Two tales of being #pregnantinthefield

I am a big fan of keeping my personal and professional life separate, and so have debated whether to blog about this. But I figured it might be helpful for other female researchers, and it's cathartic, so here we go.

I had my first child in 2013. Aside from a week long bout of morning sickness at the beginning, the pregnancy was straightforward and I felt pretty good throughout it. I carried on with fieldwork and other physical activities, including a road trip from Florida to Oregon that included hiking around various national parks when I was about 7 months pregnant.  I was determined not to let being pregnant change my life in any way, and to carry on as normal. I wasn't trying to prove anything, I just like being busy and active. The actual birth was ok too, if not entirely straight forward (definitely not going to blog the details of that particular experience...). There were some complications but I recovered quickly and was out in the field again with a not-quite-2 month year old baby (and a supportive husband to carry baby around whilst I collected samples in between bouts of breastfeeding). I am so happy I was able to do this, and be part of the #pregnantinthefield phenomenon. I also didn't realise how lucky I was.

Now five years later, it's pregnancy number two. I'm currently around 7 months pregnant, and looking over what I was doing last time has actually been rather depressing. The whole pregnancy has been so different this time. I was seriously sick for about 5 weeks non-stop in the first semester ('luckily' this coincided with my research sabbatical so I could just stay home and mope/retch whilst trying to write papers and grants). At my 20 week scan I found out I have a low lying placenta (I had no idea what this meant either...), which means I have to have further scans in a few weeks to see whether I'll have to have a c-section (the placenta might be blocking the baby's exit), and am at an increased risk of premature labour and bleeding. At 20 weeks I was very nonchalant about this - the midwife didn't make it seem like a big deal and I didn't think much of it (I don't think the standard advice is written with archaeologists, or even working mothers, in mind).

So, morning sickness over, I assumed I would be back to carry on as normal mode. Last month  I was about to embark on my usual programme of fieldwork, starting with the Isle of Man then Greece, Sicily and the EAA conference in Barcelona. I made it to the Isle of Man. Not a particularly difficult dig compared to most places I've worked, but after one day I was completely exhausted and had dizzy spells the next morning. Then I started getting really odd pains that I never had with my first pregnancy - turns out the baby has been lying transverse (sideways) for most of the pregnancy, and as they grow it's stretching my uterus in directions it is not meant to be stretching. Still plenty of time for the baby to move, but it could be that my oddly positioned placenta is getting in the way of baby getting into a normal position.

Unsurprisingly I was advised not to do any further travelling. This has disappointed me more than I thought it would. As a runner and weight lifting enthusiast, this limitation on physical activity has been incredibly frustrating, but more than that, I love fieldwork and I hate feeling like I have failed by cancelling the remainder of my plans for the summer. Which is absolutely ridiculous, and I have given myself a stern talking to. I thought I had gotten past worrying about 'not doing enough' as an academic, but every now and then those feelings that dominated my postdoc years pop up again.

Point of the story is that pregnancy is an amazing but unpredictable thing. If you are able to carry on as normal, go and do fieldwork etc, that is fantastic and well done! Pregnancy doesn't have to mean your life stops, and if everything is normal, there is no reason why you can't do the things you normally do. But there is no way of knowing how it is going to go for you until it happens, and if it turns out you have to make adjustments, that is ok too. Putting your own health first is absolutely the right thing to do. And if you are pregnant and planning on doing fieldwork, make sure you get your maternity notes explained to you, and do your own research about your condition. Medical professionals are unlikely to know what 'unusual' jobs involve - yes 'travelling' might be ok, but they are probably thinking you are going to lie on a beach somewhere rather than hiking around doing physical activity all day!

Isle of Man Round Mounds excavation