Tuesday, November 30, 2010
F is 23 days old today. She looks more and more like LP at the same age, except with girl features. Everyone kept saying newborn LP was the spitting image of his dad; well, now, they say she looks like me, which couldn't make me happier.
She's feeding well and gaining weight steadily, so I already had to put away the tiniest onesies and footed pajamas, since she's outgrown them. She still sleeps a lot, and only cries when something bothers her (mostly, her fragile stomach). We keep hearing: "She's such a good baby! We hardly ever hear her!" And of course we're glad; to tell you the truth, we were fearing having to deal with two very intense kids a little. But at the same time, what kind of a statement is that? Why is being "easy" and as quiet as possible the utmost desirable quality in babies and kids? I never thought they were supposed to make our life easier; rather the opposite. And if F does turn out to be smoother than her brother (which we think will be the case), all the better! But we do not think the fact that LP was everything-but-easy (funny enough no one ever said that about him) made him a less-good baby. He cried a lot, but was also full of personality and a certain awareness very early on, which was super fun and fascinating (a 3 month-old grabbing an open book and staring at the images? I'll never forget that). I kind of hope F will cry less and sleep better and take a damn bottle once in a while, but if she's not, she'll still be the best baby to us.
LP is truly being an adorable, attentive grand frère. The other day, when she started fussing a little in the car, he leaned over her and gently said: "Don't cry. We'll soon be there, my little sister. I promise." He does, however, get annoyed that all this time spent nursing her is taking me away from him. I keep repeating that it won't last, but it's still hard for him to understand. The guilt we felt about having "done this to him" at the beginning is gone now. This is our family, our new normal. We can see that he's doing OK, and being happy about the addition.
Which does not mean that everything is always going perfectly. He's been acting out a little, lately, refusing to listen to us, nagging a lot, being defiant or acting babyish a little. We know it's normal and expected, but at the same time we haven't been the best parents possible; we're tired and our patience is wearing thin. To top it off, it's cold and gray and we haven't been outside a lot, especially with a new baby, so I think we've all been kind of stir-crazy in the house. We mostly kept him at home during M's paternity leave, only sending him to daycare for a couple days. We thought it would be better for the whole family to be together, and I guess it was in a way, in that I don't think he felt excluded from this new reality and routine (or lack thereof at the moment). But watching TV or playing videos games all day (I'm exaggerating a little, obviously) while mommy nurses and daddy runs errands, cooks and takes care of other things in the house isn't exactly fun for a three year old, either (why do I keep making winter babies? In the summer this would have been completely different).
M returned to work this week, and LP returned to daycare on a lighter schedule than when were were both working, but still pretty much full-time (I figure I'll keep him one day a week, possibly two when we have things to do or places to go to). And what do you know, I need to admit that everything has been going much better since. He's gone back to his universe, socializing with friends ("discussing," as he says), doing all kinds of fun activities. He has shorter days there than before, so we still spend a lot of time together, and his behavior has improved. It both makes my motherly heart hurt a little (I do see this as a bit of a parenting fail), and makes me realize once again how kids really thrive on routine.
Friday, November 26, 2010
Pregnancy was definitely not for me. I was really hesitant to talk about this, but here it is. I've sometimes -although very rarely-, read about women saying that they "hate" being pregnant... First, I thought that they were extremely brave and assertive to dare saying this. But also, it wasn't exactly how I felt; I didn't hate it. I loved feeling both my kids moving inside of me, finding out their gender, preparing their arrival and daydreaming about how they would be. But I certainly didn't love or even enjoy it either; the other day, when asked on an online forum what I would miss the most about pregnancy, my first instinct was to shout: "NOTHING! People actually miss this when it's over????" And of course I know they do. I know I'm the oddball here, and I'm ashamed to admit it, because how could people interpret this in any other way than saying I'm utterly negative and probably selfish and will transfer my mixed feelings towards pregnancy to my unborn baby? (Needless to say I can assure you it's not the case at all).
But for me, pregnancy was not a joyous or happy period, rather, most of the time, some kind of a long burden I had to go through. One in which I could feel myself losing myself, feeling out-of-my-own-body in a way. Both times, it's been exactly that: experiencing this very strange feeling of checking out of my body and mind for a very long time.
Actually, both times after I've given birth, I had the same image to describe M how I was feeling: like a big cloud had suddenly been lifted from over me. I know this is the time when women are vulnerable to post-partum depression, and I can absolutely understand and feel for them. But I don't think it could have ever happened to me. Simply because it seems perhaps my hormones are wired differently than everyone else's: I feel quite awful (although I wouldn't say depressed) before, and after is when the cloud disappears and I can finally feel myself coming back. I'm tired right now, and definitely a bit frazzled and hormonal, but really, I feel so much better than before. I'm on the ascending slope again. This is why I kept saying I was so relieved.
I know I am clearly in "things you're not supposed to say" territory, here. When my mother and sister visited us at the hospital and asked me how I was, I said: "she's here, she's healthy and beautiful, it went well, and now I never have to do this again EVER in my life. So all good!" And I could see the perplexed look on their faces. I know that they both loved being pregnant so much and probably do miss it and were probably mentally shaking their heads and thinking "she and her always complicated ways..." But I just couldn't help it. I know I had two easy pregnancies, despite the normal fatigue and minor annoyances. I know I have nothing to complain about whatsoever, and had it easy, and as everyone told me, was probably "made to have a dozen." I know I should have appreciated it more, and embraced my body more, and so on, and I truly feel guilty that I couldn't. But I can't change that, or the very real fog that seemed to wrap over me shortly after both positive pregnancy tests.
And I don't think that there's any other way to end this post than to say that when I first met both LP and F, it was worth it a million times and that just for this moment, I would have done it all over again in a heartbeat.
Monday, November 22, 2010
People always talk about miraculous changes that occur in your body during pregnancy; and of course there's no denying that. For the second time, though, I've been especially impressed at how dramatic and incredible the changes are right after you give birth. Nearly no one mentions that, however; isn't it strange?
Right after F was born, most of the annoyances of late pregnancy were immediately gone: the heartburn, the constant aches in my pelvis, the perpetual discomfort, the pressure on the bladder, the carpal tunnel syndrome... My hands remain a little swollen, however, and my rings still don't fit. But miraculously I sleep quite well now, I mean whenever the little miss lets me, obviously.
I'm not sure how the process goes, but even if you put your minutes-old baby on the breast, there will be precious colostrum to transmit a ton of antibodies to her, and in a few days' time the combination of a cocktail of hormones and the baby's suckling lead to you becoming (without feeling or realizing it) your very own dairy farm, equipped with everything you need to feed her. This process alone is truly fascinating and extremely well-adapted, with different types of milk that vary with the seasons and as the baby grows. And, it will go on for as long as the child continues to nurse -years, sometimes.
But the most impressive thing is how your belly literally shrinks, and you can actually see the results day after day during the first week or so. Breastfeeding helps this happening, by triggering contractions that help your uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size. I was surprised by these: they weren't that painful with LP, but apparently they become increasingly so the more children you have. During the first few days, they really felt like labor, and even if I handled that without any drugs, I needed four different pills handed to me every four hours to be able to bear this. Not fun, but it works: my belly is probably 90% gone. And I was huge!
I lost over 20 pounds in about two weeks, and this while eating like a pig: very, very effective diet! I'm not bragging, here, though; I still have about 20 to go. Going from bloated-37-weeks-pregnant-no-clothes-fit-anymore to this relative state of normalcy made me feel quite good at first... Until we went shopping and I took a long look at my body in that unflattering dressing room mirror. Ouch. I am now a size 12, compared to my usual 4 or 6. I know I should really cut myself some slack about this right now: 15 days ago, I was still preggers... But I'm sure every woman who's been through this knows the feeling: once it's over, you... want it to be over. My pot belly isn't huge, but it's definitely there, and it's empty now, so it has no reason for being.
I have no plan to do anything about it immediately though. I'll start exercising again, gradually, at 6 weeks, providing that bébé is a better napper than LP was (fingers crossed). When breastfeeding, you shouldn't start any type of dieting or restricting your food intake for at least two months, or you risk affecting your milk supply. I know I'll probably lose a few more pounds naturally, but if it's the same as the last time, not much. My calorie needs are higher right now than they'll ever be in my life, but then, so is my appetite. I'm always ravenous (and extremely thirsty). I just hope it doesn't take me two years to go back to my weight this time.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
I didn't remember something so tiny could instantly take such a big place in your heart.
I look at her minuscule feet, in awe that only days ago one of them was lodged high inside my belly, pushing against it every day as if to remind me that she was here.
I will never, ever, get enough of the unbelievable softness of her skin.
She looks a little like LP at the same age, but then, they're not really the same. I never thought that I would say that, but there's definitely something ladylike about her, a certain femininity in her delicate features.
She has a big cowlick at the middle of her forehead. I love it but I have a feeling she's going to spend her whole life hating it.
My favorite moments are when she opens her little eyes and gazes around silently, with this simultaneous completely innocent and almost wise look. She started staring a us, too, in the last few days.
I still haven't found anything that tops holding a sleeping baby in your arms, in terms of giving you the best "all is entirely at peace with the world" feeling.
The little sounds that she makes are the funniest thing. There's a wide range, from puppy-like yelps, to almost coos, to gentle groans (a lot of them), to something that could resemble a sarcastic laugh (she does this Dr. Evil thing with her hands, too, so who knows, it might be it). Do babies make such sounds in the womb?
It's a little early to guess her personality, but it seems to us she's already more laid-back and patient than LP was. Even at night, she doesn't even cry when she's hungry; she just sort of grunts quietly until I wake up and care to take her to me. She seems to be saying: "I'd like some milk... But you're sleeping? That's OK, I can wait. No, I'm fine, really. I'll ask again later..."
Because it's been so easy so far, I enjoy the breastfeeding experience so much more this time around. I don't worry, I just do it, and she plays along. And while I look at her little face while she sucks away quietly, eyes closed, all focused and milk-drunk, I want to freeze the perfectness of the moment forever.
In retrospect, I think I would have been a much better mother to LP in this such intense, emotional first while, if I had acted a little more like he was my second.
Monday, November 15, 2010
As soon as all the post-delivery commotion was over in our hospital room, as soon as everything was cleaned, and F was put on my breast to latch, and everyone left, M and I looked at each other, filled with pride and bliss and relief. Our baby was born, we were immediately in love with her, everything had gone well, and our "family was made," so to speak. But there was something a little different than the last time. We felt it too. The acute impression of something missing. Or rather someone: LP.
It was pitch black outside, and we still had looong hours to wait until he came over, after my in-laws would leave Quebec City in the early morning, make it to Montreal, pick him up at our neighbors, and finally bring him to us shortly before lunch. When they did, he said: "Grandma, can we bring mommy flowers? She loves flowers. You have to pay for them, but I am going to give them to her, OK?" And so when he finally arrived, that's what he did. He very seriously, almost solemnly, gave them to me. He then took a quick look at the baby, who was sleeping in my arms, kissed her, and moved on to something else. He wanted to tell us about the fun he'd had playing with "his girls" in the morning, and then M gave him his "big brother" present (Lego trucks), and he was mostly focused on that, as well as greeting our visitors.
The second he came into the room I realized that I would never see him the same. A few hours before, we had left a sleeping small child, but now he looked like a giant. I immediately realized the million milestones he had had to reach to go from the tiny infant I was holding in my arms, to this articulate, autonomous child he was now. And I was a little sad, because going back to this hospital kept bringing back memories of that same experience we had in February 2007, of how it was and felt at that time. And this is my ever-present paradox: I'm so happy to watch them grow, but can't help feeling bittersweet about that crazy fast passage of time. LP would never be a tiny infant anymore, and if I blinked too quickly soon F would be just as big...
He spent the afternoon with us, then left to have dinner at a restaurant with my mom, my sister and her family. For sure that was an awesome, fun-filled day for him, and I'm glad he'll probably remember it as that. But that night, M and I cried a little. We had so much joy and love and infinite tenderness towards F, but then we also felt a little yucky, like we were betraying our son a bit. We told ourselves that one day, when he's older, we would tell him all about how we felt that day.
As soon as we came home the next morning, he adopted his little sister for real. He adores her, always wants to kiss her, comes by her side as soon as she whimpers, and calls her all kinds of cute little names, like "ma petite grenouille," or "mon petit kangourou." We have to watch him though, since he's a little too eager and we're always afraid he'd squeeze her too tight, or pat her tiny head a little too hard. I feel awful about this all, like having to sort of gently push him away when he wants to have a cuddly moment while I nurse her (which is, very often).
He's had his little moments of sadness, for instance bursting into tears at some point, stomping his little feet and telling us that we "wouldn't let him do ANYTHING" (always dramatic, that one). The lowest point of the week was when my in-laws arrived on day 5 with their arms full of pink-wrapped presents, and suddenly he realized that there was nothing in there for him, then melted into a puddle of desperate tears. We really should have thought of getting and wrapping a few presents for this situation.
His development seems to have taken leaps, lately. He loves when I ask him to help out. He hasn't woken up once during the night since F has been home, even when she cries. After I put him to bed last night and started nursing bébé in mine, he got up again. Only I didn't even have time to say anything: he went straight to the bathroom, switched on the light, did his thing, washed his hands, turned the light back off, and swiftly returned to bed.
We keep telling him how proud we are of him, how much of a good big brother he is. I say that F is so lucky she gets to have him, as all my life I myself had longed for a big brother. We are doing this, learning. We both try to have special little moments just with him every day. We know that ultimately giving him a sister is a great thing we're doing for him, something we hope he'll appreciate for a lifetime. But sometimes, for instance at night while he's sleeping and M and I are lying in bed with F, cuddling and marveling at her adorableness, we still feel guilty that he's not around to share the moment with us.
Friday, November 12, 2010
One of the blog friends I've made over the years is a beautiful, smart, cool girl named Kaki. She's from Ghana, grew up in Montreal, met her Scot husband in Japan, and now lives with him in Edinburgh.
When I announced my pregnancy in May, she told me that she was pregnant too, albeit a little further along than I was. Her comment that day was really, really precious to me. It's no secret that I was a little overwhelmed at the beginning of my pregnancy, overtaken by mixed feelings and emotions. I think this can most likely be explained by the fact that I decided to embark on this journey again more because I thought I should than because I felt it with all my heart and all my soul. She said that she too, was in a state of shock for months, but then she finally got around and embraced the blessing.
A few months passed and I suddenly realized that I had not heard from her in a while. I went over to her blog and was completely devastated to learn that just a few days after writing that such important comment, she had gone into premature labor at 23 weeks and given birth to a 1 pound baby girl, who was unable to breathe on her own and only survived for a few hours. They named her Isla Sakura, that last word being Japanese for cherry blossoms, which are so important in that culture, and were in bloom in Scotland during the baby's too short stay around here.
Kaki has shown so much strength and amazing resilience since then, going through all stages of grief. I've cried so much over her heartbreak, over how definite this event was, over how she explained that she couldn't hear people tell her that "she'll have other babies", as if this would ever erase the fact that her first one had died.
I'm now holding my own baby girl in my arms, and as it should, as I knew it would, I am deeply feeling it with all my heart and all my soul... Every day though, I take a few moments to be thankful and realize how lucky we are. I am embracing the blessing. And thinking about Kaki and Isla a little.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
We have a new lady in the house.
Even though nothing was pointing towards this outcome, my water broke on Saturday night shortly after I fell asleep. M and I only had time to look at each other, a little stunned, stuttering, not really believing that it had started all over again, and especially not believing how much this was similar to our previous experience. I grabbed our things, we transferred a still sleeping LP, all wrapped up in his blanket, to our neighbor's, and called our relatives. We arrived at the hospital shortly after midnight; I didn't have any contractions yet. Bébé was showing up a good 3 weeks early. I was dilated at 4 cm and she was still very, very high. "Mhh", the nurse said, "she's not so sure she really wants to get out, this one."
I had tested positive for strep B, so I needed to be hooked up on an IV and receive antibiotics throughout the labor and delivery. I started having contractions around 1, and they suddenly became much stronger around 2:30. I went from 4 to 10 cm in an hour. Without an epidural. It gradually became so painful I think I was beginning to be a little delirious at the end and my only very, very distant comfort is that I knew this was going so fast it wouldn't last much longer. Then I was ready to push; the doctor arrived, she had the same name as our soon-to-be-born daughter, a good omen. I pushed four times, for a total of 7 minutes (compared to 2 and a half hours with LP). Probably the most surreal, mind-boggling, excruciating minutes of my life. Then she was out, and that's what totally crazy about childbirth: you go from the lowest of the low to the highest of the high in an instant. I had done it, M and I looked each other with the-proudest-most-meaningful-glance-there-ever-was for the second time in a little less than four years, and I had a wet, tiny, wiggly, screaming baby on my chest. It was over. Pain had completely transformed into elation. Bébé F was here. She was born at 3:37 AM on Sunday November 7, weighing 6 pounds 13 ounces, measuring 19 inches.
We are under her spell. LP immediately adored her, but of course there's still a little of a transition to be had, with him being so big and active and impulsive and boisterous. M is off until the end of the month, my mother is staying with us for a week, and together we are learning how to be a family of four.
We only stayed at the hospital 36 hours, and I'm amazed how easier everything is the second time: we are stumbling a little to remember everything, but at the same are feeling so relaxed. She's nursing well, I'm much less tired than I was with LP, and my body is recuperating really fast.
We had completely forgotten how intoxicating newborns are. And you have no idea how relieved I am that the childbearing years of my life are done. Now let's raise these beautiful two I was fortunate enough to be given.
Monday, November 8, 2010
Update: The company has let me know that in fact, the boots are PVC-free, and were not made with toxic plastics. Thanks.
From time to time I get asked to review products and talk about them on this blog. It's a cool perk, but at the same time, I don't always say yes, because sometimes the fit is just not there and I don't want to turn this space into an advertisement zone.
The latest thing were boots from Cougar, a family-owned Canadian company that's been around forever -I'm pretty sure my largely utilitarian winter boots were Cougar while I was growing up in northern Quebec, where winters were brutal, and we would sometimes play in the snow for hours without getting our feet cold. Well, they still exist and have revamped their image a little, hence, I guess, the online viral marketing campaign.
I wasn't sure about this one. I'm just not a winter person (doesn't make any sense, I know), and I've never been very well equipped for the season: the boots I get are usually stiletto-heeled, which, let's face it, are a little ridiculous around here. We're not big winter outdoorsy people, but, especially since we became parents, we do take walks, go horseshoeing in the woods behind M's parents house, or sledding in this great spot close to home, or visit this wonderful state park nearby. So all this time, M has been annoyed at my inadequacy, and hence was the one who convinced me to get the darn boots. "What's wrong with them?," he asked. "I don't know," I replied, "they're not really that stylish?" "And what's the worse that could happen, for once in your life you'll have proper, season-appropriate winter boots?" There was nothing I could say to that.
The huge package arrived last week, containing winter boots, rain boots, a hooded sweatshirt, as well as a mug with hot chocolate packets; "everything to keep myself warm". LP and I excitedly unwrapped everything. There was even, and this is the first time ever, a personalized note from the company CEO, thanking me for trying on their products and giving my feedback. I liked this touch immensely. It also made me realize that I was dealing with a local, people-sized organization here, instead of a big faceless corporation. When thinking about it, it did make sense to try and make an effort to encourage that!
Here were the boots in question:
A slight negative note to being with: even before opening the box, we were completely overwhelmed with toxic fumes, coming from the PVC rain boots. And yes, this really matters to me, especially since I'm heavily pregnant and have a young child. I usually try to be very mindful of VOCs, and this was especially strong, which can only spell bad news. Even several days later, we cannot go to the basement without smelling their strong chemical odour.
Other than that, the boots are very well-made, super comfortable, and very warm: in short, perfect for the cold season around here. I'm not sure I've ever had boots that were so warm, in fact: guaranteed to be waterproof and keep you warm up to -30 degrees Celcius! My mom, who walks for an hour outside every day of the year, was super jealous. I'm really looking forward to wearing them during the winter, to go on daily stroller walks with bébé for instance, or for our other wintry activities. I'll keep my high-heeled ones to go out and such, but these one make so much more sense around these parts. I was just apparently very slow and stubborn before finally realizing that.
Friday, November 5, 2010
Last week I had a lovely lunch with my best friend. Her two eldest kids (she has three!) and mine were having a blast, as it is always the case when they see each other. I'd love to tell you that this took place in a trendy café or at the farmer's market or something. But it didn't. It was at a Golden Arches joint, and the kids were playing in the big plastic modules that they have there.
Yes, that's true. I, the health-conscious gal, label checker, processed food avoider, Michael Pollan reader, buyer of organic stuff whenever possible, went to McDonald's. Let me explain.
One night when I was 7, about a month into second grade, my parents woke me up and excitedly told me that I would be going to a new school. They had placed me on a waiting list for this private (very Catholic, although they weren't religious) school two or three years before that, and now I had a spot. I would be starting the next day. The next day! But I had already made friends at the other place and I loved my nearby public school... I was nervous and crushed. Then, at recess, the nun/teacher said: "C, can you show Marie-Ève around please?" And suddenly this very assertive and warm little girl came up to me and introduced herself. Somehow she made it all okay. The rest is history.
Do you know what her father was doing? He owned several McDonald's restaurants. No kidding. So somehow it became a big part of my childhood. We ate it all the time. During our teenage years, with this unbelievable metabolism you have at that age, we would often go there after school and pig out, then go home and have a regular dinner two hours later. I still continued to love fast food, until it gradually became less and less appealing to me. Then I saw Super Size Me, and somehow began a slow, but steady process of questioning our diet and its effect on us, etc. This kicked into high gear after I became a mother. And that's where we are now, I'm still not an all-or-nothing person but at the same time, there's no going back.
As far as I remember, my friend always said that one day she would walk into her father's footsteps and do the same thing he was doing. We always knew it would happen. She did everything she was supposed to, even if it would have been so easy to give up over the years, with a husband, a growing family, a house that underwent extensive renovations. She never gave up. Pursued her MBA while working, jumped through all the hoops, attended all the required classes (yes, there is such a thing as a "Hamburger University", actually a private management school the chain set up for future owners. It's in Chicago, and she spent quite some time there). She navigated and negotiated her stuff like the impressive business woman she is. And after years, it has happened. With some help from her dad, she, at 35, has become the owner of three branches, solely responsible for a lot employees and inventory and a huge turnover.
And I'm proud of her, and happy for her. I just can't reconcile the two. I may be coward, but I won't confront her about the negative effects, questionable practices, etc. She doesn't see them and she never will. For her, this is about something else entirely: a familiar business and universe, the entrepreneur life she's always dreamed of and aspired to.
So there you go. Despite loathing it most of the time and maybe even sporting just a dash of holier-than-thou attitude about it, I still have this longtime connection to McDonald's, and it will likely stay this way. We go a few times a year. I ate it while pregnant, and let my small son have it. Sometimes I even sort of enjoy it, although it's plainly less tasty than I remember it growing up, and I ALWAYS feel awful, awful, awful, and kind of guilty after. I'm a huge hypocrite. I just thought you should know.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Any of you interested in knowing how our mat leave benefits work? I thought you might.
So as of this week, I receive weekly benefits from the provincial government, which are part of a program called "Parental Assurance". In order to qualify, you have to pay dues to this program, calculated based on your salary, for a certain number of weeks before going on mat leave. Regular employees need to pay them for 26 weeks, but since my professional status was a little peculiar (officially I was considered the CEO of my own little consulting company, even though in fact my actual job was regular 9 to 5 for this same "client" for 3 years), my own situation was a little more complicated than that. When we decided to try for another kid last year, the first thing I did was to get informed on my own eligibility. First, I learned that I wasn't eligible -which crushed me but sort of made sense, since CEOs cannot collect unemployment benefits either. Then, I learned that according to a new provision launched two years ago, I could be eligible, but only as per two conditions: that I would pay the dues both as an employer and an employee, and that I would pay them for 52 weeks. So it took a little longer and cost me more, but fortunately it all worked out. The dues by themselves were not that high: even while paying double, it was something like $80 per month -well worth it for what you end up receiving afterward.
Once you qualify, you have to register on the week you actually stop working, not before, by handing out a proof of your salary. Again, I wasn't really writing myself pay slips here, so I thought this might be a problem, but no. This particular government agency is so well-rounded and helpful, I have nothing but praises to sing about them. It seems all I ever heard from them is that they will really go out of their way to make sure you get what you deserve. I mean, do you know of many government agencies you can call for help on a Sunday afternoon, AND receive prompt and friendly service? Wow. While I expected a big conundrum since my salary was hard to justify, they quickly directed me to a form made especially for people in my situation. I only had to fill it and return it to them within a week, and it was settled.
You have two programs to choose from: the first one is a year of benefits for a little less money, and the second one is 9 months of benefits for 75% of your salary, up to a certain maximum which is not that high, about 65K or so. I chose the longer one, which works roughly like this: 25 weeks at 70% of my salary, and 25 weeks at 55%. The funds are deposited directly in my bank account every week.
M gets 5 weeks at 70% of his salary, which he doesn't have to take all at once (he'll take 3 weeks at birth and keep 2 weeks for next summer). On top of that, while the first part of my own paid leave is only reserved for the mother, the second part can be shared with the other parent. I'll take it all, but in the past few years I've seen an increasing number of dads taking part of even all of this leave (for instance no less than 5 guys at my office), and I think it's awesome. There's really no stigma here anymore for fathers taking time off work to take care of their children.
One of the other great perks is that this program also allows you to work a little during your mat leave, which I hope to do in the next year, whether freelance writing or wedding flowers. As long as I inform them in advance that, say, the next week I'm going to have some other income, they are fine with withholding the benefits for that week and then extending them for an additional week afterward.
Please know that I in no way am posting this to brag or make other women feel bad/jealous. I am aware we are immensely lucky to have such great benefits, which I think make a huge difference in our overall quality of life. I think it's a real shame the US is the only industrialized country without such a plan, and that this absolutely must be changed. It makes me mad when I hear opponents say, well, you cannot expect the government to take you by the hand and take care of everything for you. While I definitely agree with that to some extend (I wouldn't be OK for instance with what a minority voice is claiming here, requesting the government to continue paying these benefits for as long as your kids don't start school), I remain the product of a society which has many (mild) socialists programs, and even though nothing is perfect and I personally don't fall at the extreme left of the political spectrum, I can only come to the conclusion that they are largely positive for the people.
Allowing mothers (and fathers) to stay home with their babies for an extended period has tremendous society perks (on top of obvious personal ones), and even definitely has clear benefits for the government. First, at least in theory, it directly encourages prolonged breastfeeding, which supposedly lightens (both in the short- and the long-term) the burden of our (also nationalized) health care system. Second, it gives the government a one-year break in paying for and managing our daycare system, which, surprise, is also nationalized and subsidized. And third, it just plainly influences the birth rate! Hearing American women saying that they would like to have one/another child but couldn't afford it brings me to tears; you would never meet someone who has to take that decision here. Knowing that some women hesitate before getting pregnant because their grim prospect is returning to work after 6 weeks of unpaid leave kind of makes my blood boil; it just doesn't seem right. Quebec, which had an alarmingly low birth rate 15 years ago, has now been experiencing a mini baby-boom in the last few years. This is certainly due to other factors than just our mat leave program (which I believe was implemented in 2005), but then, it also definitely helps.
Accuse me of being a socialist all you want (which is not true), but, given that basically all other First World countries have adopted similar measures (ours is particularly generous, I have to admit), I'm probably not exactly alone, and/or entirely wrong.
Monday, November 1, 2010
Hi! I'm still here, and still pregnant. My mom is staying with us for a few days, so we can do a lot of cooking and freezing, which will probably be of great help once F arrives.
I'm now 36 weeks and at my last obgyn visit, the doctor informed me that although the baby hasn't dropped yet, I was 1.5 cm dilated already, and I "most probably wouldn't still be pregnant at 40 weeks". I have another appointment on Wednesday, and then for the next one, he'll start stretching my cervix open (ouch) and stripping my membranes to "speed things up if need be". I cannot say I'm surprised by this. I was 3 cm dilated pre-labor with LP, and even though everyone told me "firstborns always come late," he was actually 10 days early. I may well be jinxing myself and end up having to be induced at 42 weeks, but hey, M and I figure it will probably happen about two weeks from now. Stopping work two weeks earlier than previously thought might end up being the wisest decision I've ever made.
We are ready. The nursery is not completely done, because my poor overloaded mother hasn't had time to finish the curtains and bedspread, but it doesn't really matter, since bébé will be sleeping by our bed in a bassinet at first. Other than that, bring it on! Seeing our friends' newborn at the hospital last week felt amazing. I didn't remember how tiny new babies were (I mean, the newborn diapers are smaller than my small hands!) And how adorable and precious. His 4 year-old sister was so enamored with him, so naturally taking her place and acting maternal and protective, it really reassured me and warmed my heart. We are lucky to have had this visit so close to our own experience, since it was really good practice for LP -the hospital environment, seeing the mother in bed, happy but tired, seeing what newborns look like. I'm still a little worried about the giving birth part (can't really help it), but I'm also equally excited.
I'm going to cut back on my blogging schedule for the next little while -first, while I've always felt driven by the (entirely self-imposed) "pressure" of posting every day, it feels really off-putting and unnecessary right now. And second, even if I do have time to write -I did it before, and I don't even work anymore- I just feel my mind is not that up for it. I'm increasingly foggy-brained and single-minded and in this sort of mental "motherhood bubble" right now, which I'm afraid does not make me the most pleasant or interesting or sharpest person there is. I'm not disappearing though -seriously, I NEED this outlet, and I can see it will only become even truer after the baby is here.