Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Wean and the Aftermath

Right about the time that I was going to cut him off, Junior self-weaned in one abrupt episode of late-night crying and nipple-biting. We were down to morning and night nursings, and the sessions were gradually getting less important to both of us. I was going to continue through the end of the year and then stop completely so that I could get my cycle back and start trying to conceive again. I ended up getting a light period a few days before The Wean, and then a normal period 30 days later. Commence the ovulation testing! Yes, I am a complete spazz and required that Senior have sex with me at least 10 times around my predicted ovulation date. Thank god it worked because that was exhausting and stressful. And we only had to do that once. Much respect to those who are not so lucky. This was mid-January and made my due date October 11, which was pretty cool because Junior's birthday was October 15. I thought that making one birthday cake instead of two each year would be fun for mom and dad. All along I did have a feeling that LJ (who remained unnamed and un-nicknamed throughout the pregnancy) would be born in September though. So two cakes it is. Thankfully I like to bake.

Well, Junior never looked back and that was that. I didn't miss nursing as much as I thought I might. Freedom! I only now sort of wish I had spent a little more time not nursing and not pregnant. But then if I did that I would have wished my kids were closer together in age. There is no winning with myself when it comes to things like this. Or anything, actually. But anyway I feel pretty lucky that it was as painless as it was. (Except for that last night of nipple-biting.)

With this pregnancy, I told my boss I was pregnant at about 18 weeks when it was getting difficult to hide it anymore. I know it is risky business, but I had told two colleagues prior to telling the boss. They both kept the secret. When I told one of the secretaries, I actually asked her instead how long she had suspected I was pregnant. It was at least a few weeks. She had a gastric bypass surgery the year before and lost over 100 pounds, so she was very size-conscious and I had seen her checking me out over the weeks. I guess I was putting it off, but when I finally told my boss, he said, "Oh, you're pregnant? Congratulations! Every child is a blessing." Thank you for being a practicing Catholic! So that was really fine. I'm pretty sure he's still not convinced that I'm coming back to work next month, but whatever. He is sexist and the worst kind because he doesn't know it even when you try explaining it to him with concrete examples. Like this:

After a day in court I told him that opposing counsel said about me and in front of me to his client that "they aren't all that pretty." My retort was "Why be competent when you can be pretty?" And I thought that was a pretty good comeback, so I was telling him. Then he told me a story about being at a deposition with "a VERY good lady lawyer," whom he holds in high regard--he emphasized this repeatedly--but she was just too scowly while cross-examining the witness. He told her to smile more, that she was much better looking when she smiled. And he was taken aback by her reaction that he really ought to STFU. He was trying to explain that the other lawyer was really giving me a compliment. Duh, because being told you're pretty when you're trying to do your job that does not involve being pretty, is totally appropriate. The smile thing is so much worse even. But when I tried to explain why he just would not believe me that that is offensive. The point of saying that my boss is sexist is to say that he likes women in their womanly roles and therefore he doesn't mind when I tell him I'm pregnant. Maybe I should stay put and go for Baby #3.

There was nothing especially eventful about work with respect to this pregnancy, except maybe that I was supposed to drive an hour and a half to a deposition the day after the night my water broke. So I think that catches us up on the past year of weaning and pregnancy as it pertained to my job. Coming up...Wow, I can't believe they offered me that "opportunity" and other job woes.

Say, "Cheese!" Boob Cheese, That Is

Back in May I realized there was nothing to be done with a few bags of leftover breastmilk because Junior had weaned in December. Nothing except make cheese, that is! I enlisted my childhood friend and chef, Ian Knauer, for a little cheese-making experiment. Ian assured me that my surplus 40 of milk would be enough for an easy-peasy batch of ricotta. Below is our recipe.

Step 1: shoot the shit with childhood friend whom you haven't seen in awhile. Because you forgot to defrost the milk ahead of time. (And because you want to catch up with your friend.)

Step 2: place defrosted milk in large Le Creuset pot and heat on stove. Add lemon juice and something else that I can't remember--probably salt. Stir frequently to prevent scorching and watch for curds to form. Add more lemon juice because curd is not forming. Ian comments that the fat content in human milk is obviously higher than in milk from other animals. We start to wonder if we're doing this right. Recipes on the Internet include a mix of about half cow's milk to go with the human milk. Apparently we are pioneers of the 100% natural, pure-breastmilk cheese movement.

Step 3: realize that the curd is very, very small and had been forming before we added too much lemon juice.

Step 4: strain milk into bowl, using a cheesecloth (actually, it was a tea towel) to catch the tiny curds and separate the curds and whey. According to even Ian, whey is disgusting, so discard whey (the watery part).
Mmm, human milk cheese curds.

Ian says, "Whey looks like pee."

Step 5: eat your fresh-made ricotta with honey and peaches.

Step 6: allow ricotta to get quite old in fridge and gather a bit of mold, because you actually do not really like cheese made with your own breastmilk. Unless you are Ian, on the other hand, then enjoy fresh-made cheese within days of its preparation.

Happy cheese-making!*

*Any extra milk I have from the second kid, however, I am going to sell to grown men on the Internet. I am also making a sign that says "will pump for $$$." It's really too bad maternity leave ends on Monday.

Monday, December 8, 2014

I Would Also Like a Nanny for Each Child and a Personal Chef

A columnist at Mommyish alerted me to this garbage: an interview with YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, who is also a mom. Maria Guido's commentary is great, but I want to be more specific about why the information provided in this interview is garbage.

Wojcicki, 46, is pregnant with her fifth child. Women over the age of 45 have less than a 1% chance of getting pregnant naturally. I think if you're going to publicly talk about how ordinary your experience and challenges are in balancing--ha!--career and motherhood, then you should also talk about your IVF and possible donor eggs. Just so the ordinary among us don't think you're just like them. That was really my most pressing question about this interview, but in the "7 things to know" I never needed to know about Susan Wojcicki," whose name I never heard before, we also learn the following.

She's home at 6:00 for dinner every night. Notice there is no mention of what the family is having for dinner and who is preparing it. It's probably really challenging to have a private chef cook your food and wash your dishes every night. I'm not really criticizing this, and it's exactly what I would do if I had a high-powered job and oodles of disposable income. I would do this even if I had no job and oodles of disposable income. So no judgment, just try not to make your night sound so ordinary, when those ordinary among us are sticking a frozen pizza in the oven and calling it a win if the pizza includes a frozen vegetable that ends up in a toddler's mouth and not on the floor before the end of the meal.

You Tube's maternity leave policy is 18 weeks, but she doesn't know how much time she will take off. I thought she was going to say she would have to return earlier because of her job demands, but no, she said this, and I must quote: “Lots of people are asking me how long I'm going take off, and I don't want to give a specific date because I think well, what happens if I get to that date and then I feel like I need an extra week or I need an extra two weeks?” How nice. My firm's policy is 10 weeks, but you are entitled to an additional two weeks under the Family Medical Leave Act. I'm fully aware that this is extremely generous compared to most American women. And I am in fact going to take two more unpaid weeks off, to avoid returning during the holidays. Before I can fully commit to this, however, I need to ensure I will have enough money for the mortgage and car payments that are auto-drafted from our bank account. I'll just charge all gas, groceries, and Christmas gifts to our halfway-maxed credit cards with 17% interest rates for this privilege.

She recommends not to over plan your life. Which makes me more curious about this fifth pregnancy, and her previous pregnancies as well. What did she over plan? What did she under plan, or not plan at all? She is quoted as saying that it was a "leap" to join Google when she was four months pregnant, and I would like to know why she said that. This part could have been not-garbage, but the interview was too superficial.

The "really hectic period" of having kids is fairly brief. Please define fairly and please define brief, because as a mother to a two-year-old and a two-month-old, I would really like to know.

About career and motherhood, she said, and this part is not garbage: “I won't say it was easy, but I decided I'd make it work because I really believed in Google's potential. When you're a junior-level woman and get pregnant, people always ask if you'll quit. But no one asks me that now.” Here we need to acknowledge that she had an interesting job, and that junior-level moms are expected to opt out of the work force. Which precludes their ascendance to senior level and the C-suite, and as we know, very few women regardless of parenting status do not make it this far. Opting out is expected by anyone who asks you IF you will return to work after having a baby. And it surely goes without saying that not everyone's job is interesting. I wish I could not return to my current job. But then I have no aspirations of becoming a partner there either.

I wish the interview had come across as more sincere, but I want to be careful not to roll my eyes at this particular woman. Maybe she did open up about all these things and the crap interview is the result of limited space, the interviewer's angle, and/or our unwillingness as a society to deal with the realities are career and parenting. It's not always a balancing act, and not every moment deserves to be cherished.

Pregnant Workers' Rights

I'm reading the UPS brief in the case of the pregnant woman who was denied a temporary light-duty assignment at work due to a lifting restriction: It's really getting my dander up to read about how "pregnancy-blind" policies are not discriminatory to pregnant women. Maybe it's not overt discrimination, but pretending like pregnancy is not a thing that happens to only women, will automatically lead to saying things like "the universe of nonpregnant males and females." Nonpregnant men? Thanks for clarifying. We wouldn't want to leave out the men in a discussion about sex discrimination now, would we?

UPS relies on the following explanations for why there was no violation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), and these are my thoughts:

1. A collective bargaining agreement. UPS workers are represented by a Union, and the collective bargaining agreement does not include an accommodations policy for pregnancy like it does for on-the-job injuries, a disability covered by the ADA, or loss of driving privileges (e.g. you got a DUI and have a suspended license). The union? International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Anyone else see a problem?
2. A "pregnancy-blind" policy--which is automatically discriminatory on the basis of sex since pregnancy is not an equal opportunity condition.
3. Statutory interpretation--by UPS's reading the only class of people pregnant women can be compared to are other pregnant women, so a company can just discriminate against all of them and there's no problem. And we all know statutes are always carefully crafted and never sloppy or ambiguous (ha). "Petitioner must show that pregnancy was singled out for exclusion." If your policy is "pregnancy-blind," and no accommodation is available to a pregnant woman, then haven't you singled out pregnancy for exclusion?
4. If the condition were employment-related, then an accommodation would be available--so, ladies, make sure to conceive while on the job!!
5. An accommodation for pregnancy would amount to preferential treatment. The Circuit Court, in affirming the grant of summary judgment below, was openly hostile to a request for accommodation based on pregnancy, when it stated that the PDA does not require "employers to grant pregnant employees a ‘most favored nation’ status with others based on their ability to work, regardless of whether such status was available to the universe—male and female—of nonpregnant employees." See, I didn't make that up. What does that even mean? All I can say is wow, there must be a lot of entitled bitches out there getting pregnant just so they can get some accommodations and totally slack off at work for a few months. Because being pregnant does not actually cause any physical changes in a woman's body, right? I mean, growing another human being inside you is not taxing on your own systems at all, right?
6. Apparently the sponsors of the PDA intended that pregnancy be treated like other non-work related conditions. If you refuse to treat pregnancy as a unique condition applying only to women and occasionally requiring different accommodations that cannot be compared to accommodations necessitated by men or by men and women equally, then is there any other way to treat it? 
7. An accommodation based only on pregnancy status results in preferential treatment. Oops, I said this already in Number 5. But it bears repeating. And what the fuck? If what the PDA means is that policies actually MUST be pregnancy-blind, then what was the point in enacting it? If that is what it means then the statute itself is the complete embodiment of circular reasoning and I am going crazy trying to respond to the UPS arguments because the whole entire thing just does not make sense. Case in point: "requiring UPS to accommodate petitioner's pregnancy-based limitation, even though similarly situated employees would not be similarly accommodated, would treat pregnancy more favorably than any other basis under Title VII." So who the hell else are the similarly situated employees? The nonpregnant men? Oh.
8. Petitioner's request for accommodation results in setting aside the collective bargaining agreement and allows her to "jump the line" in the seniority system. I don't even know how to respond to this one.
9. Since there is no discriminatory animus towards pregnant women in a pregnancy-blind policy, there can be no sex discrimination. So by pretending pregnancy doesn't exist, then when it does, what happens? Sometimes two things cannot be treated the same to have an equitable result. Like pregnant women and nonpregnant people. What if pregnancy were the preferred status and the status quo? Would we ever consider that men were NOT being discriminated against due to their inability to achieve pregnancy? Of course not. That would be really unfair.
10. Pregnancy is not a disability under the ADA. But when looking for a comparison for pregnant women, the comparison is workers temporarily DISABLED by an off-the-job injury. Also, I find it really ironic, and incredibly irritating, that pregnancy is not a protected class as a disability and that a temporary accommodation is not legally required, but for the purposes of short-term disability insurance coverage it is a disability of precisely six or eight weeks once you have the kid. Again, WTF? 
11. Policies that treat pregnant women the same as those employees injured off the job are endorsed by the courts. So now pregnancy IS akin to an injury? Because that makes sense. See Number 4 above. In the Sixth Circuit, a pregnant woman was fired based on a pregnancy-blind policy that allowed for firing employees who could not perform the essential functions of the job (again keep in mind that pregnancy ends after no more than 9 months, and in the first 2 weeks the woman is literally not even pregnant yet), and court said that the PDA "merely requires employers to ‘ignore’ employee pregnancies." If the only reason a woman cannot perform her job duties is that she is pregnant--temporarily!!--then how is her pregnancy status being ignored? And how is it possible that a law enacted to protect pregnant women from workplace discrimination is followed by ignoring the fact that a woman is pregnant? Maybe the PDA was enacted to prevent discrimination against pregnant women who look pregnant simply for looking pregnant? Like, just ignore that big belly, she's the same as she was before. This is not really a joke because it wasn't too long ago that teachers had to go on unpaid leave in the fourth month of pregnancy--that is, don't let anyone see you pregnant.

More thoughts: Pregnancy is a temporary condition, people. That is why the ADA doesn't cover pregnancy. And seemingly why the PDA became its own statute. We can all agree that pregnancy affects a woman's physical capabilities--that's how it works. But it's for a limited period of time. It's not that big a deal. I know of a workers' compensation recipient who has been on benefits for EIGHT YEARS because she hurt her back at work while bending over to PICK UP A PEN. If that worker can get such benefits, perhaps a pregnant woman can be relieved of heavy lifting for five months? Or she can be allowed to carry a water bottle at work for five months, even though no one else NOT PREGNANT is not allowed to carry a water bottle at work? (I'm looking at you, Walmart.) Pregnancy is not the same as an off-the-job injury because injuries can happen to anyone, and pregnancy cannot. It's really that simple. Trying to shove pregnancy into a comparison with men things and things that happen to everyone unnecessarily complicates the matter and results in disparate treatment.*

If temporary accommodations for pregnant women amount to "special treatment," so be it. It's 2014. Let's get with it and get over the fact that women work. They get pregnant. They still work and still want to work. If women stop having babies then our society, and things like our Social Security system, will eventually (or soon) cease to exist.

When women have physical jobs, they may need to modify their duties for a short period of time during pregnancy. If a large company with a lengthy policy on accommodations cannot accommodate a pregnant woman for a few months, what is the message? The message is that women don't belong on the job. That is not acceptable.

*UPS notes that while petitioner's arguments fail in a disparate treatment case, her burden would be different in a disparate impact case. The brief also points out that petitioner's arguments are better directed to the legislature than to the courts. I cannot disagree with these points, except to point out that the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act failed to pass in 2012, so clearly the legislature does not want to provide needed protections to pregnant women in the workplace. I did not do any research as to why the bill failed, but save me the arguments that it was the will of the people. Also see the Gail Collins opinion column in the New York Times from 12/6/14.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

I'm Back!

At least until my computer forgets to remember the password to this email account. I mean, you didn't expect a litigator to keep her mouth shut for too long, did you?

So where were we? Junior had just turned one. I was trying hoping to get pregnant again. My job was kind of boring and work was slow and I thought I might get laid off by the end of 2014. Also I wanted to make cheese out of my leftover frozen breast milk.

In a nutshell, Junior has now recently turned two, I had a whole 'nother kid, my job is still boring and slow but probably thanks to Kid 2 I did not get laid off, and I did in fact make cheese out of my breast milk. Some of these updates will be discussed in detail in a future post. For now, meet my new little guy, LJ:

He was born two weeks early, on September 27 at 1:37 a.m. My kids immediately start torturing me by being born in the middle of the night so that I am expected to stay in the hospital for what amounts to three nights instead of two. Both times I left early and only spent two nights, but I really wanted to leave the same day he was born. But apparently the hospital is in charge of your baby's well-being, not you, because that was something the rounding pediatrician was "not comfortable with" and thus strictly prohibited. Whatever.*

This labor was kind of a funny work story, because my water broke at home on a Thursday night, and thanks to leftover maxi pads from Junior's birth, I went into work for an hour the next morning to tie up loose ends before going to the hospital. The secretaries thought I was crazy, but really, I would rather have been there then to submit time sheets and change the message on my voice mail than after the baby was born. As for showing up at the hospital, I was really reluctant to go, especially because it was such a beautiful day and I was going to have to be inside and I knew I was also going to be refused any food for the next who knew how many hours? Which is easily overcome by sneaking snacks in your overnight bag, by the way. Anyway, I didn't call the doctor's office until Friday morning because I knew they would want me to come in right away and it was after 8:00 at night and I just wanted to eat some dinner, take a shower and sleep in my own bed.

In the morning, as predicted, they demanded that I come in right away. I was on the way to the store to get bagels and said I could arrive in 45 minutes. After a cervix check that I tried pretty hard to refuse (I was swayed when the nurse said that if I was not further dilated than the 2-3cms from my appointment two weeks prior, then I could go home and hang out for a good while before showing up at the hospital), it was determined that I was not further dilated (duh, I was not having any contractions, at all), but I had to get a fluid check and a non-stress test. I failed the fluid check apparently and it was recommended that I go immediately to the hospital. So much for the cervix check first, rendered completely unnecessary at this point, but in the end, three cervix checks and no infections, so none of that mattered. I said I would get there in an hour, and then went to work for an hour, went home to play with Junior, have some lunch and pack a bag, and arrived about three hours later. Anyway, blah, blah, blah, blah blah snowcones, blah blah pitocin, blah blah blah epidural (a few too many blahs later than I would have liked), no blahs between 9cm dilated and having a baby in two pushes and ta-da! I became a mother of two little boys.

I feel like a ton of people have their kids two years apart, but no one ever tells you what a little a-hole your toddler is to your newborn, and in general. So we are dealing with some behavior issues. It is nothing unexpected or abnormal, just difficult when you are spending a good portion of your nights not sleeping. I am currently on maternity leave and I hope I have enough time left that LJ gets to a point where he is sleeping better at night. I feel like Junior was better by this age, but who can remember what she remembered while in the throes of sleep deprivation?

Speaking of sleep deprivation, I no longer have the attention span to continue writing this post, which means you probably do not have the attention span to continue reading it anyway. Stay tuned for more catch up on job suckiness, adventures in cheese making, and other topics.

* It was just beautiful, beautiful weather the two days I was in there. I make it sound like jail because that's what if felt like because I generally have to be outside when it is nice out. Especially since we East Coasters do not often experience the beautiful weather we were experiencing those two days. In the end I was permitted to go outside on the hospital grounds while accompanied by another adult. My friend C and I went for a little walk with our toddlers and the moment I stepped through the exterior doors I was like, "oh, it's hot out." And of course it was not exactly easy to walk around about 30 hours post-partum, let alone chase after an almost two-year-old, and then I got back inside at 7:01 and was unable to order any (delicious hospital) food for dinner. Did I put a little too much emphasis on my need to be outside? Rather than my need to relax and recover and generally not stress out? Ya think? Next time I'm going to suck every last minute out of my hospital stay, especially if it's extremely cold, hot and humid, or raining out. I shall plan accordingly.