Friday, December 28, 2012

Hard Decisions: Maternity Leave

I only have 1 week left in my maternity leave. :-( I am so sad. 

I wish we could financially work it out so I could be a stay at home Mom. But alas, like many other families we can't. So, back to work I go. On the other hand, it will be nice to have a conversation with another adult besides my husband. I am looking forward to getting back to work and diving into marketing Litespeed and Quintana Roo. The 2013 product should be in full swing and some of the marketing strategies I set up before I left should have been completed and I have some others that are just about to start in January.

Although, there is something to be said for maternity leave. Duh. It had to be said because of my track record...with Aven I only got 2 weeks. I have not said too much about my previous maternity leave, but it has been 2 years. Also, now that I have had 6 weeks, I want to talk about how much that really sucked and how different things have been this time around.

My previous employer told me when he hired me I could essentially write my own maternity leave. I took the job under that pretense. Unfortunately, when it came to discuss my leave (BTW he would habitually avoid the subject until I was less than 4 weeks from my due date) he said since I was his only employee he didn't have to adhere to FMLA and there was no way I would be allowed to come back to work if I wanted to take any time beyond 2 weeks. Also, he said he would not work with short term disability. So...what do I do? Take the 2 weeks and try to negotiate working from home and gradually working my way back into the office until Aven was old enough to go into day care. Then to add salt to the wound, after I returned to the office for 2 days, he fired me! Tennessee is a "no fault" state, so unless I wanted to spend money I didn't have to fight it in court, I lost my job because I wanted to be a mother.

UGH. See? SUCKED. To say the least, I think he was and is an asshole. Personally, I think I am being nice and only calling him an asshole and not stating his name or business online. Asshole.

This time around, I am working for a reputable company and I was able to take 6 weeks. I could have taken 12 weeks, but short term disability (60% of income) would only cover 6 weeks. The other 6 would be unpaid. Like I mentioned before, we are a 2 income family, so 6 weeks it is.

Compared to what I had with Aven, this has been a godsend. I feel like I have been able to bond with Tristan sooner than I did with Aven. My milk supply has been constant. With Aven, my supply was fluctuating early on. I have been able to figure out a routine with T. I also feel like I have been able to relax more. Ergo better milk supply. Here is an article about the benefits to breast fed babies over formula fed babies.

After only 5 weeks, I really see how important it has been to have this early time with Tristan. I really wonder what it would be like if I could take 6 months...I wish America was like other countries.

Canada: New mothers can take between 17 and 52 weeks of leave from their jobs. Their employers are required to accept the employees back into their jobs, or the equivalent, at the end of the mandated leave at the same rate of pay with the same employment benefits. On top of mandating maternity leave, the government offers paid leave for one or both parents through Canada's employment insurance plan. A pregnant employee or new mother can take a paid maternity leave of up to 15 weeks. Either the mother or father can take 35 weeks of parental leave after the baby is born or adopted. The parents can share the leave however they choose. If eligible for the program, the benefits equal 55% of the parent's average weekly insurable wage, up to a maximum of $485 per week. For low-income families, the rate of benefits can increase to up to 80%, with the same maximum of $485 per week. Employment insurance benefits are taxable in the same way as wages. *Information from Investopedia May 2012.

UK: Female employees are entitled to 52 weeks of maternity (or adoption) leave, 39 weeks of which is paid, planned to rise to 52 weeks paid, with the first six weeks paid at 90% of full pay and the remainder at a fixed rate (£128.73/week as of 2011). Employees have to follow notification rules and might also be entitled to statutory maternity pay (SMP), depending on their length of service and average earnings by the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth (EWC). Most employers offer a more generous policy. Annual leave continues to accrue throughout the maternity leave period. A spouse or partner of the woman (including same-sex relationships) may request a two week paid (at a fixed rate) paternity leave. Both the mother and her partner can additionally request non-paid parental leave, which can be for up to 4 weeks annually, with a current limit of 13 weeks. *Information from Wikipedia

Sweden: Provides working parents with an entitlement of 16 months paid leave per child at 80 percent pay, the cost being shared between employer and the state. To encourage greater paternal involvement in child-rearing, a minimum of 2 months out of the 16 is required to be used by the "minority" parent, in practice usually the father, and some Swedish political parties on the political left argue for legislation to oblige families to divide the 16 months equally between both parents. Norway has similarly generous leave. In Estonia mothers are entitled to 18 months of paid leave, starting up to 70 days before due date. Fathers are entitled to paid leave starting from the third month after birth (paid leave is however available to only one parent at a time). *Information from Wikipedia

I know taxes are higher in other countries to compensate for the maternity leave, but now I have been able to experience some time with my baby, I see how important it is to have that connection. If we had the money, I wouldn't go back to work after 6 weeks. If we had the money AND I was given paid time off similar to Canada or Sweden I would take the time off and go back to work after 3 - 6 months.

By limiting paid time off for maternity leave, the US employers are perpetuating the lack luster family dynamic the Republican party attempted to showcase in the most recent election. I know...that was hitting below the belt, but its true! Bonding early in parenting with your baby lays the foreground for what type of parenting skills will develop when the shit really gets hard.

Well. There it is. I want more time with Tristan AND Aven. I wish I could have the time back with her. I hate that asshole for robbing me of such precious time with my baby girl. Jerk. I am gonna stop complaining, I could have lost my job to spend time with her. I could put our finances in jeopardy and stay home with Tristan. Would that be the responsible decision? Would that be a good parent?

Hard decisions.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Life With 2 Kids

Motherhood. When people say it is the hardest job, but the most rewarding, they were NOT kidding. Seriously, I don't think I could love another person more than I do Aven and Tristan. I love Andy, but it is different. I don't know how to explain it...but here goes.

My love for Andy is something I chose. I look at him and see the rest of my life. I gave my heart to him and he gave his to me. It is full of respect and honor. He is my best friend and I have never felt more safe and cherished.

My love for Aven and Tristan is well...for lack of a better term-insatiable. When I think of how I feel about them my emotions rise to the top of my head and I just feel scattered. I want to protect them, hug them all day, and waste my day just watching them. I lose myself when I think about what they need for the day. I forget to eat, drink, take a shower; if there is something I should do for me during the day, I forget about it until it is bashing me over the head.

I know this is not a "balanced" way to live your life. For the past 2 years of Aven's life I have been able to find a good balance between what I need and what she needs. Now with the addition of Tristan (a newborn), the balance is gone. I am back to forgetting to shower, eat, drink, and sleep.

I really wish I had more than 6 weeks to be with him. Maybe if I had more than a month and a half I might be a little better at balancing ME against ME. Oh well...everyday is getting better though. He is getting bigger and creating his own schedule and at 3.5 weeks old he is already 10.6 lbs. =)

Baby #2 is much easier than baby #1 for sure. I am more confident with nursing, more confident with what he needs. I find myself freaking out less than I thought I was going to and much more emotionally stable. With Aven I had some baby blues. With T, I have had 1 bad day so far and I think it was due more to lack of communication with another adult and being cooped up in the house than a hormonal imbalance.

Now don't assume Andy and I are getting 8 hours of sleep or that we think we actually know what we are doing. HA! We question ourselves and are sleep deprived like most new parents. The difference between today and 2 years ago, is we know THIS is not going to last forever. We will sleep again. We will be able to go out to dinner with adults again. We will  be able to have a conversation that does not involve poop, breast milk, or diapers. I will be skinny again. I will run, ride, and swim again. After Aven, I knew all of those things would happen, but I didn't know when. This time, I have a better gauge when all of those things will happen and it has given me the opportunity to enjoy today and not wish for tomorrow. My boobs on the other hand...might not be the same again. Seriously. I am getting a boob job for my 40th birthday. LMAO.

Motherhood. Ten years ago I never thought I would be a Mom and today I can't imagine being anything else. It is hard. The hardest thing I have ever experienced, and I tear up when I think of how my life would be without Aven and Tristan.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Week 41: C-R-A-Z-Y

So my due date came and went. I should have known that things were going to be completely different from my previous labor. Not necessarily because my entire pregnancy was wickedly different (it was) or because I was having a boy this time instead of a girl (not sure if that really was a factor), but mostly because I think Karma has a unique way of trying to show you multiple possibilities in this 1 life we get.

So just like a race report, I anticipate this blog being epically long. I have warned you...

I delivered Aven on her 39th week date. With Little man, when my 39th week came and went, I realized I might have to settle in for the long haul. It didn't really dawn on me until Meg asked me if I wanted to set up my induction date...just in case. Induction? Really? OK...I guess so. We scheduled a date as far out as possible. The day after Thanksgiving (11/23). I was pretty sure I wasn't going to make it to that date. Little did I know what fate had in store for us.

Week 39 and week 40 were rather uneventful. I was getting more and more uncomfortable, but I wasn't "feeling" it. I wasn't getting physically uncomfortable, it was more of an emotional and mental thing. I was getting more anxious, worried everything was "normal", and increasingly worried about exactly HOW my labor was going to progress. Hindsight is 20/20 and I was remembering how painful natural childbirth was with Aven and I was doubting my ability to say "No" to the epidural this time around.

After you go past your due date, you go in for check ups twice a week. So I saw Meg on Monday and Thursday of that week. Monday's appointment was disappointing, to say the least. STILL 2ish cm dilated and only 50-60% effaced. Patience. I had to practice a lot of patience the last few weeks. When I went in on Thursday I was SURE I had progressed. I had been feeling crampy and menstrual all Wednesday night. Just like with Aven (watch there is a trend here). So when I got news that I didn't progress after Meg checked me on Thursday, I wasn't too disappointed; because just like with Aven that is how my last appointment with Meg went. As far as I was feeling, I was pretty sure at that point we were going to have this baby Friday (16th) or Saturday (17th) at the latest. I started feeling mild, but strong real contractions in the afternoon on Thursday. They were about 15 min apart. Around dinner time, they stopped and went away. By the time we were ready for bed they were back and much stronger. I could talk through them, but I knew things were progressing. Yeah?!

To be safe, we packed Aven up, dropped her with my sister, and headed to the hospital. I thought, "Hey even if I labor in the hospital for 6-8 hours, at least Aven will safe and taken care of. I can deal with not being at home." They admitted us at 11:30 pm and the night nurse checked me. I got hooked up to the NST machine, basically it is 2 sensors they strap to your belly and they listen for the baby's heart beat and the strength of your contractions. I have been on this machine for the past month due to my "age." Since I am over 35 I am considered "high risk." UGH. After an hour, my contractions were 6-8 min apart and very strong, but I didn't dilate past the 3 cm I was when I was admitted. The nurse said the midwife on call (not Meg) said I should be discharged and sent home. I didn't want to leave. I explained this is my second pregnancy, I live 45 min away, and have a 2 year old we have to get help with. It would be much easier for us if they could let us stay. The nurse said, it is really unlikely I would be delivering in the next 5 hours since I hadn't progressed from my morning appointment. Then she said, and I quote, "It is not like you will be having a front porch delivery. That is SO rare. Come back when your contractions are at least 4 min apart for at least an hour. That way we will know you are in ACTIVE labor when your contractions are consistent for an hour." OK...with that vote of confidence, Andy and I headed home. I wanted to get some sleep anyway. So this was shaping up to be exactly like Aven's delivery. We went to the hospital, got turned away, I will go home and rest, then head back to the hospital in the morning and deliver my baby boy, right?

We got home at 1:30 am I got something to eat, took a Tylenol PM to help me sleep, and laid down. I woke up at 4 am with a bout of super intense killer contractions. Andy said in hindsight, I was physically looking different to him. My eyes weren't really focusing on him when I looked at him, I was trying to get in all these different positions to relieve the intensity of the contractions. (Child's pose, curled up in a ball, and fetal position). When none of those were working (BTW, my contractions were still erratic and about 6 min apart) I thought, last time with Aven I took a bath and my contractions slowed down. If I can slow down my contractions, we can get things re-packed and down to the hospital. Driving usually slowed them down too. In my head, we had PLENTY of time to get to the hospital. I took a bath and instead of slowing the contractions down it sped them up. They were 2.5 min apart now (less than 45 min has transpired from me waking up) and they were STRONG. I was getting really sweaty and hot sitting in the bath. Thinking the water was too hot, instead of my body trying to work through hard labor, I got out of the tub. In hindsight, I should have stayed in the tub.

Warning gross TMI: I got out of the tub and put a towel down over the toilet and sat down. I had 4 really hard contractions and started to get worried that I couldn't deliver Little man without an epidural. I was thinking, "Whoa, these contractions are really strong. It is going to be really hard to endure another 6 hours of this at this intensity." I got up and saw a bloody mucus pile on the towel. I thought OK, that was my mucus plug and we are getting closer. I got dressed and went to find Andy. He had the car all packed up and ready to roll. It took me some time to get my shit together because I had to keep taking breaks every 2.5 min to have a contraction. The contraction was lasting about 60-90 seconds, so I really only had about a min or so to walk.

It was so hard to focus on my body because I was so focused on getting to the hospital. I didn't take in the fact I was experiencing the most difficult part of labor and trying to ignore it. My thought process was, "Get down the mountain and relax. Relax. Relax." I turned to Andy right before we headed out the door to get in the car and said I am going to head to the bathroom first. Hey, it is a 45 min drive to the hospital and I haven't ever left the house without peeing in the last 6 months!

What happened next was almost an out-of-body experience. It all happened so fast Andy and I had to talk it through to make sure we both remembered how it went...

I sat down and BAM my water broke. Everything was almost immediate after that. I felt like I had to push. No effing joke. I will be honest. I freaked out. I called Andy into the bathroom and told him I have to push. I think his eyes got as big as mine and we just froze. I asked him to look down and see if he saw anything. He said he saw his his head coming out about an inch and a half. Andy ran to call 911 and by the time he was back I had another contraction and wanted to push again. Andy had the sense to play "catcher" and I pushed. Little man came out in one fell swoop and he was very slippery. Andy grabbed some clean towels and wrapped Little man up and spoke with the 911 operator. She was a total ding bat and had no clue what to tell Andy. At least she had the sense to dispatch an ambulance. I think this all took about 2-3 minutes. FAST!

I sat down on the toilet in amazement, fear, and a feeble attempt at trying to stay calm. The baby didn't cry so we started to freak out he wasn't breathing. Andy went and got the "brain sucker" and we tried to clear his mouth and nose. He still didn't make a noise. Just bubbles. We figured if he is making bubbles there has to be air coming from behind, right? He was really purple/bluish too. We kept rubbing his back and torso with the towels. He started pinking up. I think this took about 3-4 minutes, tops.

Then my placenta delivered. It looked much different than it did with Aven. It was dark blood red and really flimsy and almost transparent. Aven's was a greyish purple solid and really firm. I was able to finally get up and go clean myself up. Childbirth is an amazing but very messy ordeal. Poor Andy. He was holding baby boy over the toilet because his umbilical cord was still attached. He didn't cut it, but rather tied it off. Not with a shoe lace like they do in the movies...we didn't have an extra shoe lace sitting around. Andy cut the lanyard off one of our Litespeed - Quintana Roo jump drives. Of course my job had to be involved with the delivery of our son, LOL. The umbilical cord was surprisingly really short. Ergo hovering over the toilet with a newborn baby.

When I was getting dressed, I could hear the ambulance sirens. Maybe 5-10 min after baby boy was born. I walked back to the bathroom and the EMTs and first responders were there with Andy and the baby. They cut the cord and handed me Little man. I have to say, I felt amazing! The super painful contractions stopped, I was able to walk like a normal person finally, and Little man was here! Yahoooo!

Andy got the dogs and house ready for us to leave and we were off! I was in the ambulance with the baby and Andy followed in our car. We headed to Erlanger Hospital. Not my first choice, I would have rather been in a birthing center, but I didn't want to challenge the EMTs and just did what they told me to do.

We arrived at the hospital at 7 am. We estimated baby boy was born at 6 am. Andy was keeping track of my contractions on his phone and the last "record" of a contraction was at 5:58 am. They weighed baby boy and started getting his vitals. He was 20 inches long and weighed 7 lbs. They collected information from me and then Meg arrived to check me out. I am pretty sure I was still in shock. Everyone kept asking us to tell our story and how we were "able" to deliver our own baby at home.

Truthfully, Andy and I didn't do a damn thing. It was an out of body experience. My body took over and did what it needed to do when it needed to do it. I had absolutely NO control. Our bodies are amazing things. In a matter of 41 weeks, one small part of Andy and one small part of me, combined to create life. My body created a disposable organ (placenta) and protected Little man until he was ready to make his debut. Sure I took prenatal vitamins, ate healthy, and took care of my body; but all the real work was done unbeknownst to me. As far as the birthing part...Andy and I really didn't have a choice. Baby boy was coming and we did what we had to do. I think you go through it and then on the other side you take a breath. There wasn't any time to second guess stuff and we just did it.

We are so incredibly blessed. Little man is healthy and I am healthy. It was a relatively seamless delivery and all is good -- Thank God! There are so many things that could have gone wrong, but didn't. There are so many different scenarios that could have happened but in the end, this is how Little man wanted to arrive and so he did.

We named him Tristan James Sweet. Andy really liked the name Tristan from the movie Legends of the Fall. When he told me he liked the name when we got pregnant with Aven, I really liked it too. Strong, different, and cool. My Dad's name is James so giving Tristan my Dad's name as his middle name was important to us as well.

Yesterday was Tristan's 2 week birthday and things have gone pretty well. I will blog about being a second time Momma later, but wanted to get out THE story before I forgot any part of it.

Thank you to everyone who has helped us this year. The last 2 weeks have been truly amazing and we are so happy and blessed to have the family and friends we have. Here are some pictures of Tristan (nick names have included Mr. T, T-dog, T-pain, and T).

happy boy

Me and T in the hospital

Sweet family heading home from the hospital

Post milk coma...

Working on his tan.