The last several weeks has been the greatest adventure, and the greatest surprise of my life… Instead of working and networking on a computer all day, or going out into the field to research crocs, birds, marine life and parasites, I welcomed the new life of motherhood to a healthy and feisty baby girl! What a learning experience that transcends to so many different faucets of life!!!! I took heed to all the warnings of what the first couple months of motherhood would be, and in all honesty, I was up to the challenge. After all, I survived grad school from one hell of an advisor (professors warned me during recruitment weekend AND during orientation)! I figured if I could survive grad school with him, I could survive anything!!!!
Many may be appalled that I would even COMPARE grad school to the first several weeks of motherhood. That’s fine… BUT YOU NEVER HAD MY GRAD SCHOOL EXPERIENCE!!!! Yes, grad school is hard and everyone goes through their tough times. But how many people do you know try to black out their first couple of years of grad school because IT WAS THAT BAD!!!??? This girl tries. The anxiety, frustration, fear, sadness, depression… all of the emotions of the Dark Side comes back in a flash, and I just want to block it from memory. Now, I have to say part of these Dark Ages (that’s what I like to call them) were real rough because I made them rough… partly because I agreed with my advisor in pursuing my Master’s and PhD at the same time, aka, I had 2 different projects!!!! Stupid, stupid, stupid!!!!! Granted, I got a book out of my Master’s project and still need to write up some scientific review papers from the information, and my PhD has given me international recognition in parasitology among herpetologists… but I agreed to something that sucked the life out of me for at least 2 1/2 years while pursuing both separate degrees. Stupid, stupid, stupid… yet still glad I did it for career reasons obviously :)
So, how did grad school prep me for motherhood???? I WAS THE LIVING DEAD. I think I slept about 3-4 hours/night for months on end. I was always on his schedule, and when something was demanded, IT HAD TO BE DONE. Waking up to email alerts at the wee hours of the night, knowing you can’t just wait until morning. You had to get out of bed and attend to those emails then- it was usually best. And always having the feeling like you can never satisfy no matter how hard you work, and no matter how “perfect” everything seemed. I rarely ate as there never seemed like there was time to eat. Sometimes I slept a lot during the day, sometimes at night. It just depended on what my advisor said and what deadlines I had, etc. I felt like a zombie because of the lack of sleep or weird sleep patterns. And I got REAL GOOD about falling asleep ANYWHERE and in ANY position. When ever I could get some sleep, I tried… real hard. Oh, and I totally went days without showering. There was no time!!!! There were more important things to be taken care of!!!!
So motherhood… waking up every 2-3 hrs/night (we are now at 6hrs which is awesome!) to the coos and cries of a daquini baby (have you seen Willow?). I cant wait til morning. And how many times have I fallen asleep breastfeeding in the middle of the night sitting up perfectly or in some non-normal uncomfortable position. I’m exhausted, and will take sleep or a moment of peace at anytime of the day! There are days where Im walking round tending to the baby and feel half awake and half asleep- I’m a zombie. And trying to figure out why the baby is crying can be frustrating and draining even though you are trying everything and doing your best and working your hardest. Sound familiar??? So many times I giggled as flashbacks of grad school happened the last several weeks due to the physical and emotional drain similarity, but I’m much more happy to attend to my baby then the tryany of grad school.
But just like grad school, I’m adapting to the new way of life, especially trying to find a good balance between research and motherhood. Within the last couple of years, I remember reading an article stating that exposing kids to nature and the environment prior to 11 years old influences them greatly in becoming more environmentally conscious as adults. Well, my little girl is going to have an overload of exposure. She’s already been out into the field with me twice, and lady luck was on her side! Yesterday we saw an Osprey prey upon a large fish, and then saw 2 manatees in our research transect area!!! Well, the manatee story goes like this:
I’m sitting on a dock with my baby performing bird surveys while my husband/assistant is in the water performing an aquatic survey. On the corner of my eye I see something big come out of the water getting closer to him.
Me: Because there is something big in the water and I’m not quite sure what it is (and it is creeping towards you).
Karl starts swimming to shore trying to swim without seeming like an injured/scared animal.
A minute later, and after Karl asking me questions worringly, we realize the big animal was a manatee! Two actually!!!! An amazing way to end a day of research. And a great way to expose my baby girl Maia to the beauty of nature!!!