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   Data, Dinners, and Diapers: Traveling withaBabytoa Scientific Conference
Laura Kloepper
     Figure 1. The author with her son at the Acoustical Society of America meeting in San Diego in December 2019.
In April 2019, when I was in my fourth year in a ten- ure-track position and managing several grant projects, I gave birth to my first son, Nathaniel. My institution, Saint Mary’s College (Notre Dame, IN), offered gener- ous parental leave, which allowed me to take a teaching release through the following January. During my preg- nancy, this sounded like a dream. Almost nine months off from work, but I could still maintain some income? Sign me up!
The first month after Nathaniel was born, I fully embraced my new maternal role and didn’t even check my email, but after that month, I slowly began to struggle with my new identity. I knew I was incredibly fortunate to even be in a position to stay at home with my son but taking a complete absence from work began to feel isolating. Fur- thermore, I felt like I was halting my research trajectory. With my partner’s support, we decided to find part-time childcare in the summer and fall so I could work with students on some projects, write some grants, and wrap up some manuscripts.
As an early-career scientist, I also knew the importance of attending scientific conferences during my leave. Due to the close timing around my due date, I missed several important conferences in April and May, including the Acoustical Society of America (ASA), so I wasn’t willing to miss my fall scientific conferences as well. But as a mother who was committed to both breastfeeding and conferencing and as one part of a dual-career couple, this meant I had only had one option: strap on the baby in the carrier, pack the suitcase, hit the road (or sky), and hope for the best.
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My first conference was the North American Society for Bat Research that was held in Kalamazoo, MI, about 90 minutes away from my hometown of South Bend, IN. This was a good warm-up conference because it required a short car ride and just one night in a hotel. In advance of the conference, I reached out to some colleagues in leadership positions in the Society to ask if it would be appropriate to bring my baby. I got enthusiastic responses from all of them, including several offers to help assist with childcare.
As the conference week approached, I was a ball of nerves and completely exhausted. I had a teething six month old who was only sleeping for two hours at a time and was incredibly irritable. My partner had also been traveling the whole week, so I was handling the nighttime wake- ups. I told myself I just had to show up at the conference, deliver my talk, and have my one meeting and then I could leave. The conference ended up going about how I expected it to. It was a mix of meltdowns during meetings and coffee breaks and giggles and coos during poster ses- sions and business lunches. What did help was wearing my baby in a carrier so he snuggled against my chest the entire time. A colleague even convinced me to try to wear him during my talk, but we only made it to my hypoth- esis slide before he started to fuss and I passed him off to a colleague who had offered to stand by. But in the end,
Volume 16, issue 2 | Summer 2020 • Acoustics Today 85

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