Today

Dear Jonah and Leo,

Leo, you turned one about 6 weeks ago and I’ve been unsuccessfully meaning to complete this letter to you. You are an absolute delight. You are now toddling happily around the house in that great Frankenbaby / zombie baby style that new walking babies do. You still have just four teeth. You laugh a lot, especially at your big brother. I can’t get enough of you. You look so much like your uncle Mike and Papa and Gigi– the fair side of the family! I love listening to your babbles. You love music. And books. And playing. And you still love being held a lot. I still have to put you in the baby backpack most days so that you are happy while I prep our breakfast. You sometimes cry Monday mornings when suddenly everyone is leaving for work and school. You’ve been mostly sleeping through the night, which is nice. I wish you’d sleep later, of course, but I guess that will come. You love to eat, but really just want to feed yourself, which is very different from how Jonah was.

At the end of October, there was a huge hurricane that hit much of the eastern seaboard and left a lot of damage in NYC. We were very lucky to be unaffected and got to enjoy a nice week together. The country finally decided to think seriously about climate change. Well, at least to talk about it– a huge and painfully overdue step. But will we actually change in time?

We were a big hit on Halloween in our Wizard of Oz costumes.

Then in early November, Barack Obama was re-elected. Your father and I and just over half of the country and 99% of the world breathed a sigh of relief.

Then today, December 14, there was an awful horrible tragedy in our neighboring state of Connecticut. Someone went into an elementary school and murdered nearly 20 children and several adults. The country is reeling. I couldn’t concentrate at work– I was obsessively watching the news unfold online. I was scared the whole way coming home, and couldn’t wait to see you both and hold and breathe in my sons. I hope the grieving families know that the nation, the world, are sending them love and light, that we’re grieving with them. They have a long painful road ahead. I hope our country will do justice to the memory of their children and neighbors and commit to more sensible gun laws and better support and help and nurturing for those with mental health problems. It seems like the least we can do. We can’t bring their babies back.

I hope that by the time you are grown and reading this, you won’t be able to believe that such a thing was able to happen. You won’t be able to fathom it. I hope.

You didn’t know today was any different as we lit the Hannukah candles, read stories, I tucked you in and reminded you of how very much you are loved. And maybe it isn’t for us. Others aren’t so lucky.

love always,
mama

Reentry Ruminantions

Happy boy even as mama heads back to the rat race!

My maternity leave ended about 3 weeks ago. I’m still readjusting and figuring out how to be a working mom again [yes, I know all mothers are hard-working mothers but you know what I mean].

By US standards, my leave was awesome! 12 weeks paid through maternity leave and disability, and I was able to add 2 weeks of vacation on either side, for a total of 16 weeks paid leave. I finished work at 38 weeks pregnant and had exactly a week to get the nest in order as Leo arrived at 39 weeks on the dot.

Being on leave reminded me of how critical that time is for the mother and whole family. I needed that time to establish successful breastfeeding, rest and recover from birth, help my older son adjust, and bond with the new baby. It is such an emotional and chaotic time that I can’t imagine trying to function at a job as well. But heading right back to work is reality for many new mothers in the US. Even now with Leo at 4 months, I’m still tired as he still wakes to nurse at night, but it feels like nothing compared to the exhaustion of the newborn weeks.

I’m also very fortunate to have a clean private room for pumping at work. Euphemistically called the ‘wellness room,’ it’s set up for pumping and helps to keep up my milk supply, ensuring Leo continues to get my milk when I have to be away.

In fact, there is a lot of attention these days to making sure that employers provide nursing moms with appropriate space and time for pumping. This is absolutely important– an investment in mothers, families, and the health of babies! However, I do worry that the focus on pumping at work distracts from something for which we should all continue to advocate and that is paid parental leave in this country! Both are crucial!

I’m sure industry appreciates the focus on pumping as this means: more sales of expensive single user breastpumps, bottles, nipples, and breastmilk storage bags; and employers not shouldering the financial and administrative burden (to put a negative spin on it) of paying for an absent employee AND someone to fill in for her temporarily. But if pretty much every other country in the world can figure this out, I’m confident we can too, America! Did you know we’re one of only FOUR countries in the world without paid leave for new mothers? Yikes.

Check out MomsRising.org which currently has a petition on paid family leave. Please sign and pass it along!

Further reading:

You can read more about the critical issue of family leave in the US on the MomsRising site here. It’s eye-opening and shows why our babies, parents, and families deserve better.

Sociological Images posted some maps which give a nice visual on paid leave (maternity and otherwise) around the world.

This article illustrates (with graphs!) why family leave is a class issue. They also link to this article which goes into more detail and has a cool interactive on how education and race/ethnicity impact access to paid leave.

What about you? Were you able to take maternity leave? If you have a partner, did s/he also have access to leave? Was it paid? For how long? How did it work out for your family?