Thursday, November 10, 2011


I completed a dissertation chapter today!

I use the term "completed" loosely. By "completed" I mean that I wrote what I feel is a complete chapter. I covered all of the information I outlined to cover in the chapter, I formatted it according to the university's requirements, I footnoted all of my sources.  The next step is to give it to my advisor to get feedback.  I'm afraid he'll tear it to shreds and I'll have to do significant rewrites or, worse, scrap the whole thing. Still, for now I feel good to have one chapter out of the way. The crazy thing is I completed the chapter in just a week once I actually sat down to write it!  It took significantly longer than that to collect all of the info I needed to write the chapter--months of research--but still, the actual writing went pretty quickly.
If only I could keep up this writing pace I could be finished with the dissertation by Christmas. Unfortunately, that won't happen. Other chapters are going to be more challenging to write because I've laid less groundwork and will probably have to do more reading as I go along to flesh out my arguments.  Still, I'm finally making some tangible progress.  I feel like I've been conducting interviews and reading sources and taking and organizing notes for ages and yet none of those things ever make me feel like I'm making serious progress. Having a completed chapter makes me feel like there's a chance I may actually finish this thing someday.  I plan to have a second chapter completed by the end of this month, which seems feasible.

Plan A is to complete the dissertation in late January, give it to my advisor, get feedback, do (minor, hopefully) rewrites, get it to my committee, and defend it during the last full week of February.  Obviously, this plan is contingent on many factors: the cooperation of my advisor in getting me prompt feedback through the winter, my ability to stick to a pretty grueling writing pace, and, oh yeah, the baby staying put in my uterus until my mid-March due date.  "They" say first babies come late, but I was my mom's first and I was born three weeks early, so it may be asking too much for him to actually wait until March to make his debut.

Plan B is to complete the dissertation by late February, let my advisor and committee read it while I'm busy with a newborn, then do any necessary rewrites and the defense in April at basically the last possible moment I can defend and still graduate in May.  I don't like this plan as much as Plan A because it involves preparing for a defense when I'll have a 4 or 5 week old baby. I have no idea how I would even do that, honestly, but I keep it on the table as an option because...maybe?

Plan C involves finishing up the bulk of the writing by late February, then picking up the project again and finishing it for real when the baby is about 6 weeks old and defending it right before the faculty go off contract at the end of May, when the baby will be 2 1/2 months old.  This seems slightly more feasible than Plan B, although it would mean that technically I wouldn't graduate until August and I would have to pay tuition for one summer session in order to graduate.

Plan D involves paying for the fall semester out-of-pocket and not graduating until December.  Obviously, this is the least appealing option since I'd still have an infant to contend with AND I'd have to pay money to the university.

Note that all of the plans involve finishing eventually, one way or another.  So I have to soldier through and get this project done. I'm just hoping that this second trimester boost of energy lasts a little bit longer.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

So, it's now November and I STILL have a cough. The good news is I feel substantially better than the last time I posted and the cough is just a slight annoyance at this point. The bad news is that I am growing more and more certain that the cough is a pregnancy symptom and won't go away completely until I give birth in March.  Apparently I am a sufferer of pregnancy rhinitis. I can't complain, though. I'd much rather have a slightly stuffy nose and a cough than hyperemesis gravidarum or any number of pregnancy complications that are so much worse than just a slight annoyance.  I'm fortunate that all is going well so far, and I know it.
The baby and therefore my belly are growing at a rapid pace now.  I'm wearing maternity pants exclusively these days and I look obviously pregnant enough at this point that strangers feel comfortable asking me when I'm due or offering me seats on the subway.  It's fun to finally have a belly, actually.  I always thought I'd probably be the sort of woman who enjoyed my own pregnant body, and I do.  Frankly, I find it sort of amazing and completely alien all at once.  It's amazing for the obvious reason that my body is nurturing another person, and it's amazing because I have all of these new curves.  I find myself subconsciously resting my hands on my abdomen often these days. I explained it to a friend the other night by saying, "You know when you get dental work done and then for a few days afterward your tongue can't stop messing with the new filling or sealant or whatever because you're just not used to it being there and it feels so strange? Having a pregnant belly is like that, you just can't stop touching it because it's so different."  It's also a completely alien feeling, though, to look into the mirror and not really recognize my own body, and to feel heavier than I have ever felt before and to feel the sensation of flesh resting on flesh in a way it usually does not (and by that I mean, dude, I suddenly have C-cup boobs and I have no idea what to do with these things.  I suppose I will use them to feed an infant, since they are apparently getting all geared up to do that job).
The baby's flutters are beginning to turn into actual kicks. Penn still hasn't had much luck feeling the baby move--only once so far, and only for a second--but I think pretty soon the kicks won't be just between me and the baby anymore.  He's getting much stronger.  He's also starting to develop a somewhat consistent movement pattern. I can usually count on feeling him kick for a good half hour or so after I eat breakfast in the morning and again around dinner time. Sometimes he does calisthenics at bedtime, too.  I feel so reassured by his kicking, and it's so wonderful to feel him more and more easily all the time.
He is a he, by the way!  We had our 20 week anatomy scan two weeks ago. As I was getting situated on the exam table the ultrasound tech asked if we wanted to know the sex of the baby if she could see it. We said that we did. I expected it would take her a little while to figure it out since she made it sound like she wasn't going to look for sex organs deliberately, but less than one minute after she put the ultrasound probe on my belly she said, "Your baby is a boy." I said, "Are you sure?" not because I was surprised but because I really didn't want to be told the wrong thing. She said, "Yes, I'm certain, look." To be honest, I had a hard time figuring out what exactly I was looking at (I mean, I assumed a tiny penis, but it wasn't exactly apparent to me). Penn said he definitely saw it, though.  After the scan was over the doctor came in to do a quick scan of his own and to go over the measurements and information that the tech had collected, and he said, "Do you know what you're having?" and I said, "She said it was a boy..." and the doctor said, "Yes, it's a boy, there's no mistaking it."  So I feel pretty confident that there is indeed a little guy in there! And according to the doctor he is growing on track and appears to be healthy so far. I'm thrilled to be having a boy. I would have been equally excited to have a girl, but it's funny how the instant she said it was a boy I couldn't possibly imagine having a baby girl.  I keep thinking about how fun it's going to be to have a boy and I am getting so attached to the idea of a mini-Penn toddling around here in a couple of years.  I just can't wait to meet him. I want to see who he looks like, I want to find out his strange personality quirks and discover his favorite things.  I mostly just want to hold him in my arms where I can actually see him and know that he is okay.  
Now that we're just a couple of weeks from the age of viability, I'm allowing myself to make some real preparations because it's looking more and more likely that we'll actually be bringing a baby home in March. I picked out all of the decorations and bedding for his nursery the other day and put them on a registry to be purchased after Christmas (or maybe provided as baby shower gifts). We already have a closet full of hand-me-down items from my cousin and one of Penn's coworkers. We have a fancy big swing, a small portable swing (so I guess we'll have one for each level of the house), a high chair, some baby gates, a breast pump, an umbrella stroller, some unbelievably tiny outfits, and enough baby socks that I think he'll be able to wear a different pair every day for the first two months of his life. People have already given this little guy the sweetest gifts: a children's Bible, his first teddy bear, and a tiny blue pillow handmade by my grandmother that says, "Baby of Mine."  Penn and I start a birth prep class next week.  At the very most I'll only be pregnant for another 20 weeks (that's if I'm two weeks overdue) so it's time to start seriously preparing, even though this late in the game I'm still a little afraid I'll jinx things.

In non-baby news, I turned 29 years old yesterday and had the best birthday ever. Penn planned the most delightful surprises for me. First he got me a prenatal massage. It was heavenly. I felt so relaxed afterward that I felt like a new person.  Then we went to see a clever and funny show. The finale of the day was dinner at a really nice restaurant that I'd been wanting to try for ages.  In other words, it was basically my ideal day!  I feel so blessed as I head into my 30th year of life.  I was so overwhelmed with thankfulness yesterday. I don't know whether to thank myself for making good choices, or God for giving me good luck; probably it has been a bit of both. But when I think back 10 years and recall where 19-year-old me wanted to be by 29, I think past me would be happy with present me. I have a wonderful husband, a nice home in an interesting place, snuggly pets, a good job, a combined income with my husband that allows us to take some fun trips and do some damn cool things, a supportive family, and a healthy baby on the way. I feel overwhelmed sometimes by just how fortunate I have been so far. I pray that Penn and I make good choices and that luck continues to be on our side.