Parenting in the Field

March was a big month for me. First, I found out that I’d been chosen as a Fulbright Scholar to Ecuador. Then, a few weeks later I gave birth to a baby boy. There was no question of turning down or postponing the award. So, this summer I’ve returned to my dissertation field site in rural coastal Ecuador, with an infant in tow.

You may have seen the recent article on being #pregnantinthefield. And even though I had my one and a half year old daughter with me during my dissertation work in 2009 and 2010, having a newborn is a whole different can of worms. My daughter was old enough to attend the day care in the rural village where I worked. My son is still nursing on demand, and every few hours. I joked that I should just entitle my summer “Nursing at Archaeological Sites”. As a result, my summer has looked a little different than I expected (I’ve only used a trowel three days this season!), but nonetheless it’s turning out to be a fantastic experience and a very productive research season.

How to Parent in the Field

Step 1: Have good support

This project is a family affair. I’m here with my husband, who is also an archaeologist and my partner personally and professionally. We trade off carrying the weight of the project and the baby.

My partner in crime

Step 2: Pick appropriate gear

We baby wear, and it is essential. Every morning we walk 3km from the village out to the field site along a very muddy track, crisscrossing a shallow river a dozen times. When the baby gets fussy out at the site, we wear him. When I’m back in the lab and he doesn’t quite want to sleep, I wear him.

Washing ceramics while baby-wearing

We also have a tent for him, and keep him in it as much as possible while in the field. This is key as there are many mosquito-borne illnesses here, not to mention extremely poisonous snakes.

Baby’s green tent

Step 3: Nurse anywhere

Research is what happens when the baby cooperates. His needs are immediate and visceral. So, you change that diaper when you need to, and nurse when he wants it, no matter where you are and no matter how hard it’s raining.

Rainy day nursing

Getting it Done

We’re excavating a village site from the Valdivia culture, dating to around 2000 BC. It’s fascinating to see these remnants of such a remote time reappear. While it’s too early to make conclusions about our work this season, we’ve accomplished an incredible amount. Despite the extra challenges of an infant in the field, we’re having an amazing field season and finding new things that intrigue us, confound us, and challenge our current interpretations.

A spiral feature at the edge of a stone floor

A few of the MANY figurines and figurine fragments we’ve found while excavating this year






Also, on this Day of Archaeology, I finally get the chance to participate in a conference here in Ecuador. Even better, given that motherhood is on my mind, it’s specifically a conference of women archaeologists. Several Ecuadorian colleagues of mine have done an amazing job organizing it, and I can’t wait to attend my first conference with baby in tow.