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Five

My child takes a nap in the mornings almost exactly two hours after she wakes up. Like clockwork.

Today she took a nap at 6:30am.

Right. And it might be the Stockholm Syndrome talking, but that’s ok. I mean, whatever. She slept through for the night and then she was up, and I was the recipient of really awesome smiles and giggles and then I went and woke up Mike by crawling into bed with the baby, chirping with a singsong voice “you’re DONE sleeping!”, a phrase we coined from a friend’s three year old that we learned as guests in their home on an extremely bright and early morning. (Done! All Done! Everyone is done sleeping!)

And Mike groaned and then starting making quacking sounds that make the baby laugh, and coffee was procured, and we sat around in our pajamas watching the baby figure out how to roll over and babble to her best friend Mr. Ceiling Fan, and anyway, happy anniversary, babe. I wouldn’t have wanted to spend the morning with any other person, or in any other way.

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File under: Things I Had Not Previously Considered: Roundup: Monica Lewinsky and Feminism

That link is an interesting collection current feminists looking back at the Monica Lewinksy scandal. 

I was 17 when that whole thing went down (phrasing!) (sorry), and it has never, not once, occurred to me to think about it in any other terms than a political scandal. I was certainly aware of the scandal at the time, but I’ve never thought of the impact that could come from narrative of it’s reporting: 

To look back on the specifics now is mind-blowing. The Wall Street Journal referred to Lewinsky – in print – as a “little tart.” New York Magazine reported that, as an adolescent, Lewinsky had spent two summers at fat camp, where she “paid particular attention to the boys.” (Code word: Slut.) Maureen Dowd won a Pulitzer Prize for her coverage of Lewinsky, in which she called her a “ditzy, predatory White House intern” and “the girl who was too tubby to be in the high school ‘in’ crowd,” among other ugly caricatures. Fox News actually released a poll investigating whether the public thought Lewinsky was an “average girl” or a “young tramp looking for thrills.” Fifty four percent rated her a tramp.

 

Our Choice

The other day a colleague of mine mentioned that his wife was pregnant with their second child. I casually asked him if he was planning to come back to work after the baby was born.

The conversation around the meeting room stopped and everyone stared at me a little quizzically. Of course he was coming back.

A friend of mine once told me that she hates telling people how much she spends on childcare, because their reaction to the astronomical number makes her feel bad, like she needs to be justifying why she pays someone SO MUCH MONEY to watch her kids so that she can work.

The choice she makes – her, as the mom, her, as the female spouse – to pay that much money for childcare. Framing her work as if it were a vanity project, a thing she chooses to do, with extravagant consequences.

Of course my male coworker will go back to work. Of course. “But what are you going to do,” society asks me. “Is working worth the cost of childcare? Is it? No judgment but is it? Huh? Huh?”

I recently watched a clip of Neil DeGrasse Tyson explaining that when he was younger, being vocal about wanting to become a scientist put him on the “path of most resistance”. People questioned and prodded and wanted to place him in a box that was more familiar to them. “Don’t you want to be an athlete?” he was asked. We could see him, a black man, in sports. Not a science laboratory.

He goes to say that if he did not know with such certainty and at such a young age what he wanted, he’s not sure he would have had the motivation to overcome that skepticism, to push through and become the astrophysicist he wanted to become. And he wonders how many people don’t get the chance to even know they want to become scientists, because it’s so hard to place yourself outside where our culture thinks you should be.

(He says it better than I can paraphrase: 

I saw that clip weeks after I asked my male colleague if he was coming back to work after his child was born, but the two things feel related to me.  Of course I knew that my colleague was coming back to work. I didn’t need to ask. But when I was pregnant, my coworkers did need to ask. And the fact that the question has to be asked of me and not of him means that for all the support and “of course you work, women work, duh, what’s the big deal” means it’s still seen a female choice, a choice that needs to be justified and explained and is not a given.

That’s a daily thing, a constant thing, the explaining of that choice, be it in terms of explaining why you pay for childcare or that, yes, don’t clean out your office, you’ll be back… and it’s not a thing men are thinking about. And like Neil DeGrasse wondering how many kids of color or female gender miss out on the chance to know they want to be scientists because people like them aren’t supposed to be scientists, I wonder about the toll it takes when we suggest that it’s only working women who are deliberately choosing to not be primary caregivers. Think about the message that frames for us as a society, for our kids to internalize, if my participation at work is voluntary but a man’s is expected.  And think about what it must feel like to live with the constant underlying judgment, because no matter you chose to do – work or not – if it’s a choice that’s yours and yours alone, then what is being suggested is that you may be choosing wrong.

Writer Kristen Armstrong wrote several years ago about how growing older has changed how she viewed her body. Specifically, she writes about “The clothes hanger purpose of her 20s, to the child bearing purpose of her 30s, to the athletic purpose in her 40s.”

 
I read that several years ago – long ago enough that I cannot find the exact article and neither can Google- but I’ve always remembered it. Probably because I was in the clothes hanger stage and had never thought of it exactly like that but that is what it was.
 
Anyway, I was thinking about that in terms of Kate Middleton this week. You know I’ve never heard Kate Middleton speak? I have no idea what her voice sounds like, but I can detail for you exactly which shoes she wore to dinner last night. (Literally.) It must be extremely odd to have your contribution to the world be almost entirely made up of how clothes fit on your body.
 
I’m sure the Duchess is a lovely lady and her husband and child love her dearly. It’s just so weird to think that her job as a state leader is to…dress nicely. It will be so lovely to see what she does with her platform when she is out of her clothes hanger stage, won’t it?

I like working at a company that lets me be myself. Well, I suppose the company doesn’t care one way or another, but the people I work with let me just kind of run with my personality. At this point in life, I found it takes too much effort to not be who you are.

This is why I really like it when companies like Zappos list one of their main core values as “Create fun and a little weirdness.” A little weirdness brightens up most days, and doesn’t have to conflict with doing good work.

About two years ago (oh hey look, a time stamp: two and half years ago), I read a blog post on A VC called “Minimum Viable Personality.” The main point is that when building a product, the first thing to ensure is that the product works, the second is to ensure the product is interesting. I work in customer loyalty, so I specifically appreciate the points that highlight how a product’s personality can amp up a consumers loyalty to a product, and also because I was able to hang this cartoon in my office:

LOYALTYPORT

They say women aren’t suppose to decorate their office with lots of personal touches and pictures and whatnot, that it overly feminizes them and people won’t take you seriously, they say. Eh. I think “minimum viable personality” isn’t necessarily a product specific requirement, I think it transcends to the workplace as well. You can’t be afraid to be who you are and let others see that. As said in the post:

WORLD ALREADY FULL OF THINGS DO WORK. MOST BORING.

If you make a product, you want people to buy it. If you have a career, you want companies to want to buy you. Important to have at least a minimum viable personality.

You Need This: Postgram App

File Under: The Best Thing My Big Brother Ever Taught Me*: The Postgram App

From the link: 

With this app, i can grab any picture on my phone or in Instagram and send it as a postcard.  You enter in a message and an address and it gets sent automatically.  Viola. 

Considering that I can almost correctly use the word literally when I say “literally every picture of my child has been taken on an iPhone”, this app is GREAT for pushing out those pics to grandparents and great grandparents who want to see them (and, I suppose it could go without saying, are not on Snapchat)

Also of note in the above link is a reminder that my grandmother is a total badass; my brother takes a moment to reference the time a talent scout saw her walking in NYC and recruited her to be in a national GNC commercial at age 92. 

 *this week

Stick with me on this:

Years ago, my grandmother was at our house and stubbed her shin on the edge of our coffee table. It was a pretty solid hit, and she cut her skin a little, but whatever, we all moved on with our day. Weeks later we heard from her that she actually ended up with a staph infection from the open wound. When asked why she didn’t go to the doctor long before the infection became STAPH, she shrugged and was like “It’s a cut. How was I supposed to know it was so bad?”

As a somewhat related occurrence, my mother recently wrapped up what was (I think) 5-7 years of intense dental work to correct some major structure jaw / teeth problems, problems that had led to her spending most of her life chewing different foods on different sides of her mouth, depending on their …chewiness (or something). When asked how she managed to go her whole life with such glaringly painful dental stuff, she shrugged and was like “How was I suppose to know it was so bad?”

So anyway, I suppose I shouldn’t be THAT surprised that I found myself yesterday at a Women’s Imaging Clinic (boobs. The place traffics in boobs, and boob related malfunctions) having 4 syringes worth of infected fluid pulled out of my breast. When asked how I possibly let the infection get THAT BAD, I shrugged and said “How was I supposed to know it was so bad?”

One thing they tell breastfeeding mothers is that if you spike a major fever, you hightail it to your doctor. I am apparently a special snowflake in that I had an infected milk duct, but my body walled off the infection so that it didn’t hit my overall system. Yay! Except, boo, because that meant the infection grew to kind of dangerous levels. And this highlights one of the major weirdnesses to me of having a baby: the baby to boob interface is kind of a medical no man’s land: If my baby had symptoms of infection from me, the pediatrician would have helped. If I had had symptoms of general illness, my GP (I don’t have one but you know what I mean) (yes, Mom, I know I need one) or possibly my OB could have helped. But what do you do when something is vaguely not right? At what point does it cross the line from “just one of the mild discomforts of nursing” to “extraordinarily dangerous medical issue”? I mean, apparently the answer to that is “a few days before you actually called your doctor, dumbass”, but you catch my drift.

This whole thing also has me kind of spiraling down a “I am what is wrong with society” wormhole, because, if I’m being honest, two large reasons why I didn’t call my doctor – if I could have even decided which doctor would be the appropriate phone call – were:

1. I didn’t want to seem bothersome over what was probably a simple issue. (Good girl, don’t make a fuss)

2. I didn’t call an LC because I felt ashamed that I had started scaling back nursing to accommodate my work schedule, and I assumed discomfort was a side component of that scale back, and that as a result I was kind of … getting what I deserved. You know, for being lazy and kind of selfish.

That second one is a hard one for me to cop to, because intellectually I know it’s bogus. I intellectually understand that it’s a really good thing my kid takes bottles, because her dad is the full time parent and needs to feed her; he is the full time parent because it works best for our family for me to work full time, and I’m lucky to have a job that I want to work full time AT. But the reality is I know I’d still be exclusively nursing if I hadn’t gone back to work, and while I never considered not going back to work, I was sadder about this than I anticipated, especially because I have good supply and my kid was doing great nursing…well, it feels pretty selfish. Which I also THINK is really bogus but that doesn’t change how I FEEL, and anyway, good work, LIZ, because not being able to sort through those feelings sooner means you came really really close to being dangerously ill.

And those two reasons highlight two of my least favorite character traits, traits I feel like are fairly exclusively female: not wanting to be a bother and taking on too much guilt about acting like a human, so basically, HI this feels like a good platform from which to start raising a daughter.

So anyway, being back a work is going pretty well, thanks for asking.

(It actually is, major medical issue notwithstanding. Thank you for asking.)

Re-entry

So! Baby is just over 8 weeks old, and I am back at work. Sure, more time off would have been welcome, but I moved in to the “unpaid leave” portion of FMLA, and with both of us at home it started to feel a little decadent and slightly lazy to be at home when being at home means no money is coming in. And that’s ok. Even a week ago I would not have been ready to return, and I’m not saying I was jumping up and down to end our lovely family maternity leave routine- in fact, I’m quite sad about it, really – , but it’s ok. It’s the life we’ve built, and it requires me to work, and happily for everyone involved, I really like what I do, so “requires me to work” does not feel like a hardship. In fact, I had fun on my first day back, which is a nice validation that I’m still in the right job for me.

(Granted, the second day back has a little bit of a “Wait, but I went to work YESTERDAY” feel to it, so the end of next week I’ll probably be near comatose with the reality that, yes, work is, like, you know, a DAILY thing we do and not a nice interruption to reality.)

ANYHOO, in the interest of documenting what these first few days are like – I’m sure I’ll forget, and I know I’ll want to remember- here’s how the second day back to work routine shook out. I do not think this is sustainable, but it’s what we’ve got:

– 1am: up to feed the baby. 
– 2am: back to bed
– 4:15am: up to feed the baby
– 5am: hear Mike up to feed the dog, text him frantically begging for a cup of coffee as I am trapped under an alllmoooost asleep baby
– 5:45am: armed with coffee, place finally-sleeping-baby in crib, head to basement to work out, operating under the “what the hell, I’m already up” principle of time management. (For the two who care: workout was a 40 minute Barre3 online workout, which was shamefully hard for me, but probably not as hard as a 40 minute run would have been, so)
6:30am: done with workout, stumble upstairs. Debate shower or sleep. Opt for an extra sleep. Crash out with Mike until little baby dragon wakes up
7:15am: feed the baby
7:30am: pass off baby, go shower.
 
Not a perfect morning – I was later to work than I wanted to be and there’s that whole thing about how I got up at 4am which, I mean, if I think about it too much I start seriously questioning some life choices, BUT, on the whole, I’m quite please. I got good snuggle time with the kid (thanks to her ditching the 6 hour stretches between night feedings we got all last week WHY CHILD WHY) I got in a workout, I’m at work AND showered, so like, where’s my medal?
 
(I understand the non morning people in the group are maybe a little slack jawed I willingly stayed up after the 4am feeding, but it all evens out: I’ll be worthless by 5pm today, SO)

Hey, look: a baby:

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So here’s the thing about newborn sleep: I don’t like being woken up in the middle of the night, when one should be swaddled in a down comforter and sleeping uninterruptedly for 8 hours, but sometimes when I walk in her room and lift her screaming tense little body into my arms I feel this almost instant relaxation in her, this immediate sense that all is ok; “oh” she seems to say. “Oh, I’m going to be ok, you’re here. ”

If this ever goes away- the feeling that just my presence is enough to calm her- don’t tell me. For now, I’m her person, and she’s my baby, and sometimes, it feels like magic, it really does.

Of course, there are those times- like say HYPOTHETICALLY- when nothing calms her and she just screams and screams and I’m on like two stretches of 45 minutes sleep and I feel myself getting stupider by the minute- oh, here’s a fun example: I was at my friend Jess’s house and I saw a
children’s book named Ispy on the table in front of the couch where I was sitting. I was there for about three hours, and in the back of my mind, I was thinking “oh, I’ve never heard of that book.” It was only before I was about to leave that I fully saw it and realized: “oh. I Spy. The book is I Spy”

(oh oh AND as ANOTHER example of how sleep deprivation is getting to me: whenever Reagan is screaming I call her my “little baby dragon”, because her red face and flailing limbs make her seem like she’s a little pterodactyl.

It took me 6 weeks to realize: dinosaurs and dragons: two different things)

Anyway, what? Oh right: for all that it’s magic, for all that, really, this is the hardest but also the best thing I’ve ever done with my life, I feel like I’m in a state of suspended animation, holding my breath, waiting for reality to resume. Almost every morning Mike takes Moose on a field trip to get us coffee (the coffee shop gives moose cookies. We appreciate that) and we sit in bed with the baby and snuggle and watch HGTV and drink our coffee and it’s really just terribly wonderful. But in the back of my mind it looms: work, schedules, my life. We’ve been in a bubble and it’s about to burst.

Commence Life: Phase 2.0

When I first became a stepmother, my mom told me: “The two things a child needs is to feel safe, and to feel loved, in that order. Everything else is just bonus.” It was great advice, and in the time period before I really knew my stepdaughter (meaning – before I knew what the hell I was doing), it was a great default: make sure she knows shes safe, make sure she knows she’s loved. And, sure enough, as our relationship formed and got stronger, everything else – the bonus- came with it, but having those two cues to start with were enormously helpful to me.

Anyway, I was thinking about this on Saturday, when I heard a THUD behind me and looked over to see my five day old daughter lying face down on the ground between the ottoman in the chair, a position she apparently hurled herself to in a fit Wanting Food And Not Getting It Quick Enough.

Back to the basics, it appears. Sorry, little girl. We’ll try to keep ya safer than that.

Here’s what’s crazy: I look back on pictures from her birthday (6 days ago), or even just yesterday, and I recognize her immediately. When she first landed on my chest, she felt like a stranger to me, but now I feel like I’ve known her forever.

Reagan Mary Teubner, born December 3rd — her great-grandmother’s birthday. We’re so happy, you guys. Sleep deprived, a little shell shocked, but so happy.

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