Background Stories

The Pregnant Post-Doc Story

In the beginning...OK that probably isn’t the best way to start something, but it’s all I could come up with right now.

What is the beginning?  The start of my own life?  The start of my career?  The start of my relationship with my husband?  The start of my adult life?  Motherhood?

I’ve debated long and hard about where to start, and each time I ask myself that question, I seem to get a different response.  So, by the time that this is done, I’m certain that I will have changed my mind about a hundred times.

For now, here is where I will start...and I will give my explanation.  This story is about being a post-doc, and tacked onto that, a pregnant post-doc.  These two events did not happen simultaneously, and certainly have not always been continuous.

So, once again, in the beginning, I became a post-doc.  The point at which I became one is a bit foggy, at that, so I’ll try to pick a good starting point (yet another thing to debate with myself about!).

It all started in 2006.  It isn’t up for debate that I became a post-doc in 2006.  The exact month, however, might be up for debate.  I had planned to finish my Ph.D. by the end of 2005, but that proved harder to achieve due to some unforseen circumstances.  The beginning of 2006 rolled around, and I had secured myself a teaching position for the spring semester at the university.  

The teaching position was more a means to an end.  The ultimate goal was to begin working on a laboratory research project, and teaching was the means by which I would get paid to be able to work in the lab.  

I started teaching, and in February, I finally managed to get all of my committee members together and my Ph.D. defense took place.  I passed (yay!) and afterwards everything went back to the way it had been for the past month...teaching and easing my way into the lab.

My teaching stint was due to end in May, after which I was set to start my official post-doc position at the beginning of July (post-doc positions under the grant I was being paid from ran from beginning of July to the end of June of the following year).  

Armed with my Ph.D. (which, minor technicality, my diploma actually lists August 2006 as the time it was should have been May, but due to a small technical error on my part...a page number in my table of contents was wrong....seriously...), I had one more stop to make before becoming an OFFICIAL post-doc...getting married!

So here comes the abbreviated story of Mike and me.  Girl and boy meet.  But girl and boy live 1000+ miles from each other.  Girl and boy both date other people, still keep in contact with each other, until the planets align, bad relationships end (the ones to other people) and finally boy and girl get their act together and start dating.  Boy and girl move to another state together, buy a house and then plan to get married.  

And with that, we get married.  On June 24th, 2006, I became a add another title to my expanding name (and add another last name to boot).  Seven days later...yep...I’m officially a post-doc in a post-doc position.  It even says so in the university directory!

Now when did I become a post-doc, then?  February when I defended?  July when I officially started the post-doc position?  August like it says on my diploma?  Does it really matter?

I’ve now got one part of this story down (the post-doc part...I’ll describe a little more about that later), now for the pregnancy part.

For this part of the story, I need to zip back a bit, before marriage and all of that even.  Mike and I had discussed children before we were “officially” planning on getting married.  After all, that sort of thing can be a deal breaker for those who have their heart set one way or another on the issue.  Being a bit of a control freak, I had a rough time-table about when I’d like to think about having kids.  In my mind, I figured that a year as newlyweds would be good before we started trying to have kids.  Less would mean that we might not get as settled into our house and jobs and things, and possibly not getting that honeymoon until MUCH later, and more would mean that our biological clocks might start ticking away madly.  So, a year it was!

Having talked about this, and decided (probably more me deciding than anything), I also had a fear that it would take a while to get birth control out of my system.  It wasn’t as though I had been on it a really long time (I’d just started taking it when Mike and I got together after having been off of it for a few years) or I had any reason to worry.  But, just in case, I wanted to be able to START trying without any hiccups.  That isn’t the whole reason to stop taking the pill, since I also wanted to lose some weight.  Birth control pills were NOT nice to me in the weight department (this happened in the past as well).  Long story short, with those two reasons, I stopped taking birth control around February...4 months before getting married.  Yes, we were still using birth control...with a barrier...

We’ve already established the use of birth control...and getting married...and wanting to try for having kids in 2007.  But then this happened...

In November 2006, I was late. know...LATE.  I have never been LATE in my life, in terms of my cycles, and typically you could set a clock by me.  Every 28 days.  OK so I lie...but it was pretty close.  If it wasn’t 28 days, it was 26 at the earliest...and I can’t really recall a time where I had been late (lucky me, right?).  So I waited.  Two days late...three days late.  I was getting a little nervous.  I kept checking my calendar to make sure that I was figuring things out correctly, that I wasn’t just a week off and stressing myself out over nothing.  But...nope...I was late.  A week late, and after discussing this with Mike (he seemed way more calm about it than I was), we went and bought a pregnancy test.  I kept thinking to myself and outloud as well that I COULDN’T be pregnant...we were so careful, and nothing broke, and it just was NOT part of the plan.  

In the interest of cutting things shorter here and skipping right to the if no one could guess baby resulted.  Clearly, since Daniel is our first-born, and he wasn’t conceived until later.

Skipping ahead, it’s 2007!  Now, I know I had said that we were going to “wait” to start trying until after we’d been married a year.  OK, whatever.  I lied again.  In April, we decided to just go for it!  Throw caution to the wind, and whatever happens, happens.  It fell into my plan (my plan was to shoot for having kids in the range of March - May...with a buffer of January at the earliest in the year, and July or August at the fall babies, sorry!).  Conceiving in April would mean a January baby, and I was OK with that. luck on the first try.  Oh well...not everyone can have a one-shot wonder.  May then maybe?  

In the interim, we planned our honeymoon to Hawaii, finally!  Not getting pregnant on the first try was kind of a relief, because then I wouldn’t be pregnant for that trip.  With that, we set off towards the end of May.  According to my calculations, we timed our trip to when I could be ovulating...wouldn’t that be cool to conceive in Hawaii?  

After returning home, I was, once again late.  LATE.  This time I WANTED to be late.  I had marked the day that the red-tide was due on my calendar so that there was NO mistaking.  The day it was due came and went.  I mention it to Mike, and he doesn’t really think a whole lot about it...or at least that’s the impression that I get.  A week late.  I head out on my lunch hour and get a pregnancy test (it’s killing me, the suspense is, really) and go to the ladies room.  Negative.  I’m a week late, and NEGATIVE?  Negative when I want it to be positive?!  I start trying to read about false negatives on pregnancy tests, and looking at the statistics that they report on the test boxes.  Those things are misleading, you know!

It’s a good thing that the box came with TWO tests in it.  I tell Mike, and not really knowing a whole lot about the testing stuff, thinks I should wait a few days to test.  So now I end up being TWO weeks late...chomping at the bit to pee on a stick again.

At this point, I just want something to happen.  I want to be pregnant.  I want my period to come so that I can at least KNOW that we’re starting to try again.

So June is a month of frustration, not only because of this weird cycle issue and now WANTING to be pregnant...but also time for another blow.  My job.

I’m on the post-doc which is specific to cancer research.  It’s been a while since they’ve had someone SPECIFICALLY doing that, and not to blow my own horn or anything, but I was particularly suited to that grant.  It had been “promised” to my boss for two years.  In turn, it had been “promised” to me.  When in Hawaii (end of May, beginning of June), the person who facilitates (or sort of “hands out” the funds or decides who will get it) spoke with my boss and said she’d be sending over my year 2 contract to sign.  In addition, she asked me to provide her with some updated information, publications and things, and just what I’d been doing in the past year and what planned to do in the upcoming year.  I did so, with a pretty quick turn around, and everything seemed on track to start my 2nd year.

The contract never arrived.  We kept checking on it, asking about it, and then the ball dropped...yes...two days before year one was up.  My boss discovered that the grant had been reappropriated to two grad students at the last minute...great.  He didn’t have the money to pay me, so I was stuck trying to find a new job!  Luckily, he did have two months of overlap money to at least keep me paid for a little while.

This sucks, at this point, because now I am neither a post-doc (in official position terms), nor am I pregnant.

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