Take Two

Image

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted.  In my defense, I’ve been a bit busy.  Earlier this month, I delivered our second beautiful baby boy.  And so it begins.  Again.

I figured we would be finished with one.  WE were good with one.  He fit well into our lives, and it was just starting to get easier.  We had it all figured out.

But then we would watch him playing alone.  Watch him watching the other kids.  Watch him begging us to “Play!  Play!”  And we knew.  We had to give him a sibling.

So we started on the journey again.  Oh, it wasn’t without doubt.  We had many many conversations about the process of pregnancy.  I had a pretty rough pregnancy with our first, and wasn’t looking forward to doing it again.  My husband wasn’t thrilled with the prospect of picking up the slack while I would be theoretically laid up on a couch for 9 months.  But, we figured, it was only temporary.  And hey – they say that every pregnancy is different!  Maybe this one would be easier!

So we persevered.  And were shocked and over the moon when that second pink line appeared, ever so faintly.  It was going to happen!

And then… Pregnancy.  To save you the suspense, they were right.  Every pregnancy IS different.  This one, unfortunately, was much worse.

Granted, I am now two years older.  And more tired, chasing around a toddler.  But when it HIT, I was not prepared.  The nausea – let me tell you about the nausea.  This was not a little bit of seasickness.  This was literally throwing up 10-15 times a day.  This was opening the fridge, and catching a whiff of something that I swear was rotting, and bending over the kitchen sink while everyone else swore they couldn’t smell anything.  This was vomiting after walking past a batch of “rancid” strawberries in the grocery store.  This was putting my work conference calls on mute (thank GOODNESS I have the flexibility to work primarily from home) to vomit into the wastebasket.  It was horrible.  Literally the worst feeling I have ever felt in my life.  And it NEVER ENDS.

Doctors wanted me to take Zofran as they were worried about dehydration.  Zofran, FYI, is an anti-nausea medication that is commonly prescribed to chemotherapy patients.  Are there risks, I asked?  Minimal, they answered.  And so of course I turned to Dr. Google.  And subsequently decided that no matter how bad it got, I wouldn’t take it.  Paranoid?  Maybe.  But I could never live with myself if something went wrong; I would forever blame the fact that I had opted to take the Zofran.

So I tried acupuncture.  Multiple times.  Didn’t work.  Tried the ginger, the Vitamin B, the teas… In short, I tried everything.  Nothing worked.  Depressed.  Isolated.  Staying out of the kitchen helped.  Avoiding strawberries helped.  Throwing away the pear-scented hand soap that I could smell on my husband or son a mile away helped.  But other than that, there was nothing to do but subsist on the couch, in my office chair, or in bed until it finally began subsiding around 5 months.

Then the relative bliss of the next few months.  I felt alive again!  Could make (and keep) plans!  Could finally think beyond the misery of the next moment to hours, days, and weeks ahead.  Pulled out of the depression.  It was wonderful.

Now the focus went beyond my own misery to the baby.  I had done a CVS again, so was assured that genetically things looked okay.  I was seeing a wonderful OB (who had delivered my first child) and a top perinatologist, so knew I was in good medical hands.  So far so good.

Then the next challenge.  The perinatologist lets me know that my HCG levels are too high in about the 25th week of pregnancy.  Since genetic issues can be ruled out, it likely means that I could later struggle with placental insufficiency.  What is placental insufficiency?  Well – it basically means that the placenta is working too hard, too early, and will likely “poop out” (doctor’s words) towards the end of my pregnancy.  He concludes that he wants to continue to see me to measure baby’s growth, placenta’s growth, and ensure we catch it if it starts to fail too early.  He also advises that he does not want to see me go beyond 39 weeks of pregnancy, even if all looks well, because at that point the risks outweigh the benefits in a woman “as young” as I am and with some of my test results.

So we continue to see both doctors.  Everything seems to progress normally and after 32 weeks, I am “graduated” from the perinatologist.

About two weeks later is when the baby’s growth really begins to slow.  In fact, almost decrease.  I am given Non Stress Tests (NSTs) to ensure all looks okay.  And then come the scares.  This baby NEVER MOVES!  I share that with my OB.  Sure enough, she does an NST and his heart rate is flat.  She sends me to the hospital for two hours of additional monitoring and a biophysical ultrasound.  Ultimately all looks okay.

Then a couple of weeks later, a car accident.  A minor one, but I am shaken.  And baby stops moving.  Once again am sent to the hospital for monitoring and ultrasound.  And baby looks okay.

Then a third time, on Christmas Eve.  Go in for a routine OB check-up, and they notice via NST that the baby’s heart rate is once again flat.  Am sent again to the hospital for the same monitoring routine.  Four hours later, we are discharged.  Baby looks okay.

And then the final and fourth time.  Am once again in the OB’s office when they see only a flat heart rate on the NST print out.  Go to the hospital.  After several hours, am told that baby appears okay.  Am also told that I am having contractions (which I have begun feeling).  My doctor calls.  Says that if we would like, she will induce tonight because of all the scares with the baby… But that she recommends just waiting another day or so.  She feels that I will go into full blown labor on my own by the following day.

We take her advice.  Come home and I labor, albeit inconsistently, through the night.  The following day my husband goes to work.  I labor inconsistently throughout the day.  At times during my walk with the dog and toddler, I have to stop.  I finally give up and plop the toddler in front of Sesame Street so that I can sit myself.  I do end up being able to take a short nap.

Hubby gets home and we take a family walk around 7pm.  I have to stop several times, take breaths, wait for the pain to pass.  But the contractions are still inconsistent.  I get ready for bed, and lie down about 9pm, figuring I can get some sleep before I am certain I go into full blown labor the following day.

By 9:10pm, the pain is pretty bad.  Enough that I am shuddering through the contractions.  But they are still 10-15 minutes apart.  We call the hospital.  They say to wait until the contractions are 5 minutes apart.  Hubby asks if we should call the friend who will be watching our toddler during the hospital stay.  I say No – we have time – and go and lay back down.

By 9:17pm, I am almost crying through a contraction and have him place the call.  By 9:20pm, contractions are suddenly 3-4 minutes apart and I can’t take them.  I have him call the friend back to see how far out she is.  He packs the car and gets everything ready so we can just leave once she arrives.

Finally she is here.  We fly out the door and I am contracting all the way to the hospital.  We arrive and I have to stop 4 times between the car and the entrance.  The entrance is closed due to construction!  They say we have to go around the back entrance.  Hubby pleads with them, they take one look at me, and they usher us through.  We get up to Labor & Delivery.  Hubby calls the front desk: “I think we’re having a baby!”  Panicked.  They let us in and I am bent over a chair, contracting.  Nurse says “We’ve got a live one – Put her in Room 3!”

Within 2 minutes I am in a hospital gown and they have confirmed I am 5cm dilated.  I am begging for the epidural.  They have to wheel me into the delivery room.  Once there, only 10 minutes later, I am 8cm dilated.  I am BEGGING BEGGING BEGGING for the epidural.  Crying.  They are telling me to “breathe through the pain.”  Screw that.  GIVE ME THE EPIDURAL.

Turns out some paperwork wasn’t completed.  Then they didn’t put my IV in correctly.  Then they realized I don’t have a hospital band and they don’t even know who I am.  The anesthesiologist finally arrives and calls a TIME OUT.  The nurses huddle and then start over.  I am begging him for relief.  He advises me that at this point, an epidural will kick in too late.  “The head is RIGHT THERE.”  I tell him I don’t care: GIVE ME THE EPIDURAL.  The nurse says I need to go through a full bag of IV fluids first.  I shout at them to CALL MY DOCTOR.  I want the epidural!

Then finally.  The head nurse comes in and says she has to talked to my doctor, and she has advised them to give me the epidural.  They do so, reluctantly.  I wait for it to kick in.  Through another contraction.  Then two more.  The contractions are fast and furious now – no time in between.  I still feel everything: the checks, the catheter, everything.  I complain between the searing pain.  They say they told me this would happen as I am too far along.  I ask when my doctor will be here.  They say within 30 minutes and don’t push yet.  I feel the urge to push but I am not delivering this baby without her.  More tears.

Finally my doctor walks in.  “Thank God you’re here!”  She takes one look at me, and turns to the nurse “Um, doesn’t look like your epidural is working.”  She begins to suit up.  “Where are my booties?”  Nurse: “I don’t know.”  Once that is figured out, she asks the nurse why nothing has been sterilized.  The nurse tells the doctor that SHE is supposed to do that.  Hubby and I stare in disbelief as the nurse continues to argue back until the doctor, being the bigger person, simply does it herself.

Finally it’s time.  They let me know that I am going to need to push.  I wail like a baby.  I can’t!  I am too scared!  It hurts too much!!!!  I CAN’T DO IT!!!!

They prod me more aggressively and I give a feeble push.  Baby shifts.  Contraction ends.  Second contraction.  Second push.  Stronger.  Crowning.

Then: “The cord is around the baby’s neck and his heart rate is dropping.  We need to get him out this next push.”  And that was all it took.  Gritting teeth.  Sobbing.  Grunting.  Pushing.  And he is out.

More tears.  Of joy this time.  The doctor expertly unloops the cord from around his neck.  He begins crying.  He is red and flushed.  They lay him on my belly and we hold him.  Rocking.  Crying.  Joy.

Unlike with my first, who experienced a traumatic delivery and was immediately taken from me, we are able to luxuriate in close to two hours of skin-to-skin time with our baby.  The time flies by.  We are left alone.  It is the peak of the entire pregnancy.  Those fleeting golden moments.  Just baby, mother, and father.  Precious.

Finally they take him and weigh him.  6 pounds and 11 ounces, much smaller than my first baby.  They bathe him.  Hubby takes pictures.  I watch in awe.  He is perfect.  The moments are perfect.  He is brought back to us for more bonding.  And I notice that my heart has immediately expanded.  Is overfilled with enough love for both of our children.  Dripping.

And I know that our family is complete.

11 Things Never to Say to a Woman with Severe Morning Sickness

ToiletSo there is morning sickness and then there is MORNING SICKNESS.  AKA Hyperemesis Gravidarum.  All-consuming, debilitating, depressing illness.  Make no mistake – they are not one and the same.

Typical morning sickness comes with some nausea, vomiting, and general not-feeling-well-ness.  Hyperemesis Gravidarum results in severe vomiting, dehydration, trips to doctors, depression in many cases, and pressure to take Zofran (anti-nausea medication for chemotherapy patients).

Neither are fun.

And due to a lack of real knowledge about either of these conditions, sufferers are subject to constant tips and tricks from well-meaning bystanders who may have no idea how serious this can be, especially in the case of Hyperemesis Gravidarum.

So based on my own experience, I’ve compiled a list of things NOT to say to women suffering from severe morning sickness.

1.  Try Saltines.  Unless the mother-to-be is lucky enough to only have a very mild case of morning sickness, Saltines do not work.  They do not help.  They do nothing but ensure that your next vomiting session includes the white salty goo that these turn into.

2.  Try Ginger.  Ginger does not work.  In my case, it makes me even more sick.  After investing in cases of ginger ale, ginger candy, and raw ginger, I quickly developed an aversion that led to nothing but waste.

3.  Try Sea Bands.  I really wanted these to work.  I really gave it a go.  Day in and day out with those little balls pressing into my wrists, leaving indentations and redness.  I will save you the suspense: they don’t work either.  Again, maybe for minor nausea, but for severe sickness – they do nada except mark up your wrists.

4.  Try Acupuncture.  I had high hopes for this.  Heck, if it is good enough for Fergie then it is good enough for me.  I went 4 times, and each time left as sick as I had arrived.  Once I even vomited on the way out.  Now, I will say that the acupuncturist and staff were extremely nice and caring – that was sweet – but as far as any actual relief, well, you know the story.  Did leave a dent in my wallet though.

5.  Try Hard Candies/Prenatal Pops/[Insert Other Consumable Product].  NOTHING like this works.  Nothing.  I have tried it all.  I did succeed in creating some new aversions for myself.  And in trying some new foods.  But none of it helped with the sickness.  And I was a bit offended that well-meaning advice givers were minimizing my all-consuming and debilitating illness to the point that a simple piece of candy or food could relieve it.

6.  It Will Only Last for 3 Months.  How the frick do YOU know????  That’s what I felt like saying every time.  There are certainly stories of poor pregnant mothers who are severely sick up to and even during delivery.  Even if the woman is lucky enough to find some relief after three months, how does three months of misery sound to you???  Imagine a hangover combined with food poisoning that doesn’t let up for THREE MONTHS.  My acupuncturist shared a true story with me: one of her newly-pregnant patients was suffering from some severe morning sickness.  Her not-so-compassionate hubby told her, ah don’t worry about it, it’s only for three months.  That same hubby woke up the next morning with a bout of food poisoning and, as men do, laid in bed all day whining and begging for help.  The wife, every so sweetly, told him “don’t worry Honey, it will only last for three months.”

7.  At Least it Lets Up in the Evenings.  For those living in the dark ages, “morning sickness” is a misnomer.  It does NOT only occur in the mornings.  Unfortunately some of us suffer all day and night.  I would literally wake up in the night to vomit.  When it is severe, there is NO period of relief.  So to imply to a pregnant woman that she has some hours of relief during the day can be completely false and once again minimize the misery she is going through.

8.  At Least You Will Feel Better Once You Vomit.  NOT TRUE!  If you are hungover and vomit, yes you will feel some relief.  If you have the stomach flu and vomit, again you will feel some temporary relief.  The sick joke that is morning sickness ensures that no matter how often or how violently you vomit, there is no temporary relief afterwards.  The nausea is still there as strong as before.  So all the vomiting does is make you tear up, bring up stomach acid, burn your throat, and make a mess.  The woman does not feel one ounce of relief afterwards.

9.  I/My Mother/My Sister/My Friend Never Experienced Morning Sickness.  Well whoopty-do for you.  That’s great.  Really, it is.  But it is not what I want to hear when I am doubled over and heaving into a toilet or sink.  Especially when it’s my 12th vomit of the day.

10.  Just Try Not to Think About It.  My usually-considerate husband had the audacity to mutter this to me one morning.  Lord help him.  You might as well just say “it’s all in your head.”  I promise you, it is not in my head.  I swear to you, if there was any way possible that I could focus on anything OTHER than being so ill, I would be the first one to do so.  Well-meaning advice givers, I can guarantee you, it is not in the mother’s head.  It is not a matter of simply not thinking about it.  It is a real and serious illness which has no cure and only questionable treatments.  Telling her not to think about it is simply ignorant and, frankly, not possible for her.  Do yourself a favor and keep this little tidbit to yourself.

11. [While in Mid-Vomit] Quick, Get Out of the Kitchen/Bathroom/[Fill in Location].  Newsflash: Once the vomiting has begun, it cannot be stopped.  You cannot simply move the woman to another room or away from the smell and expect the vomiting to stop.  That ship has sailed.  Instead, hold her hair, rub her back, comfort her, and help her clean up.  From experience, I can tell you that all you will accomplish by telling a vomiting pregnant woman to “quick – get out” is a pissed-off and exasperated monster who, if you’re not lucky, may decide to aim your way.

So what CAN you say to a woman who is going through the throes of morning sickness or, worse, Hyperemesis Gravidarum?  Nothing.  The key is not to talk.  Not to offer advice.  Just to listen.  Let her vent, let her cry, give her a hug, offer to lend her a helping hand, and check up on her often to see how she is doing.

No advice needed.

Trust and Child Care

BabysitterI have trust issues.  I admit it.  Especially with anyone who is going to be left alone with my child.

In fact, my son is now 18 months old, and only three people have ever been left alone with him in all that time: myself, my hubby, and the nanny.  And those who know me make fun of the extensive (okay, semi-paranoid) background screening process that I subjected the nanny to prior to hiring.

But it only takes one story like this to justify my fears.  Granted, this isn’t the worst story out there, but it happened to someone close to me.  And therefore hits home.

This friend of mine went back to work about 8 weeks after her daughter was born.  She had searched and asked around for a good daycare provider, and found one that she liked.  This woman ran an in-home daycare, was very kind, and seemed wonderful with the kids.  She was also accredited.  My friend interviewed her and decided she was the right fit for their family.

All went wonderfully.  Her daughter adapted well, and the daycare provider was in constant touch with my friend via phone and text.  There was no doubt that her daughter was cared for and happy.  Everyone settled into a routine.

Fast forward 2 years.  The daycare provider is now like family.  She and my friend share confidences, laughs, and are even Facebook friends.  The daycare provider shares her marital troubles.  She and her husband are divorcing.  It is a rough time and my friend is a shoulder to cry on.

As the sadness turns to defiance, my friend begins noticing that the daycare provider has begun spending many late nights out with friends, clubbing and drinking.  She reads Facebook snippets posted at 4am from greasy diners after nights of partying… Two hours before she is due to drop off her daughter.  She blows it off.  The woman is going through a divorce, after all.  She is in a rough place.  She is blowing off steam.

The daycare provider begins looking increasingly disheveled as my friend drops off her 2-year-old daughter.  Hungover and unshowered, with dark circles under her eyes.  My friend talks to her.  The daycare provider knows – she needs to get it together.  She is just having a tough time.  It will work out.

One morning upon my friend’s arrival, the daycare provider instructs her to drop her daughter off with the neighbor instead.  My friend, stunned, asks what’s going on.  The daycare provider says she is hungover and not feeling well, and that it is fine because she has already talked to the neighbor who has agreed to watch her daughter.  My friend says, firmly, that she will not drop her daughter off with anybody else – especially someone she doesn’t know.  She tells the daycare provider that she pays her and her alone to watch her daughter.  The daycare provider concedes.  But it doesn’t leave my friend with a great sense of confidence that her daughter is being well taken care of while she is at work for the day.  First Red Flag.

My friend shares her concerns with me.  I agree that she has legitimate reasons to be concerned.  We talk about her finding a new daycare provider.  She will, once she gets a chance.

The daycare provider’s drunken nights continue.  She continues to confide in my friend about her relationship woes.  Lines are blurring.  My friend lets her know that she has to pull it together – and the daycare provider agrees.

About a month later, my friend is let off work early.  She calls the daycare provider to let her know that she is on her way to pick up her daughter.  The daycare provider, surprised, advises that they are actually in the car and on their way to K-Mart.  My friend is shocked and angered that the daycare provider has driven her child without letting her know first, as was a term of their agreement.   Second Red Flag.

Since K-Mart is closer to where my friend is, they agree to meet in the parking lot.  My friend pulls in and waits.  A moment later, the daycare provider drives up.  My friend is appalled when she sees her daughter hop off of a simple booster in the backseat and run outside.  Her daughter is still at the age when a convertible carseat is necessary (preferably rear-facing).  She asks the daycare provider why her daughter was placed into a booster (not even sure that she was fully buckled in).  The daycare provider, sheepishly, says that she knows it is wrong and it won’t happen again.  They were in a bit of a rush.  Third Red Flag.

This time, my friend and I talk a lot further about the situation.  I implore her to find a new daycare provider immediately; there are too many red flags.  She agrees completely, and is looking into it.  She also shows up to the daycare provider’s home the following day to have a heart-to-heart.  They discuss the issues and my friend’s concerns, and the daycare provider takes full responsibility.  She is adamant that nothing like this will ever happen again.  She is just having such a tough time with the divorce – and she appreciates my friend’s support more than she will ever know.  She assures her that her daughter and her other charges remain her top priority.

It is now about one month later.  My friend receives a call at her job from the police department.

“We have your daughter,” they say, “We need you to come down here.”  Panicked, my friend asks what is going on??  “Your daughter is fine,” they reply, “Please just meet us here as soon as possible.”

My friend, shaking, runs off the job and speeds to the requested meeting location – a very busy intersection in a rundown commercial neighborhood.  She is flooded with relief when she pulls into the strip mall and sees her 2-year-old daughter safe with a police officer.

After showering her precious daughter with hugs and kisses, she finally hears what happened.

Shortly after my friend’s daughter was dropped off at the daycare, the daycare provider drove with her to a hair salon located in an unsavory part of town.  My friend recalls that before this time, the daycare provider had texted her to ask when she expected to be off work.  My friend replied, and the daycare provider said that was perfect.  No mention of a hair appointment.  No request to leave the home with her child.

Apparently while getting her hair done, the daycare provider lost track of my friend’s daughter.  The 2-year-old daughter wandered outside of the salon and began walking the extremely busy streets.  She continued to wander the streets, alone, for over 30 minutes.  During this entire time, the daycare provider never once noticed that she had gone missing.

A merchant at a store in a neighboring strip mall, however, did notice.  She saw the young girl walk by with no adult.  Several minutes later, she saw her pass by again.  Finally, when she saw her pass by a third time a half hour later still without an adult, she became concerned.  This girl was just a toddler!  No adult!  On a very busy street!  And not in the best part of town.

The merchant left the store and called to the child.  The child looked over and allowed the merchant to walk over to her.  The merchant asked where her parents were?  Was she lost?  The child didn’t respond.  The merchant picked up the child and began calling for a parent, a caregiver, anyone who was missing a child.  Thank goodness the merchant had only good intentions.

After several minutes went by with no response and no adult in sight, the merchant brought the child into her store and called the police.  The officer showed up a few minutes later.  Then and only then, prompted by the sound of police sirens, did the daycare provider in the salon finally notice that the child was missing.

And this was the Final Red Flag. 

My friend immediately removed her daughter from the daycare, and refused to listen to any more excuses from the daycare provider.  A few days after the incident, the daycare provider emailed my friend to express her sincerest apologies.  My friend responded that she could not accept her apology at this time.

My friend furthermore rearranged her work schedule so that she could send her daughter to an actual preschool instead of an in-home daycare.  To my knowledge, she has not taken any legal action nor filed any complaints against the daycare provider.

So what did I learn from this?  That the paranoid background check probably isn’t such a bad idea.  But that it also isn’t a guarantee of anything.  That as a parent, I need to continuously monitor what is going on with my child and his caregiver.  And listen to my intuition.  And take immediate action when I see a red flag (or even a yellow flag).  And that, even with all of that, there is never any way to know completely what is happening when I am not around.

Scary, but true, and I would rather live with constant monitoring and due diligence than merely trusting that everything is going along just fine.  I think I would rather live with my trust issues and being over-protective… Than not being protective enough.

And even then, I have to trust and pray that my caregiver takes her job as seriously as I hope she does.

Non-Invasive Prenatal Genetic Testing

Blood TestGotta love prenatal testing.  The timing, the blood draws, the more invasive tests, the waiting, and – finally – the sometimes vague results.

At the time that I was pregnant, I had three fetal testing options available to me: Quad Testing, Amniocentesis, and Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS).  I go into the details of each in my Prenatal Testing post, and the reasons why I selected CVS.  Basically, it was more diagnostic than quad testing, and could be conducted sooner than an Amnio (between 10 and 13 weeks of pregnancy vs. between 14 and 20 weeks of pregnancy).  The one aspect of the CVS test that gave me pause was the fact that it did and does carry a small risk of miscarriage.  Ultimately we decided to move forward with it, but spent an anxiety-ridden few days in bed post-test, hoping and praying that no miscarriage would result.

So I am delighted to hear about the new non-invasive prenatal genetic tests now available to pregnant women.  Finally expectant mothers can be empowered with knowledge – without any risk of complication.  Ease of administration, decreased costs, and available timing make them even more attractive.

Tests like Sequenom Center’s MaterniT21 PLUS (T21) and Integrated Genetics’ Harmony are up to 99% effective at detecting Trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome), 18 (Edwards Syndrome), and 13 (Patau Syndrome).  Performed around 10 weeks gestational age or later, these tests require a simple blood draw to analyze cell-free DNA in maternal blood for extra chromosomes.  While not technically considered diagnostic tests, they come pretty darn close; and any positive results could subsequently be confirmed with a true diagnostic such as CVS or Amnio.

Test results are typically returned within about 2 weeks, and costs of the tests appear to range from about $0 – $400 out of pocket after insurance (still significantly cheaper than either CVS or Amino – I am hearing $235 as a common copay).  An added bonus?  The test will also provide gender confirmation.

So what are the limitations?  Well, both CVS and Amnio test for a much larger array of potential disorders – these new blood tests just focus on some of the more common.  Also, these tests do not screen for open neural tube defects (only an Amnio will do that).  Some doctors remain skeptical about these new tests, and I’m told that not all offices will offer them.

But for parents without known genetic issues, I think they offer a very viable alternative to more invasive methods.  Much more accurate than traditional quad testing, these tests finally provide women a safe and relatively inexpensive option to better understand potential fetal risks.  I am all for these tests and only wish they had been available when I was pregnant.

Workplace Flexibility

HomeOfficeWe all talk about it.  We all want it.  Workplace Flexibility – That vague phrase that conjures up images of PJs and fuzzy slippers, a businessperson leisurely reviewing email with a coffee mug in hand and the morning news on the TV.

But how important is it really?

To me, a new mom with a previously established career, very.

As an older mom, I had worked for many years to establish my career before I had my son.  Long days, long nights, lots of travel, and emergency conference calls were the norm.  And I loved it.  I was in the thick of things, on the cutting edge, making things happen.  I was the person who was called when there was an issue, an emergency.  The person who could jump in at any time and help.  The person who never said No.

But as I neared the end of my maternity leave, I knew that things had to change.  I knew implicitly that it would be extremely difficult to juggle the professional role I was in with a newborn.  I doubted that I could fully tend to my son when I was scheduled to be on call, or when I was an escalation point for emergency issues.  I fretted about the 1-2 hour commute to and from the office each day (wasted time).  I worried about being so far away from my son in the case of an emergency.  And it led me to very seriously consider leaving my career.  I just couldn’t imagine being able to give my all to both conflicting worlds.

But then, as I returned to the office, I was given the opportunity to move into a new role.  A role that I was not only excited about professionally, but that would allow me some increased flexibility.  Telecommute days, earlier work shifts, the absence of consistent and ongoing on-call responsibilities.  A role that came with increased responsibility, but also increased flexibility.

And to date, it has worked out amazingly well for both me and my employer.  I am able to schedule times in and out of the office as it makes sense – ensuring I am in the office when appropriate, and working from home when appropriate.  I am saving literally hours a day in commuting time.  I am close to my son in the event of an emergency.  I am working an earlier shift that is more conducive to the schedule of a young child.  Simply said, the flexibility has allowed me to retain my career, and remain successful, while layering in the additional responsibilities of parenting a young child.

And believe me when I say that there are no TVs on, no PJs, no mid-day drinks or parties.  I’m not trying to watch my child while I work.  It is truly all work all day.  In peace and quiet and with the ability to continue as long as necessary to reach my goals – vs. scheduling my day around a bus schedule.

And my employer?  For starters, they get 2+ more hours out of me a day.  I consistently start 1 to 1.5 hours before my shift, rarely take lunch (although it is wonderful to have the option should I need to run an errand), and often work late.  I log in on weekends to tie up loose ends.  I am able to work in a quiet home office with no knocks on the door, no idle chit-chat in the breakroom, and with the ability to make important calls without interruption.

I follow the same philosophy with my own team.  Incidentally, not one of them is based out of my local office (and only two are even in my state), so our relationships are almost entirely virtual.  And for high-performing team members, what matters to me is that they are A) available when I need them (I don’t ever want to be kept waiting for an instant message response), and B) producing quality and timely deliverables.  How do we get around our geographic challenges?  Technology.  Holding people accountable.  We are in contact daily over the phone, Office Communicator, email, and via virtual meetings.

And it works.  Well.

I recently conducted a survey with my team – a required survey asking questions about retention and the like.  The number one response I received in terms of what would motivate a team member to start looking elsewhere?  Lack of workplace flexibility.  So I suppose I am not the only one it is important to.

Which makes it all the more disheartening when I hear that Yahoo’s CEO, Marissa Mayer, has banned telecommuting.  And that Best Buy is following suit – with a flimsy provision that all telecommuters must have written approval from their managers.

Why are these organizations moving backwards?  Is this a thinly veiled attempt to clean house?  Poor management?  Lack of employee accountability?  Both are flailing organizations and the recent announcements seem desperate, with a stick-to-the-wall-ish quality that doesn’t appear to be well considered.

I am most disappointed with Mayer’s announcement and approach.  After all, she is the mother of an infant herself.  A mother who infamously returned to work a mere 2 weeks after giving birth.  Is a mother even physically healed at two weeks??  Are these the lengths she feels she must go to compete with her male contemporaries, to make a name for herself?  And what about the impact to other women?  As it is, the United States is the only industrialized nation in the world with no federal law mandating paid time off for new parents (in fact, 1 of only 4 countries internationally) – but that’s another post.

What kind of example is Mayer setting?  The new Yahoo mother who doesn’t return to work 4, 5, or 6 weeks after delivery, or who opts to leverage her full <gasp> 12 weeks of job protection – what’s in store for her?  Is she labeled, whether overtly or tacitly, uncommitted to her career?  Has Mayer set a bar that other high-performing women in her organization or industry are going to feel compelled to meet?

Either way, her approach is at best a bit hypocritical.  Perhaps returning to work a mere few weeks after delivery wouldn’t be so bad if other mothers had the option to build out a full private nursery, complete with nannies, next door to their offices.  I don’t see too much of a difference between that and the mother who works from home.

I’m told that Mayer concedes that this situation wasn’t handled as well as it could have been.  But that she walked into the office one day midweek to find that nobody was around, and it pissed her off!  She was joking, surely, yet I truly hope that wasn’t the impetus for such a short-sighted approach.

Which brings us to the question of tipping point.  What is it?  How much flexibility is enough to retain key employees, while meeting some employers’ need for hands-on control?  What’s going to happen 2 or 3 decades from now?  I see the single corporate office becoming a thing of the past.  Maybe a small corporate office remains, but local hubs pop up for telecommuters to come together as appropriate for synergy, etc.  Technology nearly eliminates the need for actual face time.  The office will become wherever the employee is. 

And I am a huge proponent.  Once more employers begin catching on to this  secret sauce of employee satisfaction, it is a win all around.  Employees will remain engaged and motivated, retention will increase, and employers will benefit from the fruits of their labor – along with decreased overhead.

And then perhaps working mommies will have a real shot at “having it all.”

Nanny Pay

PayWell, it’s that time of year.  In addition to the extra taxes being taken out of my pay, the tax bills for the nanny have started rolling in.

Along with the tax management/payroll company bills.

And it ain’t cheap.

Yes, you heard that right.  We pay our nanny “on the books” (unlike, it appears, 95% of other families in our neighborhood).  I just had a conversation with a friend yesterday who is hiring a nanny… Under the table to eliminate tax headaches and reduce costs.  And I get it.  I really do.

We’re trying to do the right thing.  Do it the legal way.  Allow for the nanny to become eligible for social security, disability, and unemployment.

But it’s thankless.  And expensive.  And time-intensive.

And now I understand all those other families, smug as they smile and shake their heads at us, who choose an easier way.

  • Nannies Prefer Under the Table Pay.  At least in this area.  I had a heck of a time finding, first of all, a nanny legal to work in the United States (interestingly, all the nannies recommended to us were not).  Then upon broaching the topic of paying “on the books,” I was faced with blank stares, frowns, and requests to gross up the salary so that the take-home rate would be comparable to the cash market rate.  Really??  Gross up??  I can only imagine how it would go over if I approached my boss and asked him to gross up my pay.  Fortunately for us, we finally found a few nannies who were open to the idea <gasp> of being paid legally – and ended up hiring one of those.
  • Nannies Compare Pay Rates.  Funny how different this industry is from my own.  It would extremely taboo for me to discuss my compensation with anyone, yet nannies appear to do it on a regular basis.  And, you guessed it, the comparison is done in cash-only rates.  So despite the fact that my nanny currently earns a salary complete with paid holidays, vacations, and days off whenever we choose to vacation, I get the distinct sense that she feels as if she is being under-compensated compared to her peers.  And in fact, she is.  Though her rate is actually higher than market, her take-home pay is lower – and that is what she is comparing.  We have had the conversation a few times now about the benefits she is receiving for legal pay (in terms of social security, unemployment, etc.) yet I don’t feel that is something that is motivating nor attractive to her.
  • Tax Process is Ridiculously Difficult.  I like to think I am a reasonably intelligent person.  Who can put in the time to do something right.  But in the case of nanny taxes, it took a very short period of time before I realized that I simply did not have the background nor inclination to handle them.  Every time I turn around there is a new tax form due!!  In California alone, I am receiving a pile of paperwork each quarter to complete and return.  I have heard stories of well-meaning taxpayers making one minor oversight or error, and it costing them thousands of dollars come audit time (vs. their under-the-table paying peers who are seemingly never found out).  Which brings me to my next point.
  • Nanny Tax/Payroll Company Must Be Hired.  Okay, not an absolute must, but almost.  Like I said, I couldn’t figure it out on my own.  So now here’s another expense – the cost of the tax company, a cost for payroll, a cost for each filing, etc, etc.  We use a wonderful company with outstanding service (Breedlove and Associates); they are the best out there and worth every penny.  But still, an added expense from which my smug under-the-table nanny paying friends are exempt.
  • Changes to Nanny Pay Can Raise Red Flags for IRS Audits.  Or so says my CPA.  After realizing that perhaps a blanket salary is not the best approach for our nanny (given a reduction in work hours and also realizing that I am not actually incenting her to work), we mentioned to our CPA that the expenditures will likely change for next year as we move to an hourly rate paid only for hours worked.  The CPA said that is fine, but changes to nanny pay (and ultimately the elimination of nanny pay once the nanny is no longer needed) can raise the red flag for an audit.  Wonderful.  So my thanks for paying legally and on the books?  A potential audit because we and the nanny agree to modify the pay structure.
  • Workers Compensation Insurance.  Required in certain states, including mine, when you hire a household employee (nanny).  The good news here is I would have purchased this regardless; I think everyone should protect themselves and the people in their homes in this way.  But – it is only required because we have opted to pay on the books.
  • Overtime is Required.  This is ultimately a good thing – it protects the nanny from being taken advantage of by families forcing her to work 50/60/70 hour weeks at the same hourly rate.  But – it is hard to compete at market rate with this requirement.  Example: market rate in this area is $15/hour cash (no overtime).  That’s $750/week for a 50 hour week.  For a family paying on the books, however, that translates to $825/week ($600 for $15 at 40 hours, plus an additional $225 for $22.50 overtime at 10 hours).  And the best part?  Even with the overtime, the nanny may still take home less net pay.  Luckily for us, our schedules are such that we rarely even reach 40 hours.  Let’s hope it stays that way.
  • Nanny Pay is AFTER Tax for Employer.  You heard that right.  While every other small business is able to deduct wages off the top, families don’t receive a dime in deductions.  We pay our nanny AFTER we have been taxed.  And then are taxed AGAIN for her.  A glaring issue that penalizes the smallest of small businesses – a working mother and father trying to raise a family.  Oh and the childcare credit?  Yeah, a grand total of up to $600 for the year.  Gee whiz.  Thanks.
  • Nanny Misconceptions.  Perhaps this is just our nanny, perhaps not.  But she has mentioned offhandedly a few times how she realizes that paying her legally is actually cheaper for us.  What??  I have, on a few occasions now, explained that it actually costs us quite a bit more.  She politely nods… But I still sense that she thinks it is financially beneficial for us to pay her this way.  And why wouldn’t she think that?  She sees everyone else being paid under the table, a method which is preferred by her, so she figures there MUST be some logical reason we want to pay her this other way.  And there is, right…?
  • Potential New Legislation Requires Formal Breaks and Lunches.  Fortunately this legislation has not passed yet, but it’s still on the docket.  If passed, it would require families to literally relieve the nanny for formal 15-minute breaks and a 1-hour lunch.  That would be all fine and good if, well, parents were available to provide that relief.  In which case, they probably wouldn’t need a nanny at all!  So what happens if this passes?  I think it encourages even more under-the-table and unregulated nanny employment vs. more compliance.  What parent is able to drive home at least three times a day, relieve the nanny for a break or lunch, and then drive back to work??  I’ll tell you – none.  So good luck with that legislation right there.
  • Fees for Compliance Increase Over Time.  I was recently on the phone with our nanny tax advisors, asking them how I would enact a change to our nanny’s pay structure.  As part of the conversation, I also asked what parents do if they have more children and then take maternity/paternity leaves from their jobs (e.g. eliminating the need for a nanny during that period of time).  I was told that typically these nannies are terminated and then, if needed and still available after the leaves are done, they are rehired.  The representative pointed out that one of the benefits of paying legally can come to fruition during this time of leave: the nanny could collect unemployment.  But, he pointed out, by collecting unemployment, it meant one of my something-or-other fees/taxes would increase – potentially up to an additional 9%.  9%!  I asked what would happen if the nanny didn’t file for unemployment during that time??  And he replied that in California, the rate will go up regardless in a few years (cannot remember offhand what it was – I want to say it was somewhere around the 3 year mark).  So my takeaway was, figure out an alternative childcare solution before that clock is up!

Oh and before you tell me that the nanny is an independent contractor who I can 1099, let me tell you that she is not.  Nannies have been clearly defined as W2 employees and must be treated and paid as such.  There is really no out.

So to those who also pay on the books, despite the challenges, I have a new respect for you.  And for those who pay off – well, I get it.

We’re going to continue doing it the “right” way but are pleading for tax changes to simplify and perhaps even incent the process.  Until that happens, I doubt that we will ever see majority compliance.

Happy New Year!

New YearWow, already 2013.  Cheers to a safe, happy, and healthy year.  Our little ones are growing up fast, aren’t they??  My little one is already 13 months.  13 months!  Over a year old.  Can hardly believe it.

I do get a bit misty-eyed that my baby is growing up so fast, but it’s hard to stay sad for long because he is so So Much Fun now.

I have a friend who told me her favorite time with her (now grown) son was about 6 months old.  I agree that was a lovely time; the child is just beginning to become aware, can actually leave the house, and is still a baby.  But I must say that I think this time period, the 1-year range, tops it.

  • Baby can drink by himself.  Finally!  No more bottles.  No more formula.  He can drink regular whole organic milk (found anywhere!)  Out of a sippy cup (no more small parts to clean!)  And by himself (no more bottle propping!)  No more bottle racks cluttering up the kitchen.  No more bottle nipples found under chairs, couches.  No more brushes and tools laying around just to clean out the insides of ridiculously tiny tubes and pieces.  No more burping!!  He does that just fine (huge monster burps) by himself, thank you very much.
  • Baby can self feed.  Cut up a banana, steamed carrots, steamed broccoli, pasta, meats – and just leave it on his tray.  He will take care of the rest.  No more pureeing.  No more blending.  And he is starting to eat more of what we eat.  Fewer special meals!
  • Baby is mobile.  I know everyone warned us about this and, it’s true, it means we have to keep him from getting into things and make sure all baby gates are closed and locked at all times.  But it means he can get places on his own!  “Come here” and he comes.  “Stand up” and I can put a jacket on much more easily.  “Give that to me” and he hands it over.  I am no longer required to carry around a 25 pound weight wherever I go.  Added bonus: unlike rolling, which is a silent endeavor, crawling/running means I can HEAR where he is at any point.  It is only when there is silence that I start to worry
  • Baby can play.  Not just sit there and watch us playing.  But actually engage and play WITH us.  His newest game?  Catch.  And racing the toy school bus around the living room.  And his “vroom vroom” cars.  And throwing all his books in the bookshelf on the floor (I am trying to divert his attention away from that game).  Climbing in and out of his wagon.  Even playing the “Clean up, clean up, everybody do you share” game.  But the most fun is at the park.  He goes nuts!  No fear.  Barrels down the slide head first.  Wants to be pushed higher!  higher! on the swings.  Climbing through tunnels.  The more fun he has, the more I have just watching him.
  • Baby is developing a sense of humor.  He laughs.  Pretends to give us something only to pull it away and then laugh hysterically.  Throws food on the floor and then looks at me and laughs.  Rubs food on my face and laughs.  Throws banana slices on top of the dog and laughs.  Throws noisy toys down the stairs and laughs.  Throws stuffed animals out of his crib and laughs (following an innocent-sounding “Uh Oh” and shrug of the shoulders).  There is nothing in this world that warms my heart more than that kid’s laugh.
  • Baby is talking.  Okay, so he’s not waxing poetic just yet, but he is TRYING.  We have entire conversations in baby babble, peppered with real words.  He has the expressions – questioning, then answering my questions, then explaining, then showing indignation.  Every new (real) word is amazing; and then it becomes a game for us to try to make him say it again! say it again!  He wakes up and calls for us.  We hide and ask “Where are you?”  And he answers.  He’s getting it, and it is so much fun to watch.
  • Baby comprehends.  He understands a lot of what we say, and reacts accordingly.  If I see him doing something wrong and say NO, he collapses on the floor with the most gut-wrenching sobs you ever saw (BREATHE, baby, take a breath!)  If I ask him a question, he responds or attempts to.  If I tell him to stand up, sit down, come here, go over there….  He complies.  This also means that the minute I ask him to “stay away from that” – he is headed straight for it.  So I suppose that reflects his assertion of will as well.
  • Baby displays affection.  I was waiting for this!  He hugs me now.  He blows kisses to me at the most unexpected moments (MUAH!)  He pets the dog.  He pets my arm.  He lays his head on my shoulder and sighs contentedly.  He is becoming happier to sit in my lap and cuddle for a few minutes – I was worried those days were long gone!  He smashes his face against my face and holds it for a few seconds while saying MUH….  Which I like to think is his version of giving me a kiss.  He does the same with the dog.  Every night as I am sitting on the bed or the couch, he brings me my slippers and then pats my leg.  He just seems to genuinely enjoy giving and receiving affection.

So overall, it’s just getting better.  Easier and more fun.  I can’t wait to see how he develops this year.  The words and activities and games he will learn.  2013 is going to be a great year with my son!  Happy New Year to all of you!

Top 8 Favorite Baby Products (9-12 Months)

So it’s been a while since I’ve blogged, but I have excuses!  Halloween, Vacations, 1st Birthdays, Thanksgiving, OH MY!  And with my son’s 1st birthday, I realized that it’s time for another edition of my favorite baby products, this time for the 9-12 month age range.

  • Radio Flyer Classic Walker WagonI realize that there are a ton of walker products on the market, but both my son and I adore this one.  It is well-made and the perfect size for him.  He loves placing his toys into the wagon and then zooming it all around the house.  He’s even been caught pushing our little dog in the wagon as well!  I appreciate the bumper, so that as he is crashing into the wall, the slider, the furniture… there is no permanent damage.
  • Munchkin Inflatable Safety TubProbably the best $10 I’ve spent in the last few months.  We don’t use this daily, but we did bring it with us on a recent trip to Hawaii.  Since it’s inflatable, it packed easily.  Once we arrived, we inflated it, and then our son bathed happily in the little clean baby tub vs. the condo tub with who-knows-what-germs lining it.  An added bonus?  It suctions to the tub floor to prevent slipping.
  • Baby Spring Float Sun CanopyAnother item purchased for our Hawaii trip, this turned out to be another favorite.  Deflated, it folds and packs nicely in a small circle.  Inflated, it is the perfect float for our son.  He sits comfortable inside, shaded by a canopy, and well supported in the water.  He had a ball splashing and kicking as we floated him throughout the pool.
  • Melissa and Doug Longfellow GiraffeThis plush toy is my son’s BFF.  Seriously.  He carries this thing everywhere and I don’t think can sleep without it (I’m not brave enough to attempt to try).  Quality materials, can stand up to rough kid play, and a long body make it easy to drape over himself and the crib.  Easily drag-able all over the floor, and I had no problems throwing it in the washing machine (although I read, too late, that it is supposed to be surface washable only).  Cute little guy – and always puts a smile on my son’s face.
  • Embark Midsize CoolerUntil recently, I was able to go out and about with just a few bottles and maybe a tiny bit of food – and the chilled bottle bags I had were perfect for that.  But once my son transitioned to sippy cups and bowls of food, there just wasn’t enough room.  I was literally walking around with a baby bag + TWO bottle bags to fit everything.  Enter this well-priced cooler.  Now I can fit everything into one bag – cups and bowls of food along with bibs and spoons in the outside pocket.  Up to a whole day’s worth of food, milk, and water!  I’m even able to throw in a snack or two for myself.  I also purchased some refreezable ice sheets and use those to line the cooler and top whatever I pack – and it works great!  Even better, the hard plastic liner is removable, which I prefer, as it allows me to fit more in.  Perfect size and easy to clean.  Highly recommend.
  • Kiscords Baby Safety Cabinet Lock LatchYes, we are at the age of babyproofing.  And no, we are not even close to being done.  What we’ve found throughout this process is that a lot of so-called babyproofing items are simply junk.  We went through two separate sets of safety cabinet locks that we ended up throwing away.  One was nearly impossible for adults to open/close, and the other broke as we were putting them on.  That’s why I’m so glad to have found these.  They are simple, cheap, and they WORK!  Difficult enough that a baby can’t get them open, but quick and easy enough for an adult to loosen and open when needed.  And aesthetically – they don’t look nearly as bad as some other items I’ve seen.  An easy purchase.
  • Table Topper Disposable Stick-On Placemats:  Eating out is an entirely new experience now.  My son actually sits in the high chair, wants to look, chat, touch, and generally just make a big mess.  We learned quickly to distract him with pieces of cut up banana.  What I couldn’t stand, though, is the fact that those pieces would inevitably get all over the germy table (who knows how well those things are cleaned) and ultimately end up in his mouth.  I was complaining to our nanny about it, and she suggested these disposable placemats.  They’re great!  We now stick them on the table and litter them with banana slices and puffs.  He can grab, slide, and push food around to his little heart’s content before shoving it into his mouth.  An added bonus is clean-up: after several restaurant outings ending with me moistening napkins to clean up the mess my son left all over the table, now I simply unstick the placemat, fold it up, and throw it away.  What could be easier?
  • Brica CoverGuard Car Seat Travel ToteWe have the Britax Advocate 70-G3 Convertible Car Seat, and love it.  It is sturdy, secure… And massive.  Great for safety, not so great for traveling.  So as we were planning a vacation involving airports and rental cars, I started looking at options for actually transporting the thing.  That  is when I came across the Brica carrier.  The Britax Advocate 70-G3 fits nicely within the tote – a definite plus because most travel bags cannot accommodate this particular seat.  It also has shoulder straps so that my husband can wear it comfortably like a backpack.  Before gate-checking the bagged seat, we even had extra room on the seat itself to throw in jackets, blankets, etc. before zipping it up.  And upon our destination arrival, the seat was delivered unscuffed and unscathed within the bag.  I’m not sure how we could have managed the car seat without it.

Any products I’m missing?  I’m sure I could write a lot about the products I DON’T like.  😉  Next list of product reviews will be ready around the 15-month mark!

Losing the Baby Weight

When does my excuse expire?  The excuse that I am still carrying a bit of baby weight?  Surely not too much longer, now that my baby is almost a year old.

Ugh.  I had been living by the mantra 9 months on, 9 months off.  But that window has slammed shut.  And I’m still not at my goal.

I don’t know why not.  I gained 36 pounds during pregnancy, 4 pounds less than what my doctor recommended (yes, I too had read that 25-35 pounds was the goal, yet my doctor said I should aim for 40).  I exercised throughout my pregnancy.  And although I did eat more loosely than normal (in terms of giving into cravings that I would normally resist), I by no means was eating for two.

The day after delivery, I was down 12 pounds.  By the time I left the hospital, I was down 19 pounds.  By the end of the week, I was down a total of 22 pounds.  It was melting off!

And I had five months of leave scheduled.  Five months!  At this rate, I reasoned, I could lose less than a pound a week.  Or, even better, go back to work in better shape than pre-pregnancy!  Everyone was commenting on how good I looked.  How thin.  As if I’d never had a baby.

And I admit I was smug.  This was all so easy.  I wasn’t even healed yet, but I was already getting back to my pre-pregnancy size.  Already I could fit into pre-pregnancy jeans.  And this was before I even started working out again.  It was really going to start flying off then!

And then – I plateaued.  With 6 pounds left to go.

No worries.  It’s only 6 pounds.  I still have months before going back to work!

And still – nothing.

Hmmm… Must be because of my age.  Okay now it’s time to kick it into gear.  Amped up workouts – check (at 4:30am, no less).  Calorie tracking app on iPhone – check.  Limited junk food – check.

And yet – nothing.

The 9 months on, 9 months off mantra kicks in.  Keep up the workouts.  Watch the diet.  Limit the alcohol.  Carry around a wriggly new 20 pound weight that is attached to my hip.

But my 9 months is up!  Now what??

Granted, I get that 6 pounds (hovering between 5 and 7) is a mere drop in the bucket.  A lot of people would be happy with that.  I’m sure Jessica Simpson would take it.  Not a huge deal.

But it IS.  To ME.  I want to fit into my clothes without them feeling tight.  I want to put away the “bloated day” jeans that have now become my primary jeans.  I want to be able to wear a fitted t-shirt again!

And maybe it’s not even the weight.  Maybe it’s just that my body has changed.  Your hips are wider now, says my none-too-sensitive husband, one morning out of the blue.  As if he is saying something like I think I’ll wash the car today.  

Me, in my hormonal state:  Do you think I’m fat now?  (I can’t even believe I asked that, as I typically don’t like to think of myself as THAT person)

Hubby:  I like your body shape better now (Notice the evasion of the original questions).

So I’ve talked to my other mommy friends.  It’s true, they say, your body will never be the same again.  And maybe they’re right.  Everything else, outside of the extra layer around my mid-section, seems to have settled back into place.  Maybe that extra layer will never go away.

Sigh.  I’m just not ready to give in to it.

Babysitters

Everything is humming right along for us.  We are back into our grooves at work, I’ve been able to work out some flexibility with my job, and we’ve become comfortable with a wonderful nanny who loves our son almost as much as we do.  We’ve got this!

Until my nanny, horribly, experiences a death in the family and needs unplanned time off.  And it hits us: We have no backup plan.

Let me be clear in saying that this is absolutely our miss, nobody else’s.  Our nanny is everything we could ask for, and besides the logistics of child care during her short absence, we are hurt for her and the loss she has experienced.  Add to that the awkwardness of trying to negotiate time off via crazy work and business travel schedules, and it makes for some uncomfortable conversations that we as the parents could have avoided had we been more strategic in our thinking.

We knew, of course, that potentially one day she could call in sick.  Need a day off.  Have to leave early.  And we figured, well, we would just take the day off too.  Alternate between Mom and Dad.  So it is fair.

But it’s so much more than that.  We didn’t account for business trips (as was the issue during this recent occurrence), mandatory meetings, a recent string of unplanned days off for our own family emergencies; all of which make more unplanned time off extremely undesirable.

Fortunately, in this case, we were able to quickly work out a plan with my sister.  Although not ideal (she and her husband had to modify their own work schedules, and then she and her two kids were needing to leave their place at 5am to get to our place in time with traffic), it was actually the best option available.  I am thankful to them for helping out.

But it’s not realistic over the long term.  We need a better, more solid, backup plan.

So I’ve started looking at “Backup Nannies” (AKA “Babysitters”).  Ugh.  The term alone fills my head with thoughts of a precocious, gum-snapping, text-happy teenager who twirls her hair and invites her boyfriend over.  I’m not feeling it.  And I keep stalling.  We don’t need anyone NOW….  We worked out THIS situation and now we’re good….

But I know that we’re not.  As much as I dread it, I’m not so naive to think that we will never have another adults-only event to attend.  Or that we will never, dare I say, want to have another date.

But the Mommy Guilt is eating me up.  It took me months to become comfortable with our nanny; months before I would even leave her alone with my son.  And now we all love her and she is almost like part of the family.  But to introduce yet another stranger into my son’s life?

And the process itself… It’s exhausting.  The job posting, vetting, interviewing, background checks, vaccination requirements, CPR/First Aid certification classes, job offer, negotiation, etc, etc, etc.  All this before I even begin the arduous process of simply spending a lot of time with the individual before I leave that person alone with my son.  Some say overkill but, for me, it’s simply what the process is.  And it’s a lot.

So what do people in these situations do?  Outside of my sister, who doesn’t live particularly close to me and has child care challenges of her own, we don’t have any local family to help out.  Being a new older mom, many of my friends are childless and certainly not interested in watching someone else’s kids.  Those who do have kids have already figured out their own child care arrangements.  And to complicate matters, I am SUPER picky when it comes to child care providers.

My nanny has tried to help.  She has given me, so far, four recommendations.  The first is a nanny who watches a local infant girl during the week (so who would be available for evenings and weekends).  I was and still am interested in this person, but as time has gone on, my nanny’s comments on her have cooled a bit… So I’ve become a bit more tentative.

The second is a family friend of my nanny’s who attends her church.  I called and left a message.  No call back.  Nanny asked her about it later – she said her phone “wasn’t working” and to please provide my number.  Nanny gave her my number.  The potential caregiver never called nor mentioned it again.

The third is someone who watches a local toddler one day a week.  My nanny hasn’t known her very long, but feels that she is really good with this toddler when she sees them.  I call and leave her a message.  No call back.  A week later, she texts my nanny and says she accidentally deleted my message and needs my number.  Nanny provides.  She calls me a few days later and leaves a message.  I call her back and leave a message.  Ball now in her court, although I must say that I am a bit concerned at the difficulty of getting in touch with her.

The fourth is a home-nurse who cared for my nanny’s grandmother.  Nanny doesn’t even know if she is looking, just imagines that she might be since she recently lost her job.  I am not so sure about this one – seems like a bit of a stretch.

So I have now started bugging my friends for recommendations.  A few are checking with their respective churches.  A few don’t have anyone besides family members.  And a few recommend some online sources.

So far, not a whole lot.  And I must admit that my heart’s not in it.  It triggers feelings of guilt beyond just what I felt when I originally left my son with the nanny.  So now – he will have a nanny AND a backup nanny??  When will he ever be with his parents??

My husband thinks I’m overreacting.  He cites the hours each evening and all weekend that we spend together as a family.  He mentions all the days I work from home, and my ability to wake him up, see him, spend breaks with him, take him to Gymboree.  Maybe he’s right.  But I’m so worried that my son’s memories will simply not include us.  That most of his memories will instead center around paid caretakers.  And it’s heartbreaking.

So Moms, what do you do?  I do, for the record, have a job posting out on Care, but am not receiving too much other than very young women looking for after school work.  I suppose the quality of caretaker response is a bit different when you can’t guarantee a full time job or even a minimum number of hours.  But there’s simply got to be a better way.