“My work was my happy place.”
At 18, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome. My doctor told me that having kids might be tricky but I wouldn’t know until I tried. I lived not knowing for 10 years, enjoying science and accepting the “no child” scenario. But here I am, mom of three children. They push me to do my best, despite being chronically exhausted.
I got pregnant, after having given up on it, when I had just started my 3rd year of PhD. I was lucky most of my lab work was finished, as I felt so very sick and exhausted. I really hated being unable to do things.
My supervisors were supportive although I tried hard not to give anybody a reason to say “ this is why you should never get pregnant during PhD”.
Just few months after my baby arrived my husbands’ mental health deteriorated. Depression hit him hard. The first two years of my daughter’s life were so difficult. It sends chills down my spine. I knew I had to be strong. With no family nearby to help, I had to be prepared for the worst.
When Sofia was 6 months, my mom came over for a month. I have written a good chunk of my PhD and managed to get a job. I don’t think I could have done it without her. Finishing the PhD went smoothly and I started my postdoc on my daughter’s 1st birthday.
My work was my happy place. My child and science gave me energy to carry on.
Gradually, my husband got better and life went back to normal. In my job, I worked on a few translational projects in collaboration with industry. I really loved it, although was thinking of trying something else, possibly out of academia. I wasn’t happy with the short term contracts and wanted to try something new.
Then, reluctantly, we decided to try for another baby. I didn’t think it was going to happen but, thanks to my polycystic ovaries, I got pregnant with twins. We were absolutely delighted although my pregnancy was so much worse than the first time.
I really didn’t like some of the comments: “ You’re having twins, you can’t go to work until they go to school” or “ Twins? I guess you’re not going to be back”. Seriously? This was infuriating! In my head I shouted: “Why wouldn’t I go back to work? Is my brain going to pop out as I push these two babies out of me? No, it’s not”.
My contract expired during my maternity leave and was not extended. Luckily, when the boys were 8 months old I was offered a job in my PhD lab, which I accepted. Working part time is great for having time with children, but the lack of time in the lab is not easy. I struggle with this on a daily basis. Do I want to go back to full time, or maybe move out of academia? Yes and no. I think this internal conflict is to stay for a while.