Friday, February 02, 2007

Cracking for a PhD with a newborn in tow

I had all material ready for thesis writing, when I had my firstborn Bea1 in my arms for the first time. I admitted I was a little jittery, despite all the positive thoughts that I would make it. Well, I was jittery also when I decided to marry hubby. I just converted the masters program to PhD. One of enterviewers, during the interview (to qualify the upgrade), reminded me that a Masters was like a big BSc thesis, but a PhD means much bigger commitment. If I failed, I would not have both. That's the risk.

I was working as a research assistant then, with a peanut salary. I was on a short contract, no security on when I would get another job plus with the supervisor retiring. And once the contract finished, I would have to be on my own, also the fees on my own. I was determined to breastfeed her, but I did not have one single soul, to share/get info about working and breastfeeding or expressing etc. I was only dependant on babycenter.

Then an idea just popped out. I thought I could have the baby with me for half day in my office, so that I would not worry so much if I didn't get much milk during expressing. Besides, that would save some money on babysitting.

I was given a tiny room in a lab, shared with a female student who was not there most of the time. There was a fridge (for keeping breastmilk) there, as the lab used to be a "tea room" for the staffs. The babysitter was just 3 minutes drive away, I could just 'drop' the baby off;) in case of 'emergency'. That sound perfect. She followed me to the office when she was barely 6 weeks old. But, would I be able to work with a newborn around?

I was just lucky as my baby seemed to understand me. She was like the easiest baby on earth. Everybody agreed with me. A professor was doing his job for 21/2 hour just outside my room. I went out to get the baby to the babysitter, and greeted him. He was almost speechless, saying that he didn't know there was a small baby in that room. No sound, nothing.

She slept in the carrier/carseat on my messy table. Friends laughed when I related the story to them. She played on the floor. I just let her on her own, and for some breather, we played together.
She loved sucking the ear of that green soft toy that she used to call 'ketek';). (Don't bother the line above the pic, I scanned it and don't how it gets there)
I sent her to the babysitter in the afternoon, as normally I have meetings later in the day. Some days, it just dragged till past 3 pm, and the babysitter, jokingly asked if I was really serious about getting her help to care for the baby. We were always the first one to arrive early in the morning. As she grew bigger, I found it a bit harder, as every morning I had to bring her in the carrier, together with my handbag, breastpump to climb the stairs plus I had to open a few very heavy doors before reaching our little room.

I made a point not to work at nights. Hubby worked on Saturday, so Saturday was spent totally with her. But I worked a few hours on Sunday, either leaving her with hubby or a lot of times, hubby did outings with her in a backpack carrier.

After a year, the thesis finally began to take 'shape'. My supervisor read my thesis on voluntary basis as he had already retired. It was hard, when supervising time was limited. My work contract was done and I was offered a new job at another university. With a full-time job, I got a bit more slower but my ex-boss really wanted me to finish off and gave me a lot of 'room' for me to complete it.

We were quite confident about finishing and decided that Bea1 needed a little playmate;). I submitted the thesis about one month before Bea2 was born. I also was just offered a new job as a research fellow, back to the same U. I was called for the viva/thesis defence two months after that.

I had been really careful in doing the corrections/nitty gritty part of the thesis. I applied for two-day leave to do the corrections for the final submission. I only took two hours. The feeling of reading the kind remarks, encouraging comments and lots suggestion from the external examiners was undescribable. We received the scroll when Bea2 was 7 months old. (Please forgive me for my pathetic photographic skill)

I thought I had it planned all well. Marriage only after I completed my PhD, kids only after 35 as I wanted to build my career first. It turned out, marriage at almost 29 and only had 'frame' of the thesis, and soon to have 4 kids at 35;).

And I never thought having it all was much more meaningful when I have more love and support around me. To me, my prayers have been answered. I constantly prayed that I would finally meet my 'jodoh' or Mr Right;) the easy way. Later I prayed that I would be persistent, even with kids. But I never prayed for them to 'arrive' this early. Some people asked, if the presence of the kids caused the delay. I said not at all, they said I tried to be kind. A mom would never admit that. I insisted, I made the desicion to do it on my (or our) own pace. Nothing to do with the kids.

Some people just have a special place in my heart. Those who are here or away now overseas, doing their Masters or PhD with the whole family in tow. The situation or challenges might be different but I can relate to part of it. A few of the people I know, who registered at around the same time as I did are still at it. My friend gave birth to her second baby in September in the UK, had to extend her contract there for another year. They are struggling now, as the allowance has been cut. The husband has to work, and they are having problem for baby-sitting.

During a little bad patch, one of my lecturers cheered me up saying that even fishes in the ocean prayed for those who seeks knowledge. He said he got it from some hadiths or a verse from the Quran. He had his share of hardship doing his PhD, also in the UK.

Thumbs up and way to go to sweetlelainie, who blogged her journey to PhD. She calls it Permenant Head Damage. I wish we have blogger during my time;).

And the experience of me with my little baby, working on the thesis in that little room would always remain a memory that I hold to dearly, forever.

There, a long rambling for your weekend reading pleasure, my wonderful, beautiful, lovely readers (yes, two of you there!).


Anonymous lillian said...

Thanx.. love reading your rambling. We all make choices and its hard to even think how life would have been eg. if I hadn't had kids !

6:17 PM  
Anonymous fazila said...

going through challenges in life as a mother and a career is something i can relate to. it was tough for me to sit for my membership exams with a toddler, and DH all the way in kuwait. but i don't know if i would be able to go through what u did though. but i think every path that we choose in life has some hikmah to it...that is what i think when i go through hardships - that there is always an end to it and that i will come out of it stronger. kudos to you dr ros. :)

7:53 AM  
Anonymous butterflutter said...

Still feel very proud of you sis. I on the other hand took a totally different decision but nevertheless still happy with what I have now.

1:59 PM  
Anonymous sofhib said...

I do my revision for my final exam with baby playing at my side...She is 4 mo's at that time. Hubby away for biz trip.

2:00 PM  
Blogger Mama22Beas said... are most welcome. Yes, I have that silly thought, what would I be without the kids now. But I know that they are really the best;).

fazila...I believe we are built differently. I thought not having hubby around is the hardest. I'm sure what you had gone through is also tough, and yes agree for everything there is a hikmah.

BF...I believe whatever we choose, as long as we are true to ourselves, we will be ok!

sofhib...does it mean that you married at such young age? Like mentioned to Fuzzy, not having hubby around is the hardest. Kudos to you!

5:30 PM  
Blogger D said...

the reason I blog-hopped here is because I saw the tag "a superwoman wannabe"... interesting indeed! and to think that you're my age, with a doctorate ALREADY (i've just started mine.. urgh!) and live in the same neighbourhood as I did, is... kinda creepy!! do i know you?? love your entries so far, though i still have a lot to catch up!

6:21 AM  
Blogger Mama22Beas said...

Thanks for dropping by d, haha about the tag, I'm far from being one but I do have the tendency to do everything on my own, one of the reasons I choose not to have a maid at home.
That really sound that we may know each other. But let me do a bit more investigation.
Glad you like my ramblings. I thought of giving up this blog many times but to think it is a good way to keep some record of my kids makes me going.

5:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey if you don't know it already .. I'm so proud of you .. and reading through this post feels like reading through my life too ..

I too married young, had kids earlier than expected and in a bigger number than anticipated. Making things harder, I'm still at it with my MSc .. but you know it's not that hard when we put out heads into it. The plunge was harder, I think ..

Anyway, just thought that you and my twin should swap stories .. she's expecting her 4th child any day now and her first girl is Bea1's age, will be 6 this year .. and having 4 kids below the age of 6 sounds like a hand full to me ..

good luck and I know you'll be alright .. alhamdulillah for the caring and helping hubby too ..

your mummy cow ally

2:06 PM  
Blogger Mama22Beas said...

Hey, I thought getting hitched so early was hard. But like you said, the hardest is to take the plunge. Married at 29 was considered early to me.
Oh, that's interesting to know about ur twin. Among friends, they either married young and have kids far in between, or settled for two kids. Others stay find one of the same species is hard nowadays. I also wonder how she copes.
And thanks for reading my rambling here;)

6:57 PM  

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