Balancing Pregnancy and Lab work

Although this is the first time I’ve mentioned it on this blog, for the last nine months I have been pregnant. Indeed, this is part of the reason why I’ve hardly written anything – hopefully people are still checking this blog and will read this :-).

During my last pregnancy I was in the last stages of writing my thesis and I found that to be a wonderful time to be pregnant. The physical demands of writing are minimal and I found that I could juggle my writing schedule around the times when my brain was most functional. Importantly, since I was not teaching or supervising students while writing, I had only one person to worry about – me. This pregnancy has been different from the first both at work and at home. On the work front, I am now a post-doc and given the short duration of post-doc funding I was not in the writing phase while pregnant (otherwise the grant would have run out before the baby came). Also I am now working in a molecular lab, which meant that to continue collecting data I needed to manage working with chemicals that may be dangerous during pregnancy. I was also working closely with students and colleagues on projects, which meant taking responsibility for more than just myself. Finally, on the home front, I now have an active pre-schooler to take care of, which makes the goal of “rest when you need to” pretty laughable – I rest when he lets me :-).

Nevertheless I think this pregnancy has been very successful in terms of work/home balance. There are several reasons for this: First, I was fortunate enough to receive funding to have someone help out with the hands-on lab work in the project, which allowed me to avoid the hazardous chemicals while still keeping the project going. Second, I work with great people who were cognizant of the fact that I might have to do less in the lab and might have “baby brain” at times, but that I wasn’t trying to let my pregnancy put my work on hold. Third, on the home front both my toddler and my husband are pretty awesome and supportive. So, despite being much more tired during this pregnancy than the last (and getting sick more as well) – I have had a pretty smooth ride. So smooth that I was able to attend a major conference requiring an 11-hour flight and 3-hour bus ride halfway through the third trimester!

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4 Responses to Balancing Pregnancy and Lab work

  1. Anonymous says:

    Dear Science Mom,

    Congratulations on all your activities during your pregnancy!

    Actually, I don't understand your comment: “given the short duration of post-doc funding I was not in the writing phase while pregnant (otherwise the grant would have run out before the baby came)”.

    Doesn't the grant run out on a fixed date, regardless of your (post-doc) related activities?


  2. Science Mom says:

    Dear P,

    Thanks for the comment. Indeed, I wasn't very clear about this. In answer to your question about post-doc funding.  You are right the funding does have a fixed end point.  It lasts for only 2 years.  The trouble is that it usually takes longer than a year just to get the research going and by the time a post-doc is in the writing phase the funding has almost run out.  Therefore, if a post-doc were to wait until the writing phase to get pregnant, and a pregnancy lasts nine months, the post-doc would have no funding (and thus no job and no parental leave) by the time the baby was born.

  3. Amelie says:

    Wow, you must be really organized to manage all this!
    With regards to planning I would like to point out, though, that pregnancies can't be planned for everyone — I would have liked to have a baby just after writing my thesis, but it just didn't happen.

  4. Science Mom says:

    Dear Amelie,

    True, very true that not all pregnancies can be planned/timed to fit well with work. I was very lucky in that respect.

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