WTAF?

Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong.
— Donald Porter

We interrupt our regularly scheduled not blogging to bring you this breaking story:

I had a terrible experience at Nationals Park today. I know this is long, you guys, but please bear with me.

My office went to the game this afternoon. Because I am still nursing Maggie, I need to pump during my workday.  I usually pump three times during my day.  Because of this, I actually left for the game later than my co-workers so that I would only have to pump once at the ballpark. Before I went, I checked the Nationals website and saw that “nursing mothers are invited to use” the Family Restrooms or the Reagan Room. Because there was a Family Restroom located very near my seat in Section 136 that had an electrical outlet, and because time was of the essence – I needed to pump and leave the park promptly to pick up Maggie from daycare – I opted not to go across the park and upstairs to the Reagan Room, which is in Section 201. While I was a bit uncomfortable with the idea of occupying the restroom for at least 20 minutes, since the Nationals “invite” nursing mothers to use them for that purpose, I presume they have anticipated that they will occasionally be occupied for at least that length of time.

At approximately 3:50pm, I entered the Family Restroom located behind section 139 and locked the door. I used the restroom and then started to set up my breast pump. Almost even before I had everything hooked up — approximately 5 minutes after I entered — someone knocked on the door. I stated that the restroom was occupied.

A few moments later, someone tried the door and found it locked. I again repeated that someone was inside. From that point on, the knocking was nearly constant, no matter how many times I said the room was occupied.

The knocking turned to pounding, and the doorknob continued to rattle, and about 15 minutes after I entered, someone used the key to unlock the door from the outside and started to open it. I pushed it shut and locked it again. I said, “I am pumping breast milk for my baby. Please leave me alone.” They did not. They continued to pound on the door and rattle the doorknob.

By that point, I was actually scared. The piped in game audio in the bathroom was very loud, so, because of my hearing impairment, I don’t know what, if anything, the people on the other side of the door were saying to me. But, for my part, I repeatedly stated (yelled, ultimately) that the room was occupied and I identified at least three times what I was doing inside. I repeatedly asked that I be left alone and my requests were ignored. I eventually said, “I will be finished in 5 minutes,” to no avail. A few minutes later, I said, “I’m almost finished, I will be done in 2 minutes. Please leave me alone.” It continued.

When I was finally finished, after approximately 25 minutes in the restroom, I opened the door to find at least 5 employees standing outside staring at me. In the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you that my reaction to them was one of anger. I yelled that I had been pumping breast milk for my baby, and that I was sure they wouldn’t have preferred that I do so right out on the concourse. I then left, because, as I said, I needed to leave promptly, but I wish I had had the time to get the employees’ names and speak to a supervisor immediately.

I am unbelievably angry about the way I was treated. I repeatedly stated that the room was occupied and what I was doing and asked to be left alone, but the employees continued to act in a harassing manner. The pounding on the door and rattling the doorknob, not to mention the attempted entry, made me fearful.

I tweeted a condensed version of this story to the Nationals this afternoon, but after several hours, have not received any acknowledgement whatsoever. I also sent a message through their website, but I was limited to 3000 characters, so I couldn’t say everything I wanted to. I will follow up with a call tomorrow.

I have asked for an explanation for what happened, an apology, and assurance that they will make clear to their employees that what happened to me is not acceptable. I told them that nursing mothers come in all kinds – some nurse exclusively, some pump exclusively, and some – like me – must do both, and needing to pump shouldn’t interfere with my ability to attend a baseball game. If the Family Restrooms are available for nursing mothers to nurse, there is no reason they shouldn’t also be available for nursing mothers to pump.

We’ll see what happens.

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The Rat Race

When Australia passed a parental leave law in 2010, it left the U.S. as the only industrialized nation not to mandate paid leave for mothers of newborns. Most of the rest of the world has paid maternity leave policies, too; Lesotho, Swaziland and Papua New Guinea are the only other countries that do not.
— from Paid Parental Leave: U.S. vs. The World

It’s only been a month since I last posted, but it feels like ages.  Here’s what’s happening:

On February 10th, at 12 weeks old, Maggie went to daycare and I went back to work.  This is how she looked as we got ready to head out the door:

First day of school!

First day of school!

I was beside myself; I cried that morning as I got her dressed.  I cried on the way to daycare.  I cried when we got there.  I cried when we left.  But this is how we left her that first morning:

IMAG1436

Yeah, she was going to be fine.

It’s been working out ok, but the daycare is out here where we live, and David works 9 hour days to my 8, so it’s been challenging.  At the present, the way our day goes is, we leave together with Maggie.  I drop David off at the Metro, then drop Maggie off at daycare and then go back to the Metro and head to work (the idea being that David gets to work sooner and can leave closer to the time I do).  I leave work at 4:45 sharp to allow for some Metro delays to be sure I can get to daycare no later than 6:30 when it closes (so far, so good; I’ve never been later than 6:15).  Maggie and I go home and then have to go back out to pick David up from the Metro, usually between 7 and 7:30.  It’s this part that I hate the most, because I have to re-wrangle her, and by that time of day, she’s not her best self.  David’s not convinced it’s worth the extra $4.75 a day in parking for us to drive separately; I say it’s a bargain at twice the price not to have to go out again once we’re home.  This is a work in progress.

Now that Maggie’s used to daycare and we have a weekday groove, I can admit that I’m glad to be back to work.  I don’t think I’m cut out to be a stay-at-home mom.  I miss her every day and look forward to picking her up at daycare every night, but this is what’s best for all of us, I think.  I will say, though, that 12 weeks is not enough.  And I was lucky that I could take that much time–even though I had to use all of my vacation and sick time because the federal government doesn’t offer paid maternity leave–many women go back at 8, 6, or even 4 weeks after giving birth.  I wasn’t even a functioning human being 4 weeks after Maggie was born; I cannot imagine being expected to do my job that soon.  That there’s no federally mandated paid maternity leave in this country is a travesty.

We’re still breastfeeding; I pump three times a day at work, which is kind of a pain, but (a) I’m committed to giving her breast milk for a year and (b) it makes the day go by SO fast – basically every time I turn around, it’s time to pump again.  Because I have to leave by 4:45 and try as I might I can’t seem to get to work earlier than 8:30 (which is fine, because that means Maggie’s in daycare 10 or 10.5 hours as it is, which is too much, but it can’t be helped), I don’t take a lunch hour, I just work right through.  It hasn’t been as bad as I thought it would be – before I went on maternity leave, I ate lunch out basically every day just for an excuse to leave the office for an hour – and it shortens my day by an hour, so it’s worth it. Like much of motherhood, it’s a tradeoff I’m making for benefit of my family.

Daycare wears Maggie out – the constant noise and lights and stimulation – so she sleeps GREAT on daycare days.  We get at least 6 hours her first stretch, and only one middle of the night wake up, which is amazing.  On Saturday and Sunday nights, though, we’re back to her pre-daycare 3- to 4-hour first stretch, with at least two middle of the night wake ups, which is less amazing.  I trust, though, that she will eventually sleep through the night and that, for now, she still needs to eat when she wakes up, even if so many other babies (of women I know online) already sleep through the night.

If there’s one thing I’m learning as I navigate Maggie’s babyhood, it’s that all babies are different and they all do things in their own time.  For example, Maggie is an independent baby and always has been.  Particularly after she eats, I can leave her on her playmat or in her crib or even on her back on the floor and she will happily hang out there, kicking and babbling away, while I eat or shower or catch up on email (for the record, if I’m going to shower, I always put her in her crib; if she’s not in her crib, I’m nearby).  When she’s done entertaining herself and wants attention, she lets me know.  I know lots of people who say their babies want to be held almost non-stop and, to quote one of them, “won’t tolerate” being left alone.  At first, I thought maybe I was doing something wrong for Maggie not to want to be held all the time (seriously, sometimes when she’s crying, all you have to do is put her down on her back and she stops), but I’ve come to realize that’s just her temperament.  Hey, if it works for her, it certainly works for me – it means I don’t have to take her in the bathroom with me like some moms I know say they do!

There’s lots more to tell, but this is already so long.  I’ll just leave you with this picture that shows how far Maggie has come from the days when tummy time was constant crying, followed by putting her head down and just giving up on life.  She still doesn’t last much longer than 5 minutes at a stretch, but look how strong she must be to hold that giant head up!

Tummy time!

Tummy time!

Learning Curve

Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.
— Benjamin Spock

As I write this, we’re somewhere in South Carolina, heading north. We’ve spent the last week traveling down the east coast and now we’re on our way home.

We decided even before Maggie was born that we’d take this trip down to Florida before my maternity leave was over, since I had to use all my PTO for maternity leave and therefore a vacation later in the year couldn’t happen (I earn 6 hours of vacation every two weeks; it’s going to take me months to build up even a week).

I wasn’t sure about the wisdom of traveling 2500 miles with a breastfeeding 10-week-old in tow, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Our plan of attack for driving days has basically been to feed her right before leaving, then drive like hell for 3 hours or until she wakes to eat; stop to feed her and change her and give her 30 or so minutes to stretch her legs; get back in the car and drive like hell; repeat until we reach our destination. I feel bad that she’s spending so much time in the carseat, and on driving days she doesn’t give us the first long night sleep stretch we’ve become accustomed to, but she’s been a real trooper. Usually by the time she just can’t take anymore, we’re pulling in to wherever we’re spending the night.

I’ve become pretty comfortable nursing in public on this trip, too, out of necessity. Before this week, I’d only nursed anywhere besides my breastfeeding group and the nursing room at Babies R Us a handful of times and always with a cover. On this trip, I nursed in the car many times (surprisingly comfortable; I’d never tried it before because I assumed it wouldn’t be), at Epcot about 5 times (only once in their nursing room because, although it was very nice, it wasn’t very centrally located), in the mall, and in numerous restaurants. I still usually use a cover, but twice – both at Epcot – it was too hot under there and Maggie couldn’t get comfortable to focus on eating, so I took it off and just tried to be as discreet as possible. No one said anything, but if they had, I’d have politely told them that my daughter’s need to be fed trumped whatever offense they imagined they were suffering. And for good measure, I checked out the laws on breastfeeding in public in all the states we’d be going through, and in all of them except Virginia, breastfeeding in public is protected (in Virginia, it’s only protected on property owned by the state). I promised David before Maggie was born that I wouldn’t become a “lactivist,” in the sense that I wouldn’t purposefully try to goad people into challenging my right to breastfeed in public to make a point, but I have zero problem standing up for myself (and Maggie) if the opportunity should arise.
**************
We’re home now. We got back yesterday around 9:30, later than we hoped, but about when we expected. We promised Maggie a carseat-free day today, and I think it will be great for her.

Some other things we learned on this trip:

  • Costco diapers, which are inexpensive and well-regarded by many parents, just aren’t for us.  We had been using Target brand, which also come highly recommended and cost approximately the same, because Maggie was too small for the Costco ones we bought before she was born.  Once she grew into them and we ran out of Target diapers, we started using them.  I do not know why it took us so long – and so many stained, adorable baby outfits – to realize that they are not the best fit for her.  We arrived in Savannah last Saturday night just as Maggie blew out the first diaper of our trip, then another one that night at dinner (this, after at close to two weeks of near-daily leaks), before it finally dawned on us.  We stopped at Target on the way home from dinner that night and were blessedly blow-out free the rest of the week.  David’s at Costco returning the unopened box as we speak.
  • We have everyone fooled. We so often feel like we’re floundering as parents, but everyone else seems to think we’re old pros.  I guess we’ve perfected the art of “fake it til you make it.”
  • We made the absolute right decision for us in putting Maggie in her crib in her own room from day one.  She slept in the same room as us in her Pack-n-Play the whole trip, and while she’s not a terribly noisy sleeper, she *is* a terribly noisy fall-asleeper and wake-upper.  At home, because she’s in the other room and the white noise machine covers some of her crazy grunts and groans, we don’t notice so much so we sleep a little better.  On vacation, we heard everything, and David finally has some sympathy for what I go through overnight (because he was waking up every time she did, which doesn’t usually happen at home).
  • Pro tip: If you want your baby to sleep for seven hours for the first time ever, take her to Epcot for 9.5 hours, where you’ll be required to take her in and out of the stroller a thousand times a day (because they don’t let strollers in many places) and there are a million things for her to see and she will be so worn out by the end of the day that she won’t even notice that you don’t move her from her carseat to the Pack-n-Play.  (As a first-time mom, though, you will be so freaked out that your baby hasn’t woken up to eat that you won’t be able to sleep after hour four or five.  Also, you will be so tired that you won’t bother to get up to make sure the baby’s still breathing.  Probably she is.)

In other news, David and I hardly fought at all on this trip, and when we did disagree or were snappy with each other, we were able to diffuse the situation fairly quickly.  We’re trying to not be so reactive and to communicate better, which I’m hoping will really help us.  So probably I’m not going to end up divorced before my baby is one, which is good.

In other other news, the grapefruit beer at the Germany Pavilion at Epcot is amazing.  Honestly, if I hadn’t been nursing, I might have sent David on his way with the baby and set up camp there and just proceeded to drink my face off.  I’ve Googled and I may be taking a trip to Total Wine today to see if I can find it in the store.

I think that’s all the news for now!

Maggie at Epcot

Maggie at Epcot

Eight Weeks

No one is ever quite ready; everyone is always caught off guard. Parenthood chooses you. And you open your eyes, look at what you’ve got, say “Oh, my gosh,” and recognize that of all the balls there ever were, this is the one you should not drop. It’s not a question of choice.
–from Love Walked In, by Marisa de los Santos

So, when last we left off, I was telling you how hard having a newborn is.  Four weeks later, it’s still hard, but it’s gotten infinitely easier.  Part of it is getting more sleep – Maggie regularly gives us a good 4-hour stretch the first sleep of the night, then two more stretches between 2 and 3 hours each – though I am living for the day I get at least 6 hours in a row.  Part of it is that now I know her better, and we have a rhythm – learning her sleep cues and watching her awake time to get her down for naps before she starts fussing has been key.  Part of it is growing out of the constant crying, and although we probably still have a few more weeks of regular nighttime fussiness ahead, she’s already so much better in that department.

She’s also started smiling, which is basically the best thing in the world and makes everything else seem like not that big a deal.

But there are other things that are harder now.  David and I butt heads constantly and sometimes I think we’re not going to make it.  And in the worst of those times, I think I don’t care if we do.  We were such a team in the beginning, despite a few sleep-deprived hurtful comments, and now it feels like we rarely agree on anything relating to Maggie and each of us is so sure we’re right that we don’t try to see the other’s point of view.  I feel like I’m constantly asking his permission for things and he feels like I’m constantly telling him he’s wrong.  I don’t know how to get through this.

There’s already so much doubt and judgment in parenting, and when the person who shares this responsibility with me questions the way I do things or the suggestions I make, it makes it that much worse.  As I write that, of course, I realize I’m probably causing the same anxiety in him.

I do care, of course, and I don’t want to split up.  Even in my worst, angriest, saddest moments, I know we’re better together than apart.  I also know it’s unwise to make any big decisions when my hormones are still all over the place and I’m still so sleep-deprived.  And so I bite my tongue.  Some things, once said, can’t ever be taken back.

Four Weeks

Don’t stand unmoving outside the door of a crying baby whose only desire is to touch you. Go to your baby. Go to your baby a million times. Demonstrate that people can be trusted, that the environment can be trusted, that we live in a benign universe.
— Peggy O’Mara

Maggie is four weeks old today.  I can hardly believe it.  I specifically remember when she was four days old (because this song kept running through my head), home two days, and thinking we’d never make it to four weeks.  This is, without a doubt, the hardest thing I have ever done.

I think this is where I’m supposed to say, “But it’s also the best thing I’ve ever done.”  And it is, but some days, it doesn’t feel that way.  Some days I feel like a total failure as a mom.  There was the day she was in her swing and David went to check on her, only to find her soaked with spit up and in a blown out diaper, and even though we’d been within earshot, we had no idea it happened or how long she’d been sitting in it.  There was the middle of the night she screamed and screamed while I was changing her diaper and in my utter exhaustion and desperation not to wake her father, I told her repeatedly to shut up. There was the time at 5 days old that I cut her fingernails for the first time and, on my 10th finger, clipped the skin of her thumb, and then discovered at her two-week check up that I’d inadvertently caused three infected hangnails.  There were the times – yes, plural – when I was feeding her when I had to yell for David to come take her from me because I was losing my mind with frustration and was afraid I would hurt her.

Look, she’s alive, right?  So that has to count for something, but this shit is hard.  Don’t let anyone tell you different.  And it’s hard for a lot of different reasons, chiefly sleep deprivation, but also because she’s a BABY and she is NEW and she cannot react to you the way you might imagine a tiny baby will.  She does not smile or laugh or squeal with delight or really even acknowledge my presence.  All she does right now is take, and she takes EVERYthing I’ve got – time, sleep, milk, brain cells, patience.  Oh, and she cries.  Her cries are piercing and sometimes there is just nothing I can do to make her stop, which only adds to the feeling that I am a bad mom.

At four weeks, though, we are settling into each other, beginning to understand each other better.  I’m less frustrated and scared than I was, and I’m remembering to take a deep breath when I’m getting to the end of my patience.  I’m reminding myself that she’s just a baby – she has no agenda, she’s incapable of manipulation – and the only way she has to tell me she needs something is to cry, and it’s my job as her mother to figure out the problem and fix it.  It’s humbling, to be brought low by this tiny creature and to realize how completely she depends on and trusts me.

Is this the part where I’m supposed to say that, despite how hard it is, I love her more than I ever thought possible?  Because I do.