Wednesday, August 29, 2012

When Mommy Post-Doc Gets Sick

What can I say...I have two little kids in daycare, and I've managed to dodge a few bullets this year already (when child 2 had hand-foot-and-mouth for the 3rd time and when both boys have had the dreaded ear goo), so it's bound to happen that I get a cold eventually.

Both kids have been coughing for a while (although not acting sick, and no fever to be had), and my other half had a nasty cough a week or so ago.  Tuesday of last week I woke up with what I thought were allergies.  Then my nose started to drip spontaneously at work (not good when working in a lab, f.y.i.).  This continued onto Wednesday and into Thursday, where on Thursday I thought it best to do the NyQuil thing at night.  Friday I took a half day, head throbbing, coughing, sniffling and all of that (the prototypical NyQuil commercial).  Saturday I added a sore ear to the mix, and without really getting any better over the weekend, I came to work today (Monday) because I want to work and I have loads to get done!

So here I sit, my ear plugged up, making it hard to hear (it sounds like there's a piece of wax paper pulled taught over it, so everything, especially voices, vibrates!).  My eyes are behaving weirdly, and my contacts are getting dried out or something, making it hard to see 100% clearly.  At least my head feels OK and the nose drips are gone.  And I don't look like the walking dead, so I don't think anyone is going to send me home.

In the end, what I have decided is this.  I could be at home, resting it off, but missing out on today.  I'd rather save the sick day for when I'm really knocked-on-my-butt ill.  I have experiments planned out for this week, contingent on me starting them today, so I don't want to mess that up either.  And then there's the nights and weekends where I might not get a whole lot of rest either.  I just keep going...and somehow the constant go-go-go keeps me upright and under the illusion that I feel fine.  If I wasn't a mommy, and wasn't a post-doc, then I might be home.  Or at least getting the rest after work that I could really use.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Maternity Leave

I think I might have mentioned in a previous post something regarding how fickle maternity leave is for post-docs (or maybe anyone in the academic science community?).  I've talked to women (and I guess a few men, as it related to their significant others) who have mentioned that they had little to no maternity leave available when a new baby arrived.  There was the story of a woman, who, as a post-doc could only take a couple of days off (the time she was in the hospital) before she had to return to the lab.  She mentioned that her newborn took up residence in one of the filing cabinet drawers of her office.  Another that I remember hearing about had adopted twins, and could only take off a short amount of time (vacation time) before losing whatever seniority she had within her department.

My first "maternity leave" was pretty simple...I was teaching at the time, and I was due in July (when classes were out of session).  So, technically, my department heads at the university and the community college didn't even really need to be the wiser about the fact that I was pregnant at all (my department head at the community college only realized that I was pregnant when I came in for my end of class review in May).  I got "lucky" in the sense that my son was born ten days early, so he ended up being just over 6-weeks old and able to go to daycare when classes started again in the fall.  I wasn't getting paid over the summer, so I didn't have a paid maternity leave, really (I did qualify for unemployment, but that's another story/fiasco all together).

My second maternity leave was a bit more calculated.  When I was interviewing at my present place of employment, one of the questions I asked HR was what is the policy on maternity leave.  Luckily (and I say that without sarcasm this time!), it's covered under short-term disability.  I was thrilled, especially since my last leave wasn't paid, and I know it would be difficult if I was unpaid after the birth of another baby.  I had 6-weeks and 1 day off of work, and I can honestly say that I wish I could have had another couple of weeks (maybe with #3 I'll have more saved up time off?).

So now I'm going to end this with a statistic and a little picture I found on the inter-webs, because I really am trying to make a point here.  Maternity leave in the U.S. kinda sucks.  Having had both scenarios play out (paid and unpaid leave), it's kind of pathetic that there isn't more time.  Especially when you compare it to other countries.  It makes me wonder what the statistics for other countries look like specifically for those in the life science/lab research fields.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Topic: Pushed out of a Job

This doesn't pertain to me specifically, and I know the title of this post sounds horrible all around. When could a pregnancy push a person out of their job? What situations pose a particular job related hazard to pregnant women? I think of all of these things in the context of being a post-doc after I read this article. It's a starting point for discussion.

The article that I came across (and forgive me for not remembering how and when I saw it...I'll blame the mommy-brain on that) is titled Pregnant, and Pushed out of a Job

It's an opinion piece, and so I'm almost giving my opinion of an opinion, and giving my take on things.

Short summary of the article is about women who are somehow forced to leave their job because of something related to pregnancy. Since we all know that it's illegal to fire someone because they're pregnant, the collective we also know that there are ways around it. The article also discusses what reasonable accommodations for pregnant women are, how it would benefit employers to do these things, and so on.

I'll admit that when I was pregnant with my youngest, things were good. I have the type of job where I can get up and go to the restroom as much as I reasonably would like. That came in handy in the 1st trimester when I would purge the contents of my stomach there. The red bags in the lab were handy for that too (although nothing of real quantity landed in the lab biohazard). I could sit down, and I had a chair to put my feet up on if I needed to (or just felt like it!).

However, there were two things of concern to me as a pregnant post-doc. The first was biological/chemical hazards. The second was time spent off of work (for various reasons and in various capacities). Were accomodations necessary for the first one? I'll answer quickly with a "no". There was nothing about that that would push me out of a job. The second one I'll discuss a bit more.

Time spent off of work. I'll give mad props to my place of employment for having short-term disability available for maternity leave. I also like that other people can donate sick time. My problem came with just not having enough sick time, and that I'd inadvertently lost some sick time when the New Year rolled around (my bad for not reading the HR policy). My oldest son and husband had active MRSA infections that required some extra medical care on their part, and I was showing signs of pre-term labor (don't read too much into that...I'm an early and big dilator, which translated to having weekly appointments earlier than normal). As in a previous post, I mentioned how I kept research (as well as my mind) going while on maternity leave.

However, not everyone is so lucky. How many times have I heard of post-docs going back to work soon (think days) after their child is born? Too many! A fear that I might have would be if my job would push me out if I took too much time off of work to care for a newborn. Even if it didn't push me out, how does having a baby alter plans for grant submissions? Publications? 6 weeks doesn't seem like a lot of time off (and it's not, really), but in research, taking 6 weeks off might translate to twice that in catch-up time or planning for the leave.

For now, in my current position, I feel comfortable that I won't be pushed out of a job for being pregnant, or be pushed out of the competition because of having a child (or children) while being a post-doc.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Pregnant at Work - 1st Trimester

I don't think there is a job out there that doesn't change in some way when you're pregnant.  In just the same way that nearly every job changes when you break your leg, have a headache or are insanely hung over from the night before.  But I'm sticking to the pregnant one.  And I'm also talking about my own job and line of work.

When I was pregnant with my older son, I was lucky (sort of!) in that I got to experience all of the morning sickness that I could handle in the comfort of my own home.  I could be nauseous all day long.  There were days that I threw up no less than three times before noon.  

The second one was a bit more interesting to "hide", in that I had to wander to the bathroom to throw up, or be discreet about attempting to hurl in one of the conveniently located biohazard bags in the lab.  There were more smells that tipped me off at work (yeah, beta mercaptoethanol is not a nice smell when you're pregnant...and neither is people being stinky in the bathroom on our floor!).  I had more people help me through the morning sickness stuff, as in there were some who brought me ginger candies, one of the summer interns had access to some special ginger crackers designed for morning sickness.  My own OB was also super nice (not that my other one with my 1st son wasn't nice...) in that he gave me a prescription for Zofran to take the edge off.

Working in the lab is also full of hazards sometimes, not just the smells, and I was a little more cautious about these sorts of things.  I could have really done without a summer intern exploding cells in a microwave.  There's virus work going on, and all sorts of other chemicals that have a chance to affect the unborn.  But in the end, these are all just things to keep in mind, not to be paranoid about all of the time.

By the end of first trimester, things were still good.  I was able to maneuver through tight spaces still (LOL!), my clothes still fit, and my appetite was returning.  So far so good!  Stay tuned for a second trimester version!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Picking Up on Posting!

After quite an absence (3 1/2 months, from what I can see!), I'm ready to pick this blogging thing up again!  I've had so many things that I've wanted to get out there, but literally no time to do it.  So no time like the present.

One unfortunate thing is that I've done a poor job of keeping track of articles that I've come across and I thought might bear repeating.  I'm bad for bookmarking, and if my computer shuts down, it takes all the tabs with it (provided Chrome doesn't recover it for me).  But I did bookmark some, and some I'll just write a little description of here in the event that I find it again.

So here they are:

1.  Topic:  Pregnant and pushed out of a job.
2.  Topic:  Having your children with you at the office (encouraged by your employer!)
3.  Membership:  National Post-doctoral Association
4.  Interesting News:  Fetal cells found in mothers
5.  Topic:  Maternity Leave in America

My other reason for starting to pick up blogging again is that I will soon be traveling down the path of hopefully becoming a pregnant post-doc again!  Imagine that...blogging about being a pregnant post-doc while actually being one this time!