First Word!

Punkie has a really sweet voice.  He makes a lot of cute little noises while he turns the pages of a book or looks into my eyes.  It’s no secret that I’ve been wanting him to talk for a long time now.   Of course, I hoped his first word would be “mommy,” but, statistically, that was not likely.  I would have been happy too if it were “daddy,” which was more likely.

But now the waiting is over!  The first word has landed.

Punkie’s first word is . . . “uh-oh.”  Yup.  Uh-oh.

He hits the “uh” really loud and then exhales and gives a small, quiet “oh.”  It really is adorable, to this exceptionally biased observer.  He’s saying it over and over and working pretty hard at perfecting it.  I respect the hard work and dedication that he’s put into this word.

I hope “mommy” ends up in the top 3 words at least.  Or the top 5?

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving snuck up on me this year.  I can’t believe that it’s this week.

In our house, mommy is home sick today with a fever and other stomach flu types of issues and it’s so nice outside – it’s 60+ degrees out there!

Since I have the urge to complain, I thought I’d go through the exercise of remembering what I’m most thankful for this year.  Of course, I’m thankful for Punkie, who, two years ago at this time, seemed like an impossibility for us.  We were going to regular visits at the fertility clinic and trying to get pregnant.  Although we tried so hard to have Punkie, I really don’t think I appreciated how much I would love that little peanut.  I even love his little Donald Trump comb-over.

And I’m thankful for my husband.  He is genuinely one of the good ones, and he puts up with a lot of nonsense from me.

I’m thankful also to have a profession that allows me to take care of myself and my family.  Although being a lawyer isn’t often much fun, in my humble opinion, it has allowed me to make some choices in life that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

Hopefully, tomorrow will be a new day and I’ll feel much better.

Care.com – service review

I recently hired our first babysitter.  I had no idea how to find a babysitter on my own.  In my mind, it had to be more than letting out a big, terrified sigh and hiring the 11-year old next door to watch my baby.

Someone suggested trying care.com and I’m glad they did.  The site makes it easy to find a variety of babysitters who want to hear from you.  It gives you a bio and a calendar of availability for each and then allows you to send a message to a candidate.  The calendar of availability is key to saving me the time and effort of messaging candidates who just aren’t available when I need someone.  It also gave information about the rates each candidate would charge and whether they have certain certifications (e.g., CPR).

The coverage for my town was very good – there were many candidates to choose from.  And there are links to additional information for people new to the babysitting world, like guidelines on when you have to pay taxes on a babysitter’s services, or suggested questions to ask when you interview a babysitter candidate.  Care.com even lets you request a background check.  For real.

Care.com is a paid service, but I can stop paying once I have relationships established.  If something happens, like a babysitter moves away or something, I can sign back up and start again.

Lawyer Mom Has Skills

Many people from all walks of life are good mothers – “free to be you and me” and all that. But I think being a lawyer has, to some degree, given me a head-start on motherhood.

I long suspected being a mom wasn’t the romantic dreamscape that so many women describe. I don’t know why women do that to themselves and others – the truth is that motherhood can also be exhausting and stressful. I don’t know anything worthwhile that isn’t imperfect and difficult sometimes, so I’m not surprised.

But I think there are some skills that help a mom work through the less dreamy parts of the job and being a lawyer has given me some of those.

My thoughts on this:

  1. BS Detector – My profession has taught me, among other things, that even my own client will lie to me. I don’t take it personally, but I have worked over the years to hone my BS detecting skills. Punkie had a “great day” at day care 5 days in a row? Uh huh – I call bullshit. Nobody has a great day every day. Your kid walked by five months of age? Interesting tale, but I call bullshit, unless he’s Clark Kent. Is your kid Clark Kent? I didn’t think so. I can’t wait until Punkie starts talking because I think I’ll enjoy a worthy BS adversary.
  1. Advocacy – I haven’t had to advocate all that much for Punkie yet, but I’m going to be a gladiator for that toothless, melon-headed little angel. I’m suiting up right now for an anticipated issue around which classroom Punkie’s day care will move him to when he begins walking, which I expect to be soon. I threw the first volley over the wall today and am waiting to see what the response will be. If the response is not what I need to hear, then the game is on.
  1. Drudgery – Being a mom isn’t all smiles and adventure. A lot of the tasks around taking care of Punkie are drudgery. But drudgery doesn’t stop me. I’ve negotiated every single provision of a 211 page contract. I’ve reviewed vast quantities of documents for 18 hours at a stretch – I’m talking conference rooms full of banker boxes, each stuffed with paper (yes, I’m banker-box-discovery-old). I studied for and passed two bar exams – I studied for the second exam at night after full days/evenings of work. I took trusts and estates and federal tax law courses in law school – that’s boring WITH MATH. If you think moving all of the next-size-up clothing into a closet or picking the same toy up off the floor 1,324 times in are row are boring, well, I can do those things all day.
  1. Deadlines – My life revolves around a to-do list and a schedule that is revised and refreshed many times each day. Everything I do has a deadline and nothing motivates me like a solid deadline. The kid needs a meal, or larger shoes, or to go to the doctor – these are all tasks with deadlines. I can schedule the hell out of those things like a champion. On the calendar, Punkie’s things are green and they’re all marked “high priority.” Check. Check. Check.
  1. Sleep Deprivation – I have trained with the best when it comes to sleep deprivation. My sleep deprivation training is akin to a chef training with someone who has 3 Michelin stars, or a football player who has trained with a Heisman Trophy winner, or a race car driver who learned everything he knows from Mario Andretti. Sure, I admit to a few dark moments when Punkie was a newborn, but I feel strongly that those fleeting moments were caused by a C-section and Oxycodone. Take this week for example. Punkie woke me up almost every night this week and, each time, he was unwilling to go back to sleep (I think he’s about to have a tooth break through). But I get up and go to work and keep going and then I get up the next night and take care of Punkie.  I’ll do this as long as it takes – if I need more coffee, I’ll get coffee. If I eventually go insane, so be it. It won’t stop me from crushing it again tomorrow.

Saying No

I began my career at a conservative “biglaw” law firm.  The partners in our group were all older white men.  After working there for a while, it was clear that the partners did not want to invest training or any other resources into young female associates who might have kids and leave the firm, or who would go on maternity leave and, due to the gap in work, never make partner.

I felt a strong pressure to never say the word “baby” or say hello  to a staff member’s visiting baby, lest the partners conclude that I was a baby lover and not worth their time.

No, really.  I saw it happen.

Now, I work in-house for a company where most of my colleagues have families, and where I’ve never seen anyone criticized for having a family.

But my experience at the biglaw firm has stuck with me through the years.  In every way possible, I try to keep people at work from noticing or being reminded of my new mom status (aside from my physique, sadly).  That includes the days following a rough night with little sleep, or when I was a total stress monster because Punkie started day care.  I don’t even do this intentionally.

When I started getting pressure to go to the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge, I knew I didn’t want to participate because it starts at 7PM.  7PM is when I nurse Punkie in advance of his 8PM bedtime.

If I needed to be at a work function at 7PM for an important reason, like a customer meeting or something like that, I’d make it work.  But for the Corporate Challenge, I don’t feel it’s worth the sacrifice.  Besides, there will be plenty of opportunities to participate in mandatory fun.

The Corporate Challenge is a 3-mile run or walk and many businesses in town will form teams and participate.

I am not athletic.  I’ve never been athletic.  In fact, I am a plus sized girl who does not run, unless chased by a grizzly bear.  And let’s be honest – I’d probably be eaten pretty quickly if a grizzly bear were introduced into my ecosystem.  If, instead of a grizzly bear, it was one of those smaller black bears, I might weigh the risks against the unpleasantness of running and decide to just walk normal speed.

And if I were to walk or run a 3-mile course, I’d choose to huff and puff in private, without my co-workers watching.

So, again today, I was pressured to go to the Corporate Challenge.  Every biglaw lawyer instinct in my brain was yelling:

Don’t tell them you have to take care of a baby instead of going to mandatory fun!

I said the Corporate Challenge just isn’t my cup of tea.  The parry quickly came – you can walk instead of running.  I said I might be able to help set up or prepare, but I can’t participate in the run/walk.  The response was, aw, come on, it’s no fun unless you do the walk.

I really didn’t want to say out loud that I need to go home to breast feed my baby . . . although I knew it is 100% the choice I would make.

So . . . choking on my sense of horror, I said “I have to go home and take care of the baby.”  My heart sank – I’d probably go home tonight and update my resume.

And the response came:

Okay, but definitely next year.

Okay.

 

Home Alone

My husband is out of town for the next four days and I’m home alone with Punkie. I know how to take care of the kid and I’m a fairly capable person, so my rational brain knows it’s not a problem. I’ve got this covered.

But there is also a part of my brain that is busy generating worst case scenario thoughts all day. I’ve been wondering, what if I leave for work and forget about him at home? What if I drive to work and leave him in the backseat all day? After all, I am a little forgetful when I have something on my mind.

I’m a very sound sleeper. The thought I’ve been having since he was born is, what if I’m in a deep sleep and don’t hear him cry at night? Everyone I’ve confided in has said that’s nonsense – you’ll hear him. It’s instinctual! But I won’t know if that’s true unless I fail to hear him. And even then, I won’t really know because I slept through whatever the problem is. In truth, I won’t know unless something terrible happens.

Basically, I’m suffering from not having a chaperone . . . or maybe the better word is supervisor. That’s kind of pathetic, if I’m being honest with myself.

When we left the hospital with Punkie for the first time after his birth, I kept looking around the corridor and thinking, are they really going to let me leave with this tiny, fragile human? I didn’t even know how to hold him, much less keep him alive. But they just let us take him.

That’s how I feel here too. My husband left for his trip this morning and I thought, is he really going to just leave me with the kid? He knows better than anyone that I screw up at least one thing every day.

I dropped Punkie off at day care this morning and he was happy. He smiled at me when I left, which is a great relief for me. I still feel like I need to show up at random times to check on him, but I have the feeling that he’s resilient. I respect resiliency. I’m going to tell him that this evening, assuming I remember to pick him up from day care.

I’m Fazed

I’ve been a lawyer for 15 years. At the age of 40, I had a baby, and now I’m a new mother and a lawyer.

 

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I lived a life before I had my son, who I’ll refer to in this blog as Punkie. “Punkie” is obviously not his real name, but he is kind of a punk sometimes. I hit the big, red “reset” button of life several times before, so I generally feel confident in new situations or during times of change. I’m rarely surprised. Things don’t faze me.

So, when my husband and I decided to have a kid, I didn’t think it would faze me at all. How hard could it be to have one kid? I’ve put myself through law school, passed 2 bar exams, worked 100 hours a week at a law firm, survived a divorce, moved to NYC, and moved back to my hometown to start over again. These things were difficult, and anyone can have a child – it’s biology.

Well, lesson learned and cockiness banished. It turns out that this coffee-swilling, 40-year old, stress monster needed a lot of medical assistance to get pregnant. Apparently, I have a disease called “advanced maternal age.” There were two years of early morning appointments with a fertility doctor and her many, many nurses. There were intra-vaginal ultrasounds, blood tests, insanely potent injectable drugs, and medical procedures – I lost track of how many. It wasn’t fun.

Finally, we were pregnant and, after all that, I was surprised. It was difficult to believe the nurse when she called to tell me the good news. It was really great news and wholly unbelievable.

Punkie is 4 ½ months old now. His toothless grin makes my heart swell up, and, when he cries, my heart aches. I was lucky to be able to stay at home from work with him for 3 months after he was born. My employer has been really great with my pregnancy and maternity leave. This is a much bigger topic for another day, but I can’t believe that some women go through a pregnancy and birth and are forced to return to work immediately, or after 6 weeks. Three months is far too short. But I digress.

I was even more lucky that my husband wanted to take leave to stay with Punkie for 8 weeks after I returned to work. His willingness to do this means Punkie didn’t have to start child care until yesterday.

This brings be back to the idea that I’m not easily fazed. Dropping Punkie off at day care fazed me. I’m totally fazed.

We brought him into the child care center and into his “classroom” and he began to cry. He somehow knew that this was not just a visit. He continued to cry. When we left, I tiptoed back to the room to check on him one last time by peeking around the corner, and he was puffy eyed and angry.

I never felt so horrible in my life. The guilt that I feel for leaving him at day care is overwhelming. I’m at work at this very moment, taking a 20-minute break to pump breast milk for Punkie to drink at day care tomorrow, feeling like shit. (Typing while pumping is not easy, so please excuse the typos and run-on sentences.)

I stopped into the child care center mid-morning yesterday to check on Punkie. He was still upset.

When I walked in, the care-giver, who seems like a warm and kind woman, was on the floor snuggling Punkie and trying to get him to take his bottle of milk. He was refusing the bottle, which he had never done before. Until yesterday, he had always done a happy little kicking and grunting dance when he saw his bottle. Yesterday, in stark contrast, his eyes were red and he was frowning and not eating.

At the end of the day, when my husband picked him up, the report was that the afternoon was a lot better than the morning. I wonder if it was, because I wasn’t there to see him myself and, to be frank, the child care center is incentivized to tell us that Punkie loves it there. They said he slept for 2 hours in the afternoon, which my husband (a trusting optimist) took as a positive sign. In my mind, the most likely scenario is that he passed out unconscious after crying all morning.

So I’ll be using a few more hours of my precious little PTO time from work to drive over to the child care center today and visit them. I feel like if I show up at random times, maybe they’ll take better care of Punkie. I hope they think to themselves, “don’t let Punkie cry alone in the bouncy seat because his mom might show up.”

These are dark thoughts and I’m not happy to have them. Like I said, I’m fazed.