Archive for October, 2011

Run Dry

I breastfed for the last time this morning. I am not a woman who loves to nurse, it took Herculean efforts to produce anything for both of my babies. Which is why ending so early is bitter sweet. There certainly is something to looking down onto a completely satisfied face, knowing that I’m providing everything she needs. My first weaned herself at 10 months, about 12 weeks after I received my graduate degree and headed back to work. Life cannot afford me a 7 month maternity leave this time and things have already run dry. The benefits and freedoms of moving on will hit me soon, but for now I am feeling the sting of a far too short baby leave.

I’m trying not to rant here, but this is a national issue and, if I don’t speak, it won’t be corrected. I will not have another baby, but my daughters might and I hope things are better for them. We all know that, when we compare our national maternity leave policy to other developed countries, we come out on the short end. At least 178 countries have national laws guaranteeing paid leave for new mothers. More than 50 nations, including most Western countries, also guarantee paid leave for new fathers. In the US, like most things, it has become an issue dividing the haves and the have-nots. Evidently, family values have a price.

My experience is a shining (or not so shining) example: I am the full-time working mom of a lower-middle class family. My field is small and does not provide paid leave, relying on its employees to purchase disability insurance to cover their own time off. I have the unlucky circumstance of suffering pre-existing conditions, so the Aflac duck rejected me. I had to pay for everyday of my leave out-of -pocket. I took on additional consulting work throughout my pregnancy and its going to take an act of God to keep us economically afloat through Christmas. I have used every second of sick time I have through June of next year.

I’ve returned to the office despite the fact that I am still working with my Docs to get my health back on track, my daughter is up twice a night with colic, breast pumping has failed almost immediately and, lest we forget, my husband and I are suffering the economic stress of digging out while trying to pay for childcare, more health insurance and the looming Santa season. Not shocking that 60% of women who return to work before 12 weeks suffer from diagnosed, medical depression. The cost to employers in productivity and tax payers in welfare/health coverage should be enough for us to reconsider our policies.

Going into the pregnancy we knew that this would be our burden to bare. I did not make the economic downturn, it has denied me so many things but I’ll be damned if it was going to keep me from being a mom. Maternity leave should not be the major barrier keeping otherwise stable families from having children. My baby girl has started to coo at me, so many stories she has to tell. No doubt she is worth all of this, but it is my job to always want more for her. To want more for the families in our country.

MORE information from Human Rights Watch.


Fence Jumper

I must have been a real ass in a past life. Karmic-ly, I am certainly paying for something. Band-aids are the only things that don’t freak me out in a Doctor’s office, it helps if they have Barbie on them. Unfortunately, I seem to have drawn the short straw when it comes to a need for clinic visits – I’m in and out of one medical office or another weekly and I just can’t seem to get accustom to the anxiety involved.

I had an MRI today, open and sitting (preferable to the original casket version). No needles or contrast required, I just had to sit there and watch the big screen TV for half an hour. I spent most of it trying not to fall asleep, explaining to the Tech that I had an 8 week old baby with colic, so he wouldn’t think I was a narcolept. By the time I left, I needed to curl up under my quilt, fetal style and submerse myself in Stars Hollow until the world felt right again.  Instead, I grabbed a cup of coffee and went back to work, annoyed by this seemingly unjustified state of emotional exhaustion.

When I’m feeling high minded, I think this constant brush with my mortality has me tweaking. It’s not something I’m conscious of, but somewhere my body is telling my brain that pain = death. Most of the time I think it has more to do with disappointment. Every visit, procedure and new medication brings with it the possibility of a cure. After 6 years, they feel more like the beginning of another failed attempt. Hello wall, here’s my head.

I’ve been reading a brilliant book, The Pain Chronicles by Melanie Thernstrom, and she mentions a study in which dogs are subject to chronic pain over a long period of time. The study found that 9 out of 10 dogs will lie down and just take the pain, while one dog continuously attempts to  jump the fence. I’m a fence jumper.  With the jumping comes the fall. The study fails to mention whether or not the jumping dog comforts his failed attempts with Gilmore Girl reruns, but picturing it kinda turns this crap afternoon around, doesn’t it?

Love at first sight

Eight weeks ago I delivered the most beautiful baby girl ever to appear on God’s green earth, which is good, considering her sister is also the most amazing creature known to man…it would have been awkward to have a less than miraculous second child. I have submerged myself in this new mom crazy, falling head over heals for this being. I am obsessed with the complete and pure sincerity in her eyes (I keep hearing Linus in my head, proclaiming the sincerity of his pumpkin patch). I’ll write more about the delivery and pain stuff in the near future, but for now, I’d rather be rubbing my cheeks against her warm head.

I am due back to work tomorrow morning and life is about to come crashing in. As I was leaving my final OB appointment, I cried in my car. This pregnancy was never supposed to happen, and when it did, it was as though the sky opened and the sun shown. It was one of the toughest and fulfilling adventures I’ve ever had. More than anything, it gave this random pain meaning. I was suffering for a purpose. And now I am just a mom again. A tired, working mom with chronic pain. So I realize the next part of this life may actually require more strength and spirit than the last 12 months did.

My little one just sighed in her sleep. I’m her mom. If anything can inspire greatness, it is what she holds in the palm of her tiny hands.

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