Saturday, January 10, 2015

Dance Monkey, Dance!

Time has wisped by since little L was born, each day melting into the next. I can hardly believe that tomorrow, at 11:11 am, he will be 11 weeks old. He has developed leagues in this time. He is making all sorts of sounds (and always "Ey!" for food as if he instinctively knew that would command attention), nearly sitting up and standing up by himself (he was very nearly holding his own head up the day he was born), tracking objects with his diaphanous eyes, turning his head towards different sounds - the changes are rapid and almost discernible daily. As his brain furiously connects more and more wires, my brain has lost the same (just as my husband, since L's birth lost around the same weight I gained from my pre-pregnancy weight as if he lumped it over to me). I was sure there were 40 days in a month the other day and have the memory of a goldfish. Since my health has recovered recently(apart from recovering from labour and numerous stitches therewith and the pain of a gnawing baby with tongue tie on my scalding nipples, I've had mastitis twice with near hospital grade fevers, yeast infection on my nipples and borne the delight of vascular spasms- lucky me!), in part due to allowing myself to sleep more than two hours at a time (resulting in the first instance from my husband turning off my pumping alarm as our son had begun to sleep throughout most of the night quite early on), my brain has somewhat flexed its muscles, but I would not be gambling on my chess prowess any time soon (or sentence structure). Someone once said to me that the postnatal period doesn't really start until about six months after birth, and I'm beginning to agree with that assessment. I'm still not physically nor emotionally myself and lactation surges you with hormones - as well as swelling you with sweat. Nursing is also soporific - most times that I nurse, both L and I are very nearly knocked out. Yes, I'm already getting high with my two month old - but social services will not knock on the door anytime soon as there is a biological rather than botanical basis for the deep sleep. The release of oxytocin, which produces the let down and the bonding with your baby makes you and baby, very sleepy.

I am at a loss to understand how single mothers without help can do anything - they are ninjettes, super heroes bar none. I've had my mother and my mother-in-law help out (as well as a supportive hubby in love with his son who takes on a lot of tasks on his volition and would not have it any other way) and I still haven't found time to further any of my ventures. I did go back to work for a bit, 3 weeks after birth due to being lead counsel on a case at a fragile time, but I collapsed in an emotional heap and retreated to my den, asking my partners to take over for a couple of months. Since then, responding to an email here and there has been my most productive.... This is where I left off yesterday, deciding to cheat time whilst L was asleep to write another post. There really is no time when you are indentured to a dictator and at mercy to his caprice. Babies really do demand all your attention. I am writing this as L sits next to me on my desk in a car seat  - he loves the car seat and rejects the bouncer we got him (figurati!) - and is amused at the mobile in front of him, determined to teach the smiling monkey twisting to Bach a lesson with a wry smile of indulgence as I periodically rock the car seat. As soon as his royal majesty bores of the mobile, having either conquered the monkey or as is appearing to be the case, fascinated by his hands and trying to swallow as much of them as possible in one go, I am back on duty. I tend to put him in a baby carrier and rock around the house, putting on some tunes (he loves the Beatles most of all but also favours reggae) and shoving puppets in his face that somehow... this where I left off yesterday, writing now with Luca in a baby carrier on my chest, swaying to reggae. I suppose I have a few minutes to rant, as long as I sway sufficiently for his royal, monkey, dance!

What do single mothers do?? How do they go back to work and take care of their children? How do they find child care when it's so expensive? The US has very anachronistic and insufficient maternity leave and child care provisions. The Federal provisions under the Family Medical Leave Act only apply to businesses that have 50 and more employees in a 75 mile radius and only for full time employees that have worked for one year before their maternity leave. Further, maternity or paternity leave is only for a meagre three month period (when the child is still wholly dependent on the mother- particularly if the mother is breastfeeding, which becomes very difficult to do when the mother goes back to work- and the mother has barely recovered from labour and is still sleep deprived) and worse, is unpaid. Many businesses skirt these provisions by not employing full time workers and many couples - or single parents - could not afford to take a three month period without pay. Additionally, while some places in the US now have free pre-K, which acts as a necessary free child care service for working parents, there is no government subsided childcare. Thus, many women who would take maternity leave, are forced to work and many women-particularly women in partnerships where their partner earns an income - are forced to stay at home and cannot return to work (when you see that all your income would go to someone else taking care of your child, staying home is a no brainer). Neither of these unpalatable choices are a worry for high income earners. They can withstand unpaid leave - although of course, higher paid jobs generally have paid leave from their employers - and they can go back to work and continue their careers when they wish as they can afford to pay for full time child care while they do so. This situation merely perpetuates and exacerbates inequity in society. Paid maternity leave, longer maternity leave and either free or government subsidized child care is a necessity and one that a government that cares for its people should provide.