracie X, but people were calling me something else, my signature was strange, and I just missed being who I had always been. I also didn’t expect the baggage of the new name in a new town.  At the time, my husband’s family didn’t have a stellar reputation in the small town in which he grew up. (I was a kid, so why would I think of this, and marriage is supposed to entail riding off into the sunset, right?).  Anyway, I was unaccustomed to the bad vibes I got when people heard my last name. Continue reading