Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Anywhere but Here

Just a tiny bit of complaining...I hope you'll humor me!

The year I started the PhD program, Sky was born. I had him just before winter break and didn't even drop a semester of classes as I adjusted to parenting and the life of little sleep. Three years later, Pink P arrived seven weeks before we moved to Japan for an 18-month research stay. In those seven weeks, we sold our house, packed up everything we owned, and moved out (on a bitter cold January day). The day we moved, Pink P stayed warm in a pack-n-play in the corner of an upstairs bedroom so I could nurse her every 2-3 hours. We flew out of the US two weeks later and arrived in Tokyo (the day before a rare accumulating snow), where we found ourselves with an empty refrigerator and not the slightest idea of where to buy food. Within a week, I was back to my research and Ren was settled in our new "home" with the kids (Sky, 3 and Pink P, <1). Fast forward 18 months and we moved to a small Midwestern town where I started teaching at a college. There we figured out Sky was on the spectrum and that Pink P has severe food allergies and asthma. And we started on the long process of managing the various treatments and therapies that comes with those diagnoses. Even so, by the end of my first post-research year, I had a full draft of my dissertation done and submitted.

Because I had presented large chunks of it at conferences, in dissertation workshops, and as an article, and because two of my teaching colleagues had helped me workshop it, and because my adviser had ok'd each chapter individually, I assumed all would go smoothly.

Wrong.

Despite the positive feedback to that point, my adviser made it clear, in less than helpful terms and with more than the necessary hostility, that he thought my dissertation wasn't ready. The double shock of not being done and of realizing our family was about to grow by one, which I learned the same week as the meeting with my adviser, made me stop my research and writing for the first time ever. I stopped for three weeks (the morning sickness certainly didn't help things). And then, I started again, working on my revision nonstop for the rest of my pregnancy. In fact, I had my meeting with my adviser about my second draft the night before my 8 a.m. C-section. Again, in less than helpful or respectful terms, he told me to rewrite. So, Stow arrived and two weeks later, I was back in my home office rewriting. I kept rewriting through surgery recovery, gallstone attacks, gallstone surgery, Pink P's first hospitalization from asthma, and the family's struggle to adjust to no sleep. I turned in the third draft at the beginning of the fall semester and was told to rewrite again. This time, he was downright confrontational and the stress was so severe that I am pretty sure it's what made my milk production drop leading to Stow's weight woes. Still, I kept going. And after more consultation with different colleagues as well as with other members of my dissertation committee, I turned in a fourth full draft in late January. In early March, he told me to rewrite again, again threatening me with failure and accusing me of not being committed to my research (this accusation, which he has insinuated throughout the process is the one that really irks me). Less than a week later, I find myself sitting in a hospital room watching a heavily sedated and practically immobile Ren sleep while we wait for him to be transferred to an inpatient rehab facility where he will most likely stay for ten more days (if not longer). I have less than two months until the final final deadline.

And all I can do is wonder how in the world I got here.

4 comments:

  1. Hang in there! And remember, he's crazy!!!!

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  2. The audacity of having a life outside of your work seems to always be a great excuse for questioning academic commitment. Keep challenging the academic norm!! This too shall pass, and so will your dissertation. :-)

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  3. Be strong! Keep fighting!
    You have obviously written and rewritten a lot, so I agree with he comment before... He's crazy...
    I can think of 2 options to deal with him:
    1. Stalk him with questions and discussions so he thinks your work is in part his
    2. If your strength is his insecurity, then fake weakness: go to him and ask for help.
    Well, I can actually think of other less productive options, but they would not help you get the degree ;)

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  4. This is unbelievable. You are amazingly strong. I can relate in some ways because I was writing my Masters thesis while pregnant with my 4th child and homeschooling my other 3. I venture to say my program was no where near to the stress level of yours which makes me all the more in awe of you. It irks me that someone would be questioning your commitment because you happen to have children. Hang in there!! You clearly have unreal strength to perservere!

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