Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Birth of Little Jem, Part 1

Hello dear reader: My valiant attempts to tell this entire story as a single blog post before the end of my maternity leave were met with the humility that is woven so completely into my life now as a mother of two--it's everywhere I turn, both in the world and in my self. I return to work tomorrow, and only half of this post is done. And so, I am posting Part 1 of 2 now, with plans to post Part 2 sometime in the near future. 


Preparing to write this post ~
photo is of my laptop displaying blank
Blogger post draft titled "The Birth
of Little Jem," with 8-week-old
Little Jem in foreground
Four and a half years ago, I wrote up my experience of giving birth to my first child, my daughter Bookie. I've revisited that post so often in the years that followed that I always knew I wanted to write a similar post for any other babies I had. 

Ten weeks ago I gave birth to Bookie's brother, Little Jem. 

(My last post on the blog was at week 39 of my pregnancy; note that since then I've changed up how I'll spell Little Jem's blog nickname--because these things matter! As per usual practice, please refer to him and his sister by their blog nicknames in any comments you leave.) 

The experience was different yet similar. Today is the last day of my maternity leave, and I want to post this before I return to work tomorrow. 

It has been hard to find time and energy to write it as reflectively as I'd like, since this time around I have my almost five-year-old running around, filling our lives with delightful mayhem like it's her job (because it is). 

As a result, Little Jem's birth story will take a slightly different format than Bookie's. Since I knew in advance that I wanted to write something about his birth, I began a log of birth-related events on my phone's notes app, beginning with the day Little Jem dropped, and leaving in all of the earthy, material details. 

(Content warning: I write about all sorts of bodily fluids in these posts, including blood, urine, diarrhea, and breast milk, because this is all part of the reality of pregnancy and birth, and the whole premise here is: that reality is empowering.) 

It's a good thing I did, because I wouldn't have remembered all these details otherwise. So, what I will do here is this: I've copied most of the log over into this post with only minor edits, but I will punctuate the logged events with some reflection (in italics) wherever I feel moved to include it. 

And so, here is the story of the birth of Little Jem, Part 1:

Birth log:

Mon March 6: in evening baby dropped, a little less than two weeks until estimated due date

Sun March 12: two Braxton Hicks (BH) contractions: whole tummy tight for over a minute but not painful, just uncomfortable 

I didn't have BH contractions with Bookie. These were super interesting--I rather liked them, as they felt nice and productive (at least in terms of prepping and toning my muscles for labor) without the intensity that would come when the contractions were the kind that would actually progress labor. I also suspect an oxytocin rush accompanied mine, which made them even nicer. A good friend of mine and mama to many little ones likened these to "a hug around your uterus" which I totally agree with.  

Mon March 13: dilated to 2 cm (via OB check), bloody show

Tues March 14 around 12 am: Snow storm Stella begins, est. 12-18 inches of snow through Wed night (note: reached 2 feet); everything closed Tues, Bookie home w/ Baba [grandma], Daddy, and Mommy

Winter storm Stella drops over two feet
of snow on us ~ photo is of my back porch
with wooden post, table and chairs, and
deck rail covered in over two feet of snow

Before that week, I really hoped Little Jem would come a bit earlier than his due date. My third trimester was very hard this time around--no complications, just a lot of illness on my part. Plus, it coincided with one of the busiest times of the academic year: the first half of spring semester. As such, I was very tired, very ragged, and very ready to have my baby. Little Jem was not ready to be born early as I had hoped, but because of winter storm Stella I am now very grateful for this. Getting to the hospital while in labor during and immediately after that storm would have been a huge challenge!

Tues March 14 at 2 am: lost part of mucus plug

Tues March 14 at 11:30 am: lost full mucus plug

Wed March 15: Bookie home from school again, everything closed due to snow

Thurs March 16: Bookie returns to school

Bookie being home these few days because of the storm is significant because, unlike when I gave birth to her, this time I was needing to navigate laboring at home with my daughter's presence in the house. Many families have older siblings be a part of the laboring process; I wasn't sure this was the right fit for us, because I knew I needed to concentrate once labor began in earnest and my way of relating to my daughter about big, new things is to give her my undivided attention so as to answer all her questions and be fully present to and with her. You'll get to see in Part 2 how this aspect of Little Jem's labor and delivery played out.

Fri March 17 at 7:15 pm: feeling crampy in a way that has a little more pain (not much) than the Braxton Hicks contractions have had this week

Fri March 17 at 9:40 pm: felt first thing I would classify as a contraction, mild though it was

This was definitely a mild contraction, but it was also a lone one. 

Sat March 18: walked around Price Chopper then around Steamtown Mall

Trying to walk the baby out of me at the mall ~
photo is of me pregnant (wearing
LuLaRoe leggings and an Irma tunic
shirt) standing in front of a fountain
and glass elevator at the mall
Trying to walk the baby out of me at the mall ~
photo is a selfie of husband Paul and I at the mall,
me in a rose colored tunic top and Paul in
a black beret and winter coat, green tie
and plaid scarf

Sat March 18 at around 10:15 pm: experienced at least one real contraction; did not time it, and don't plan to until they come in regular intervals

Sun March 19: estimated due date; drank two mugs of raspberry leaf tea

I was late to the raspberry leaf tea club this pregnancy, but I did enjoy the few mugs I had in these days just before going into labor. To experience the full benefits of it I would have needed to begin drinking a mug a day many months prior, beginning toward the end of my second trimester.

Self portrait of a woman 40 weeks pregnant ~
photo is a mirror selfie of me in profile
40 weeks pregnant wearing a rainbow
striped long sleeve shirt and grey sweat pants,
taken in the mirror of an antique vanity
with framed photos and other meaningful items on
the table's surface in the foreground

Mon March 20: drank strong brew of raspberry leaf tea, late evening had many Braxton Hicks contractions

Tues March 21 at 10:45 am: Dr. Green (my OB) reported I am 3 cm dilated with a soft cervix; he then did a membrane sweep (two days past my due date) 

Ok y'all, here's the first major point of departure from my birth experience with Bookie almost five years ago. I did not have my membranes swept/stripped while pregnant with her. First, know that my doctor did this at my request and with my full consent. Membrane sweeping is a way to possibly induce labor. You can read about what it entails at the link above [Note: Let me know if that link doesn't work for you.]. I asked about this a week earlier to see if this would be an option for us if I went past my due date. My doctor said it was, as long as I was dilated to at least 2-3 centimeters and my cervix was soft/ripe when he did the vaginal check at this prenatal appointment two days after my due date. Both of those conditions were met, and so I gave him the go ahead to perform the membrane sweep. This didn't hurt for me; it was just uncomfortable. But let me tell you: this procedure completely worked for me, in that it caused the needed hormones to be released in my body to kick labor into action. Little Jem was born less than 24 hours after my doctor performed this procedure for me. 


This seems like the best (read: most intriguing) point to split the two parts of Little Jem's Birth Story. I look forward to finishing this story soon, though as I return to work tomorrow know that I am not only transitioning from maternity leave to full time work, but I'm also transitioning from being an evening worker to being a daytime worker, and from being a Public Services Librarian to being my library's Information Literacy (IL) Coordinator (full details here). I can't say how long it will be until I post Part 2, but the bulk of it is in draft form so hopefully not long! 

In the meantime, come tomorrow it's time to get my IL Coordinator on...

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Waiting for Little Jem

Photo of me at 36 weeks 5 days carrying my Little Gem
I have been carrying my Little Gem, our second child, for 39 weeks today.* This pregnancy has been equal parts beautiful, empowering, challenging, and (at times) debilitating.

My second trimester saw me more productive at work than I have been in quite a while. Little Gem brought out the fiercely intentional librarian in me.

My third trimester, however, involved my getting sick with different ailments just about every week. Between stomach flu, a stye in my eye, a very bad cold, and other physical stresses, it has been a hard past three months.

And now, it is the second week of March, just one week from Little Gem's estimated due date, and we are expecting up to two feet of snow two days from now. The end of pregnancy is a trip as it is, and the quirks of this particular year are making it even more surreal.

Ultrasound photo of Little Gem's face at 35 weeks 3 days:
Tilt your head to the right to see his eyes at the
two crosses, and those chubby cheeks *heart eyes* 
The other aspect of this pregnancy I want to reflect on before he is born is what it has been like to work as a librarian going through a lot of work-related transitions while carrying my boy. This past year I have felt more than ever like I have embodied what it means to be a working mother.

Little Gem was with me at the ACRL Framework Advisory Board (FAB) retreat I chaired last November in Chicago: my amazing colleagues from that experience even gave him his first gift, and dubbed him an honorary FAB member. That was during my super energized second trimester, and it represented the last work-related travel I'll be doing for a while.

Little Gem has also been with me as I have worked incredibly hard from January until now to transition all of my leadership and other responsibilities to those who have wonderfully agreed to step up in my absence to keep many important projects afloat. This has been an exhausting experience (the transitions, that is), but it's worth it when I see how hard everyone is working around me to see our shared goals are met. I am so honored and fortunate to work with the people I do. To each of you (you know who you are): Thank you, from the bottom of my very pregnant librarian heart.

And now, I am still in the midst of at least one very important work commitment: participating in the search for two new Research & Instruction Librarians, who I will be working with directly as I take on my new role of Information Literacy Coordinator when I return to work after maternity leave.

This is such an important process, and half of it coincides with my maternity leave. My supervisors and colleagues at work are incredibly supportive of me as I become a mother again--I do not have to fully participate in the search process beyond the baby being born if I don't want to. But, I plan to. It means that much. The details of how I will continue to participate are yet to be determined, but the search committee and my Dean are all supportive of my participating to the extent I can and wish to, so I can weigh in on the final recommendations of who our new hires will be.

And so, I am days away from Little Gem being born, and my maternity leave beginning: that special time I get to focus on my little boy, all fresh and new to the world, and aim to--with intention and care--integrate him into our life as a family.

Photo of big sister Bookie
loving on her little brother Gem
But my library work is also always there, in the background (and at times the foreground), beckoning to me even as I know I don't need to heed that call unless I wish to. And at times (though not perpetually and always), I do wish to.

I find this experience, and this moment in my life, very liminal--existing in a space that is between two distinct states. The obvious distinction between the two is before and after Little Gem's birth. But there is a lot more to it than that, having to do with my professional work, my family life, and my bodily experience as a woman and a mother.

Regarding the last, something else I wanted to share here before Little Gem is born is a poem I wrote on January 20, 2017. It's about him, but it's also about me, and it's about the historical moment that date represents both in my own private life and in the wider life of the world.

Here it is in a screenshot image from my phone's notes app, which is where I composed it that day. It is titled: "On being pregnant, today"

Screenshot of poem
"On being pregnant, today"
written on January 20, 2017
At the end of this post is the full text of the poem typed out.

Photo of my pregnant belly: Fullness at 38 weeks 3 days
Tomorrow is Monday, and it's my last day doing work-related things for a while, all of which have to do with the search for our two new librarians--unless I go into labor later tonight (possible, though not probable based on my knowledge of my body).

After tomorrow, I am letting my work move to the background, and focusing on getting ready for Little Gem. After tomorrow we are also expecting a big snow storm, and with each day the chance that I will go into labor increases. And today was the beginning of Daylight Savings Time, only adding to the surreality that will be my 40th week pregnant with Little Gem.

With all of that, the primary desire that fills my body, my cells, and my self right now, is this:

Come soon, sweet baby boy. I can't wait to meet you.

Photo of a star and moon paisley mandala
partially colored in blue and yellow marker:
Coloring as I wait for Little Gem to be born
Photo of me pregnant making a funny face:
Some levity as we wait...

*Little Jem [Update: Note the spelling change, documented here<link>.] will be my nickname for my son on the blog, just as Bookie is my nickname for my daughter. When commenting please refer to them as such. And, technically, length of pregnancy is measured from the first day of one's last menstrual cycle, so I wasn't yet carrying him 39 weeks ago exactly. But half of the genetic "stuff" that would come to be him was preparing itself inside me 39 weeks ago, which is a pretty neat way to think about it. I probably started carrying him a week and a half later or so, roughly 37.5 weeks ago.


On being pregnant, today 
Written on January 20, 2017 
© Donna Witek

You are curled, inside,
on my right side.
Hard and persistent,
lithe and alive,
I see you from the outside:
like a ball I am carrying.
My body is working hard for you,
short of breath,
with blood and sweat at an all time high,
so that your nest (in me)
of water, skin, and cells
gives you life each moment that goes by.
I carry you with me: audacious life in a world of death.
As everything around us breaks into pieces
you are my resistance.

Friday, January 6, 2017

My Library is Hiring Two Research & Instruction Librarians

I'm excited to announce that my library is hiring two new librarians this spring. These are entry-level, faculty status, unionized positions, who will be working directly with me in my new role (as of June 1, 2017) as Information Literacy Coordinator. Full details below -- come work with me!


The University of Scranton invites applications for two full-time, 12-month, tenure-track Research and Instruction Librarians, commencing by August 21, 2017. The regularly scheduled hours for these positions will be primarily Monday-Friday1:00-9:00 pm, with occasional mornings and weekends. A generous benefits package is offered, including medical, dental, and vision coverage, a retirement plan, and paid vacation, holidays, and research leave.
As members of the Library faculty, the Research and Instruction Librarians contribute to the Library’s campus-wide focus on transformative teaching and learning in the Ignatian tradition. One successful candidate will serve as subject liaison to business and the other to health sciences. Both are entry-level positions, requiring a willingness to develop the knowledge needed to provide information literacy instruction to either business or health sciences courses and programs. Applicants are encouraged to apply for both positions if interested.
  • Teaches as part of the Library’s information literacy program, which includes information literacy instruction in core general education as well as upper-level disciplinary courses
  • Provides research services and scholarly assistance to members of the university community both in-person and online
  • Serves as subject liaison to either business or health sciences, a role that includes providing course-integrated instruction and collection development
  • Oversees and is responsible for Library services and building operations during evening hours
  • Other instructional, research, and library duties as assigned
Required Qualifications
  • Possession of an American Library Association accredited Master’s degree at time of hire
  • Experience working in a library or archives
  • Experience working collaboratively with others as well as the ability to independently pursue, manage, and complete projects
  • Ability to communicate well with others in diverse modes and formats
  • Professional commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion
  • Ability to deal well with members of the public
  • Willingness to develop the knowledge required to provide information literacy instruction in business courses or to health sciences courses
  • Conversant in current trends in academic librarianship related to research and instruction, such as knowledge of the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education
  • Ability to engage in scholarship and service in order to meet qualifications for reappointment and tenure, as defined in the Faculty Handbook
  • Ability to attain a second Master’s degree in a subject field, or the completion of thirty graduate credits in a discipline that improves professional competence, as a requirement for tenure (if not already accomplished at time of hire)
  • Availability to work Monday-Friday1:00-9:00 pm, with occasional mornings and weekends
Desired Qualifications
  • Familiarity with business (e.g. finance, economics, marketing, etc.) or health sciences (e.g. nursing, counseling, allied health services, etc.)
  • Experience creating engaging learning opportunities for student, faculty, or community audiences
  • Supervisory experience
  • Strong desire to explore pedagogical approaches and learning theories that can enrich teaching practice
  • Familiarity with assessment methods and techniques
About the Library and University
The Weinberg Memorial Library provides superior resources, services, and programs in support of the dynamic scholarly, cultural, and social endeavors of the University and the community at large. The Library plays an integral role in teaching, learning, and research on campus, fostering a culture of collaboration, interdisciplinarity, innovation, creativity, and sustainability. Our work environment is forward-looking and participatory, with an emphasis on transparency and faculty/staff development.
The University of Scranton is a regional institution of more than 6,000 undergraduate and graduate students located in northeast Pennsylvania near the Pocono Mountains. Recognized nationally for the quality of its education, Scranton is one of the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States. It is committed to providing liberal arts education and strong professional and pre-professional programs in the context of Ignatian educational principles, especially the care and development of the whole person. Drawing on the strengths that have made it a recognized leader in the Northeast (ranked 8th among the master’s level universities in the North by U.S. News and World Report. Scranton is committed to a culture of scholarship and excellence in teaching and is moving into the front ranks of American’s comprehensive universities.
Official University of Scranton Diversity Statement
The University of Scranton is committed to providing a safe and nondiscriminatory employment and educational environment. The University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, religion, age, veteran status, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or other status protected by law. Sexual harassment, including sexual violence, is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
To apply
Applicants must apply online at and include a cover letter summarizing qualifications and strengths, a curriculum vitae or résumé, and contact information for three references. Applicants are encouraged to apply for both positions if interested. The positions will remain open until filled but applications will be reviewed beginning February 20, 2017. Prof. George Aulisio, Reference Coordinator, serves as the Search Committee Chair.