Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What Kind Of Mom I Thought I Would Be

Before I had Sparky, I had a particular vision of what kind of mom I would be. Then, the shit hit the fan. Things turned out perfectly fine, and Sparky is awesome. It's just not what I imagined.

I had read all these touchy feely books about the attachment parenting-breast-feeding-sling-wearing-motherhood that I couldn't wait to join. But my baby wasn't anything like the books! He didn't want to cuddle very much, he hated his sling, and breast-feeding was hard. He had a tongue-tie and we breast fed for 8 months. By then, I had to go on RA meds just to function so breast-feeding was no longer an option. Now that he is older, he's much the same way and I see that he was born with that personality. Sure, we bonded in other ways and we still do. I was also much more hands off than I had pictured. With my job, I wasn't able to spend every precious moment with him. I was often working at night writing proposals. I didn't have time to dote, to helicopter, or to sanitize. I'm just trying to express that things didn't turn out how I imagined. I love Sparky, and I'm so proud of how he has grown up. He brushes his own teeth, puts on his own shoes, puts his laundry in his room, tries to wipe off the table, and "cooks" with us. He's really independent!

With the second one coming, I am much more at ease. I know that this one will be born with its own likes and dislikes, and that I don't need to overanalyze every little diaper. There's no one book that's going to "cure" my child's problems. Just listening to and observing him is the best I can do.

Monday, June 27, 2011

What This Reviewer Thinks

I've been reviewing a lot of papers lately. I get sucked into reviewing because the request usually comes from a former adviser or because the paper is written by a close colleague. I like to think that I'm a pretty reasonable reviewer, usually suggesting revisions to improve style or clarity. If I get a paper I'd like to see in that journal, I always accept with minor or major revisions requested. In the course of reviewing this latest string of papers, some common problems have emerged.

One problem is that the new results are not compared with literature. It is difficult to gauge how the performance of X is so much better than prior work if no hard data (or citations) are given. This brings an exhausting amount of legwork to the reviewer, who has to go and look up references and do the comparison themselves. Sometimes, the performance of X is worse than the literature (but the authors neglect to point that out). Then, my perception is that the authors were trying to pull the wool over my eyes. With this in mind, I re-read a draft of mine for a paper I'd like to submit soon. I, too, was guilty!

A second problem is that key papers are not cited. If the submitted manuscript is incremental work on a previously published paper, then one should cite the publication. Again - I feel as if the wool is getting pulled over my eyes.

A third problem is qualitative vs. quantitative interpretation. Quantitative is always best, although there are many situations where qualitative is the only option. My particular criticism is when one has data that is easily interpreted quantitatively, but the authors merely give a qualitative interpretation. It reflects laziness to me. Yes, I know that integrating that peak will take you an extra 5 min on Matlab, but it's worth it - trust me.

Of course, these are just the recent tiffs I've had with reviewing. There is always variations on plagiarism of data, words, images, etc. Double publication. Lack of control experiments. This could go on, but I'm done with reviewing for a while (I hope).

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pregnant with #2!

I am happy to announce that I am pregnant with our second child!! The due date is January 18th.

We had been trying for a while, and it had taken lots of planning. I got off of methotrexate and switched onto plaquenil six months before we planned on starting to try. (Methotrexate causes miscarriages and birth defects). I had a flare, but it was tamed with a few dose packs of steroids. During this time, I saw my rheumotologist often. Pain was always there, but ignorable.

I knew I was pregnant days before my "special lady time". I was at my sister's visiting her during her chemotherapy treatment. One morning, I woke up and felt no pain at all. I had forgotten what it felt like to feel normal. Even my husband noticed that my hands felt more pliable. With the last pregnancy the same phenomenon had happened - so I knew what was up. I immediately quit taking plaquenil, and the pain stayed at bay.

Even now, I feel pretty good (some nausea, a few stiff joints) and I'm comfortable with the timing of the pregnancy. I'll get my spring semester off, and relatives will be lined up to help with child care. Last time, I was completely unable to care for myself or others about 6 weeks after the baby was born, and I'm expecting a repeat. This time around, I know how to handle it and I know that it will get better.

My lab is mature enough for this. I just got two more grants, and everyone is off and running on their projects. Results are coming in, and they're generally good.

It's time for baby!