Back when I had a baby and a fellowship rejection in one week

Over four years ago, I came home from the hospital in the evening after a day that started with me thinking I was in labor (and so did the midwives, by the way) but ended with me not being in labor anymore while the baby was still in my uterus. I was exhausted and wanted to go to bed, but just before that I checked my email. Back then, my private email and most of my work email came to the same email address. And there it was: a long awaited email from the EU with the results of whether I was going to get a Marie Curie fellowship to do my own research back in the homecountry. As the EU did back then, the email just said something along the lines of "fellowship results", and then you had to click a link, log into their participant portal, find out that your password has expired, make a new password, log in again to then find a very cryptic message that still did not really say whether you got the money or not. I was exhausted from being in the hospital all day, but my heart was racing at the same time because I wanted to know if I got the fellowship or not.

Fast forward: I did not get the fellowship but I did have the baby 5 days later. And now that I look back at these emails I'm surprised to see that within 2 weeks of giving birth I was emailing with the professor who gave me feedback on this grant on how to rework it into a new grant. I so much wanted to succeed in academia that I kept thinking and working around birthing a baby. But before you get all judgy, I also remember very clearly how this was a way for me to stay connected to my normal world: my world that I was used to and to try and avoid the world I had experienced with my first-born: a world where I felt so alone with a crying baby. I was not - and am still not - someone who can sit still for a long time. I wanted to continue to think about science even though I had just had a baby. I want to take care of a baby and think at the same time.

I was reminded of this when the other day, a journalist tweeted the following:

And of course Twitter had lots of opinions, that Racael Pells summarized for Times Higher Education. But as you can imagine from the story I shared, this could have been me (that is - before you come to the part where she describes that the academic in question was male).

In hindsight, perhaps I wish my work email wouldn't come to my private email address. In hindsight, I wish I wouldn't have checked my email after a long day in the hospital. And in hindsight, I wish I could have been more in the moment with my little baby. I wish I had seen more examples of how people actually do this, as opposed to stories of women who submit manuscripts while in early labor. I wish academia wasn't so much of a linear career path, where I was afraid to take some time to be in the moment with a little baby. But there are many moments in a day. Some moments were spent mindfully bonding with my new baby, and other moments were spent sending emails. That is how it was.

2 responses so far

  • Anon says:

    I don't think there is anything wrong with trying to stay connected to the normal world when one has a baby. When I was pregnant and in the early days of childbirth, I constantly felt like I was reduced to a "body". Doctors and hospitals do tend to make one feel that way. As an academic, I had always had a life of the mind, and I hated that feeling.

    Like you, the way I dealt with it was to stay somewhat connected -- I read some email, checked up on my favorite blogs, and even browsed through the website of the main conference in my field looking through the abstracts. I honestly did not feel like I was doing it out of any pressure; if anything, I enjoyed the kind of normalcy it brought to my life, regardless of what random folks on Twitter might think. Most mothers I know -- even non-academics (gasp!) -- do some of that to feel like they are part of the world again -- and it's completely normal.

    (Btw: reading that article, I find it quite telling that the tone of the Twitterers took a different turn when the reporter revealed that this academic was a man. Double standards much?)

    • babyattachmode says:

      Yes quite shocking to see how the sentiment changed when it turned out the academic was a man. Very much a double standard still. And thanks for sharing your experience, I agree that it is probably not unique to academics at all.

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