Unpaid Maternity Leave and Human Rights

Last week, Huffington Post published an article concerning the United States policy on maternity leave alongside a video from one of their live chats with working moms, with that included a popular eye-opening graphic I’ve seen floating around the Internet for quite some time now.

When I found out I was pregnant, I didn’t even think it would be an option to experience maternity leave with pay simply because I had never heard of it. And there’s good reason for my not hearing of it, because it doesn’t exist. The graphic doesn’t lie: as an American citizen, I simply do not have the option of paid maternity leave.

Continue over to Liberating Working Moms and read about my thought on unpaid maternity leave as a human rights issue…

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August, September, October: Royal Fiction and American Epic

It’s been a while since I started my initial goal to read one book each month in 2012, and it’s been a while since I wrote about any of my recent reads. For the most part, I’ve read books that I’ve enjoyed in 2012—thanks to Kindle previews—but in August, I finally stumbled upon a dud.

I’m going to start there, and then get into the beauty that is Philippa Gregory and Margaret Mitchell.

The “dud” I began reading on a whim in August was called The Devil in Pew Number Seven. The title intrigued me, as did the synopsis, but somehow, I missed the memo that it was intended to be a chronological memoir, detailing the events of a young girl’s life as her preacher father was harassed by a sinister, rich, controlling church goer.

Boring, boring, boring. I do not like memoirs, the plot was entirely repetitive, and the ending? Trivial. Predictable. All kinds of one-second forgiveness after years of torment and the deaths of family members that I, being less than perfect, simply cannot relate to. I went ahead and looked up the family, who appeared on the Dr. Phil show, and while I appreciate what they went through, some of it just left a bad taste in my mouth.

So, let’s leave that aside and talk about the Good Reads for August, September and October.

In August, after the dud, I decided to go back to one of my favorite authors, Philippa Gregory. I selected The Lady of the Rivers because the beginning myth of Melusina interested me, and because the opening of the book contained dialogue between the main character and Joan of Arc, who has always fascinated me.PROS: Captivating plot, powerful protagonist, a beautiful love story, magic, and if you are like me and enjoy the drama and scandals that occurred in European monarchies, you’ll eat this up.

CONS: If you’re lacking in your knowledge of history, some of the terms, dates, and important people are lost.

FAVORITE QUOTE: “…great things can be achieved, that one should walk out filled with courage, even if one is a fool to hope.”

In September AND October (because it takes that freaking long), I decided to read one of the classics I’ve never read Gone With the Wind. I’ve never seen the movie and all I really knew was that it was an epic Civil War novel with a protagonist named Scarlett. So I went into it blindly, and loved almost every minutes.

PROS: The story just keeps you wanting more. It is breathtaking and transports you to a time of such controlled etiquette and propriety. Coming from a “Yankee” family, the Southern perspective is not one I knew much about nor did I sympathize with it. However, this book showed me the connection that many southerners had with their slaves, the good and the bad on both sides of the war lines, and the traditions of the South in the 1800s. Scarlett plays a very difficult role as the protagonist you don’t really want to like, but find yourself rooting for. The length and details created a lot of suspense for me, and I wasn’t often certain of what would happen next.

CONS: There are MANY words in this book I didn’t know. And I’m an English teacher. The vocabulary is on a higher level, and then when you add in time period and strictly Southern words, you have me using my Kindle to point and get definitions pretty often while I’m running on the treadmill. In addition, some people might be put off by the length or by the seriousness of the text. I could relate to the financial hardships, the deaths and other aspects of this novel but at points, it painted me to read. I know many who enjoy reading for pleasure and want to transport themselves into fairy tales and imagined lands where things are not as disastrous as they are in “real life.” This is not the book for those people.

EXTRAS: I will not spoil the ending, but I will say I am not a fan of cliffhangers and though this story pulled at my heart strings many times and I could relate to the difficulties the characters faced, I was not satisfied with the ending. When I finished, I was left with the thoughts of loved ones I know who have just never gotten it right. People who loved each other, but couldn’t figure out how to show it. Families who had to say goodbye to loved ones, leaving things unsaid. Parents who feel guilt for not raising their children differently. Children wishing they had stronger bonds with their parents. Regret. Torment. Broken-heartedness. Hardship. Misunderstandings. I hate misunderstandings and words left unsaid.`

FAVORITE QUOTES: “Some day I’m going to do and say everything I want to do and say, and if people don’t like it, I don’t care.”

“Sir,” she said, “you are no gentleman!”
“An apt observation,” he answered airily. “And you, Miss, are no lady.”

“Until you’ve lost your reputation, you never realize what a burden it was.”

“God did not frighten her anymore.”

“What beauty lay behind, it must remain there. No one could go forward with a load of aching memories.”

Do Over.

*Disclaimer: This is not in any manner, shape or form going to be the most eloquent blog post for two reasons: 1) I’m realizing as I’m writing it that there aren’t adequate words in the English language to convey what I mean and 2) it’s pretty late and I’m tired. Here goes…

I’m honest about the fact that I possess many flaws. Two of my most negative traits are that I regret often and hold grudges like it’s my job. And now that I’m a mother? Regret daily. What mother doesn’t have a bad day, lash out at her children then cry herself to sleep thinking she’s a terrible mother? What working mother doesn’t question if she’s doing the right thing for her family?

Those regrets are normal, typical, universal.

This one? Might not be.

I’m at that age where pretty much every one of my friends has been pregnant, is pregnant, or is shortly going to announce that she is pregnant. Hell, it seems like every friend who was pregnant WITH me when I had my son is pregnant again, and kudos to them because I could never do it.

Okay, not every friend. But pretty damn close. And since I’ve been through pregnancy—which I hated with a red hot passion and wouldn’t do again unless someone offered me a million bucks, and even then I’d only consider it—I often listen to my friends’ experiences and compare theirs to mine.

Last night, as I held my son in my arms while he slept, I couldn’t help but feel that twinge of the uterus. You know, that feeling when your ovaries whisper, “You know you like this… Don’t you want to do this again?”

And the answer came to me immediately. Yes. Yes, I want to do this again.

But no, before you get excited, I really don’t want to do this again. Not with another child. I want to do this again with my child. My William. My only child.

Because the first time around? Oh, how I would change things.

I don’t want to be pregnant again. I don’t want morning sickness again. I don’t want anxiety and depression and fatigue again. I don’t want to live nine months feeling like a stranger inhabits my body.

I don’t want to care for a newborn again while caring for my toddler. I don’t want to figure out another child’s idiosyncrasies. I don’t want to wake every 2-3 hours. I don’t want to hear incessant colicky crying. I don’t want to get so wrapped up in a new child that I forget my first child. I don’t want to clean up spit up and wake up just to check if the baby’s breathing (… I still do this. He’s 17 months old. When will the paranoia end?)

I guess what I want is a do over. That’s right. A do over. I want to have my first pregnancy again. My first delivery again. I want to look at my son for the first time again. My first night in the hospital with my son again. My first night at home with my son. My first maternity leave. My first walk with the stroller. My first wrap with the Moby. My first baby bath. My first baby book.

I want to do all that over. With this kid.

You know why? Freaking hindsight.

To be blunt, there are so many ways I feel like a badass parent. And then there are ways I feel like a shitty parent. But I know at the end of the day that I’ve tried my best and I’ve loved my kid to death while trying.

What I don’t know? Why some of my friends’ experiences are so different from mine. And why that’s fair. And if they ever experience the same kind of regret or indignation.

Some of my friends have never so much as gagged during their pregnancies. SERIOUSLY? I spent every waking moment with my head in a plastic bag or a toilet. But okay, that one I can chock up to hormones, every woman’s body being different, etc, etc.

Some of my friends had little cute signs that said “THIS BABY IS BREASTFED” on the little bassinet in the hospital. The nurses gave my son a pacifier without asking and pressured me to bottle-feed. But okay, I can chock that up to my absent-mindedness, my lack of assertiveness, my unwillingness to make DECISIONS before my son came.

But I think the biggest realization I had that made me feel certain my experience having my son was not as … I’m searching for a word… perfect? enjoyable? I don’t know. Maybe there isn’t a word for it. This realization came to me when one of my dear friends told me her story and one small aspect stuck out.

She mentioned the nurses bringing her daughter over to her for “skin to skin” contact. Wait, what? What’s skin to skin? Why didn’t anyone think it was important for me to have that with my son? Would I have even wanted it if they had offered? Would it have made that first very emotional and exhausting night any different? Can I even remember how long it was and how many people visited before I got real one-on-one time with my son?

These thoughts plague me. My first thought when I found out I was in labor was, “Oh God. I’m supposed to work tomorrow. He can’t come today.” And to this day, I feel guilty about it. Regret. Because I didn’t know. I didn’t know I would love him. I didn’t know how sweet he would sound and smell. I didn’t know that he would become the happiest, gentlest, funniest child I’ve ever been around. I didn’t know.

So do I want to try for another baby? Nope. Not even a thought right now. And I guess that’s the difference between me and many of my friends because they are currently experiencing or will experience another pregnancy, delivery, baby, and they may get to rectify some of the things they wish had been different the first time around. But for me? Would I want to experience those life-altering, precious moments with William again, with a clear head, an open heart and maybe a little more knowledge from those around me? If only…

Dream Until Your Dreams Come True

Oh hi. Nice to meet you. My name is Shannon, and I am mother effing published.

That’s right, my small circle of followers. Because of my weekly contributions to Liberating Working Moms, a magazine based in Chicago called The Printed Blog noticed my post on post-pregnancy body image and decided it was worth publishing for PAY. Dream. Come. True.

In other news, the last few weeks I’ve blogged over at LWM on various topics: one about why date nights are a necessity, one confessing that I rock my toddler to sleep because I love that extra snuggling time, one in answer to a question someone posed: Is being a working mom hard?, and one about my successes with working out.  

Happy reading 🙂