Mental Health & School Stuff

I wanted to post an update on my mental health, since I had shared that my first trimester was rough for me, psychologically. I was feeling really shitty about my lack of ability to work efficiently in my first trimester. I had two grad program milestones that were supposed to have been met by the winter semester: my dissertation proposal and my qualifying exam. The semester ended 2 weeks ago and I had completed neither. Well I had actually written two dissertation proposals, but nothing had been accepted yet.

My new, by-the-books, critical co-advisor suggested that, if my summer semester was going to be as unproductive as my winter semester, I should take a Leave of Absence over the summer, because I couldn’t miss any more milestones. This was highly stressful to hear because I am only allowed to take 3 consecutive semester LOAs, so taking one before the baby is born would mean finding and paying for childcare when the baby is 8 months old. In Canada, we are accustomed to 12 months of leave for birth parents. Also, I would feel WORSE about myself taking a whole summer off, making no money, not eligible for EI, doing nothing productive (besides growing a baby).

I had to take a chance on myself. I had to make a decision based on my unknown ability to be very productive throughout my third trimester. My original advisor, who is amazingly supportive and understanding of life circumstances, backed me up, and now I have a plan that works for me. I am going to put my dissertation on hold until I am back from my maternity leave, because it is against policy for me to collect data while on leave anyway, so no sense rushing to get the proposal approved before I leave. Over the summer I am going to do my qualifying exam, which involves 3 months to write a paper and then an oral defence of the paper in August. After all the bureaucratic crap is dealt with I will only have a month and a half to write instead of the recommended 3 months, but if it’s the only school stuff I’m working on, I should be able to manage it. And then I can have the baby and go on leave feeling like I’ve accomplished something. And I can work on a new dissertation proposal (3rd time’s the charm…) as I find the time and energy during my 12 months off with baby.

I feel motivated. I feel capable. The fog in my brain is clearing and I am able to string a sentence together again. Although this week I did put the ground coffee directly in my mug and the carafe in the fridge…


5 thoughts on “Mental Health & School Stuff

  1. I love that you have a plan! That said I really don’t like the advice of your new critical co-advisor, they sound less helpful and critical then is necessary!
    Also, I have to say that I love that you put the ground coffee in your mug and the carafe in the fridge! If nothing else, it made me smile. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha yeah that was definitely a classic move… Common I’m sure to both pregnant people and new parents who are sleep deprived.
      My co-advisor can absolutely be more critical than necessary, especially for a mother of two young kids. I expected her to be a bit more understanding…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That plan sounds good! I think the first tri hits everyone harder than they expect, but what I’ve heard about the third is that it’s just not as bad. You can do this! Write that paper! Do that oral defense! Hopefully you won’t have to be on your feet for two + hours for the defense, is all.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Amy, my dear… I am so sorry you are having this experience with your co-advisor. That is not fair. I’m hoping that she extends more compassion. Yes, many pregnant mothers deal with these kinds of stressors but that does not make it okay. I am wishing you creativity and productivity, but also moments of pause to enjoy this delightful and horrendous and crazy experience of pregnancy. Thinking of you ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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