Motherhood and Miscarriage
by Suzette....

What was meant to be an exciting experience, hearing my baby’s beating heart for the first time during my eleventh week of pregnancy, ended in shock and dismay. I will never forget the doctor’s clinical words and the look on his face: “I am sorry, but we cannot find a heartbeat. You have unfortunately miscarried. We will need to schedule a procedure to remove the fetus from your uterus.” He then made a quick exit from the room, leaving the nurse to help me pull myself together. Thinking this would be a routine pre-natal check-up, I had gone to the doctor on my own and was left searching for my car in the parking lot, alone and dazed, within 15 minutes of receiving the news.  

I had confirmed my pregnancy at seven weeks, watching the ultrasound screen as the little lima bean shaped nugget that would be my second child blipped at a steady clip. Four weeks later at my follow up visit, the blip was gone. The little lima bean I had already grown to love was still there, but the hope of eventual delivery and lovely life had vanished. After the medical explanations were given (of which there weren’t any really), and the reality sunk in, I checked in at the hospital a few days later for a D&C to rid my womb of the remaining tissue, and with it any hopes I had developed for the child I had once expected.  

Until having a miscarriage, few realize how common it is. As many as 25 % of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. It could even be twice that number given many may happen before a woman even knows she is pregnant. My doctor explained that this is nature’s way of managing a myriad of issues or problems that may exist (like chromosomal abnormalities). He reassured me that there was no concern that I had caused the miscarriage in any way – that it could not have been the result of stress or anything else I might have done. As a recent PhD graduate who was working full-time at a research institute and actively searching for an academic position, I was, of course, (wrongly) concerned that my busy life was just too much for the growing fetus to bear. But the doctor insisted that miscarriages are, quite simply, very normal, and that because I had already carried a child to term and gave birth, I had no reason to worry. He noted that I was only 32 years old and would have many more opportunities to have another baby. He was both right, and wrong.  

Nearly a year later, after landing a tenure-track position at a state university, I became pregnant again. That pregnancy also ended in miscarriage and resulted in another D&C. Six months later, another pregnancy and another D&C. After the third miscarriage, my physician suggested that I undergo a series of tests to determine whether I might be struggling with any physical anomalies or hormonal irregularities that could be causing repeat pregnancy loss. After much blood work and what seemed like countless examinations, I was cleared again to attempt conception, and if it happened, I would be treated with additional hormone injections to enhance the odds of fetal survival. Despite such efforts, however, that pregnancy also failed. I was broken, and so was my marriage.  

After a time of recovery – physically, mentally and emotionally – I married again. My second husband, who had not had children, and I were both in our mid to late 30s and we were eager to have a baby. He was happy to be a step-father to my daughter, who remained unaware of my fertility issues, but we definitely wanted to have another child. He was aware of my previous miscarriages and supported me through the medical process while I continued to visit with specialists in search of answers to my puzzling fertility situation. I eventually learned that I had endometriosis and adenomyosis. I underwent an extensive laparoscopy surgery to address the endometriosis, and endured a chemically induced menopause for six months to firm up my uterine tissue and address the adenomyosis. I was then given the green light and became pregnant fairly quickly, but it didn’t last. As my husband and I were pushing toward 40, we decided to undergo in-vitro fertilization to try and control the implantation of the strongest embryos. The three that survived the fertilization process and were inserted into my uterus didn’t grow, which was also a disappointment (and an expensive one at that). I surprisingly became pregnant three months after the failed IVF attempt, and shortly thereafter I suffered my sixth and final miscarriage.  

In the end, we were never able to solve this puzzle – nothing really explained why I had one child and then my body couldn’t do it again. Nothing really explained why we would see a fetal heartbeat (the little lima bean blip) at around 6-7 weeks every time, but by week 9, 10 or 11 the flicker of potential life was gone. The fetal tissue had been tested for abnormalities after miscarriages 4, 5 and 6 – and only the 5th pregnancy actually showed a chromosomal problem. For the other two, the test results were perfectly normal. As difficult as it was to endure the physical and emotional pain of six pregnancies and six miscarriages, the lack of answers was perhaps as or more difficult to accept. 

For ten years, all throughout my probationary period as an assistant professor and into my early years after tenure, I suffered through these difficult experiences, just as many other working women do. Throughout that time, I continued to teach my classes, travel abroad to conduct research, attend professional conferences, mentor students, and engage in departmental, college and university service – and all the while I silently struggled. I took hormone shots while on the road, attended departmental meetings in between receiving the news of a miscarriage and having a D&C, taught class after crying in the car the entire way there and then again, all the way home. No time was taken off, reports of my medical issues weren’t filed, and the information wasn’t shared beyond a few close friends and family members. And as the miscarriages mounted in number, I confided in even fewer people. I was so tired of being the bearer of bad news. 

More or less, I engaged in a self-imposed isolation that wasn’t obvious to anyone at work (or at home either, as I had a small child to care for as well). This exceptionally personal experience just didn’t seem to belong in an academic environment given the higher education workplace isn’t especially welcoming to such intimate, human situations. Other academic women have felt similarly – noting the awkward nature of these kinds of conversations.


Celebrating Our Spiritual Academic Mothers
By Laura

There’s no Mother’s Day for our academic mothers, those women who inspired us during our academic lives. Some may have been mentors we met as undergraduate students and, perhaps, we were lucky to have more when we pursued our graduate degrees. Some are women with whom we currently work – as staff, adjuncts, or fellow faculty – who know when to listen, when to push, and when to sit quietly by and let us fail (always there to pick us up when we need it).  

But some of these mothers we have never met. They are our spiritual mothers, our book mothers, our theory mothers; those women whom we studied from afar and whose work we brought into our own. These are the inspirations we call on in times of academic malaise and uncertainty.

One such mother for me is poet Muriel Rukeyser, and a quotation from her poem “Käthe Kollwitz“ became a mantra for my own graduate work:  

What would happen if one woman told the truth about     
       her life?     
   The world would split open  

Perhaps the most famous example of a spiritual academic mother is exemplified by the relationship poet, writer, and activist Alice Walker has with Zora Neale Hurston, an American writer and anthropologist who died in 1960. By the time Walker wrote about Hurston in In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens, Hurston had been all but forgotten. Walker says in a PBS video, “I realized that unless I came out with everything I had supporting her, there was every chance that she would slip back into obscurity.”


Stuff I Found on the Interwebs: Academic Moms
by Jacque

Something Remarkable
I'm a single mother by choice who happens to be a college professor and writer. Add the antics of a few years of infertility treatment and recurrent pregnancy loss, rants about academe and going up for tenure, and you have Something Remarkable. Now presenting life on the other side; join me, my daughter LG (12) and son Tiny Boy (5) on our adventures as a family of three!

Mama PhD
Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Literary Mama
Literary Mama
publishes literary writing about the many faces of motherhood. Since 2003, we have featured poetry, fiction, columns, and creative nonfiction that may be too raw, too irreverent, too ironic, or too body-conscious for traditional or commercial motherhood publications.

Fie Upon This Quiet Life
2016-17 will be my 6th year at Heartland U, a religious SLAC in a flyover state, where I teach English. This blog is about my life as an academic, mom, writer, and human being. It isn't easy being any or all of those things, but when I find myself in times of trouble, Shakespeare is my guide.

I am a (not always in this order) wife, mom, and doctoral student in English w/ a focus in Rhetoric and Composition (and my grammar still sucks). I am a native of Detroit, a graduate of the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (B.A. in English), as well as a graduate of Georgia State University (M.A. in English w/ a focus in Rhetoric and Composition.  I currently reside in the Atlanta area with my husband and son. At the present time, I am an almost full-time WAHM. I take care of my son while finishing my doctoral studies, teaching online and in the evenings on campus, and running my crochet business, Hook Smart

Academic Mom Life
I'm an academic. I'm a mom. This is my life.

On Twitter

The PhD Mommy
From dissertations to diapering, for academic moms with Doctor Faustus AND Dr. Seuss on their desks,  is required reading.  

Tania Lombrozo
Writes about cognitive science and philosophy. Professes psychology at UC Berkeley. Devours chocolate and fiction.

Academic Mamas
Bits and pieces of what's it's really like being an academic mom. ykyaamw=you know you're an academic mama when...

Mary Beth Gasman
@Penn Professor, Director-Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions (@centerformsis) mother, justice fighter, lover of @JohnLegend, giver, HBCU researcher  

Grace PhD
Scientist, Data Whisperer, Mother, Maker, Educator at  

The feMANist: proFile of Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado
by Suzette....

In honor of Mother’s Day, we highlight the role Moms play not only in raising strong, independent, intelligent, capable daughters, but also in raising feminist sons. I don’t have a son or a brother, but I am fortunate to have a number of male friends and colleagues who are champions of all the women they know. One of the most exceptional femanists I know is Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Professor at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. We met in graduate school in the early 1990s and I couldn’t have been more impressed with his experience, background and positive attitude. I learned a lot from Jonathan, and all of my graduate school classmates (which is definitely one of the best parts of going to graduate school).  

More recently, I learned the story behind Jonathan’s hyphenated name – a story that demonstrates just how special he is. This discussion led us to talk more about feminism, and the incredible influence that Jonathan’s mother has had in his life. His story underscores just how important mothers are in the lives of their children, sometimes without their even knowing it. We hope you enjoy learning about Jonathan and his mom, and Happy Mother’s Day!  

When I first met you, I thought Benjamin was your middle name, until I noticed the hyphen. You explained that you had hyphenated your name along with your wife, Beth Benjamin, when you got married.  How did that happen and why?

It’s really interesting because, to be honest, prior to meeting Beth I had kind of given up on ever developing a long-term relationship, let alone getting married. I was always too much of a geek in a lot of ways to see eye to eye with a lot of women.  So by the time I turned 30, I was convinced it wasn’t ever going to happen, so I was just going to take life as it was and be super serious about my studying because I had made this conscious decision to go back to school. And then when I met Beth, that started to change largely because she was close to my age, she was two years younger than me. Like me, she had traveled a lot. Like me, she spoke Spanish. And like me, she really loved music – and that was the thing that really attracted me to her.  

We hadn’t really been dating all that long when she got pregnant. We had known each other maybe six months. She asked me, “What do you want to do?” We had been talking about getting married for about three months. At one point she had told me that she had never had a good Valentine’s Day so I said, “How about we get married on Valentine’s Day?” And then I said, “What do you think about taking my name?”  

And she didn’t say anything at first, and then I said, “What if I take your name?”  

She kind of looked at me and said, “I really like that.”  

To me it was the ultimate sign of our relationship and literally, our union. I shouldn’t ask her to do anything I wouldn’t do myself. I thought it would be an expression of commitment that goes beyond something as simple as a ring. It’s funny, about a year after we were married I shattered my ring finger playing basketball, and I have not been able to get the ring back on my finger. I still have the ring, but I also have her name. People always ask me about this. It really confuses people in Latin America, because [the typical way they see it] the name should be the other way around, with her taking my name. But I did this because I love her and wanted to do it. When I do have the opportunity to talk to people about it, they say to me that they would have never thought about doing this, but the truth is I’m a little different, and this is just the depth of my commitment to her.


Postpartum: One Woman's Struggle
by Lauren

January 17, 2013: A train. A buzzing cell phone. A cat meowing. A baby grunting. The dishwasher sounding its cycle completion. The hum of a baby monitor. Snoring. My mind buzzing with a thousand thoughts about tomorrow.

My son was about five weeks old the day I posted this to Facebook. I was deep in the throes of postpartum depression, but had not yet realized it.

The moment I found out I was pregnant, everything about me changed. I took at least five home tests to confirm the pregnancy, all but demanded an ultrasound at the clinic where I took yet another test, and had a heartbeat monitor at home that I would wake up and use in the middle of the night as the pregnancy progressed. I read every pregnancy book and article I could get my hands on. As a planner who craves organization, this was the only thing that calmed me. I was terrified.

I did not always know that I wanted a child. I felt the pull of travel and the need to be free from an obligation to stay in any one place too long. I was not convinced that I had the patience to raise a tiny human. When I met my future husband in 2009, he told me about his two children who were ages six and four. I thought it might be fun to have kids in my life but without the commitment of a full time gig. The more time I spent with them, though, the stronger I felt the urge to have a child of my own. Nine months after our one-year wedding anniversary, our son was born.

The funny part about my need to plan and organize is that I forgot to read anything about what happens after your baby is born! I realized the morning we went to the hospital that I could count on one hand the number of times I had held a newborn baby. I think I just assumed that it would all come naturally, or that because my husband had two children already, he would be the expert – WRONG! As it turned out, I was afraid to change my son’s diaper. I had no breastfeeding technique. I would not put him in the bassinet at the hospital because I thought we would miss out on bonding. I refused to lay the hospital bed back so I could rest. In the 72 hours after my son was born, I slept maybe two hours. On about day four, I stood at the end of our bed with my son and husband, sobbing because I felt like a failure at diapering. I remember saying, “I cannot do this! And I’m so tired. I think I might die from this.” This was when the train officially came off the track.

My mind could not comprehend the new normal. It was winter, the days were short, no family was in town and now I was responsible for this baby boy. My husband worked from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. most days, I did not want to leave the house and I was convinced something terrible would happen at any moment. Break-ins, car crashes, tornadoes, murderous animals sneaking in, you name it and I thought it could happen. I cried for hours and hours every single day. The first time we put him in his swing, I burst into tears because he looked lonely. I put a diaper on him and wrapped him in a blanket because I was afraid I might scratch him or make him uncomfortable putting an outfit on and he would hate me.