Sunday, July 22, 2018

a new normal and household changes

I started back at work two days ago and Samantha started at daycare.

The last six months were surreal.  My daughter is to put it simply, the most.  The most adorable.  The most joyous.  The most hilarious.  The most loving.  I can't even being to start with how my life will always be pre-Samantha and post-Samantha.

Niblet is adjusting to her new normal too, and I think with some grace.  She had a few rough months there.  "Mom, you spend all of your time with Samantha."  I think you should look at it like Mom is keeping the baby alive.  Most of this time was spent with her nursing (boy could girlfriend feed on demand).  I totally get how our lives were upended with this living breathing creature that was either latched on to me or burrowed into me like a baby kangaroo.  Totally get it Niblet.

Today, I can finally get out of the house a bit sans baby.  She HATED her father for months, now she tolerates him and even flashes him some smiles now and again.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't flattered.  As a result, Niblet is more confident with her too.  She picks her up more, changes diapers and plays with her more regularly.  It's the most beautiful thing to see, these two girls, who look so much a like, nearly ten years apart.

Daycare was indeed harder on me than Samantha.  But due to some crazy scheduling in Niblet's school year that has her taking on so many extracurricular activities, we are looking at hiring a nanny.  Insanely Bourgie, I know.  But right now the universe has Samantha at Daycare, Niblet at aftercare, and then potentially a third baby sitter to reliably get her to all of her after school stuff.  Our childcare is like a very shaky house of cards.

And as the universe would have it, she plopped a nanny in front of me.  Literally, at Niblet's school.  I met her when picking Niblet up every day, she was picking up some of her school mates.  For four momths she and I would stand in the school parking lot and talk about everything under the sun - from the latest Ali Wong netflix special to why organizing closets is so hard.  I liked her a lot, and asked her if she ever had free time to babysit.

Well, the last day of school she came up to me ( "So, this is sort of awkward...") and asked if we would ever consider hiring a nanny.  Geez, it wasn't something we ever thought we could afford, but sure let's talk.  Turns out her family is only employing her until Labor Day.  I talked to her current family, and a few others  - she's reliable, kind, their kids love her and she made their lives a million times easier.  Think a slightly punk rock Mary Poppins.  We'd end up pretty broke for a few years, but we'd be close to broke regardless with the daycare costs. I've perfected recipes with rice and beans these last few months on unpaid leave.

Everything about babies involves second guessing. 
-Conceiving (Should we? If so, when?)
-Fertility (Can we?  Should we be doing something different?  IVF?  New doctor?  Pills and supplements? )
-Pregnancy (Is this safe? Is there risk? Will I have regrets?)
-Childbirth (midwife? hospital? High risk OB?)
-Infant care (Nursing? Formula? everything else that's frightening on Dr Google)
-Childcare (Do I stay home unpaid? Daycare? Home daycare? Nanny? Pray?)

I am among the fortunate. Niblet's grandmother watched her for a YEAR after I went back to work with her.  This go around I have had sleepless nights thinking about childcare (well, she's not sleeping through the night anyways).  But I also was recently promoted, so I have a little more flexibility and disposable income.  So many mamas in my country don't.  It's a fucking heartache.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

A brief interlude of rage

Ok, so let me state at the outset that I'm good friends with an immigration attorney, and I'm one of those people who has been criticizing US immigration policy for some time now.  Many of our deportations were cruel and shitty under Bush, and later Obama (seeing those cage pictures on the news attributed to his administration was not a surprise) and now...

I can't.  I just can't.  I stare into my 5 month old's big blue eyes and imagine her crying.  This isn't hard to do, she's a baby she cries ALL. THE. TIME.  But I think about how she cries when I don't pick her up immediately because, I don't know, I'm driving the car or sitting on a toilet or standing over a pan with flaming hot sesame oil sizzing towards my eyeballs.  And I imagine her cries when I am eventually going to be self-separated from her when I return to work.  But I have the minimal solace that she will be at a daycare where I know that she will be held and she will be soothed and I will rush out of work like the fucking flash to have her in my arms again.  And I will gladly nurse her as many times at night as she wants just to be near her.  I say this not as some awful sanctimommy, but with some degree of matter-of-factness, because this is how we rolled with Niblet when I had to return to work nine years ago.  Yes it sucked, and yes I was tired, but when you have to leave your baby for the day, you will do what you gotta do.

The news is wrenching and awful and frightening and TRIGGERING AS FUCK.

And look, mass incarceration, it's sort of the American way.  I live in a city where families are torn apart every day, and children are hurled into a foster system that can eat them alive.

But this, this is all too much.  I attempted to explain some of it to Niblet this morning on our drive to camp, and she was just.... appalled.

That's all I've got.  Oh, and if you think that children who don't speak English, and in many cases, don't speak Spanish, should have access to legal representation as well as an advocate who can help them reunite with their family, well, RAICES is a good organization to donate money to:

https://actionnetwork.org/campaigns/endfamilyseparation 

Monday, June 11, 2018

The highs and lows

I stare at Samantha sometimes and lose track of time when I'm doing it.  She is just ridiculously beautiful, just when I thought it couldn't get cuter than Niblet, someone gives her a run for her money.  Her eyes are these two large blue circles, the closest I can describe them to is... tweety bird? Right now she is the spitting image of her paternal grandfather, his mom's wedding picture hangs on our wall, and offers some clues maybe to what she'll look like (hint, it's awfully pretty).  She loves music and I sing to her constantly, just to get her to smile.

The last few weeks have amazing and sad all at once.  I can't believe how much I enjoy SAHMing.  I've been all in, taking Samantha to the library for nursery rhymes, trying to clean and purge from the hoarder hell Viking imposes on us, picking up Niblet from school every day.  Now that summer is here, I've been adding the local pool to our routine.  My days are exhausting (WHY WON'T YOU NAP IN THE AFTERNOON CHILD????) but full.

Soon that's coming to an end, I'll be back to work in mid-July and Samantha will be at a day care center.  A trusted center (we sent Niblet there, many of her caregivers are still there, the low turnover is encouraging), but a center nonetheless. 

I love my work but I love this more.  But I also make a really good salary, and more importantly, my job comes with a pension and a health benefits package that is irreplaceable.  I don't talk about it much because it's one of those cadillac plans that would make most people in the US want to stab me.

One of the negatives of being home has been the amount of time I've spent on social media (FB, Twitter).  This is my own fault, but man, it's gotta end.  I've spent a lot of time thinking about depression, and anxiety, and the immediacy of bad news, and current events, and world events, and my children's safety, and daily brutality,... and how aside from looking at cat and baby pictures, the internet is a black hole of scary and anxious for me. (PSA, it probably is for you too).  So I've made the decision to cut off from most social media (except for Instagram, because hello, cat and baby pictures).  I also need to find a few hours to update my will, what's morbid about that?

I have five weeks left at home to cherish.  I know from experience that sending my 6 month old daughter to daycare won't be the end of the world, but I do worry about the day to day feeling of living on the edge of insanity and time management crunch when I get back to work.  Thank god I have flexible hours and the ability to do a lot of work from home.  And now that Viking no longer has to work weekends, I can look forward to a ballet class now and then to get my head straight.

Monday, May 21, 2018

The haunting

Maybe it's too much time to my thoughts in isolation during those quiet dark hours when Samantha wakes up.  Maybe it's too much time on my phone, on twitter and fb, and absorbing so much daily horror in the harsh light of electronics. Maybe it's late onset PPD?

I've felt haunted these past few weeks. The babies who never made it, particularly Celine, have invaded my consciousness.  Would she have looked like Samantha?  Would any of them have looked like my side of the family?  Would they have started rolling at only three months and be on their way to crawling early, as she is?  Would they have had her wide-smile (which actually *may* be my epigenetic contribution, because fuck if her smile doesn't actually resemble mine)?

A few days ago I broke down in the kitchen, a weeping disaster at 5am, as Viking was getting ready to go to work.  "Don't you ever think of them? Don't you ever wonder?" I wailed.  He was silent.  No, he said quietly.

My mom, when I tried explaining why I sounded so down, inelegantly advised me to try to "forget" about them.  "Would I ever tell you to forget about your father?" I responded.  That put then end to that.

Boy, we all say "grief isn't linear" in the grief community, it's a mantra in our tribe.  But FUCK, it really isn't.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Things that make me cry

1.  Exhaustion.  I mean this one is pretty expected, I sometimes feel like I'm about to keel over at any minute.  Samantha actually has some fairly decent sleep habits, but has maintained an absolute aversion to her father.  And they share a face, ha ha.  Genetics schemetics, this baby *only* wants attention from me.  I'm flattered kid, but being your servant 24 hours a day is getting a little rough almost 4 months in.

2. This book:
Wish (Hyperion Read-Along Book)

OMG.  This was a gift from a friend, another RPL warrior.  Niblet picked it up and read it alound to her sister,  When she was done, my usually snarky, eye-rolling, too cool for school 9 year old was gobsmacked.   "Whoa," was all she could say.

3.  You Are My Sunshine.
Every week we have been going to the public library for "Mother Goose on the Loose" story and nursery rhyme sessions designed for babies (they're pretty awesome by the way).  It's one of those things I really appreciate on my long maternity leave, something I never got to do with Niblet.

But every week we sing "You are my sunshine."  Jesus this song fucking breaks me.
You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy, when skies are gray
You'll never know dear, how much I love you,
Please don't take my sunshine away.

Am I the only parent with PTSD who is broken by this song?  It's insane, I'm sitting around with a bunch of moms, dads and grandparents, and welling up every. single. time.

4.  Having to return to work.

I am one of the few Americans offered a 6 month leave (much of it is unpaid).  I still have until July 19th, but it's looming.  Even with the sleep deprivation, thrushy nipples and feeling like a neglected cleaning lady/family chauffer, I am loving my time at home.

Being a SAHM isn't on the table.  I was recently promoted, I will make a comfortable income, way more that the cost of day care.  My work-husband was also recently promoted and can take a lot of the stress off of work for me.  But more importantly, I am the source of the family's health insurance.  Thanks America.  Sure, Viking can family coverage (we used his coverage for IVF), but it would cost a lot.  My benefits are insanely good - no deducible, no co-pays, 100% coverage on virtually everything for the entire family, dental, vision, Rx drugs.  You can't walk away from a benefits package like this.  I also get a small child-care benefit.  And four weeks vacation a year (which I burned on this leave).  Not to mention I have a pension, an actual pension. And my hours are for the most part, flexible.  I come and leave the office mostly when I want, and my VP lets us take our kids into work. It's like fucking fantasy land. Samantha will have to be in a day care center, but I can mitigate it a bit with shorter hours on a fairly regular basis.

She's going to the same center we sent Niblet to, though Niblet was about a year older when she started.  It's a great place, many of the care givers were there in Niblet's time, and those low turnover rates suggest the place could be a lot worse.  Niblet thrived there.  But I'm not happy about any of this.  I imagine the days that I drop Samantha off, and my eyes start to well up.  I feel fortunate to have the resources to make it all happen, but man, Scandinavia looks awfully good right now. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

People see what they see

Sammi looks so much like her sister did as a baby that I sometimes call her by the wrong name.

It's sort of funny though, how people see what they want to see.  My parents are gaga over her and visit about once a month from NYC.

"She's beautiful, and looks like you," said my Mom.

"Well, you know that really isn't possible," I had to remind her.  Also, this baby is a strawberry blond cherub, something I am decidedly not.  She has giant blue-gray eyes, although her sister did too, until around 6 months old.

"I don't know, you carried her for nine months, you had to influence something in there.  She's pretty, like you."

Okay Mom, if you insist.  Really I am just a vessel for my husband's babies, and I'm completely on board with that.  They're cute as hell.

Niblet's dance abilities are starting to really become apparent, and I say this not as her mom, but as a former ballet teacher.  She's taking three ballet classes a week (kind of a heavy load for a nine year old).  One of them is with older kids, it's called a "push" class that's only offered to one or two kids who are ready to be challenged.

Sure, I had some dance talent.  My Mom did too.  But where did the nature end and the nurture begin?  Without my exposing her to dance (she was into soccer until she saw me take a class one day), without my driving her to classes downtown every other day, without my ability to afford to pay for her instruction, and without her ability to do well in school and get her homework done (our pact), it would all be sort of moot.  The same held true for my parents and me, by the way.   Is something wired in our DNA?  Or were a myriad of environmental factors at play?  Or both?

We'll never know, will we.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Names

So I've mentioned before that Niblet named her sister.

We had a list we put together of names we could all live with, if not agree upon.  Viking and I were keen on one, Susannah.  My great-grandmother was Suzanne (French), and we thought we had lots of nicknames to play with.

"But she doesn't look like a Susannah," said Niblet in the hospital.  "She looks fun and cool.  I think she looks like a Samantha."

Viking and I looked at each other.  She was a sort of spunky looking baby.

Hmmm.  This wasn't on our list.  I always liked the name and knew some cool girl Sams.  But I also associated it with too many TV shows, especially 80's soap operas (Sammy Jo from Dynasty, Sammy from Days of Our Lives - both favorites of my grandmother Celine - came to mind).

The white board in our hospital room had a blank space where Nutmeg's name should be.  We wrote out Samantha.  "I think it looks sort of clean and aerodynamic," Viking said.

I pulled out my phone and googled the etymology of the name.  In Hebrew it roughly translates to "God Heard."

Her name is Samantha.