Parental leave (in academia) thoughts

I have opinions which will surprise no one who knows me.

I left academia several years ago — I think A* had just turned 1. For the most part, I don’t regret the choice. Occasionally I do – mostly because I miss the intellectual curiosity of colleagues (it is there in industry but not in all companies or teams). And, I don’t like admitting it but I miss the status/pedigree of academia.

Hubby’s still very much embedded in academia — he got tenure a year or two ago and I don’t see him leaving. He’s always wanted to be a professor, he loves his department and in general, loves his work.

Anyways, all this is to give some background on my thoughts on parental leave. I’m on maternity leave now — I get 12 weeks which frankly is on the low side for my peer group (a lot of my peers are in tech where 20+ weeks is not out of the norm. Then again, most companies just went through layoffs). Compared to last time where, as a postdoc, I got 8 (at partial pay) and then extended the remaining 2 to 4 weeks of part-time — 12 weeks _off_ is much better.

My maternity leave has been.. leave. I check my work email like once a week, not because I have to but because I don’t want to come back to a gazillion unread emails. No one messaged me beyond the congrats when A2 was born. It’s been really nice actually, being in a little bubble of enjoying newborn-hood and way less stressful than having a fast turnaround date to return to work. Even things like figuring out pumping/bottle feeding are on a more relaxed schedule as a result.

Hubby is on a quarter of paternity leave. His leave has been.. no teaching. And no going in (sorta). But he’s also still responding to emails, submitting papers, having meetings (it’s recruiting season both for grad students and faculty). And I’ve been getting increasingly annoyed – in part because paternity leave is (in my mind) meant to support the other partner and to bond with the baby. Both get harder when some part of your brain is still dealing with work. Also getting annoyed because any of the university efforts for gender parity seem half-hearted at best if they can’t guarantee true parental leave. (Also hubby has never worked in industry and somehow thinks that academia has more flexibility, not realizing that in most industry jobs, you can truly switch off). He also has a couple of in-person meetings in the next month and a potential trip to another city for a talk in June. I cannot imagine doing those as someone still recovering from birth and who’s still very much tethered to a newborn’s feeding schedules.

I also do not understand how this is not obvious to university admin/chairs/whoever is setting the rules for parental leave or to those setting the cultural norms.

Honestly, no wonder so many women don’t stay in academia.

I know some of you were in academia with infants — how did you manage those expectations?


Baby A2 is here!

Baby A2 arrived last week in an utterly unplanned way. He’s healthy, as am I and we’re back home now and recovering and attempting to sleep.

The doula warned me that I might have a lot of emotional swings today and I certainly feel that as I tear up for everything today. And I’m certainly having a lot of feelings now though I want to save that for another post.

For now, I am relieved and content that baby is healthy and here. I am healthy and recovering as expected. And we’re learning each other’s ways.

This seems as good a time as any to share A2’s birth story.

The plan was always a scheduled c-section (scheduled for yesterday actually). Waiting till 39 weeks because.. actually I don’t know but it seemed like unless there was a medical reason, 39 weeks was the default. C-section because after 4th degree tearing last time, literally every doctor recommended a c-section (from my OB to the MFM to my RE). Most of last week, I was getting contractions (I could feel my uterus tighten) but they were painless (I was literally having meetings through them) and not consistently 5-7 min apart. Like it would be 5-7 min apart for a few hours and then 30 min apart for half the day. I called the OB’s office and basically they said to wait till theres at least a consistent hour of 5-7 minutes apart.

On Friday, I woke up with painful gas pains and my back hurting a ton from it. Throughout the day I’d get period painful gas pains but nothing unmanageable and I was still walking/talking through them. Somewhere in the day, it occurred to me to track the intervals (I was tracking them in the days before but stopped because I was just getting stressed out). I had a ton of meetings (sigh, everyone at work put off all the planning for my being on leave until the last week!). And my last meeting of the day was a virtual baby shower that my manager gave for me. There were a couple of painful episodes but only 2 in the whole hour or something like that. Soon after the shower, I realized that the pains were getting periodic and when I timed them, they were 3-7 minutes apart. And still in the back. But I now also couldn’t walk through them and was kinda.. crumpled when they hit? Called a friend who mentioned she had back labor with the second, asked what back labor felt like and she was like “I think you should go to triage and just get it checked”. Called my OB and was like “I’m going to triage” – no questions or asking if I should go because by this point, I was sure they were contractions but not sure if they were far enough into labor to be admitted. It was maybe 5:30 by this time. Hubby was on the way home to pick up kiddo from daycare. I yelled to my parents to hand down the last few things we had to pack (namely electronics and chargers and snacks) — stairs were definitely beyond me by then. And the moment hubby pulled into the garage, I yelled at him “we’re going to the hospital NOW”. I hugged kiddo bye and told him that we’re going to the doctor to get checked and might not be home for a few days.

We reached the hospital by around 6 — luckily it’s only a 10 min or so drive but this was Friday evening and there’s a ton of heavy traffic then. I had a few contractions in the car ride over and was just thankful that at least we were in ambulance distance away. Parked the car (luckily friday evening so we got a spot RIGHT next to the entrance). Walked to triage (and had a contraction during that so after that walked as fast as I could during the off-times). Once we signed in, at least I knew we were going to be taken care of.

Now I still didn’t have a sense of how close I was. When they did a cervical check, I was 4 cm and I remember asking them to please please not send me home because it’s too painful. They probably thought I was crazy but for some reason, I thought they wouldn’t admit you until you were at 6cm. By this point, I needed to crouch to handle the contractions pain and was telling every nurse who came in that I was supposed to get a csection. They eventually did tell me that there was no way that I was going home tonight and baby’s on his way soon.

By the time they wheeled me to the pre-op/recovery room, I was still in severe pain and begging for the epidural/spinal but because I had drunk some coffee and eaten toast around 5, they were waiting for the NPO stage to clear (I just looked it up and apparently it stands for nothing by mouth). But I was also clearly in increasing pain and when they checked, I was at 8cm and I think they escalated to emergency and bypassed that waiting period? They were also waiting for the blood type results which were taking a while but I suspect they also bypassed those. I think at this point it was like 8pm maybe? So basically went from 4cm to 8cm in 2 hours WITHOUT ANY MEDICATIONS.

Since the doctor on call wasn’t my doctor she didn’t know the full history and she kept asking me whether I was sure that I wanted a c-section and wanted to go through with it. I kept explaining that my previous was a 4th degree and I didn’t want that again but I think in her (and probably the other nurses/docs) heads I was really far into labor and it was coming fast and I wasn’t that far from being done without a major surgery.

Somewhere during that waiting period, I signed the consent forms for both the csection and removal of fallopian tubes. That latter wasn’t even much of a decision — they would already be in the area and I didn’t want to constantly worry every time with sex about an accidental ectopic. It didn’t take away any future decisions – it’s not like the tubes worked anyways and IVF doesn’t need the tubes. And it lowers the risk of ovarian cancer. So I couldn’t see any downside and only upsides so.. mostly it was a practical decision however weird I found it.

Various distinct memories I have from this waiting period:

  • Being STARVING. Since lunch, I had only had a 2in brownie square, like 4oz of a latte, and 3 pieces of rusk. And I wasn’t even allowed water so really really just wanted to get food.
  • I also remember having sudden.. not quite panic but freaking out about “OMG I have no idea how to handle a newborn anymore and what do I do with two kids and how do we manage and did we do the right thing?”
  • The pain getting really bad and at some point feeling like I needed to poop and remembering that it’s a sign of further down labor so yelling that to the nurse anesthetists so they’d get things moving faster. Also they kept being very polite and using “defecate” and meanwhile I have a little kid who happily talks about poop and pee so whatevs.
  • Wondering what nurse anesthetists do and what their role was
  • Suddenly realizing that I didn’t have any last day of pregnancy pics and took one in the hospital gown
  • I was allowed contacts during the procedure
  • Realizing that I forgot my glasses at home in the rush to leave but at least I had my backup pair

I finally was wheeled into the OR where they promptly started the spinal block. I do remember being hunched over and having a contraction during the process where the nurse holding me (god bless her) told me to squeeze her hand as the contraction went through. The block worked _fast_ and once it was in the relief was immediate. I think everyone in the OR saw how I could relax after that. I think one thing that caught me off guard throughout all this was the contractions themselves — the entire pregnancy was prepping for a c-section so I didn’t think I’d end up dealing with labor. And even if I did, I assumed it would be the early stages so I just literally didn’t know any pain coping techniques or positions or anything.

The spinal block itself was so weird. It’s hard to describe it but I felt like a beached whale. Everything below my boobs were numb. And breathing suddenly felt heavy and tough. The anesthesia team told me that as long as I could squeeze my hand, everything was ok and I was breathing ok, I just was feeling like I couldn’t. They tested my feeling/pain a few times — basically poked me with a stick to check where I could feel sharpness and where I couldn’t. And then telling each other T3 or T4. I was assuming that those were vertebrae that they were counting off of where the block was active? They also kept tilting me at different angles — it felt like I would fall down but the assurances that I wouldn’t were comforting.

When they were satisfied, they put up the drapes and brought hubby in (complete with cap and bunny suit). One thing that made me uncomfortable was just how close to my face the drapes were. I mostly just looked to my left where hubby was and at some point when my neck started hurting looked right.

Looking back, there were so many people in the OR. And I couldn’t tell you who or what most of them were there for. I think they kept some stuff on my chest? It felt like there was weight there but who knows – it could have been the spinal. Also weirdly through the surgery, I could still feel so hungry. I clearly really really wanted food!

Everyone mentioned pressure when they take the baby out and yep, that was there. It didn’t even quite feel like pressure down on me, more like suddenly having to catch my breath. And then I heard a cry from baby and immediately found myself crying. Hell, I’m crying now remembering that moment. With A* that moment of birth, I felt a gush and a sense of relief that we were done and he was safe and alive and I had done my job in nourishing him. With A2, it was more, “he’s here and real and alive in this world” gratefulness. I didn’t see him immediately — hubby took pics of them washing him off and checking his scores. I think he got a 9 in the APGAR one? It was kind of a blur about that. Someone then brought him to me to kiss and I spent like a minute just nuzzling his little cheek and kissing him. I didn’t want to hold him because the entire time my upper half of my body was shivering like crazy and I didn’t want to risk holding an infant. So hubby ended up holding A2 for most of the first half hour of life. I’m really grateful for the videos and pictures we have from those moments. More than the first time, this one felt like moments that would never come again and to cherish for the rest of my life.

The stitching up took longer. I kept hearing counts of things and stuff like “right tube out”. But mostly I focused on baby and when they took him back to run some more tests, listened to or talked to the anesthesia team. Basically the anesthesia team felt like they were there in part to keep the patient calm. One of them was talking about her food adventures and how she learnt to make croissants this year. Perhaps odd given that I was complaining about being hungry but it was comforting. Actually the freak out moment was when the anesthesia team switched shifts mid-operation! I didn’t know this was a thing!

And then they were done and they took down the curtain and wheeled me back to the recovery room. Still no food because they were monitoring my recovery. But I was allowed ice chips at least. And honestly post-anesthesia, I wasn’t quite starving anymore. Funny that. Hubby went to grab food while they were monitoring me since kitchens would be closed by the time we went up to the postpartum ward. Took a while to remember but my first meal post-op was a panera sandwich because I just wanted lightweight food by that point. I think I only ate half.

Eventually I was cleared to go up to the postpartum ward where we’d be for the next few days. Definitely an adventure — we reached the hospital at 6pm, baby was born a bit after 9, done with surgery around 10:15 and up to the postpartum ward a bit before midnight.

Long and not well written because I haven’t even reread what I wrote but I wanted to capture my memories of the day. It was completely not the birth I expected but still.. healing somehow? I second guessed my choices for days but that’s a different post I think. And for now, I’m in the typical postpartum phase — sleep deprived, painful boobs, sore back from the nursing positions but also so in love with baby and loving the cuddles.

Home stretch!

I have been very remiss in updating here for no real reason other than laziness and .. life.

tl;dr I’m still pregnant, baby’s doing ok so far. I’m at 35 weeks so only a bit more to go.

This pregnancy has been both easier and harder than the first one.

First trimester nausea wasn’t quite as bad but the fatigue was way worse. And I was definitely throwing up more than I did the first time. One of the hard parts was my in laws were visiting just then (literally they landed the day of the embryo transfer) and they aren’t the most aware people so it wasn’t the most supportive environment but it was .. ok enough.

Second trimester was .. actually not too bad. ACOG changed their gestational diabetes guidelines so that even with a history of GD you didn’t need to test early unless Hba1c was >= 5.7. Mine was .. 5.6. So yay! Mostly second trimester ended up being a waiting game to try and change jobs. Nothing worked out and tech hiring in general pretty quickly collapsed over the last quarter so I ended up making peace with staying put. I really wanted to end up at a place with better maternity but that was not to be. I’m taking comfort that I’m pretty well established at my current place and have a bit of leeway as a result.

Third trimester. Sigh. After almost 3 years, we all caught covid. My hubby. Then dad three days later. Then mom, bro (who was visiting for the holidays) and me three days later. And just when we thought that we were in the clear, kiddo got it. We tried so hard to isolate and protect each person but each time, it seemed like relatively small exposures were enough. I’m still pissed at parents for not following the protocols we set up carefully enough. I suspect my dad caught it when he went down to throw out trash without a mask (Hubby was isolating on the ground floor which doesn’t have its own door but the rest of us were following a policy of anytime we go downstairs we wear a KF94). We all got it because my dad REFUSED TO TEST EVERYDAY inspite of myself, my brother (who’s majorly hypochrondriac about covid) and kid were testing daily. So there was at least a solid day when he was symptomatic and not masked around the rest of us. Sure enough, the remainder of the adults tested positive 2 days later.

For the record, everyone was past the 10day quarantine when kiddo got it (kid tested positive on my day 13) which means he likely picked it up on my day 10 or 11 (2 day incubation seems about what we saw). I know I was still positive (as was probably the others who had the same timing as me). I stopped masking after day 10.. mostly because guidance seemed to indicate that it was fine. So.. lesson seems to be that you can definitely transmit after 10 days. Kiddo did have a much milder case than the rest of us — only a bit of a cold for a few days. I did.. less well than everyone else in the family. The peak symptoms didn’t last long but i had fatigue for another week or so and more than a month later, I _still_ have lingering congestion. Which is manifesting as some combination of post-nasal drip and congestion. When then triggers my super-sensitive-pregnant gag reflex and I throw up. It’s a bit under control with expectorants and my inhaler (and by control, I mostly mean, I’m down to 0-1 times a day instead of ~2).

And in the midst of all that, I failed the 1 hr glucose screen (I was somewhere between day 5 and day 10 of covid at that point). I could have taken the 3 hr screen but honestly I was tired and didn’t want to deal so I just called it and now working as if I have GD.

GD’s mostly been easier this time. For one, guidelines seem more relaxed. My OB is managing and she just wants my sugar to be <140 2 hr post-meal (vs <120 1 hr post meal that was the aim last time). I also got a continuous glucose monitor which is so much easier. And I get better quality snack time data. So I’m largely not counting carbs and instead just following the sugar levels.

Also somewhere in the covid mess, I got diagnosed with anemia so I’m now also on iron and B12 supplements. (It occurred to me that my post-covid fatigue could have been anemia as well). On top of the baby aspirin (seems to be the norm for >35 ppl now?), prenatals, vitamin D, synthroid (at least thyroid is under control with that). And now the congestion meds. None of these are intense medications but just the sheer volume is overwhelming for me — everything has its own timing and instructions.

And the physical pain and discomfort is a lot worse this time. Maybe I’m less fit, maybe just age but pelvic muscles hurt. Tons of positions hurt. Sleep is uncomfortable and I’m never getting enough. I gave up trying to pick up kiddo from daycare last week and hubby’s taking over (I just couldn’t handle a 30 min walk anymore). I also have a ton of stress incontinence so I’ll cough which results in vomiting and then .. whoops, an accident. Thank GOD for work from home where I can at least deal with that stuff in peace. And live in yoga pants because that’s literally all that’s comfy enough.

On the plus side, I’m still negative for cholestatis though still very paranoid about it. I’m also very anxious about c-section but that seems to be the best path forward for us so I’m .. just gonna deal with my anxiety and stress and go through with it rather than risking another 4th degree tear. Baby’s also measuring smaller than A* did which I don’t know what to think about. One more growth scan next week and hopefully he’s ok then.

And meanwhile I’ve very much been counting down — 4weeks to go now. I’m very ready to be done and be past the worst of the newborn sleep phase. We’re mostly prepped — still need to finish taxes and pack the hospital bags but both are near done. And do a few other todos like get haircuts while we still have some vague energy.

I’ve been buying way too much clothing that we don’t strictly need but given that I won’t have a girl, I’m indulging in my desire for pretty things by just buying flowery and colorful infant stuff 😀


Ok it’s very very faint but.. that’s a second line! I’d been feeling super exhausted and shitty all last week. Plus tons of breast tenderness. So I was increasingly assuming that the transfer worked. I took a test last week (because I’m an idiot) which was solidly negative but I also knew it was too early. I took another last night because why not. The tests came in packs of two and I was going for a blood test today so no point in using it afterwards.

Today’s number confirmed the results — HCG is a solid 192. We’re now at the testing every two days to make sure doubling time is ok. Still exhausted but at least relieved.

In how life never stops, all this is happening in the background while also (a) A* starting a new daycare (b) in laws visiting (c) A* getting his covid shots (woo!!!!) (d) A* turned 4! It’s been a busy and exciting couple of weeks.

Given the timing with the transfer, we didn’t do much for his birthday other than a small celebration at home. Made a cake that he requested (box cake because I have no energy to do anything more complicated). But all the grandparents were there which was lovely. And there were tons of gifts from all the family, including a big boy bike 🙂

So things are working out, even outside of IVF which is nice. Loving the new place and the neighborhood. A* is a happy kid for the most part, really smart and just nice to listen to. Family’s are all healthy. The basics, all of which are important!


Transfer was last week.

Also, behold the socks! That one was my transfer pair and I wore uterus socks for the retrieval. Sadly none of the doctors/nurses commented on these 😦

Transfer itself went smoothly. Bladder wasn’t quite as full as it should have been so.. not ideal but eventually got there.

Probably the good news of the cycle — 1 embryo transferred and 2 are now frozen! So overall, a successful retrieval!

I’m now in the “ugh, is that a pregnancy symptom or just the hormone side effects” phase. Testing next week and then at least we’ll know.

I’m also worried that I didn’t rest as much as I should have post-transfer. It was an .. intense few days. My in laws flew in from out of the country on the same day as the transfer. So there’s just been a lot going on. I try to rest but its harder some days than others. I’m weirdly relieved that it’s a work day again tbh. At least I can sit and work or plop in bed and work. And distract myself from the week of waiting up ahead.


Ok, I didn’t mean for that to sound so excited. I _am_ happy and relieved that it’s done. 13 retrieved, 11 mature, 5 fertilized. Not bad counts overall! Hopefully enough continue growing for all this to work. Fresh transfer is scheduled for day 5.

I _hate hate_ fasting so leading up to the retrieval was super stressful. Now there’s not much pain but I’m really bloated today and trying to manage that. No current concerns about OHSS (other than my own over-active paranoia) – just typical super uncomfortable bloating.

Shots begin again today after a respite of a couple of days 😦

Still, even if the cycle isn’t fun at least its going smooth enough.

A few more days to go…

We’re making progress but.. still a bit to go. For a while the right ovary was massively lagging behind the left with only 2 follicles to the left’s 9. Now it’s more like 5 to 12 or something?

I was really nervous yesterday whether this cycle would be a bust (either not enough eggs or hyperstimulation or nothing would fertilize). I’m feeling a bit more confident about all of the above today. There’s 17 potential follicles now. Which seems like a decent number. My estrogen is being watched but nowhere near the real worries about OHSS. As for fertilization — idk. We’ll see. There’s nothing I can do about it now.

I’m just feeling very.. bloated for the last day or so. Something is pushing against something else in my lower back which feels really strange but it’s all expected.

I’ve been distracting myself by making plots this time around as well. Behold my work-in-progress graph. The columns are my previous cycle from 5 years ago (left) compared to this one (right). Each row is the day of the cycle (umm, not really. Technically it’s the first day of ultrasounds so it’s like day 5?). I was mostly trying to build a comparison between last time and this one. I clearly need to clean up the labels and possibly attempt an animated version of this? Perhaps a histogram isn’t the best visualization? I’m working on it! It’s been a few years since I’ve worked in R and it took a bit to just get back in the groove.

My guess is retrieval will be on Saturday. I kinda want to take bets with my husband about it. Dreading.. all of it. I hate fasting. Hate anesthesia. The stuff after that isn’t _fun_ but I have a way easier time with those medications and procedures.

Home stretch!

Halfway through the cycle

I’m at the stage where I’m strongly wondering why I am doing this. I’m achy and miserable. My stomach hurts and is bruised from some of the injections. I’m so so stressed about the whole thing — how my body will take it this time and just whether this is the right choice.

The good — follicles seem to be growing well. I’m a little worried that they’re growing too fast. But as of yesterday, there were.. 3 12’s, an 11, a 10, 5 9’s, an 8 and a dozen or more smaller ones. I’m now on both follistim and menopur (OMG I hate this one. It’s a pain to mix. and for unknown reasons, really painful to administer) and ganirelix. I just want to be done and I’m counting down another.. 5ish days? I know it’s intense even after the retrieval but the retrieval looms in my mind as the biggest thing.

I have a bit of a cold from some allergies but can’t take decongestants. So now, even visiting friends, we’re all wearing masks just in case. Just worn. I’ve avoided posting a ton about the political stuff going on but it’s all so heartbreaking.

Good things happening as well

One massive good thing is we bought a house! It’s our first one and we have no idea what we’re doing but it’s very cool! We ended up doing a bunch of renovations on it and after moving in I’m glad that we spent the money (even though I’m not over the heartburn of all that money going bye-bye).

Toddler A* is getting used to it — we painted part of his room his favorite color so we did a lot to sell the place to him before moving. There are a few playgrounds within a couple of blocks of us and he’s loving that. We didn’t put up baby gates here so he’s having a blast going up and down freely.

It’s a bit bigger but more than that, better designed so all of us have our own space. It’s been really cool being able to design our kitchen from scratch (various reasons but all the appliances were dying and at some point, it was easier and cheaper to gut take everything out and replace than try and rescue some of it). The house is still rather messy as we have that tail end of stuff to unpack and figure out where to put the gloves or the laundry detergent. But it’s also been cool knowing that we could make permanent changes and no landlord will get annoyed at us.

Money-wise, I’m still a bit nervous — a ton went bye-bye between the downpayment and reno. Plus all the moving stuff — movers, some new furnishings, various odds and ends. We are getting some of the blinds replaced because the ones that existed were so grimy, it was triggering my allergies. Had to put up some shelving. Replace some lights. Change the locks. It all adds up. But I think July will finally be the month where we’re not spending a ridiculous amount on the house and we can slow down the fixing up.

We’re pausing a little on work around the house as I go through the retrieval/transfer cycle. And family is visiting for some time in the summer. So as long as it’s usable and ok-enough that works for now.

Overall — it’s been cool and I’m relieved that we bought it before the rates shot up!

IVF #2

At least in my numbering system. We’re officially starting (started?) the second retrieval cycle. As I was taking notes on the meds, I noticed my data from so many years ago and couldn’t help but compare how similar the cycles are but also how different. The meds are largely the same. The planned process is the same. But also, it was 5 years ago. 5 long, mostly joyful, sometimes exhausting years. And I worry a lot about my body’s ability to handle it this time. If this works, I’d be a geriatric pregnancy though still below the age where a ton of testing is highly recommended I think. I worry about my ability to handle sleep deprivation again. Recovery. Pregnancy itself.

The biggest change — worrying about all this with the background of the political events. I’m grateful I live where I do because otherwise, I don’t think I would start the cycle. Is IVF going to be criminalized? Would I be risking death if I get another ectopic that doctors either refuse to treat or delay enough in treatment? What about a miscarriage? What if something else happens and it’s non-viable? What is I develop pre-eclampsia? Or there’s premature labor? I’m grateful to not have to think about the answers to those and heartbroken for everyone who does. I cannot imagine the trauma of having to deal with any of this and then be questioned by law enforcement. I have to imagine woman are deciding to delay or avoid child bearing so they don’t have to deal with these worries either.

So much of life is complex and gray and any of these laws try to make it out to be black and white. What happens in all those cases? No one writing these laws seems to have grappled with the questions of “If I (or my wife/daughter/niece/friend/etc) was in such a situation, what would I do?” They don’t seem to understand that these are common situations. And that the rare ones need even more urgent interventions. Do you let the mother die? Let a rape victim have even more trauma?

I’m heartbroken.