Usually, I write an annual status report, but this year is a bit different. I do not know if I will have the time to do it, so instead I decided to prepare this late-summer report. The timing seems right, as today I started my pregnancy leave.
Two days ago, we had a project management course at GEUS, and the sentence that stuck with me was that everything we do in GEUS (the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland) is a “project”. This is reflected in how we manage our work-hours – every hour should be accounted for and put on the appropriate project number. More importantly, everything is managed as a project. For every task/activity there is a project leader, project owner, project participants, controller etc. and everyone has their specific role, associated time-allocation, corresponding price-level, defined tasks, deliverables, and deadlines.
Even though our “project baby” is a personal one, it involved many people beyond my husband and me. To start with – the different specialists from the Skive Fertility Clinic and the Clinic in Viborg, as I went through a year of IVF cycles (IVF stands for in vitro fertilization) and other unpleasant procedures. Then, of course, my husband, who has been super supportive and involved in the entire process. He not only came to all my appointments, but also gave me the necessary injections every night, because I could not stand to do it myself. I have a syringe needle & injection phobia. Our parents, even though far away, and our close friends followed our “progress” and offered as much emotional support, as possible. The colleagues I work with daily, and our department head (at the time) were also involved in our project. In the beginning of 2021, when we started the actual treatment, I informed them about it. I did not know how this will affect my work and life in general, so I thought that it is better to let them know I am going through this. I have been sharing with them my experience and the rollercoaster of emotions, as large part of my day is spent at the office. When I say rollercoaster of emotions, I mean that there were cycles of hope, disappointment, grief, sadness, doubt, happiness… We went through those together with my husband, but I think it probably also affected everyone around us. By the end of 2021, I started also going to therapy, so I can deal with my mild depression and my inability to cope with all these sometimes-contradictory feelings. I am very grateful for all the support I got and continue getting, I am very lucky, because I was/am not alone in all this.
So, our “project baby” started in 2021, but we got the long-awaited positive pregnancy test result in the beginning of this year (2022). I do not want to get into details, but the first few months were quite difficult. I was thinking “How am I going to go through 9 months of this?“. I got corona, I had difficulty keeping my food, I developed some food aversions, and I was so tired that I could not think/focus in the afternoons. Thankfully, from the second trimester and until now I have been feeling great, I have almost no complaints. I am of course getting used to my new and ever-changing (should I say growing?) body, and the fact that there is a whole another person developing inside of me. It is exciting, but also sometimes a bit scary. I have no idea who I will be after the baby is born – I have heard that motherhood changes people – but I do hope that the change in my personality will not be extreme, as I quite like who I am today. I have worked on myself for 40 years now, and I hope that I will not disappear completely in my new role of a mother. I also hope that everything will be fine, and we will get to see, hold, and raise our small one.
I wrote all this, because I wanted to acknowledge all the people who were there for us and helped us in any capacity, I will not name them, but they know who they are. I also think it is important to talk/write also about our struggles, not only successes, and that we are more than our work. So, even though I am trying to keep this space only for professional news, sometimes it is hard to separate clearly the personal from the professional.
Pregnancy and parental leave
As I mentioned in the beginning, from today (2 Sep 2022) I am officially on a pregnancy leave, which in my case is 6 weeks long, up to the due date. Pregnancy leave in Denmark is fully paid and depending on where you work it could be 4-8 weeks before the due date – 4 weeks for private companies, 6 weeks for state employees, 8 weeks for employees in the municipalities and the regions. I am glad I can spend these 6 weeks preparing for our baby, but also it feels so strange to have 6 weeks of something like “holiday”. I could of course choose to continue working, and maybe if I have time, I will try to work on some of my side-projects (those without a GEUS project number).
I wrote parental leave, not maternity leave, as since this august the rules in Denmark changed, so both parents could have more equal rights to the leave. We are extremely lucky with my husband, as both our employers are covering the entire period of 24 weeks (for each), so we can both spend almost 6 months with our baby while getting our salaries. The plan so far is that after the birth, I will immediately take my 24 weeks, then my husband will take over. He is also taking 6 of his 24 weeks in the beginning, so we both can be home a the same time and adjust to our new lives together.
All this means, that I will hopefully return to my office sometime in May 2023.
What else did I do this year
We moved to a new building, still on Aarhus University campus, but better. It is newly renovated, and I have an amazing view from my office on the 6th floor. We got a new department head, and because we are going through structural changes, we also spent some time re-defining the identity of our research group and (new) department. The year started slow, but then the projects started rolling, so I was very busy until my last working day. It looks like I will also be busy when I come back to work next year (which is good).
Few things got published since the beginning of 2022:
- Peer-reviewed papers (co-author):
- “Assessment of chloride natural background levels by applying statistical approaches. Analyses of European coastal aquifers in different environments” in Marine Pollution Bulletin; this was work we did as part of the GeoERA project TACTIC last year.
- “Geographical Distribution and Pattern of Pesticides in Danish Drinking Water 2002–2018: Reducing Data Complexity” in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health; this is based on the dataset I used also in my pesticide exposure paper last year, but it goes a bit further in the data-exploration, as it uses factor analysis to identify groups of pesticides.
- “Flowpath influence on stream acid events in tropical urban streams in Singapore” in Hydrological Processes; this paper is based on the field work we did while I was lecturer in Singapore, it was nice to see it out. There is nothing else connecting me to NUS anymore.
- “Terminologies and characteristics of natural mineral and thermal waters in selected European countries” in Geologija; this was based on the work we did in work package 3 (task 1) of GeoERA project HOVER, I think it turned out awesome and hopefully it will be useful to others who work with mineral and thermal waters.
- Reports (first author):
- “Geoscientific input to business case for “Lønstrup spa”: Overview of relevant water quality regulations and the chemical composition of Gassum Formation brine” (GEUS report 2022/1); this was a very interesting small project (30 hours officially), where the client was interested in finding out more about the possibilities of using thermal water from the Gasum Formation for spa purposes.
- “Prioritization tool for implementing the N-MAP concept” (GEUS report 2021/67); this was a collaborative effort, which took over a year, and it was part of the MapField project. MapField project has its closing conference next week, where I will give a 3 min presentation (pitch) about it.
- Popular science articles (in Danish):
- “Naturlige baggrundsværdier for sporstoffer i grundvandet” [Natural background levels of trace elements in groundwater] in Vand & Jord; This is based on the work we did last year for the Vandplan 3 (River Basin Management Plan, 3rd period), Mette wrote the Danish text
- “Status over pesticider i dansk drikkevand fra 2002-2019” [Status of pesticides in Danish drinking water from 2002-2019] in Vand & Jord; This is also based on my paper on pesticides exposure. I wrote the first draft in Danish, after which Birgitte rewrote it, should I say, completely… the result reads easier, and it flows better. It is a milestone for me, as this is the first article I attempted to write in Danish (even though it needed revisions).
I worked also on two projects about pesticides in groundwater, but those are still not finished, so I assume that the reports will come some time next year. Just before I left, we also finalized revisions of a report on natural background levels for barium and phosphorus in groundwater, but this is not yet published officially either. I also worked a little on trend analyses of nitrate in groundwater and developing appropriate visualizations of the results, but this is yet another thing that will eventually come out next year.
And now it is time for me to focus on finishing that baby-blanket I started in April 😊
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