Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Transitions and Maternity Leave

16 days to go. I am an official graduate of Texas Perinatal Group pre-term labor prevention program. I wanted a certificate I could frame in my office, but all my nurse practitioner could get me was a signed picture of the Marine One Helicopter outside the White House. Her husband flew it during the Clinton administration and I had mentioned in a previous appointment that Landon was obsessed with "hepatopters". The picture was propped up by his bed last night and he carefully carried it down to breakfast with him this morning. I suppose that's better than a certificate. I will miss my NP. Not so much with the weekly appointments, and definitely not the weekly shots, but I will miss talking to her. She was a wonderful complement to my OB and I've felt very well cared for throughout this pregnancy.

And speaking of my pregnancy, I'm having stronger and more frequent Braxton-Hicks contractions, particularly at night. One actually woke me up at 3:00 this morning and I swore I was going into labor (I think I was simultaneously dreaming that my water had broken, but it had not). I'm a little more dilated- my first change since that appointment at 32 weeks. I've politely asked my baby girl to stay inside my belly through Friday which is both 37-weeks, full-term, and JP's MBA graduation. I think she will cooperate.

Work is strange right now because I feel like I could disappear at any moment. I clean up my desk each evening and try to leave my assignments in a good place for someone else to pick up. I've been relatively slow since my giant case settled back in February, which has probably been great for my prenatal health, but it has been annoying to me professionally. I like being busy and I like having big chunks or roles in cases. Instead I've been on the periphery of several matters, getting lots of varied experience in drafting smaller motions and doing discrete research assignments. There's positives to that, and I've learned a lot, but I look forward to coming back after maternity leave to a section that is hopefully busier and getting staffed on a case I can sink my teeth into.

And speaking of coming back, I am blazing an odd new trail of being the first woman in my section in three years to come back after only the 3-months paid leave. We get 12-weeks paid, up to 12-weeks more unpaid, and then 3 months of optional phasing in where you spend a month at 50, 60, and then 70% (and are paid at 60% throughout that 3-month period). My section has had a baby boom and pretty much every eligible female is either pregnant, on maternity leave, or recently returned from maternity leave and all have done the full 9-month option. I plan to take my 12 weeks and come back full-time, something every associate has tried to talk me out of. It's gotten to the point where I'm almost defensive about it- I feel like I did when everyone told me how they cried and cried when they dropped their baby off at daycare for the first time but then I dropped of Landon with a big smile on my face (and then picked him up at the end of the day with an even bigger smile). Like maybe my lack of tears means I'm a terrible mother, but damnit why should I feel guilty for not being sad when I know that he's perfectly fine and on that day I felt happier and more like myself than I had in all eight weeks I was home with him?

So maternity leave. Twelve weeks of paid leave- more than I got with Landon and more paid leave than any US employer is required to give (since that requirement is ZERO). I'm looking forward to it. I have another 2 weeks of vacation in reserve that I can tack on if desired, so that's nice too. The reasons I'm not taking the unpaid leave are because (1) it's UNPAID and we don't know JP's job situation and we simply cannot responsibly go without any income for any period of time (well we could, we have an emergency fund, but using it would require an emergency), and (2) our neighborhood daycare, which we adore and which our baby girl has a guaranteed spot at the start of the school year, begins on August 23rd. If we don't enroll her and start paying the $1,100/month on that date, we lose the spot until the following year. August 23rd happens to coincide perfectly with my 12 weeks of leave, and even gives me a transitional week or two to still be home but have the option of taking her to daycare for short days. So not only would my additional 12 weeks be unpaid, we would be paying $2,100/month for daycare during that time... that time while I'm not being paid.

Secret reason number 3 is that I don't want those extra 12 weeks at home. Even if it was an option- if I was sitting on a stockpile of cash and we didn't have huge student loan payments and daycare didn't cost more than our mortgage, the idea of the first twelve weeks makes me nervous enough. I enjoyed my time with infant Landon, but I wasn't nearly as happy as I was once law school started up again. JP even commented on my second day back that I was singing while making dinner- he said he couldn't remember the last time I did that. I have no doubt that two kids will be harder, and that our schedule will need some adjusting, but overall this working thing works and I don't feel any need to dig ourselves into a huge financial hole for 12 more weeks at home.

I'm really excited about this summer. JP will be home for at least part of it, our baby girl will be home, Landon will stay in "daycay" but we'll be able to get him early each day and go on walks, go to the pool, etc. We have visitors lined up and our first official family vacation booked. I think it's going to be great. And then I'll go back to work, and that will be great too.


  1. Hepitopter is awesome! Charlie's word for the same object is helicopcop.

  2. Yeah I think I prefer "hepatopter" to "helicopter" - I nearly used it in a conversation at the office last week.

  3. I think my mom still mispronounces words my sister and I mispronounced when we were toddlers (and we're in our 30s now!)

    I went back to work on a very part-time basis (teaching one college class) when my second son was 3 weeks old. And I had a much easier time with his newborn-hood than I did with my older boy. I was an experienced mom, yes, but I also felt more intellectually stimulated by going back to work, which made me happier in general.

  4. It's always such a relief to read your take on work/family. Sounds like you have a great plan in place.


  5. I know you haven't posted it yet, but have you guys decided on a name for this pretty girl due to arrive soon?

  6. Yay for full term!

    In a different-but-similar sort of way, I feel the same about working this summer while Benjy is in the NICU. Somehow everyone seems to expect that I'll be sitting next to his isolette all day for 4 months while my husband goes happily off to work. I feel like I've gotten a lot of push-back from friends and his family. Considering the fact that I only can hold him once a day anyway, I can't really see which of us a vigil is supposed to help. I'm so much happier working right now and I'll be able to spend more time, real time, with him later in the summer.

    My plan was to go back to class on a Tues/Thurs only schedule in the fall... I still think that will be better for my mental health, but I guess it will all depend on how Benjy is on discharge.

    Your plan sounds like a good one to me!

  7. My sister said "lello" for yellow for a long time...she's 22 and we STILL tease her about it :) It was so cute!

    SO, for some reason I feel the need to qualify this by saying that I'm not married, I'm not a mom, heck, I'm not even a lawyer yet. But I've got many many lovely lady friends who are all the above (or substitute lawyer for any other profession) and the one thing I see so much of, and makes me so sad, is all of the pressure to conform to whatever is this supposed "right" way to mother. I think people have good intentions a lot of the time, and just assume that what worked for them works for everybody. I think that's just human nature. But with moms, it seems, there's even greater pressure.

    I just wanted to say that even though I don't know you REALLY, I've come to believe from reading your blog over the past year or so that you're a fabulous mom to Landon and will be a fabulous mom to little baby girl. Especially because you have taken the time to KNOW what works for you and JP as far as balancing it all goes and you love your work. What a great gift to give your kids, to show them a mom who adores them, but also loves her job.

    Anyway, just wanted to say that you shouldn't let yourself question too much your choice to go back when it feels right for your little family. :)

  8. So much exciting stuff coming up for you! Can't wait to see pics of the new baby girl and hear what a great big brother Landon is - I know he'll ADORE his sis!

  9. I struggled with the same thing when I was getting ready to go on my maternity leave. I have limited leave benefits (but like you said, better than most) and it was so hard for people to understand that I wouldn't be taking "as much time off as possible." It's so different when the mom is also the primary breadwinner for the family, and I've found that most people have a hard time understanding that.

    Also, congratulations on being almost-full-term!

  10. I am also taking 12 weeks, LL. I'm the main breadwinner - and we don't have an emergency fund - so there is NO WAY I can take more than that (unpaid). Not to mention, at my firm, after 12 weeks, you have to pay COBRA for your health insurance. I actually would love to take a longer leave, but it's not in the cards. Like you, I've never taken this much time before, so 12 weeks still sounds luxurious (even though, paradoxically, it already doesn't sound like enough).

  11. I got laid off at 6 months pregnant. EVERY interview (whether legal or not) I had to defend that I was not taking a full maternity leave (unpaid here in Utah) so I would be able to start when they wanted or be back really quick or whatever. People just can't get it through their heads that I love my kid as much as any mom, I just don't need to be with her 24/7 and in fact prefer not to be.

  12. There are a million ways to mother - I'm sorry you have been put on the defensive. It sounds like that works for you and your family.

    For me, 12 weeks is short because during those 12 weeks, I know every feeding, every hiccup, and the baby and I really are "one." I know what she needs, I learn her rhythms, why she cries, etc. etc.

    To then go from that kind of connection, to seeing her for only a few waking hours, and not being in sync, is what makes the transition back to work after 12 weeks, when the baby is still pretty needy, hard. It's fine, and I adjusted the first time, and will this time, but more time to solidify that bond to me makes it easier to go back to work. It still feels (magnified but basically) like breaking up with a boyfriend though.

    Also, I will tread very lightly here, but as a long time reader, I remember your being very puzzled at Landon's needs when he was a tiny baby (and of course everything leading to the nightmare). I hope you can use the 12 or more weeks to really get in sync with baby 2 so you can know what she needs and spend less time wondering why the heck she is crying.

    And congrats on full term - that is really great.

  13. And, forgot to ask - where are you going on vacay?

  14. Congrats on full term, and congrats on everything working out timing-wise!!

  15. Two days 'til full-term! Hooray!

    I hear you on wanting to go back to work -- I remember feeling like I was at the end of my rope after 3 months last time. The women at my firm tend to do their own thing -- everybody takes the 3 months paid, but some people come back right away, some people take the full year off, some people come back part time and stay that way for years, others come back full time or transition back to full time... it really runs the gamut. You know you're doing what's right for you and your family, and your firm sounds very supportive, but it's unfortunate that it has to be a secret that you're looking forward to coming back to work.

    I remember being totally exhausted the last month or two of pregnancy... do you feel like you've slowed down at all at work (other than your caseload), or can you work just as hard as ever?

  16. Congratulations on reaching full term!
    You have been in my thoughts. :)

  17. yay! so close! The closer the due date looms, the harder it is to be patient!! Hang in there!

  18. Wow! Twelve weeks sounds like a nice amount of time home (double what I get unless I have a medical reason). But I also think after those 12 I'd be ready to go back to work and such. No guilt in loving your career and family. :)