Tuesday, May 20, 2008


There are a few issues in my life that have been percolating for a while, and yesterday they came to a boil. I'm not ready to get into it yet, but things are extremely stressful and up in the air right now. Tim and I are fine, Sophie is fine. But everything else is in limbo at the moment. I hope to have some resolution (or at least a plan) in the next two weeks. But until then, I'm just not ready to talk about it. And I can't talk about other little things and ignore the big issues--I've been trying it for a while, but things are just too full-blown now. So, I'm going to take a two-week hiatus (at the minimum). I will hopefully be able to tell you what's going on after that. Cross your fingers, wish me luck, say a prayer--I'll take anything right now. Talk to you soon.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Mixed feelings

I am taking my first planned day off in some time tomorrow, and I should be really happy about it. Unfortunately, things are turning more craptastic by the minute.

First, I have a thesis committee meeting in a little over two weeks. I don't have my draft of my paper finished, my luciferase assays are totally inconsistent, and I am still having huge Western blot issues. So basically, I have very little useful data from my last meeting three months ago. And that sucks. And I know it is going to be an extremely unpleasant meeting.

Second, I just got an email from the secretary that my training grant appointment expires at the end of this month. I was under the impression that it ran until September. The issue is: I make 200/month less when I am not on the training grant; they withhold taxes, which lowers the take home pay; and I know my boss doesn't have a grant of his own, so there's the issue of just being paid, period. I emailed the secretary to ask if she knows anything, but I haven't heard back. And of course, Dr. B left for his conference today, so I can't ask him.

Third, I've got to come into work on my day off, at least for a little while. And I also have to come in both days this weekend. I need to get usable data, but I know that there is little chance these experiments I am doing over the weekend will work. My boss says just keep trying. I know they aren't magically going to start working. But I am out of other ideas.

I am really starting to panic about lab. It's been almost six months since I returned from maternity leave, and I've got very little to show for it. Things were working miraculously well before I left, and they have totally crapped out since. I can't do any of the experiments I need to do without a working antibody. There is only one that works even a little, and our hybridoma apparently isn't making any. I'm trying everything I can think of, but without that antibody, I'm screwed.

I already asked to meet with one of my committee members. She was a post-doc in the lab I first did undergraduate research in nearly eight years ago, so she knows me pretty well. I am just going to beg for help in any way she can. We'll hopefully meet next week, and maybe something good will happen.

I'm just freaking out because I wanted to go back to med school in six months. If none of my experiments have worked in the last six months, what will make them work (and allow me to finish) in the next six? And if I don't go back this November, that pushes graduation back a year, in addition to causing all sorts of funding issues.

I'm trying not to lose it just yet. But at the one time when I want to get away from lab more than anything, it looks like I'm going to be spending more time there.

Monday, May 12, 2008

I don't know what I was expecting, but this wasn't it.

I'm a bit aggravated today, so I apologize in advance for the "tone" of the blog. I just need to vent a little.

First, the house stuff. Yes, we officially own only one house. As has been par for the course, it wasn't without a lot of aggravation at the end. We hadn't heard from our realtor in days, we had signed all of our papers, and the buyers were supposed to have signed theirs. So on Friday, we expected some call or something from our realtor letting us know things were good. Nothing. We tried calling her, and she wasn't available. Her husband didn't even know where she was. As we got more frustrated by the minute, I finally called the title company and asked about it. They said it hadn't transferred yet, but it would. Finally late Friday afternoon the realtor called and said it went through. Massive aggravation, but at least we are done.

Second, Mother's Day. This being my first Mother's Day, I didn't know what to expect. And boy, I was surprised. I was surprised in a good way by how thoughtful family and friends were. I'm not their mom, but I got so many emails/messages wishing me a happy mother's day that I was truly touched. My friend Katie from Alaska even sent me a beautiful basket of flowers! No one has EVER sent me flowers. I was so touched. To have so many people thinking of me was really overwhelming.

Now, the person I expected to wish me a happy mother's day fell a bit short. Tim and I don't exchange gifts--not for Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, nothing. It originated from several things: first, saving money; next, less stress; third, not making holidays materialistic, and fourth, if you're going to go out the morning of a holiday and buy me the first thing you see, and not even wrap it or take the tags off, I'd rather you didn't buy me anything at all. The problem is that I am very sentimental. I think for weeks about what I want to get a person. A lot of times I make something or do something personal. Tim is the total opposite. He's the king of last minute, and his perfect gift is something like a gift card.

I didn't even get a card for my birthday last month, so I was hoping for something on Mother's day. I didn't expect a gift, really, but I was hoping for something sentimental. Last year I sent him cookies to work to celebrate Father's Day. I thought that was so cute. I put so much thought into that--something that would be delivered, something he could brag about, and something he could enjoy and share with others. It didn't quite work out the way I planned, but it was ok in the end.

Well, my mother's day weekend wasn't quite in the same league. Saturday we were having his parents up to celebrate mother's day with them. After Sophie got up, I went downstairs and cleaned for two hours before he even got out of bed. Then we went shopping for food, and he bought his mom flowers. Then I cooked in the afternoon, finished cleaning, and then his parents came over (about an hour late). I took care of Sophie, gave her a bath, and put her to sleep while they had dessert. His parents stayed until about 10:30 or so, and of course Sophie slept like an angel from 8-10:30. Not ten minutes after they left, she started screaming. It's separation anxiety--she'll calm down when I'm in the room, but as soon as I leave, she screams. This went on nearly constantly until about 2 AM. She finally crashed, and I got some sleep.

Sunday morning I was hoping for some rest. Not so much. Tim went out in the morning to get me a card while I watched Sophie . Yes, it was the morning of Mother's Day, but at least I got a card. Then I got ready, got Sophie ready, and we went to church. Tim went out and got a haircut while I watched Sophie again. We then headed out to Best Buy and Home Depot (a whole different aggravating story), and then we were running late, so we headed down to my parent's house with ingredients for my casserole in tow. I made my dish while everyone socialized. We ate, my mom opened her gift (we all chipped in and got her a spa package), and then I helped my dad move the big entertainment center (the one that had been in our old house) and set all the electronics up. We finished about 10, headed home, I put Sophie to bed, and then I crashed about 11.

So, to recap: no gift. No relaxation. No time to myself. Even his mom got flowers--I got a card. Which, I have to say, is better than no card. Even if he did run out and get in that morning.

I didn't have clear expectations of what I wanted for mother's day. And I do the finances, so I know we have no money for big gifts. But I was hoping for something sentimental--breakfast in bed, an hour to get a bubble bath, maybe even flowers or something small to remind me of my first mother's day. No such luck. I guess part of it is my fault for not saying I wanted something. But should I have to?

I wanted one day to feel special. I've been so overwhelmed lately with baby stuff plus house stuff plus lab--I wanted one day off. But doing everything for our families was actually more stressful than a normal weekend. I wanted to do something--after all, they are our moms--but maybe next year we order pizza.

I was pretty bummed about all of it last night. Tim knows I'm disappointed, but I can't really hold it against him. He's been stressed out lately too. I was just hoping for something sentimental. But I guess this way I don't really have high expectations for future mother's days.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

First missed milestone

Ok, I've had my first dose of mommy guilt associated with a missed milestone (I've had lots of general mommy guilt though). My mom just called and asked, "Did you know Sophie has a tooth?"


Sophie's been a little more fussy the past week or two, but I attributed that to a growth spurt (since she's also been eating a lot more recently). She had one little area on her gums that was a little bit lighter, but no swelling or redness.

Last night, and the night before, she's been not wanting to go to sleep for anything, and then she wakes up several times at night. But all it takes is popping the binky back in and she's asleep.

I've heard such horror stories about teething--fevers, drooling, screaming babies, red puffy gums--that I figured it'd be obvious. Apparently she's so laid back that she cut a tooth without me even noticing!

I feel like a bad mom that I didn't catch it. Heck, she had her mouth open a dozen times just this morning when I was giving her cereal and veggies. But did I see the little tooth on her bottom left? Nope.

I guess I'll get to see it today after work. Hopefully it's a good sign that I didn't notice it when she was nursing this morning!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

More to come

Just wanted to drop a line and give a quick update.

After much frustration and many more phone calls than it should have taken, it appears that this house sale will go through. We didn't get confirmation that the lending bank was going ahead with the loan until Monday, and the title company didn't give us our (large) number for our closing check until yesterday. And they want us to sign the papers tonight, with the buyers signing theirs tomorrow and the house transferring on Friday. Last minute much? I understand some people may have large sums of money in their accounts, ready to write big closing checks at any time. We are not those people. We tried to tell them we needed lead time to get our finances together (aka so we wouldn't be bouncing checks all over), but apparently that doesn't matter much to them.

Our realtor has been pretty much no help in this, and the title agency has been downright snippy on occasion. Nonetheless, we are nearing the home stretch. We moved the big furniture out of the house this weekend. Tim dropped off the garage door openers and keys last night, so theoretically we have no reason to go over there ever again.

I didn't go with Tim to see the house last night. I just couldn't do it. I've gotten to a very stoic place with all of this, and I think being in the empty house would've caused me to lose it. I did write a letter to the old house--something I started before the last sale fell through--so maybe I'll finish that and post it. I don't know. This has been the most stressful year of my life, and I'm eager to move on. That's how I cope--just move on.

In other news, lab is sucking royally. None of my experiments are working, and now my antibodies have just stopped working. They were all from the same hybridoma culture. I've done all the tests, and I know it's the primary (versus the secondary antibody or my ECL or something like that), so now I have to regrow my cultures and hope that works. Ugh.

My boss is going to be at a national meeting next Thursday and Friday to listen to Kim's presentation, so I am thinking maybe Tim and I will take Friday off and just chill. There's really a lot I need to get done, both in lab and at home, but I think we are due for just a day with nothing. We could both use it.

More thoughtful stuff later maybe. For now, I've got to take care of my cells and get ready to sign away the old house tonight. It's always something, isn't it?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Can I tell you a secret?

Well, I guess it won't be much of a secret once I blog about it, but I really haven't had much of a chance to do a personal blog in a while. And I think I need to do one to sort things out. A little background first.

I made the comment recently that I feel like my head is finally above water with the whole baby thing. I am not an expert, I don't have a foolproof system, and there are still many times when things can't go the way I'd like them to because I have a baby now. But for the most part, if we need to go somewhere or do something, we can. Sure, Sophie might act up, or poop in the middle of the mall, or something along those lines. But we know how to deal with it now. The thought of her screaming in Target, while not ideal, doesn't prevent us from going if we need diapers. That doesn't mean we head out to window-shop and walk around like we used to pre-baby. But we're not prisoners in the house either (unless it's after 8 PM, and then one of us has to be home while Sophie's sleeping).

There are parts of the baby experience I don't enjoy. Take breastfeeding. Actually, it's pumping more specifically. Breastfeeding, while often inconvenient, does let me bond with Sophie in a way no one else can. And it's a heck of a lot cheaper than formula. Having said that, I'm tired of being the one that feeds her all the time (except when my mom's watching her). I'd like to have Tim feed her if I'm doing something. And I'm tired of not being able to wear regular bras or sleep on my stomach. And I LOATHE pumping. I can't tell you why--it's just so cold and mechanical. And totally inconvenient. And I can't pump enough to keep up with her. She usually takes between 16-24 ounces of milk while I'm gone during the day. And I can pump 10, maybe 12. So now I'm pulling one to two bags of milk from the freezer every day just to keep up. It sucks. I hate feeling like it's my job to be the sole food source, and I can't produce. We're trying to up her solids to 2-3 times a day, but according to the pediatrician, that supplements milk, not replaces it. Eventually she'll get most of her calories from solids, but we still have a way to go yet.

Having said that, there are things about the baby stuff that I love. I love how she lights up when I come into the room (actually, she lights up for almost anyone, but still). I love how she cuddles. I love that she becomes more and more of a person every day. I love how much I love her. And as selfish as it is, I love that I feel needed and useful.

Pathetic that I need to be needed, right? But being a mom is the one area that has been consistently positive for me. I'm having a rough week in lab, and with another committee meeting coming up in a month, both my PI and I are frustrated at how slowly things are moving. He pushes his frustration on me; I bottle it up. So of course, it's affecting my sleeping, my eating, and my general level of stress.

Life in general is frustrating too. This house thing is still messy--we're supposed to close a week from today and we still haven't heard if they need an FHA inspection, whether their loan will be ready on time, and how big of a check we need to bring to closing. That means that this is our last weekend to move furniture, and there is a chance we'll get hosed like last time. We absolutely don't want to move everything and then move it back again, so we're hesitant. But we're running out of time. And we just want to be done.

House stuff is making money tight, of course. I keep telling myself that once this is done, things will be balanced again (hopefully). But we want to get a fence for privacy. And gas prices are insane. And both of our cars are due for work. It's stressful just buying groceries.

I feel so torn. I'm supposed to give 110% to work to finish up my PhD. But I need to give 100% to Sophie. And there's all this other life garbage in the way. There are lots of other little things too bugging me, but no need to whine any more here. I just feel like by not giving my all to everything, I'm accomplishing nothing.

Like I said before, I feel like being a mom is the only continuous source of positivity I have. Lots of things are positive periodically--I like when we get the chance to see family and friends, I am relieved when I find new ways to save us money, and once in a blue moon an experiment works. But no matter what kind of day I've had, when I come home to Sophie and she smiles at me, I feel better. Not to say that she had perfect days every day--far from it--but it always feels worthwhile.

So, that feeling of usefulness plus hormones means--that's right, my biological clock is ticking again. Let me state, loud and clear, that I have absolutely no plans to act on it for at least a few more years. But the urge is back. I remember when we had dinner over my cousin's place about a month ago, and his friend's wife was talking about how she was already trying to have another one. With Sophie being 5 months old, I couldn't imagine that urge ever coming back. I asked her when hers started up again, and she said about 6 months. I thought she was crazy.

Now I get it. Sophie's growing so much every day. And she's such a joy. I feel like I want to increase that positivity, and it's easier to have another baby than it is to fix all of the things (mostly lab) that bring negativity into my life. And the hormones. Oh my goodness, the HORMONES! It's definitely biological, that's for sure. Only hormones could make me forget about all the misery I went through while being pregnant. Thank goodness for the blog. I can look back and remember how sick I was the first trimester, how swollen and uncomfortable I was at the end, and the unholy pain and trauma that was delivery. I know all of that. But when I see all the 8 and 9 month pregnant women walking around at work (my building is right next to the OB section of the hospital), I get a little jealous. I miss being pregnant. I miss those first few weeks of having a tiny little baby. Ok, Sophie was never tiny, but she's closing in on 20 pounds now, so she was small by comparison.

And most of all, I feel like being a mom is important. I don't feel like lab is important. Heck, I don't even think my research is interesting. Why would I expect anyone else to find it enthralling? And goodness knows that I as a person am not important in the lab. I'm a set of hands (that work too slowly, apparently). My boss knows nothing of my day to day issues outside the lab. Heck, he tried to call me a few weekends ago and came in Monday complaining that I gave him the wrong number. I had to remind him that I moved. Ten months ago.

Again, let me state that these urges do not mean I am contemplating getting pregnant again any time soon. I don't know how I could do it during my third year clerkships (assuming I ever get out of the lab), and with the new curriculum, there's no guarantee I'd have enough of a break in the fourth year to do it either. And then I'd start residency. So what I am saying is that by the time there is a good time to have another baby, I'll be 40. I don't want to wait that long, but I don't want to do it again tomorrow either.

Of course, there's the fallout from getting pregnant in the lab. Goodness knows I don't want to deal with that. One baby in the PhD is bad enough--two means I'm totally uncommitted and worthless. I have no desire to have to explain myself to my boss, my committee, my department, and my program. It's stressful enough trying to finish up before the lab dissolves. Adding a pregnancy to that (along with its associated physical joys) will not speed up my departure, that's for sure.

Plus, if we're struggling with money now, paying for another baby in day care is not the way to fix things.

So there's the secret. I struggle every day with these biological urges. Part of me wants nothing more than to say screw the PhD, I'm going for it. But I've worked too hard to come this far and throw it all away. I do regret that I didn't bail on lab sooner, but now with less than a year to go, I need to suck it up and finish.

I'm rational and responsible, as well as driven by a huge guilt complex, so there is no way we're having another baby soon. But I'd love to rebel. I know, some people are into tattoos or drugs or skydiving or what have you for thrills. My idea of rebelling is skipping a departmental seminar to finish an experiment. I'm just a wild and crazy girl.

And for as much as I am dreading my next committee meeting in June--why do I always feel like I have to make so many excuses for my project with them?--I just want to be done. November is my entry point for med school if I want to graduate in 2010, or else it is graduation in 2011 if I can't go back until next March or July.

Honestly, what I need is a week off to relax and get my personal life organized. I have a to-do list at home a mile long. And really, I think it would make me more productive at work if I didn't have to split my loyalties (and time) as much as I do. But I think taking a week off at this point would give Dr. B a heart attack. I'll probably take one day off around memorial day when we go to the camp, but that might be it for vacations this year.

Anyway, a bit of a random blog, but I needed to get that out. There's something about getting a personal issue out that lets me just let it go. I already feel the baby urge fading. And besides, I'd like to have my body back for a while before I get pregnant again. The last thing I want is to move right from breastfeeding to pregnancy.

Ok, that's the randomness of the day. Not a big juicy secret, I know, but something a little more personal than I've had time for recently. Back to non-working experiments and more departmental seminars.