The necessary cut


Warning: This post may be triggering for those still recovering from a Cesarean.


A couple of weeks after Will came home after his lengthy NICU stay, I posted the story of his birth. Ever since then I have, in my head, been writing the story of how he was actually born in my head. Today’s the day it spills through.

When we realized Will’s pregnancy had taken a tenuous turn, all of the high risk OBs were very guardedly cautious about his birth. One in particular said that because the placenta was irregular, and because babies with IUGR tend to have placentas that age faster, I could expect to go into labor earlier than normal – around 34ish weeks (ha, if only!). If the baby were to come early, a cesarean section is recommended, because especially in babies with IUGR, there just isn’t a whole lot of fat on the baby to cushion them through the birth canal otherwise. That, plus his breech presentation in utero, plus the pre-e – all of this combined made it pretty much a foregone conclusion that a cesarean section was highly likely.

It was around this time that Josh and I hired Leslee to be our doula. Before all of this kerfuffle with Will’s limited growth in utero, I knew I wanted to hire her as our doula, but after we discovered what a difficult road lay ahead of us, I was positive. She helped me frame all of the questions and concerns I had about Will’s birth, however it was to come, in a way that empowered me. I had choices – I may not have liked all of my choices but I had choices. I could take control, somewhat, of a crappy situation.

I also attended my first ICAN meeting about a year ago, not too long after I went on bedrest. ICAN is the International Cesarean Awareness Network, and our local ICAN group in Tallahassee held my hand and talked to me frankly and supportively about the journey I was anticipating. The physical recovery from major abdominal surgery, the emotional recovery from the surgery – what to expect when you walk into TMH and how you get prepped.

I was ready, I thought. I knew what to expect and I could do this! I am woman, hear me roar! If the baby needed to exit other than the traditional route, then I’m up for the challenge!

Until, of course, it actually happened. Now, I understand completely that my cesarean experience was unique, and despite having something in common with about 30% of the women in the country giving birth, my build-up to Will’s arrival was different than anyone else’s. I had different baggage going in – but then, we all do. We all carry our own war stories of how we got to be flat on our back, numb from chest down, and feeling the tugs of the obstetrician’s hands working back and forth to cut through the layers of skin, muscle, and finally, into the womb.

On Friday May 10th of last year, we were scheduled to be wheeled into the OR at 5pm. At 3pm, Leslee arrived (with a nose ring made of glass – or was it plastic?) so I could replace my metal nosering with it (I was advised to remove all metal including jewelry). Around the same time, Josh’s parents arrived, and so the five of us waited. My dear friend Sylvia wrangled the older kiddos that night while we waited. And waited. And waited. Other more urgent c-sections needed to happen before my pre-eclamptic, IUGR, breech, and premature baby could be born, so in the meanwhile, we watched episodes of 30 Rock. We moved from the antenatal room I’d been staying in prior to birth day, to another room to prep for birth. I remember the nurse prepping me, all the while complaining about the computers that weren’t working properly -

- and all I could think at that moment was, “PLEASE DO NOT TELL ME RIGHT BEFORE YOU ARE GOING TO CUT ME OPEN THAT YOU ARE HAVING TROUBLE LAUNCHING WINDOWS.” Then I thought, “Fuck Windows.” And then I laughed to myself about how I teach students basic technology and here I am, held at the mercy of an inoperative operating system. -

There is no modesty in birth, no matter how it happens – and for this emergent c-section, the same applied. The nurse who prepped me was more brisk and nonchalant than I would have liked. I wish I had the nurse who was from Australia, who was on the night shift the night before, who sat with me for at least a half an hour while on rounds, while I quizzed her repeatedly about what I could anticipate – even though I already knew. My nerves were all balled up. The nurse prepping me, though, was curt and cold, and reminded me of the nurse Margaret Cho joked about in one of her standup routines. Then the time came and the nurse wheeled me in first, before Josh was told to come back. Leslee wasn’t allowed to come back, and neither were Kathy and Gary, so they all waited.

I was alone, in a room full of people. I recognized only two people, before Josh came in – Dr. G., who performed the surgery, and D., the brusque midwife from the practice – I’d seen her once before and didn’t care for her approach. She helped me up on the table, and when she had her arms around me, I melted and burst into tears. Out of nerves, fear, and a multitude of reasons, I burst into tears. “I’m scared,” I cried in D’s arms. She held on to me tight and smoothed my hair out and talked gently to me and pulled me through. “You’re strong,” she said. “You can do this. I know this isn’t what you wanted, but it’s what is needed. I’ll be here for you. You can do this.” I quieted down and held onto her as the anesthesiologist prepped my back for the spinal anesthesia, and slowly I felt my legs grow numb. The midwife and another nurse helped me lie down. The blue sterile drape went up, and the anesthesiologist clipped electrodes on my upper chest to check my heartrate. He affixed an oxygen monitor thing on my finger, and took a fresh, heavy, cotton knit blanket from their warmer and laid it across my arms. I stared up as my entire body went numb.

This numbness is surreal – for me, I recall feeling like I was leaning my feet against a log – of course, I wasn’t, but my legs were propped in a weird way, and then the anesthesia kicked in and that’s the last thing my muscles remembered. Dr. G. began her work and after an interminable amount of time, Josh came in, dressed in scrubs with my camera and lip balm in case I wanted it (I didn’t). I don’t really remember what we talked about. I cried occasionally, and waited, waited, waited, for Dr. G. to pull the baby out and tell us that everything was okay. Dr. G. pulled Will out and whisked him over to the heated isolette, where a bunch of nurses and the neonatologist swarmed. “What’s going on? What’s happening?” I kept asking Josh, since I was still helpless on the table and Dr. G. turned her attention back to me after the baby was removed.

William Iain, May 10, 2013, 8:13pm. Tallahassee, Florida. 32 weeks gestation.
William Iain, May 10, 2013, 8:13pm. Tallahassee, Florida. 32 weeks gestation.

Finally, a nurse brought Will over, and I cried. First, obviously, the happiness at seeing him out vs. in, but you know, in all of the prep for his birth, I don’t remember if they told us how tiny and puny he would look. His IUGR and premature arrival meant he didn’t have any fat on his tiny, little bones, and you could see through his thin flesh to his muscles. His face was so very tiny. He had a lot of growing to do. Josh left with Will and once again I was alone in a crowd. As she stitched me up, Dr. G. talked about trading her car in. Small talk, what we all do when we’re at work and are passing the time – except her job was to put back all of the organs she pulled out in order to get the baby. The wait was interminable.

Finally, they wheeled me to recovery and I got to see Kathy, Leslee, and Josh. I remember thinking the ice chips they gave me must have been laced with something amazing because they tasted so good! Of course, at that point, it had been well over 14 hours since I had had anything to eat or drink. The nurse administered some pain medication, and we waited there for awhile before getting to go see Will in the NICU – and of course, I couldn’t get up to hold him.

I didn’t hold him until he was a day old.

I didn’t unwrap him and hold his little body skin to skin until he was eleven days old.

I didn’t nurse him directly from me until he was 17 days old.

That first shower sucked so badly. I asked the nurse repeatedly for a pump so I could start pumping for Will. Time in the hospital moves at an unbearable pace. Will was born at 8pm, and I didn’t get to pump until 10am. The nurse assistant came in and helped me up, while I cried from the sheer pain of movement. It took at least twenty minutes of sitting there, water beating down on me, while I scrubbed the adhesive from my wound. I was finally dressed.

My brain knew what to expect from the c-section, but my body had no idea what onslaught I just bore. I might have been anesthetized, but the morning after, the spinal wore off and the dull and yet piercing ache of the wound in your lower belly throbs. Even with the heavy duty narcotic pain medication, you still feel it, an ever present burn.

Leslee came to see me later on that afternoon and I remember telling her that I still felt pregnant – every woman who gives birth knows that just because the baby is out, it doesn’t mean that your body instantly slims down again – there’s fluid retention to be dealt with, and a general shrinking of everything in your body, which happens slowly as your organs realize there is no longer a baby in your womb.

I still felt pregnant. Not only was he born too early, he was also in the NICU and I was housed in the post-partum wing, hearing every newborn infant cry in that distinct newborn shriek – and I sat there, with no baby in my arm but a physical ache in my abdomen where I was cut open and where the baby was removed. I sat there and pumped every three hours once the pump came up to the room. I asked for and received a belly binder, to hold my abdomen in place as I healed. I felt movement inside my body as things slowly started rearranging itself, and I still felt pregnant. I didn’t go into labor. For all my body knew, my baby was still inside. That first day was awful.

The pain slowly healed itself. I was discharged after three days, and after skipping my pain medication once in the hospital, vowed never to let that particular brand of craziness happen, so I set yet more alarms to remind me to take that heavy duty pill. Then I stepped down to ibuprofen, and probably a good two and a half months later, I could function without any kind of pain medication at all.

The first night home I cried a lot. I cried leaving Will there (because, seriously, fuck that noise), I cried because I missed being pregnant, I cried because I was in pain, and I cried because my body was so confused.

For much of my post-partum healing, my mind was focused on a lot of things – the first, of course, being Will’s extended stay in the NICU. Slowly, as my body healed, my brain caught up to everything and rebelled, like an angry toddler at naptime. Suddenly, things that would make me smile before having my c-section would cause me to burst into tears and feel jealousy and rage about everything that was taken away in this birth. I couldn’t look at photos of newborns without tearing up. I couldn’t look at birth photography without feeling waves of jealousy. At my first ICAN meeting after Will was born, I couldn’t introduce myself without crying and remembering not only Will’s birth, but Matthew’s and Lindsey’s births, and how, despite all of their associated medical interventions, normal they were compared to this crazy circumstance we landed in.

Slowly, through the help of some amazing people at ICAN and a therapeutic technique called EMDR, I was able to get my shit together. I still have moments now where I can think about Will’s birth as a real birth, and not simply a surgical extraction of a small baby.

I gave birth. I GAVE birth. I can say that now. Before, I would think of it as Will having been taken from me. But I gave birth, even though it didn’t happen the way it should have, the way I wanted it to.


Birth matters. Women matter. Last September, on Labor Day, I stood with fellow moms at Tallahassee’s Improving Birth rally. Improving Birth seeks to advocate for and promote evidence-based maternity care for all women. The World Health Organization has stated that the optimal recommendation for cesarean section is between 5-10% of all births, and yet, the average in the US is over 30%. You may hear the term unnecessary cesarean, and I might be in the minority here, but I don’t think any cesarean itself is unnecessary. By the time moms get to the point in birth where cesareans are on the table, for the vast majority, at that moment in time it’s necessary. By the time the clipboard of release forms is presented, it’s necessary. The kicker is, in my opinion, is that in birth, women are presented a lousy set of choices that don’t do anything to empower them, and because of a cascade of lousy choices, cesareans become necessary.

And in my opinion, it’s really amazingly hard to feel empowered by your birth experience when you are drugged up and cannot feel anything below your chest. You are vulnerable, and exposed. Not empowered.

I want to make it absolutely clear: I don’t regret having the cesarean. My body was already starting to fail me and my situation was untenable. It was time for him to exit, and I am glad we did it before I died or before Will did. I am supremely grateful for my OB, who did an amazing job and was the best person I could have asked for. Two nights before he was born, she sat on my bed next to me and made the recommendation for the baby to be born and when I cried, she hugged me and held me. I am supremely grateful for the technology (despite the cranky nurse’s complaints about her computer) that allowed Dr. G. to operate safely, cleanly, and without significant event. My cesarean was textbook perfect, done by an excellent surgeon, medically indicated due to pre-eclampsia, breech position, IUGR, fucked up placenta, and even through all that,

IT STILL SUCKED, especially compared to the alternative. The physical recovery, the mental recovery, the emotional recovery – just a bag of crap I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

I have friends who have had cesareans and the wide variety of experiences definitely indicate to me that it affects everyone differently – which is to be expected. We are all different. Birth affects all of us differently, no matter how the baby exits their mother’s body. I have to say, though, that if you know a mom who gave birth via cesarean section, know that they may still be processing their birth experience. New moms especially may still be in great physical recovery from this major abdominal surgery. New moms’ bodies might not realize it hasn’t given birth yet. New moms may be in mourning over an experience that is intense and may have left them feeling disempowered. New moms need to know that they matter, as much as the baby at the center of this experience. Birth matters.

Women matter.

Find a local chapter of ICAN near you.

recycle this post! share it with your friends :)

STOP. Just, stop.

I’ve been trying to word this post for days, and every time I seem to want to approach the discussion of feminism in academia, I wrestle with the words. Maybe this time will be the time I hit publish.

Almost twelve years ago, young Josh and young Casey got into a discussion one day about the custom of names in marriage. We remember this discussion differently, of course, but the gist of it was that he thought it an antiquated custom that women adopted their husband’s surname in marriage, and I agreed. For me, keeping my surname was not simply an act against the patriarchy. Keeping my surname was a part of keeping my identity alive in my name. It was a signifier of my heritage, having grown up in a Chinese family in the US, and a signifier of all of the women in my family who used my surname – from my fierce grandmother who immigrated to the US after her husband died from cancer in Taiwan, to my mother who (along with my grandmother) raised me as a single mom, to my two aunts, who may have married into the name, but after decades in our family, they own that name and made our surname their names come hell or high water. It is as much their name as it is my name, and despite its short length, it embodied a great deal of my identity in those two little letters. I wasn’t giving it up for any reason.

It was at that moment when Josh went on about patriarchal customs in marriage and naming that I realized exactly how feminist he was and how I loved that about him. And when we married, I kept my surname, he kept his, and we went as far as even divvying up our surnames among our children (our two boys have his surname, our girl has mine). For the most part, it hasn’t been an issue – there were a few semesters where Lindsey kept getting dropped off of Josh’s health insurance because of a coding issue with the university, but that seems to have resolved itself. And when Will was born, he was “registered” at the hospital as “Baby Boy Yu,” and we had to have some discussions with insurance as his surname was not my own.

Hand-wringing on the Internet occurred in the various forums I frequented when I mentioned that our daughter would have my surname, while our older son had Josh’s. So to sum up here, yes our kids have different surnames. No, they don’t really care about it. Yes, they feel like they’re part of the same family. In fact, when we were preparing for Will’s arrival, we asked what name the baby should have. They disagreed on a first name, but then also thought that since the both of them had different surnames, the new baby should too.

So here we are, twelve plus years into our relationship and as the years have gone on, I have grown ever more grateful for finding a partner who gets it and gets me. He gets it and probably gets angrier than I do when he sees examples of sexism and racism in media and politics. We are That Household where words like “hegemony” and “patriarchy” and “oppression” and “social justice” get tossed around on a regular basis.

Josh and I both started our graduate programs at the same time, in the fall of 2010. Since then, we have both finished our course work, completed our preliminary exams, and both taught undergraduates – he teaches English Literature and I teach Information Technology. We both, on a regular basis, find and discuss issues of sexism and racism with our students, among other issues of course, but they manifest themselves differently in our respective fields. Whereas both of us have a relatively casual philosophy in terms of talking to our students (both of us preferred to be called by our first names, instead of Mr. Burnett or Ms. Yu, or any other honorific we have not yet earned), I find I generally have to be tougher and exert a stricter and tighter presence elsewhere in the class. He goes to school in his normal, casual attire – jeans, Doc Martens’ boots, and a t-shirt with some sort of graphic on it. I go to school dressed in either business casual slacks and a blouse or business casual top, or if I wear jeans, I pair it with a nice blouse. I feel that especially in a field that is predominately male, as an Asian American woman it is important for me to assert myself early and forcefully and confidently, in order for me to gain my students’ trust and establish legitimacy.

Another way our teaching experiences differ: Josh has never had to reprimand a student for calling him a boy. During my second year teaching, one of my students wrote to me, addressing me as “Girl.” I read this email and thought to myself this thought, which I continue to think (though I add in a year to age myself appropriately) on a regular basis when I am inappropriately referred to as a girl.

I am 37 years old. I have had three children, been in a long term relationship for almost 12 years, have been out of high school for almost 20 years, out of college for almost 16 years, and out of my first stint of grad school for almost 14 years. I worked professionally for over ten years before going back to school. Dammit, I think I deserve to be referred to as a woman.

I am not a girl.

Now, I say inappropriately referred to as a girl, because there are some instances in which I feel it is appropriate for me to refer to myself or my peers in very specific circumstances as girls. For example, two of my closest friends here in town commonly refer to ourselves as girls, and it is because in part, the term girl is one that represents youth. I outed myself as 37 above – let’s just say there’s a fair amount of reminiscing about days gone by, before we were parents, before we were married.

But in this instance above – in a professional, academic setting, just stop. Stop referring to women in college and graduate school and beyond as girls. Just stop. It is unprofessional and condescending. If you don’t want to be thought of as sexist, stop saying sexist things. It’s really pretty easy.

As for the email above, where the student addressed me as “Girl,” I called him out on it. I told him point blank that while I was casual with students in terms of addressing me by my first name, in no way is it ever appropriate to call an instructor “Girl.” He apologized sincerely, and we have been good ever since. I say this because I had a considerable amount of angst over that email, to make sure that the words I was going to use would make a developmental difference – that is, it wouldn’t shut him out, and preserve the relationship of instructor and student with us. I would like to think I succeeded in this area.

When you can, stand up for yourself. It’ll be hard, but it’ll be worth it. I know that it is not always possible or comfortable or safe to do so, but if you can, do it. I know that I felt comfortable in this situation because of the power dynamic present – I was the instructor and had a perfect opportunity to educate and did so. I have done so with peers – brought up issues of sexism – because we have a somewhat equal power dynamic, with education plus stature – and I am assertive, as a general characteristic. Now, if a professor or a boss of mine referred to me as such, I honestly am not sure how comfortable I would feel confronting the issue. If you do decide to stand up for yourself, email me. I’ve got your back.


In my family, words matter. Every word, subtext, structure – it all matters. When the kids fight (and boy HOWDY are they ever FIGHTING!), we tell them that they need to apologize when they mean it, because otherwise their words are just empty and devoid of meaning. I teach this same concept in a variety of ways as an instructor. Every semester I teach, one concept I push hard is professionalism – you have to own your words, so make them count. Write well. Spell perfectly. Structure your sentences immaculately, because whether it’s right or wrong, you will be judged on the context of what comes out of your fingers into your website, onto Facebook, or in Twitter.

Words matter. Intent matters, but does not excuse. You may have a perfectly logical explanation for your word choice, but it still stings and infuriates. Make your intent match your words. And just stop treating women verbally as children.

recycle this post! share it with your friends :)

a punch in the nose

My friend Amber messaged me a link to this post on and it resonated with me strongly. “Thought of you when I read this,” she typed. I’ve talked before about our arduous start to nursing, solved at last by lip tie surgery. I am happy to report – ever since the day he had his lip tie revised, things have been going incredibly well – so well, in fact, that for a few months afterward, he actually had trouble taking a bottle! The sweet irony.

Anyway, this article came up at a good time, as a discussion in another parenting group emerged on parenting styles. I made a comment that “I feel like I could punch the next person who tells me breastfeeding is easy.” Breastfeeding is easy. Breastfeeding is cheap. Breastfeeding is a no-brainer. All of these assumptions rolled up into a bag of judgy fries. Then I opened up Excel to see exactly how cheap breastfeeding Will has been for us.

First, my time. When I was exclusively pumping for Will, I was not doing other things I could have been doing – holding him, parenting him, playing with the older kids. I was pretty much hunkered down, ready for bear. I exclusively pumped for 69 days (from his birth through the day his lip tie was surgically clipped), 8 times a day for 20 minutes each time (as per recommendations from lactation consultants). This equals 184 hours of pumping – about 7.7 days total. At a rate of $20/hr (does this seem high to you? If it does, bite me, I think I lowballed my worth, and the milk I was producing is worth at least $20/hr in my effort at removing it), I calculated the cost of my time here to be worth $3,680.

Second, bottles. We tried Tommee Tippee bottles at first, since they looked like a breast.

These are $15 for a set of 3. We bought 3 sets for a day’s worth of bottles. Not including tax, that would be $45. We first started out with the Medela bottles, as recommended by the NICU.

These worked so-so, but I hoped using the Tommee Tippees would help his latch. We bought 9 of these also. I can’t seem to find a link for the specific package we bought, so let’s just say we bought this package. $35.

Third, pumping supplies. That included flanges, membranes, valves, tubing, pumping bras, bags to freeze milk in. A fair lowball estimate here is probably around $150.

Fourth, pump rental. Lactation consultants recommend using a hospital-grade pump if the baby is unable to be at the breast to stimulate a supply coming in. $70 a month for four months. $280.

Fifth, baby scale rental. I rented a baby scale so I could see if Will was removing milk efficiently. Turns out, I spent $56/mo for 2 months to realize that he was NOT removing it efficiently at all. Why rent one? Because this scale was sensitive enough down to the gram, whereas your daily scale you weigh yourself on is not nearly as accurate. $112.

Sixth, galactagogues. To keep my supply up, I consumed your standard galactagogues as recommended by lactation consultants. This resulted in cookies made with brewer’s yeast, fenugreek capsules, oatmeal, almond milk – et cetera ad nauseam. Let’s say I spent about $40 in this area.

Seventh, tongue tie revision. At first, I thought Will’s tongue tie might have been what was up with his latch.

So we shelled out our co-pay plus our portion of the deductible and that came to about $285. Snip. Didn’t help.

Eighth, lip tie revision. Then, the wonderful lactation consultants via Best Beginnings surmised that his lip was tied at the TOP of his lip, where his gum connects to his lip, that was causing his latching issues.

So we shelled out our co-pay plus our portion of the deductible (new insurance year, new deductible *sigh*). Snip. $420 doctor’s fees. TOTALLY HELPED! WAHOO!

To sum up, this is what we did and what we spent:

My time $3680
Bottles $80
Pumping supplies $150
Pump rental $280
Baby scale rental $112
Galactagogues $40
Tongue tie revision $285
Lip tie revision $420
TOTAL $5047

I am not even adding in the emotional turmoil I put myself through, the gas money spent to visit the weekly lactation support group meeting I went to, the cost in time both Josh and I spent in washing bottles and prepping for the next pumping session. It doesn’t count the electricity my friend LeAnn spent in keeping bags of my frozen milk, ready for Will (or the two babies we donated milk to) to drink. The kicker is – this is my third ride at the parenting rodeo! I would have totally punched MYSELF in the nose of a few years ago. I had pretty much zero cost to feed Matthew (I bought a used breastpump that served me well plus bottles) and the same with Lindsey. I was That Parent and if I have ever learned anything about parenting and the art of breastfeeding is that it is not easy, especially when by all means it SHOULD be, and it certainly isn’t cheap, since it becomes exponentially more expensive to do. I had all the support in the world, from a family supportive of breastfeeding, to friends and lactation consultants willing to help Will latch on by any means necessary. Yet, it was still so hard. If I didn’t have these resources, I would have been lost.

And yet, this expense is worth it, especially because we were fortunate that it got better. So much better than having to get up in the middle of the night to pump or to make a bottle. Now, Josh brings him into me and we nurse and I doze. My last and final nursling, he is the one who most appreciates it now and I am happy (mostly!) to give. I am lucky to be able to give. Lucky, lucky, lucky.

recycle this post! share it with your friends :)

every new beginning

It’s the start of a new semester, and with it come the same, familiar growing pains, at least for Josh and me. We sit down with our teaching schedules and the kids’ activities and figure out where to be and when and who will pick up which kid, who will cook dinner and who will wash dishes. Pretty soon we will settle into this routine, but this time, add in a trip to Chicago for Josh, which meant solo parenting here for me, and 2014 has been hectic to say the least.

011514-015My Matthew. He’s seven and a half now and moving toward independence faster than I’d like. Tonight, I held him in my arms as we sang songs before bed time, and I marveled at how he still (barely) fits into my lap. When once I was able to carry him and snuggle him with one arm, I now can only manage part of his frame in both arms, and thus he has legs and arms this way and that. There’s a saying that the days are long but the years are short, and it’s so true.

Matthew was born right outside of Chicago, on one of the hottest days in July, 2006. He came into the world a screaming, angry mess, and nestled right into my arms and into our lives. Life before Matthew came along is kind of hazy. I feel like he’s always been a part of me, a part of our family. My oldest.

Lately, things have been trying. He’s testing out his independence big time. There have been tears on both of our ends, defiance, shouting, door slamming, and hurt feelings all around. I have faith, though, that we will make it through, if only because he doesn’t realize how big he is. A big boy body on a little boy brain. Learning so much every day that his head explodes and he needs make sense of everything from time travel to subtraction and dinosaurs and everything in between. It’s not surprising that he’s melting down from time to time. We’re all learning together.

Tonight, we argued, and eventually as I sat in the darkness of their room, quiet so I could pull myself together, he crawled up on my lap and hugged me. “I love you,” he said. “Can we do a reset?” That’s our code word for “Let’s forgive each other and try again.” So reset we did. He didn’t know that he was too big for my lap – he curled up on me anyway. We sang and rocked and for that moment, all was well.

Parenting is hard. And it’s hard to believe that the boy who was completely dependent on me for his life is now so dependent on himself for life. He’s growing so fast. The bittersweet part is seeing this large seven year old boy stuffed into a body too big next to his baby brother, and knowing how the next seven years of Will’s life is going to unfold – fast and furious with barely a moment to breathe.

I can’t wait.

recycle this post! share it with your friends :)

how a mama phd do

At the beginning of November, I binged big time on Microsoft Word and wore new dents into my keyboard while writing my preliminary exams. In our doctoral program, you generally do two years of coursework, then prepare for qualifying exams (in our department, prelims) – a three question (with multiple layers) take home exam that lasts for one week. That gives you the go ahead to start planning your research, and then you can do the research and write a dissertation. Easy peasy, right? (ha)

I have to say, getting my master’s when I was single was a hell of a lot easier than managing the three small people living in our house. I am lucky that my department is really family-friendly, because at the tender age of 7 months old, Will has already attended his first doctoral seminar with me.

we start them so young!

He and I have nursed in the doctoral lab (see top image!), traipsed around FSU together, attended meetings together. He starts full time care in the spring, as I need to buckle down and he’s getting too big to come along with me anymore. I angsted BIG TIME about what he was going to do when I took my prelims, because ever since his lip tie was fixed, he was pretty much only wanting to be on the breast and displayed great disdain for the bottle. Luckily, he remembered from day to day and figured it out. But the worry going in – ahhh, I never had these issues when I did this higher education thing the first time around!

They say it takes a village to raise a child – well, I am here to tell you it takes a village to raise a mother too, especially this Mama PhD wannabe. I could not do this alone! For my seven days of writing until my fingerprints wore off, this is what I needed:

First, you cry, and then cry some more.


The first night of prelims, I poured out all of my angst into a blubbering mess where I wailed to Josh that I wasn’t ready to take this exam*, that I was a fake, fraud, and lame for even trying, that I wasn’t prepared as well as I should be, and why am I even thinking of getting a doctorate? What was I thinking? I cried and cried, and Josh comforted me as husbands are supposed to. I didn’t believe him at all. Off to fail these exams for sure!

*mind you, none of the questions were unreasonable. It was a very good exam and I enjoyed writing it!

Then, you break out the booze.


Melissa texted me a couple of days in. “Are you in? Thinking of swinging by for 2 seconds.” She stopped by not too long after we wrestled the kids down to sleep and before I got to work again and showed up with two pouches of frozen beverages – a peach (I think!) daiquiri and a bahama mama. I popped those bad boys in the fridge and marveled at my good fortune for a friend who believes that as my words flow from my fingers, they should be replaced with frozen adult slurpies! I did the appropriate thing and waited to savor them for after the exam was submitted electronically. And lo, for they were good.

Friends don’t let you down…

Lauren and Dan joined forces and watched Matthew and Lindsey while Josh took Will grocery shopping. Lauren brought her two over to Dan’s and the result was I’m sure a very loud adventure. Thank you so much for watching the kiddos! I am glad you all made it out alive. :)


What is love?


When my friends learned that I was about to head into a weeklong take-home written exam, they all stepped up! Leslee, our doula/friend/sitter, offered to take Will for more hours to give both me and Josh some more time. One of my classmates, whose daughter attends the same theatre class that my oldest son attends, offered to pick him up and drop him off at home so I didn’t have to run out and get him. And above all else, Josh, my husband who is also a PhD candidate in English Literature, took over at home. I didn’t have to worry about food, washing dishes, or bedtime with the older kids. He took care of it all. Thank you, hubs!

End of the road


At the start of my prelims, I logged out of Facebook, and disengaged from everything except Twitter (I am weak, after all). I missed everyone like crazy and came back to tons of happy messages wishing me well. That Thursday night before I submitted my exams, though – I tell ya, I was so numb from all the typing that all I could do was sit there and LOL and smiley face my way out of the academic haze. All in all, 66 pages. I still have most of my fingerprints intact, so a win?



recycle this post! share it with your friends :)

mama ph.d. wannabe