Number of babies born in the US by year from 1978-2020

I was playing around with birth number statistics.  (Note there’s a small change in 2006 about where the data came from– the numbers are really similar for the overlap between 1990 and 2006 but in general, the numbers from 2006+ are usually just a little bit lower than their counterparts from the other dataset, generally in the 1,000s place.  The numbers for 2005 in both datasets are very similar.)

Here’s what you get if you plot out raw numbers.  This doesn’t include immigration or mortality or anything like that.  Also no information about education or income or race or socioeconomic status.  Just raw numbers.

Many kids applying to elite colleges this year were born in or around 2004/5.

There will be some red-shirted and otherwise delayed kids who were born a year or two before then.  And, of course, the pandemic gap year kids (kids who deferred a year and then made the next accepted college class smaller at many elite schools, which caused kids who didn’t get in where they wanted to delay a year etc.) are still moving through.  And there’s kids who would never have applied to elite colleges before who are now encouraged to do so through QuestBridge (this is really great– work by Carolyn Hoxby and Susan Dynarski has been pushing for connecting these kids to elite schools and it’s fantastic that’s actually happening now).  And international students no longer have to prove that they are rich to attend US colleges like they did at the turn of the century.  So those are a few additional causes of competition for elite schools.

But still, the raw numbers are important.  (There’s something called the Easterlin Hypothesis that talks about the effects of cohort size on economic outcomes– this is part of that theoretical thread.)

And while the number of colleges has no doubt changed, what is defined as elite and how many schools are considered elite maybe hasn’t as much.

So… if your kids are applying to elite schools, is their college application experience going to be different than yours?  YES.  How much different?  Well.. what cohort did you apply to college with?  What cohort are your kids applying to college in?

A nice thing about this chart is the knowledge that if we hadn’t let DC1 skip a couple grades, there would be even more competition for slots.  Of course, zie would (probably) be more accomplished as well and wouldn’t be only 16, so that would help too.  DC2 has a bit more leeway as zie was born in the middle of kind of a flat fertility period, though zie may be facing more competition from red-shirted and gap year kids.

(Note that a lot of people making predictions about how hard it is to get into college are focusing on the *birth rate*, which will be dropping if what they say is correct.  The Birth Rate is calculated by dividing the number of live births in a year by the mid-year resident population.  The reason the birth number is going up but the birth rate is going down is because of the denominator, not the numerator.  Personally I think the numerator is more important to college admissions 17-18 years later.  Lots of other stuff goes into who is applying to college, as mentioned before the graph, but the mid-year resident population the year a kid was born probably isn’t a first order thing.)


  • DC1 and DC2 are very different in many ways, but they are equally perfect.
  • I either had a 3+ week labor or an hour and a bit more labor, depending on when you start counting.
  • Last time it stopped hurting when I started pushing.  This time it didn’t hurt until it was time to start pushing.
  • This time there were more interventions (they broke my water, they moved aside the cervix lip).  Interventions are unpleasant.  They make me say, “Ow.”
  • Last time the nurses were all talking the next day about what a trouper I was.  This time I was not so impressive.
  • Only one stitch this time.
  • My sister says DC2 looks like an Ann Geddes baby.  I think she’s right.
  • All that extra movement in the womb (there was lots of amniotic fluid, so lots of room) did result in super-baby-strength.
  • DC2 does not seem to mind being swaddled.  We must learn how to swaddle.
  • With DC1, I wondered why anybody would leave the hospital early to go home.  With DC2, I understand– we wanted to go home to see DC1.
  • DC2 has been nursing like a champ.  My breasts are also not just colostrum and there hasn’t been any problem with DC2 not getting enough.  In fact, DC2 did not lose any weight in the hospital, which is unusual.
  • I don’t think I’ll ever be able to call DC1 “little” again.  Ze is so big now compared to DC2 (though DC1 was a pound smaller at birth).  They’re so amazing.

Ask the grumpies: fertility timing

Cloud asks

Have you seen this study?

And, more importantly, what do you think of it?

The author of that study was hot hot hot on the market this year.  However, rumor is she’s decided not to move, despite offers.

The Effects of Motherhood Timing on Career Path

This paper estimates the causal effects of motherhood timing on female career path, using national panel data from the NLSY79 and biological fertility shocks to instrument for the age at which a woman bears her first child. Motherhood delay leads to a substantial increase in earnings of 9 percent per year of delay, a smaller increase in wage rates of 3 percent, and an increase in hours worked of 6 percent. Supporting a human capital story, the postponement premium is largest for college-educated women and those in professional and managerial occupations. Family leave laws do not significantly influence the premium. Panel estimation reveals evidence of both fixed wage penalties and lower returns to experience for mothers: a “mommy track” is the likely channel for the timing effect.

All righty.  Before we get into the study itself, Ima gonna explain a little bit about empirical econometrics.  Economists are very interested in the idea of causality.  We’re not the only social science that focuses on causality, but we’re more likely to use something we call “natural experiments” rather than actual experiments (as psychologists do) to explore questions of causality (psychologists call these quasi-experiments).  X and Y are correlated, but does X cause Y, does Y cause X or is there a third variable, Q, that causes both?

One of the types of natural experiments we use is something magical called “Instrumental Variables” or IV for short.  IV is really neat because it basically takes a variable Z that we know causes X and does not cause Y (except through its effect on X).  The canonical example of a good IV is the Vietnam draft lottery number to study the effect of Vietnam service on labor market outcomes.  A worse draft number is correlated with actually serving in Vietnam, but because it is randomly assigned, is not related to labor market outcomes except through its effect on Vietnam service.  A “good instrument” will have these two qualities:  Z will be correlated with X, and Z will not cause Y except through the channel of X.  Most instruments are not as good as the Vietnam draft lottery, but we believe that they will tell us something anyway… but generally we don’t think these IV papers give the final word, just additional evidence.

In this paper, Amalia Miller uses several imperfect instruments to look at the effect of motherhood timing on female labor market outcomes.  Remember, in order to be a good instrument, the instrument will have to be strongly correlated with timing of motherhood and not correlated with female labor market outcomes except through the channel of motherhood timing.  The former we can test using statistics:  there are some heuristics we use for the t-stat, and there are some tests for low coefficients or “weak instruments” that are more or less accepted depending on your training.  The latter is where thinking is needed.

Miller’s chosen instruments are:

1.  whether first pregnancy ended in miscarriage

2. whether conception of the first child occurred while using contraception

3. elapsed time from first conception attempt to first birth.

Now think:  Are these related to female labor market outcomes through any means other than pregnancy timing?

I would argue yes:  All three of these are related to maternal health (including obesity), and health is directly related to labor market outcomes.  Miscarriage not only affects timing of motherhood, but also can cause depression, which relates to labor market outcomes.  Different types of people use contraception (because of religion, sense of responsibility etc.) and these personality characteristics may be directly related to labor market outcomes.  And infertility itself can be very time-consuming (I read a paper the other year on just on how much time is spent at the doctors, and how it has to be spent during the working day for the most part, for example).  I’m sure you can think of many more ways that Z, the instrument, relates to Y, the outcome variable through channels other than X.

Does that kill her results?  Well, no.  It just means we can’t be confident in the answer given in this paper (and it took a while to get this paper published and it’s not in one of the standard top econ field journals, probably for the above reasons).  If we attack the same question in many other imperfect ways and get the same results, we’ll feel more confident with the results in this paper.  We don’t really know the answer, but this should update our Bayesian priors to the results that she finds.  If we do come up with a perfect instrument or run a randomized controlled experiment (which we won’t do because we’re not Nazis) or get a much cleaner natural experiment that we can use a cleaner technique on (say, differences-in-differences) and get different results, then those results will trump these results.  In the absence of that, this paper is providing more information, and provides an improvement over the previous literature which is, at best, getting only at correlation.

So that’s a critique of the coefficients she finds– are they really accurate?  Probably not, but they’re probably closer to the “truth” than what the previous literature has found.

Let’s take the results as given.  Are her conclusions merited given the results?

Supporting a human capital story, the postponement premium is largest for college-educated women and those in professional and managerial occupations. Family leave laws do not significantly influence the premium. Panel estimation reveals evidence of both fixed wage penalties and lower returns to experience for mothers: a “mommy track” is the likely channel for the timing effect.

Well, let’s throw that open to the grumpy nation.  What do you think?  What are alternate explanations?

Stupid “You should be doing more” arguments from people who aren’t

On the NYTimes or forums or blogs etc, a common refrain among commenters when the subject of fertility treatment comes up is that there are so many kids in the world (and so many kids in the US) that people should really be adopting.  And they should really be adopting in the US (because apparently international children are not as important as US children).  [They seem to think that adopting kids is as easy as calling an orphanage and having Anne of Green Gables sent on the next train.  The reality, of course, being that adoption can be as heart-breaking and uncertain a process as infertility itself, even in states with supposedly easy adoption and quick termination of parental rights.  (We have some friends who tried and failed adoption when a biological aunt came out of the woodwork.)]

Even people that are supposedly skeptical and critical thinkers can fall into stupid fallacies.  For example, PZ Meyers is very vocal that people who homeschool their kids are selfish assholes equal in their danger to society to people who refuse to vaccinate their kids.  He says:

I am not a fan of homeschooling; in fact, if I had my way, I’d make it illegal.


If you don’t believe in vaccination, then don’t vaccinate your kids.

Sorry, but the same logic applies. Public schools are for the good of the community; homeschooling is intended for the good of the individual child.  I know that homeschools can be good (but most aren’t), and that public schools can be awful (and most are), but I consider homeschooling to be a distraction from the cause of a greater good.

he goes on from there in the comments, basically arguing that if you keep your kids out of (bad) public schools that hurts all the kids still in public schools, mainly because the school doesn’t get the federal money for the kid being there (partly because he says parents have some kind of obligation to be involved), despite perfectly logical arguments responding to his own (such as:  I homeschool because my child is autistic/requires other special accommodations– he would be costing the district much more than he brings the district in per-student federal funds and isn’t mainstreamed anyway… or, My kid was hospitalized after getting beaten up/bullied to the point of self-harm and the school did nothing… or simply, I pay taxes but am not costing my district anything).

All you holier-than-thou folks on the internet: It’s easy to volunteer other people to be saints.  Not so easy to be one yourself.  If you don’t have 20 foster kids and 10 adoptees, then don’t tell people using fertility treatment there are tons of needy kids out there needing homes and that they’re sinners for trying to have a baby instead of adopting one.  Bless people who do foster and adopt, but if you’re not one of them, then why are you telling other people that they should do more than you are?

If you don’t have your own kids in dangerous crumbling schools (because you decided to live in a more expensive district, your kids are grown, or you just don’t have kids), and you’re not volunteering regularly and donating heavily, at least the amount that the federal government would be giving* for say, I dunno, 5 kids, then don’t say that parents who pull their kids out of public schools for private or homeschooling are selfish.  You’re even more selfish because you have more time and money to give, and you wouldn’t be physically, mentally, or emotionally scarring any minors as collateral damage.**

These “you want/have a child you should be doing X” are all stupid arguments.  No one person can save the world.  And nobody, just by dint of being unable to easily have biological children or by having children should be required to contribute to those specific causes.  Nobody is actually required to contribute to any specific cause.  But if someone chooses to put their kids in private school and also donates to people starving in developing countries rather than joining the school board at the local public,*** does that make them selfish?  What about public school teachers who send their own kids to private?

These kinds of arguments seem to be focused on fertility, race, and gender.  If you have kids then you’re supposed to support specific causes.  If you want kids but can’t have them, then that must be a sign from God that you’re supposed to adopt (but people who can have kids easily have no such obligation).  If you’re a black college grad, then you’re selling out your race if you’d rather be an investment banker than a high school teacher (this is a narrative that two of my black studies colleagues frequently argue about).  If you’re female then you have to have a certain kind of active feminism and aren’t allowed to make choices to be the trailing spouse or the one who cooks dinner, even if your husband is allowed to make those choices.  Why do these immutable characteristics (it’s hard to give a kid back), many of which we have no choice over, provide such obligations when others do not?  Owning a pet doesn’t make you have to support spay and neuter laws or pose nude for PETA.  Being a white male provides no obligation to any race or gender.  And yet, when historically you’ve been chattel, all of a sudden you have an obligation to change the world.  IBTP.

*~8% of the school’s budget… meaning that actually your paying state and local taxes without costing the local district to educate your kid (at a cost of ~10K/year to the district) is probably more than making up for not having your kid in school.  And if you kick an additional $800/kid-you-don’t-have to the school district, you should be able to say STFU to any guilt-mongers.  Me, I prefer to spend my education charity dollars in high poverty districts using Donors Choose because they need my money more than the local school district does.  If our district had less money they wouldn’t fricking change districts every 5 years because they wouldn’t be able to afford to bus kids to schools so far from where they live.

**Before having kids the one of us with a kid volunteered extensively tutoring and teaching math in failing urban school districts and at migrant summer programs in rural agricultural areas.  There’s a lot more time to volunteer when you don’t have a small child.

***After years on the school board, and while still on the school board, my mother sent my sister to a Catholic high school.  Does that make her selfish?  She continued on the school board after my sister graduated as well, even though she no longer had kids in school.  Her research career suffered substantially from her public service.

Push presents

Back 5 or 6 years ago when I was in the process of becoming a mommy, I hung out on a forum that had infertility, pregnancy, and mommy sections.   It’s amazing how much drama can ensue in an online forum environment.

One of the big debates, and something I had never heard of before, and have never heard of IRL, was whether or not Push Presents were appropriate or crass.

A Push Present, btw, is an expensive present, usually a piece of jewelry, that the baby daddy gives you for pushing out (or c-sectioning out) his offspring.  You know, for a job well done.  (#2 says:  Ewwwww.)

One of the things that I noticed in these debates was that the women who were heavily pro-Push Presents, of the “I DESERVE this piece of jewelry” arguments were also the ones who were always complaining that their husbands were never around and were always working.  The women who thought the presents were crass tended to have what seemed to be better marriages– or at least they complained less about their husbands on the internet, which may or may not be the same thing.  They tended to say things like, “It’s OUR baby, the BABY is the reward” and so on.

I’m not really big on jewelry (in fact, I may have told DH I wouldn’t marry him if he went into debt on an engagement ring), so I’m not really the person to ask about the suitability of jewelry as a post-baby gift (and I kind of like the idea of charm bracelets with birth stones… you know, all symbolic.  Don’t want one, but like the idea.).

But I will say that time is so much more valuable than any piece of metal and stone.  I would rather have DH taking me to Bradley classes, feeding me when I can’t keep anything down but smoothies, taking over my chores when I’m too exhausted to do anything… and so on.  There’s no expensive present in the world that could make up for that (even a butler/valet/housekeeper/personal assistant just wouldn’t do it– I’d rather have DH there than the most highly competent servant taking care of every need).

Are push presents still a thing?  2011 was the year of weaning off mothering forums so I’m no longer hooked in.  Had you heard of them?  What do you think about them?  And what do you think about the standard “he’s not around but he’s working so he can secretly buy something nice for YOU” trope that I don’t even enjoy in Christmas anime episodes?

Shouldn’t be complaining about m/s

Because the last time I did I had unexplained bleeding.  So I’m not going to complain about it, per se, I’m just going to discuss it.  In reality I am delighted for this constant reminder that the baby is probably still there.

It’s just that my morning sickness is a bit perplexing.

I’m fairly sure it’s caused by a combination of metformin and prenatals and should let up some at the end of first trimester when I can wean off the metformin.  (Well, a combination of metformin, prenatals, and being pregnant… prior to pregnancy there wasn’t so much of the actual throwing up.)

First off, because of the PCOS and insulin resistance, I cannot have sweets.  (DC often reminds me it’s because of the medicine that I can’t have sweets.  That’s not technically correct, but it’s close enough.)  I cannot have refined carbs.  Metformin takes care of a lot of the insulin problem, but I don’t always remember to take it on time (and twice so far I’ve woken up feeling AWESOME… only to realize I forgot to take the previous night’s pill), and I’m fairly sure there’s a two hour window where the extended release is no longer releasing quite so much.  Since it is *probably* (but they don’t know for sure) the insulin spikes that cause the higher increased risk of miscarriage in women with PCOS, it is safest to control that both through diet and through medication.  So no saltines for me.

Of course, saltines wouldn’t work anyway because baked goods with wheat continue to be anathema to me, even the ones I’m allowed to eat. DH made a wonderful banana bread studded with dried apricots and nuts from the New Laurel’s and managed to remove all the refined carbs and I had two big slices and it was delicious (though not as delicious as with sugar would have been)… and then I couldn’t keep it down and that was unpleasant.  So no more banana bread.  I don’t understand why I can’t keep wheat down.  Other people can eat wheat… I’m not normally gluten intolerant and I’m definitely not celiac.  *Sigh*

My body also HATES iron.  I’m often anemic, and have had deficiencies in vit D (taking extra vitamins for this!), vit B12 (though I don’t have that now) and iron (though I don’t have that now).  Prenatals with iron are the most horrible awful things ever.  (Side note:  On the internet people say:  Take the gummy prenatals!  They’re sooo easy to digest!  They’re easy to digest because they have no iron and actually have less of the needed prenatal nutrients than a Centrum.)  This means I recently divested myself of a spinach salad with steak from the most expensive restaurant in town.  For some reason I also don’t like chicken or turkey.  I don’t know why.  I’m still occasionally eating pork, but the problem with pork is that the tastiest kinds disagree with metformin in the other direction (this is something true even without pregnancy), which is painful.  Note to self:  do not eat half a package of bacon or kielbasa when on metformin.

In terms of vitamins, I alternate:  Whole Foods’ only prenatal that doesn’t always get thrown right back up, then Centrum the next day.  On days when I can’t face the Whole Foods prenatal, I take one of DC’s children’s chewables.  A previous doctor told me two children’s chewables would be fine, but ze currently has enough iron in hirs that I can’t keep two down.  Maybe the next batch I will make sure it doesn’t say “with iron” on the package and I’ll do the two children’s chewables.  (There are some important heuristics with prenatals– they need to have more than 100% folic acid, less than 100% vitamin A and so on.)  The evil super-expensive non-formulary prescription prenatals that were supposed to be magical on the stomach sit unused next to the sink.  They did not behave as advertised.

So what do I eat?  I always eat fruit.  Fruit is my best friend in the whole world, and smoothies are my extra special bestest friends.  Oats are also still getting along with me.  My bowl of oatmeal keeps me fortified every morning until 9:30 at least.  I drink a lot of ginger tea.  And fizzy water.  I’m hooked on Knudson Farm “Sparkling Essence”, even though they’re expensive and we have to drive to the city to get them.  Trail mix provides me with substance.  So far sweet potato products seem to get along with me.  Most of the time, but not always, I can do brown rice.  Despite the iron, I occasionally crave beef.  Other times I avoid it like the plague.  I’ve been using beans on occasion in place of say, spaghetti noodles.  Actually not so bad.

Most of the time I can have frozen mixed veggies (microwaved with a pat of butter).  I can eat most kinds of vegetable pickles, including multicultural cabbage pickles (at least of German or South Korean varieties).  Whenever I have to go out with people I order a salad (but no more spinach ever ever again).  I seem to be able to eat a lot of seafood too, though that has to be limited to 2x/week because we’re poisoning our seafood with heavy metals.  I mostly stick to things lower on the food chain for that reason as well.  I ate really well at a sushi place the other week… lots of eel and other cooked seafood.

Also:  thank goodness for ice cream.  If I keep it below a certain level of sugar (and get full-fat), I can eat that.  Occasionally I’ll have a yogurt parfait for breakfast rather than my regular oatmeal.

We’ve completely given up menu planning at our house.  Our eating out expenses have gone way up– if I think of something I can eat and crave, DH rushes out to get it.  And I’m incredibly grateful.  There’s also no Trader Joe’s, so the frozen fruit for my smoothies is a lot more expensive.  Food is my number 1 thought every moment of the day.  Except the brief but frequent moments when I really have to use the restroom.

And the sad thing is…. this was all much worse with DC.  At this point in my last pregnancy, I was eating fruit all day because that was all I could eat and it takes a lot of fruit to fill up a hungry pregnant lady.

Re:  morning sickness medications:  There are none that have been proven both safe and effective.  There is a kind that is available in Canada (but banned in the US) that is supposed to be both.  The first part of my DC pregnancy was in a part of the country that is very leery about giving medications in which the overwhelming preponderance of the evidence isn’t there yet, and I kind of agree with them.  I also know that a lot of these problems are caused by medication and I don’t like taking medication to fix problems caused by medication.  I kind of prefer listening to my body, even though it is sure it does not want as much iron as the doctors think I need.  When it gets really bad I will stop the damn prenatals and do children’s chewables.  And in a few very short weeks I will be able to completely get off Metformin and loosen up on a lot of the carb restrictions (since they’re only contraindications for first and third trimesters, so long as I don’t go crazy).  In the mean time, lots and lots of ginger tea and fizzy water.

update:  It wasn’t iron– it was that the vitamins weren’t gluten-free.

Pregnancy after a loss

I’m afraid to schedule this post.  I’ll update it if I miscarry before Tuesday… it won’t have to be changed much.

As of now I am in the very early stages of a pregnancy.

The first time I got pregnant it was after more than a year and a half of fertility treatment.  I had a monitored clomid cycle (my eggs popped out later than normal) and an IUI.  I got a negative 14 days after ovulation, but a positive a bit after that.  Rising betas, and suddenly I miscarried at 7 weeks.  I’d eaten white bread at a conference the night before.  My reproductive endocrinologist (RE) only believed in Metformin at 500ml, even though the literature has found 1500ml to be effective in getting the early miscarriage rate of women with PCOS to match that of normal women.  Maybe it was just a chromosome abnormality.  I take comfort in the fact that I will never know, but only because I have proof now that I can bring a baby to term; at the time I did not.

Miscarriage is the worst thing that has ever happened to me.  Loss of a wanted pregnancy is a horrible wrenching pain.  I lost a child.

I bled and stopped, I bled again and stopped again.  My betas went down like they were supposed to.  I upped my metformin to 1500 just in case, behind the doctor’s back.  I had a horrific time on a trip when I needed my last beta checked out of town… I had a breakdown because even though we’d set everything up in advance, and were supposed to get the ok with everything someone messed up somewhere and we spent 20 or 30 min trying to deal with the insurance lady when finally we realized if we just gave them $80 in cash they would stop asking me questions.  So we did.  I almost divorced my perfect husband that day.

The RE office wanted us to take a month off from trying (use protection!), then a provera challenge, and then another clomid cycle.  We weren’t sure if we wanted to keep trying.  But since I didn’t cycle by myself I figured I might as well start the provera challenge and then decide given some time.  So I took one of my remaining 40-odd mail order pregnancy tests because you’re supposed to check just in case before taking provera.  There may have been an evaporation line but it was hard to tell so I delayed provera… I wasn’t in a hurry to make the decision so any excuse to delay was fine with me.  The next day it looked less like an evaporation line and more like a faint line.  By that Monday the line was a real line and I called the RE office.  Despite having told us not to try, our tech was excited for me.

I wasn’t ready.  I was in shock.  I didn’t believe it.  I had just bought $600 of professional work clothing literally two days before.  I still hadn’t gone through the stages of grief with my first baby.  I had anger, guilt, and most of all, fear.  I did not want to lose this one.

I took pregnancy test (HPT) after pregnancy test until they drove me crazy with their increases and decreases in darkness.  Turns out my second morning urine is actually the best… has something to do with acidity in some women’s urine.  The ovulation prediction kits (OPK) were much more comforting since they only got darker.  Eventually DH suggested I get rid of the lot so I would stop freaking out so much and I sent them to a friend who was also trying to conceive (along with DH’s leftover Fertility Blend for Men).

I went in and got the blood tests… at 7 weeks I saw the heartbeat… and our child was eventually born.  It was a few months after ze was born before I believed ze wouldn’t just suddenly die.

There was a weird sort of cognitive dissonance for me.  Initially, I was so very afraid of loss, I was afraid to bond with the baby.  But the winning emotion was the thought that each week was another week longer that I got to spend with my precious baby.

Pregnancy after a loss can be frightening.  I didn’t buy any baby items until two and a half weeks before my due date, and even then sent out my mom and husband with a credit card.  We never did get around to buying a crib– we got a pack in play and were going to get a crib when ze hit 3 months but ended up cosleeping instead.

It’s hard to enjoy pregnancy when you think it might be taken from you.  Terrible side effects are a huge comfort because they indicate that the baby is probably still there.  Whenever ze would get still in the calmer second trimester, I would have to drink some orange juice just to make sure ze will still alive and could kick.

I’m worried now.  I’ll be less worried when I see a heartbeat (or maybe just hear it… I’m not sure how the u/s technology is in our small town), and less worried when the baby is born, and probably less worried still when ze is mobile.  And in kindergarten.  And I’m scared… not of the life changes or the increased expenses or time for our oldest… those worries are too far down the line to even dream of.  Almost every moment of the day is spent wondering and wishing and hoping and praying.  I’m afraid to plan too much ahead, afraid to complain, afraid to take anything for granted.  This time around I don’t have a box of OPK or HPT… just the occasional overpriced plastic thing from the drugstore.  (Hint:  ept sucks, go with first response instead.  Pink dye is easier to read than blue.)  Will I have another baby?  I still don’t know.  I hope so.

Here is a list of things not to say to someone who has had a miscarriage.  #2 *always* said the right thing.

Musings on a potential second kid

We already talked about whether or not I was ready to have a child #2.  I’m still not gung-ho crazy like I was for baby #1, but babies are starting to look vaguely cute, DC has indicated that ze would be interested in having a sibling, and DH is starting to really get into the idea.  Possibly we have been getting too much sleep.

Because I’m sort of ready and not really gung-ho, we’re going to do this slowly and not start fertility treatment at least for another year.  I’ve got possibly another decade before it becomes impossible (unless I get Premature Ovarian Failure, which does run in the family, but probably not for another few years yet).  So there’s some time.  I’ve been kind of hoping kid #2 would come as a surprise after the first trimester was over, but that’s probably a foolish hope given how much my body dislikes keeping food down when enciente.

My regular doctor moved to Australia, where I understand they never have terrible horrible awful very bad days, so I signed up to be a new patient for the doctor who actually delivered my baby (since my then-OB/GYN was busy with an emergency c-section).  It’s going to take two months to get a first appointment!   You’d think we were living in a city… but really there just aren’t that many good OB/GYN around.

At that appointment I am going to request metformin (an insulin sensitizer) because I don’t want another miscarriage, and it may help me to ovulate.  But that’s the extent of my planned intervention for the year.  No OPK*s, no IUIs, no 4d u/s.  Nada. I won’t even test CM and I certainly won’t chart (no angsty 2ww updates for you all).  It’s probably just as well that my first appointment will be after conference season but slightly before classes.  I can ramp up and get some of the metformin-based vomiting out of the way ahead of time.

I have started hardcore vitamins.  Not prenatals because they make me throw up, though next time I’m in the city I’m going to see if they still make the fru-fru prenatals that didn’t make me throw up last time.  But I’m not just taking a children’s chewable either.  The centrum make me nauseated, but thus far no actual system removal.  I’ve been alternating them with the children’s chewable every other day.  It’s terrible how I can be anemic, yet my body does not want me to have iron and who knows what else.  If it gets bad I’ll double up on the children’s chewable again.

In terms of $$ we might have to make some cuts… if DH doesn’t get tenure either we’re going to move for a job and make more moneys (with a higher cost of living) or we’ll stay here and it will take some time for DH to get back up to the salary he’d had before.  I should get a raise with tenure but not enough to offset his salary.  And we’ll be on the hook for both daycare and private school tuition.  We may have to hire a lawn mowing person again as well.  Who needs fancy cheese anyway?  We still have 10 years left on the mortgage if we stop prepayments.  It’s crazy how when I started this job I thought my salary was amazingly high, but now we need both our salaries to keep our standard of living… of course, if we’d been getting COL raises maybe we wouldn’t be feeling the pinch with these additional expenses.  (And, of course, there’s saving for infertility treatment if we decide to go that route.)

I have a girl’s name picked out, but no clue on a boy’s name.  I recently found out that a couple generations back, there was a Kermit in the family… for some reason that gentleman decided to go by his middle name instead.

*If you don’t know what these acronyms stand for, trust me, you don’t want to know.

So, we’re pretty happy with our lives now and there’s lots of potential change in the future.  Are we crazy for not waiting?  Are we crazy for not going more planned?  What boys names do you like?  Blogger #2 likes Max.  (#1 doesn’t)

The “It is never the right time to have a baby (for a female academic who wants kids)” post

Yes, this is trite advice that you’ve probably read before, but hey, why not?


1.  Before college graduation.  This option is not usually a choice.  Women academics who do this are generally highly selected so it is difficult to say whether this is a good option as a policy recommendation or that the women who decide to go into academia after having a child young are made up of stern stuff.

2.  During graduate school.  Some people look down on this, some people strongly recommend it.  The effect also seems to vary by discipline.  Men do this all the time without consequence.   Pros:  Flexible schedule, kids are older and potentially easier to deal with once you’re in a tt position.  Body is still young.  Cons:  Advisers may take you less seriously and relegate you mentally to a mommy track.  Money is often tight so it is difficult to pay for a full time nanny or high quality daycare etc.

3.  Before tenure: Pros:  Your body is still relatively young.  Your biological clock may be ticking loudly at this or any time.  You have more money than you had before and can funnel it into baby-related things.  Depending on where you are, you may actually get maternity leave which will help you continue research when you have a newborn (because of the break from teaching and service).  Cons:  Your colleagues may take you less seriously and relegate you mentally to a mommy track.  If you take an additional year to your clock you may be expected to produce more stuff (but you may not).  In my discipline women are just starting to have one baby before tenure.

4.  After tenure:  Pros:  You’ve already made a mark in the field… you can slow down (working on bigger projects, perhaps) and people will still respect you (so long as you continue quality work).  You have more money than before.  You can take a semester without pay if you’ve been saving up and you don’t get paid leave.  Cons:  You may not be able to have a baby at this point, which may be heart-breaking.  If you can, you may have to space them close together (or have multiples if you need medical assistance).   This is the choice one of my advisers made (and recommended for me).

So none of the options are perfect.  I long ago decided I would time my fertility based on what I wanted, and academia be damned.  I wasn’t ready in graduate school.  I was ready after it (with the biological clock alarm screaming), but turns out my body didn’t want to cooperate, but right when we gave up I unexpectedly got pregnant.  My colleagues were delighted– after all, why shouldn’t they be?   There’s no maternity leave at my school.

#2 notes that we wholeheartedly support everyone’s reproductive decisions while at the same time not endorsing compulsory motherhood, and noting that some of us are extremely happy not having children and will go to great lengths to avoid having them!  If this is you, don’t let today’s post put you off our awesome blog.  We support people of all stripes being in control of their own decisions on when, whether, and how to raise kids.  (Unless you do something like blanket training with a switch… then we’re calling CPS.)

#1 agrees– this is conditional on you wanting kids, which says nothing about your character nor is it obligatory.  Obviously if you don’t want kids it doesn’t matter when is the best time to not have them because you’re always going to not have them whether that’s the best time or not!

What are your thoughts?

Will I ever want a second child?

I always thought I would, but right now…

My colleagues are delivering their first babies left and right.  It’s a regular boom.  I look at the newborns and think… man I’m glad that’s not me.

The plan was to have one before tenure, and then one after my tenure packet was in.  DC would be old enough to help and over a lot of those issues that 2-4 year olds tend to have when presented with new competition.

My tenure packet is coming due this summer.  But I’m not feeling it.

Getting pregnant is very difficult for me. It took well over a year and a half (not counting the 9 months of pregnancy that followed) of eating perfectly (no brownies! ), taking insulin-sensitizing medications, not drinking, no sushi, having my legs up in straddle position in one specialist office after another, drugs, desperation, vomit…

The pregnancy itself… tiredness, anemia, a few months of the complete inability to keep literally any food down other than fruit and fizzy water (thank Goodness we figured out that fruit stayed down), a well-trod path between my office and the bathroom (will I make it now that the nearest restroom is farther away and there’s often a line?), trying to find a prenatal vitamin I could keep down, the hypoglycemic mood swings, sudden need for food… and, what’s worse, the constant fear of loss during pregnancy that lasts long after the birth.

Then even our perfect baby destroyed our sleep and made us sick.  Baby boot camp is only two weeks long, but I can’t imagine going through it again.  And it is unlikely that #2 will be as “easy” as #1, just because of regression to the mean.  (Did I mention there’s no maternity leave at my school?)

The plan was to go to the doctor in March and get a prescription for metformin, then ramp up to 1500ml over the course of a couple of months.  First you take 500ml.  Then you wait until you stop throwing up.  Then you take 1000ml.  Another week and a half of throwing up.  Then 1500 ml.  If you eat anything too greasy, you throw up.  If you eat anything you’re not supposed to be eating you go hypoglycemic.  Metformin is the ultimate commitment device.  I’m a size 6 when I’m trying to get pregnant. But if I don’t do metformin, my chance of early miscarriage skyrockets.

We love our kid more than life.  (S)He brings us daily joy.  But (s)he’s also very time-intensive.  Always going, always interacting, never napping.  Do we want to introduce another?  Do we want to keep pouring all our time into this one?  Maybe just a little longer to watch every moment (outside of daycare, of course) of hir growing up.  We kind of like the routines we’ve settled into.  And we’re not sure we could take more time away from work.

Will I want one after tenure?

My mom said she waited until I was old enough to help out and had started asking for a sibling.  DC doesn’t seem interested just yet.  Hir friends are getting siblings but ze seems happy to be an only.

Trying for #1 was obvious… I *HAD* to have a baby.  My need greatly outweighed any rational considerations.  I had baby fever, which I hear is something that folks who don’t generally like kids often get.  Mother nature’s way of getting us to reproduce.

I’m not ready now. Will I ever be? Will baby fever hit me when it is too late to do anything about?  Maybe recently there have been some little twinges.  I’m not sure.  But there’s nothing obvious going on and I’m leery of getting started.  But maybe I’ll go to the doctor and get a prescription and see where that goes.  Or maybe I’ll just keep putting it off.

DC has actually weighed in on this issue… hir friends are gaining little brothers and sisters right and left, and ze is bemused by the entire process.  Hir current stance is that someday ze would like a little sibling, and is confident that ze would make an excellent older sibling, but not right now (or really any time soon).  Luckily 9 months is an eternity in the life of a preschooler, if we do decide to go for it.

How did you know you were ready or not ready for #2?  (Or not ready for a #1!)