(Suddenly, when I am completely overwhelmed by a dying computer, reviewer comments from hell, and way too much work, the blog post that I've been avoiding writing seems like the most attractive thing.)
When I returned from my interview at JARU, I was convinced that while I would likely be offered the job there, I absolutely didn't want it. So I talked to my advisor, with whom the subject of staying for a post-doc had been previously broached, and told him I wanted to stay here.
He said, "I'd love to have you and I should be able to come up with money. What would you like to work on?"
I said, "Of all the interesting things you have on the horizon, I am most excited about Newthing, because it will be really different from my dissertation work, but still draw on some of my 'expertise.' Plus, it will give me a chance to do experimental work that I have been interested in doing for a long time."
He said, "Funny you should say that. We have the opportunity to be involved in some really neat collaborative work. The only problem is that if we are going to be involved, we need to get to work right now."
I said, "I'm game."
The next week I got on a plane for Midwest to take part in an experimental design meeting. Experiments start next week, and I'll probably need to spend a few weeks in Midwest during May and then again in July.
(Have you figured out yet why the defense-countdown ticker has disappeared from my page?)
So in the past two weeks, I've been getting myself spun up on Newthing (marveling at how easily its happening and disparing at the experimental time crunch, in turns) while simultaneously trying to deal with sticky reviewer comments (must resubmit by June 1), finish a draft of Chapter 2, and work on data analysis for Chapter 3 (which must be in a grant report by May 15, a poster by June 7, and a submitted paper by June 15). Chapters 2 and 3 ain't happening, and I feel like I am spending all day just hurtling from one thing to the next while slogging through molasses. Plus, I'm out of clean clothes.
I'm having second thoughts about my decisions. It appears that I won't even get the job offer from JARU (they had promised to call last Friday), so it's not like I have other options. First, I am not convinced the current collaborative experimental scheme will work for studying Newthing and which potentially leaves me several months into the postdoc starting from scratch. Second, if I can't defend by September 1, I'll be out of fellowship money, and grad research assistants get paid <1/2 as much as fellowships or post-docs. There's nothing my advisor can do to help me on this one; rules are rules. But spending the necessary time on Newthing may make it hard for me to defend this summer. Third, in less than 6 months I'll be starting the job search roulette wheel all over again. And that's totally unappealing right now. Fourth, a couple of people have pointedly remarked on how unusual it is for PhD students to stay with their advisor for a post-doc and insinuated that it might be harder for me to get a tenure-track job because of it. I too am concerned that staying here for a year will lead to needing another post-doc somewhere else before jumping on the tenure-track. But at this point, what can I do?
On the upside, it's really really great that my advisor is willing and able to fund me for another year and that I like working with him well enough for that to be palatable. I won't have to finish in a rush, move across the country, and start a new job in a new town right away. BusinessMan's got a promising new job here that maybe (hopefully) will turn into a real career for him if he can stay here >6 months. We've got friends and family in the area, and maybe after I've defended I can take some time off and play in the mountains and along the coast. There's a lot of trails to left to hike and rivers to left to run in this neck of the woods. And maybe I'm naive, but a post-doc hints at a little more time to do those things than as an ABD or a junior professor.
Being here for another year also means that we can continue to try to have a baby. I'll have great health insurance as soon as I defend, and BusinessMan will have great health insurance for us by the end of August whether or not I defend. I have a gynecologist I really like. I couldn't imagine being pregnant/having an infant in the first year on the tenure track, but it seems more doable as a post-doc (especially with an understanding boss).
Of course, trying to have a baby does not equal having a baby, as I know all too well. I've been on job interviews my last 2 ovulation cycles, I may have to be in Midwest doing experiments for newthing in May, and I'll be on the east coast for a conference in June. So the baby won't be getting made until late this summer at the earliest, which means that I could be in the third trimester or with a newborn during interview season...and that's a whole 'nother can of worms. Plus, as those of you who have been following the saga may remember, we'll likely have lower chances of conceiving even when I am around (low sperm counts). We could go the artificial insemination route to mitigate that, but I have a new worry now that I may have a problem too.
A couple of times my period has been a couple of days late and then started. Now that may seem like nothing to some of you, but I've been charting for over a year and I know that my luteal phase is always 12 days. So when my period hasn't started by 15-16 days after ovulation, I start to get excited. And then the pregnancy test comes back negative and then later that day my period starts. I take the pregnancy test even though I don't think I'm pregnant, and I don't think I'm pregnant because my temperature hasn't exhibited the classic triphasic pattern of pre-ovulation (low), ovulation (high), and implantation (higher) that pregnant women get. This temperature pattern is the result of the same hormone levels that the pregnancy test is measuring. So now I wonder whether I have a hormonal problem or a problem sustaining a very early pregrancy that would sabotage the AI efforts.
Yes, I know I could ask my doctor but those visits ain't cheap. Yes, I could go on some bulletin boards and ask other women TTC. But I get annoyed at the threads hijacked by happy mothers, irritated at the incomprehensible acronyms, and depressed by the stories of women who have suffered miscarriage after miscarriage or gone to extraordinary lengths to get pregnant and still failed to bear a child. I can't afford the time or the emotional rollercoaster that those bulletin boards would require. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. I guess.
(BTW, anybody who tells me that we will get pregnant as soon as my stress levels go down will be shot [or at least banned from commenting]. Not only is that comment not the least bit comforting or helpful, it reflects a complete lack of understanding about the assorted stresses that will always accompany a woman's academic lifestyle.)
Most of the time I am too happily busy with work to spend more than a few minutes mourning the arrival of another period. With so much changing right now and so many demands on my energy, brain, and emotions, I think I am feeling it more acutely this time around. I promise that in a few days (weeks?) I'll be back to my normal, happy scientific self.
And maybe by then the reviews will dealt with and my computer will be fixed.