Archive for the ‘Serious’ Category

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What?

September 16, 2011

This post is only slightly related to loss of my baby. I wanted to write something about communications. I write a little on my blog but I write many many emails a day to colleagues and students. I am getting the general impression that my emails are often misinterpreted.  I recently have received quite a few emails back from student s who appears to be hurt by my words or when writing a colleague feel like I am not explaining myself well. I accidentally sent an email intended for a colleague to one of my students in which I complained about the audacity of the student (who appear to me to be demanding certain things). That student was hurt and discouraged and I spent a good deal of time trying to explain myself over email. I can’t decide if my writing does not convey its intended meaning or if students are overly touchy when it comes to their emotions and their advisors. I know the students want me to respect and praise them but that can only be earned through hard work.  The student/advisor relationship is difficult to manage. I am pretty blunt when speaking to people. One of the effects of babyloss is that I have cut out all the chit-chat, all the extras because I feel like all the extra emotion and talking is too much. I know that my emails are quite terse also because I don’t have time to be effervescing with words. I already spend a least one to two hours answer questions over email everyday. I can not do much more than that. Recently, I was trying to patiently wait for a yoga class to start. The instructor was chatting with other people in the class. I was annoyed with the chatter and it was past time for the class to start. Part of that is a reflects stress, I don’t want my time wasted. This gets worse when I am stressed. Part of it was that they were blocking the quiet, maybe I was looking forward to the silence. I am not a great communicator. I barely speak to my family but talk to my best friend every other day. I try to communicate with Coach or else we both get hurt. My best friend tells a story about one time when she was livid with me. I kept my head down and continued to work as she talked. She said she was trying to explain to me how whatever I did hurt her.  But I was working and eventually she went away in anger. I don’t remember it happening.  I think I can safely say that I don’t intend to hurt people but it happens. I thought after babyloss that I had become more compassionate for people who were hurting. But maybe not, maybe I have deceived myself to make myself feel like something positive came from her death.

I am quite rambling now as I need to start working again but I can’t figure out how to end without sounding ….terse.

What are ways that you have employed to improve communications?

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Effects of Babyloss

September 9, 2011

Life always seems to be moving, to be coming at me. I rarely have time to think about what I am feeling or how I am coping.  When a babyloss Mom asks me how I am doing, I just tell the truth, I bury my feelings. I evade. I hide from my feelings. Soon, it will be 4 years since Norah died. I like to think that I function well. Sometimes I think about what I could have had, but then I bury it. As a babylost mom, the internet has been so valuable to me to look at what others are feeling and writing about.  We write about our pain, our anguish, our hope and our misery. However, one aspect seems lightly touched upon. How did the death of my baby effect my professional career?

I’m a scientist. I make observations, hypothesize and pose questions. I test hypotheses and formulate ideas. It sounds all very clean and glossy huh. There is a creative aspect to the job — I teach and I write manuscripts. However, my job and respect within the scientific community does not depend on teaching, it depends upon the quality and quantity of manuscripts that I produce. Anyone who has lost a baby knows that it messes with your mind — the lack of sleep, the images, the reminders. I forget to brush my hair or I forget to eat because I am in babylost world. It is hard to think consecutively, rationally….scientifically. One year after I lost Norah, I published two manuscripts but only because they were already accepted and at the publishers since before her death. Since Nov. 2007, I have not been a very good scientist. I teach, I write proposals, I have huge grants but I can’t publish. Since that time, I submitted two manuscripts and they were both rejected in 2010. The reasons given were that they were not well thought out, not well written, and had too many loopholes. Sound familiar. That is my life. I have lost confidence in my ability to be a scientist. I have recruited some other scientists to help me fix those manuscripts but they are still not submitted. I am depending on these people to look at my work critically before I submit again. I am annoyed that I have to depend on other people for a skill that I used to have, and I have to go by their timetable.

Norah’s death shattered me emotionally, beat my down physically and damaged my confidence. Her death stole my mental health. I am a scientist; yet, I have trouble playing the role. I am starting to physically feel the pressure from not being able to do the job. I wake up at nights in a panic. I work hard all day but at the end of the day, nothing seems to be done. My management of grants has not been spectacular, I have few results to show for the work I have done. I appear to no longer have a logic, rational mind. This hurts me. I have wrapped my life around science. My income depends upon me being able to do the job. I am not certain how to overcome this. I know that I can not be the person I was before her death. Over the past couple of years, I thought I would work through it, work my way out of this confusing mental spiral that seems to consume my thoughts. It has been almost 4 years and my thoughts still spiral. I wish I was linear thinking again. I do not know if I am going to pull out of this or if this is my “new normal”.  If this is my “new normal”, how do I incorporate this into my life as a scientist? Do I need to switch paths, look for other opportunities, maybe go into a field where I am told what to do instead of having academic freedom? So many unknowns. I can’t solve the equation with so many unknowns.

What about you? Did the loss of your baby effect your career?

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Tornado

April 30, 2011

A huge tornado tore through my town last Wednesday in “Dixie Alley”. We had days notice that a very strong front would be coming through and that the conditions would be right for a tornado outbreak. In my office, I was working on one screen with the weather channel on the other screen. About 3:00 pm, I noticed a particularly gnarly cell in Mississippi that looked like it would be heading our way. About 3:30, I called Coach to confer. The issue at hand is whether to load up the van and make the 7 mile trek to campus where we all could be safe together. We ended this conversation with “lets watch it”. About 3:45 pm I called back and asked him to load up the kids. I had been watching the cell and looked really significant. The person on the local weather channel talked about how all the conditions were right and I got a feeling. Coach packed up the van with kids and a firesafe box of important papers. He arrived about 4:15 pm. The two older kids each brought a bag filled with stuffed animals, their banks, and important trinkets. I brought them to my office and we watched the storm brew. About 4:30 pm, we called it. It was time to go down to the basement. The basement has no windows, is underground and is a designated storm shelter. It is the safest place in the whole city. I have lived here for 7 years and this is probably the 5th time that we decided to shelter in the “bunker”. We joined my colleagues and their family, our students and some of their families, and some attached people from the community who had learned this was a good place. There were probably 100 people in 2 rooms. The rooms are classrooms but we were packed in there. It was a party atmosphere. Most of us had been through this countless times before. Some brought beer, food, and games for entertainment. In the city center, a webcam was pointed southwest trained on the supercell and we streamed the video into the classroom on the wireless on personal computers. I wandered around with a baby or toddler on my hip chatting with colleagues and students. My kids were writing on the chalkboard and on the white board. About 4:50 pm, I was watching on a laptop and I saw a horrifying event. The wallcloud on the supercell dropped its funnel. The entire room gasped. A tornado was on the ground. We were in the direct projected path. I did not feel fear at that point. I knew that we would be safe. Even if the building blew down around us and they had to dig us out, we would be safe. We watched the tornado swirl debris and we saw explosions as transformers blew. Then, the webcam lost its picture. The tornado passed close enough to wipe out the camera. We were in the path. I told my husband that if we took a direct hit that he needs to get 2 kids and I would take 2 kids and we needed to duck under a table because the ceiling tiles were going to come down. Minutes passed. Two of my kids were playing the iPad. Jeff had Sunshine and I had Rainbow. She was watching a Cars video with another little boy. I told the two playing iPad that when the electricity went out that they did not need to be scared because the iPad sheds light. They answered “We know Mom”. Minutes passed. The electricity went out including the wireless-we were blind. How close was it? Did it pass? Did it hit the building? Is there another wave coming?

Students are sometimes not smart. Soon one came back with a cell phone image of the tornado as he looked out the back of our building. It was passed. We did not get hit directly. But many people did. We knew because we saw the wrath of the tornado that many lives would be lost. Rumors flew through the rooms, “It hit the hospital!” “the mall is obliterated!”. I assured my daughter that they were rumors and that we did not know where the tornado went. Those of us with families with us remained in the bunker for 45 more minutes. We finally were able to hook up a computer “old style” to the internet and saw that we were in the clear, no more storms. At 6:15 pm. My family walked out of the basement and drove home to a house that was still standing. Many were not so lucky.

In the bunker we were 3 blocks south of the tornado. My home is 7 miles north of the tornado path. But in the early hours, we were without cell phone service, without internet, and without television. Radio was our only source of communication. When we learned the path of the tornado, I was horrified. It hit many communities populated by students and by faculty. It also hit some very economically disadvantages areas. That night there was nothing for us to do but put the kids to bed and be thankful for being alive.

On Thursday, Coach went downtown to help people. He started with my colleagues with trees and debris on their houses. He continues to volunteer everyday to help move debris. Only on Saturday did the internet and cable return so that I could see the path of the tornado. The hospital was very close to the tornado but thankfully, only some windows were blown out. Most of the mall remains also.  For 3 days, I’ve been with the kids and I recognize how odd it is. My life continues while our neighbors lives are rocked or even worse, the person is dead. My kids have been running around outside and having a great time, and just miles away, there are those grieving for what they lost.

No one in our department died. Some have lost possessions but no one lost all of their house. I am grateful and thankful. Many were not so lucky.

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The Loss of Hope

October 7, 2010

At 5:00 am, I began the long drive back from where I attended my high school reunion and visited my baby’s grave. I packed everything the night before and said bye to my brother the night before. I got up at 4:30, packed the car, put Sunshine in the car seat, and left. Early morning has always been my favorite time of the day. Usually, I’m not up quite so early but I still love that time. The world is still and filled with possibilities.

I planned my trip around missing rush hours in the major cities that I had to travel through. I put in a book on tape, The Big Short, and lost myself in trying to understand the cause of the recession. This book is good because it explains the meltdown in terms that a non-financial person can understand. The author tells you about the people involved and about their lives which makes it more appealing than most financial books. At 7:00 am, one of my high school friends called. She had called me the night before as I was traveling back from the dinner but I lost the connection in the hills. I thought this was odd that she would call again and I knew there was something that she had to say to me. She spoke of her family and her job. I listened. Finally, it came. She had a hysterectomy. 10 months ago she had some major pain and ignored it but the pain became un-ignorable. When she went to the hospital, she learned that she had huge fibroids. They operated immediately and took her uterus. She has a 6 year old daughter but has been tried to get pregnant again for a long time. The fibroids had prevented a pregancy and now she will never be pregnant again.

I called upon the wisdom of the words of ladies I had read in the blog-o-sphere. Because of my loss, I have read many blogs written by ladies with all types of losses. Some of the mamas with abruptions did not get to keep their uterus and have had to deal not only with the loss of their baby but the loss of the ability to have anymore babies. I told my friend that although I have not had the same experience that she has, I could understand the feeling of loss that she must be having. She admitted that she has not dealt well with the loss. I understand that at one time you have hope of having a child and then due to circumstances that you can not control that you do not have any more hope. Your ability to hope is taken away. From my experience, hope was a valuable emotion.  Her voice was shaking with emotion and I was sure she was crying. I can imagine how I would have felt after Norah died and if I could not have anymore babies afterwards. Rainbow and Sunshine have helped me heal, achieve peace, and become a better person. If I did not have these patches, my wounds may still be bleeding. I sympathize with her that her uterus was taken immediately without time to come to terms with the surgery. I fell back to my go-to stance on life. Some things in life are unplanned, bad things happen to you but good things happen the same way. You must continue to live life not only for yourself but for your family. You will heal from the tragedy, and you must give yourself time to grief what was lost. You may not know how to continue each day but just get up, fix breakfast and try. I hope that I helped her see a path forward.

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Musing

February 15, 2010

So, recently in the news, I’m sure you have seen that an assistant professor entered a faculty meeting and killed 3 of her colleagues. This happened in northern Alabama, approximately 3 hours from me. I just can’t help wondering what kind of life this woman had that allowed her to get so wrapped up in the tenure process. Yes, it is stressful. But, after I submitted my tenure package, I don’t even think about it. I can’t imagine what went through her mind to think that killing other people was the solution to her problem. Life is so short to be caught up on whether you are granted tenure or not. I wonder if she equated it with not getting picked for a team on the school playground. Yes, it sucks when it appears as though people do not want you but violence is never the key. She stopped the lives of 3 people and crushed their families because she did not get what she wanted. That is soooo wrong on many levels. Another instance of how life changes not based on the decisions that you make but based on the actions of others or things you can not control.  I can not relate to her actions or intentions. It just does not make sense.

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Silence 2

February 8, 2010

I feel as though I have absolutely nothing profound or interesting to say. My weeks are spent at work and taking care of the kids. My weekends are spent with the kids and getting ready for the week. I don’t have much time to read anything interesting…although I’m re-reading a book at night about map makers through time. It’s ~400 pages long and may take me 6 months to get through. If I watch the news, I get depressed. I skip the political commentary in magazines. I don’t read baby stuff because that is way too scary. If I watch T.V. it is usually at 3 in the morning because I can’t sleep. I was thinking last night about the “good ole days” when I only knew what happened in the world because my Mom turned on the nightly news at 6 pm. When I travel abroad, I disconnect from the world and have absolutely no idea what is going on. I like that. I like just paying attention to what I am doing at the moment.  Now, I feel like I’m constantly bombarded by news even though I try to avoid it.

Then there is another part of me that constantly want to check people’s blogs and other babyloss sites. Why do I feel the need to stay so connected even though most of the mom’s don’t even know I’m checking up on them. I’ll say to DH “I just need to check on so and so for a minute”.  When will I give that up? Will I? I can go for months at a time and then feel a particular need to see how someone is doing. It’s not as though you all really know me or I know you.

I’m blathering and avoiding doing figures for a manuscript.

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I am in introvert.

January 25, 2010

One of my colleagues told me the other day that she is leaving and going to a different university. She said she is going to be closer to her family and because her husband wants to go. I’m really bummed. I put as much energy as I put into any friendship into the one I have with her. Granted, sometimes that is not a lot but I did make an effort and enjoy her company. After she told me, I cried on my drive home. For some reason, I think that is an overreaction. Yes, I am pregnant but I’m not sure why her departure is hitting me so hard. We work together on a couple of projects and I see her almost everyday. She is female with a young son, and understands the daily stresses that a female in academia with a young family has–what I have to deal with everyday. Not many people understand that and to have someone in the department was awesome. Now she is leaving. I’ll see her at conferences and maybe in the field if we ever get funding.

Now the point of all this is that it has led me to think of friendships. I know in academia people shuffle in and shuffle out. It is a revolving door. However, since I have been here, no one has left in my department. I like it that way. I like that it stays the same when my lift outside of work is always shifting. Work is a constant. Now, that is shifting. It leads me to the conclusion that if you make friends, you are bound to get hurt. Should one have friends then? Or should one not and be reclusive?  I admit that I am an introvert. I don’t have that many friends because I don’t make time to cultivate the friendships. I have some acquaintances. My best friend is from college and she is 800 miles away. We talk on the phone every other day. But I don’t have a go-to friend where I am. I seem to be functioning somewhat properly. So, why even make friends if they are going to leave?  Or alternatively, should I be more flexible and make more acquaintances but not get attached to them. Some people understand that friends come and friends go. Another friend will replace the one that they lost. But, I don’t feel like that. I feel like I’ve lost something special.

Friends, are they worth it?