Tag Archives: mom-to-be

FMLA is Dog Shit Wrapped in Cat Shit. 

1 May

I’ve been wanting to blog about government and maternity leave – or lack thereof. Oh, and how FML is synonymous to FMLA. I have to tread carefully.

Facts:

It takes 4.6 years working with the government to accumulate 12 weeks of sick leave (assuming you don’t take one min of sick leave off during your tenure). And then the government tells you you can only use 6 weeks for labor/birth of a child. Anything thereafter is considered bonding with your baby and this is NOT allowed. 

You can use annual leave too. Hoping you have enough to reach your goal of time off for “maternity leave” without wiping out your balances. But why do you need to have any leave saved? You won’t get sick, baby won’t get sick, you don’t need a vacation, you sure as heck don’t need to travel to see family to show off your precious babe – clearly – wiping out your stock of leave makes perfect sense for the incidentals that never occur…

*** BUT WAIT *** The Family and Medical Leave Act, FMLA, is an option. This is currently the only federal leave protection available to American workers who have babies. It does not require that an employer pay a new mother for a single day of leave.

Great option! Leave without pay. Sign me up!!! No. I’m being sarcastic. This is a distressing option.

And here’s some more bullshit – if I were a man I wouldn’t have to use sick leave for this major event (I’m not discounting paternity leave I’m talking strictly about women and labor). This would result with a benefit to my retirement. You see, when you retire with the government unused sick leave will be converted into retirement months. If you retire under CSRS, each month’s worth of unused sick leave will increase your annuity by 1/6 of 1 percent (.1666 percent). If you have a full year it will be increased by 2 percent. Basically, because you’re a man, you’re more likely to accumulate a lot more sick leave than women who chose to have children resulting in a greater payout.

Wow. 

Is this an unspoken disadvantage to women who bear children working within the system? Or is the argument that our advantage is giving the miracle of life? 

If you’re a man who is moaning and grunting over this exclaiming it is our choice to have children and that it’s our choice to be penalized like so, do me a favor, take your opinion and stick it up your ass where your missing stick is.

This Is gender inequality. 

Article by Rebecca Traister of New Republic

Why Women Can’t Break Free from the Parent Trap

“…The confluence of all these factors means that women are now having babies smack in the middle of their peak earning periods and that their earnings are crucial to the economic stability of their families. And there is no denying that motherhood makes an economic and practical dent in the shape and solidity of their careers. University of Massachusetts sociologist Michelle Budig has found that, on average, an American woman’s earnings decrease by 4 percent for every child that she bears, a figure that sounds even more brutal when compared to the fact that after men have kids, their earnings increase, on average, by 6 percent. Researchers have also found that fathers are more likely to be hired and to be regarded as more competent employees than mothers.

These gendered discrepancies in post-childbirth careers can be understood via a host of historical assumptions about mothers and fathers; hoary ideas about providers versus nurturers, masculine responsibility versus feminine pliability. And, of course, there is the stratospheric cost of unsubsidized American childcare, a factor that leads many more women than men to drop out of the workforce or cut back on their professional commitments. These realities are abhorrent, but they are, at least, studied. What goes less noticed is the way pregnancy and immediate postpartum life itself plays a serious role in slowing professional momentum for women for whom the simple—and celebrated—act of having a baby turns out to be a stunningly precarious economic and professional choice…”

Do you see the inequity? 

Anyway…I’m beyond miffed. Disgusted. Angry. Our country has such a myopic vision with maternity leave. Our country fails mothers. 

The Family and Medical Leave Act fails families. 

I can’t take more than 6 weeks of sick leave regardless if I have more. I seriously flirted with the notion of electing to have a c-section just to get 8-12 weeks of sick leave. But do I want to do that to my body if it’s not necessary? The mere fact that I was sincerely contemplating a c-section as an option just to have more time with my baby affirms that something is wrong. 

I’ll be taking the limited sick leave and annual leave I’m dictated to take – that I’ve saved up. 

Suddenly I’m guilt-ridden because I’ve traveled and lived life using annual leave to explore foreign countries and beaches. Fuck. Maybe I should have hoarded my time off instead and sat on my couch watching exotic lands and lived vicariously through these jet-setting assholes on television who give no fucks – who live and give the finger to the system.

I have used sick leave sparingly over the years. Perhaps I shouldn’t have because the government imposes iniquitous impasses for moms-to-be with what their definition of “sick” and “serious medical condition” are. 

Why don’t you carry a child for 40 weeks, endure labor, care for baby and yourself while you’re still bleeding nonstop, producing milk, leaking, and show up for work you intolerant antiquated schmuck. 

But don’t worry; during my absence I’m sure I’ll be checking my email from home and will be able to help you with anything…because I must be on vacation…?

I sound angry. I hate being angry. But I am. I’m also blessed to have a career I love. I love those I work with. I’m not angry with them. They aren’t the ones adding the red tape. 

Maneuverability through the archaic system is sufferable. I found myself calling my fiancé with tears streaming down my face and speechless when I received the news that I can’t take more leave. I couldn’t articulate one word. When sounds fell from my lips it echoed hysteria and gasps for air. I informed him that our 12 weeks was lessened to 8. The idea that our baby girl’s neck muscles will still be fairly weak breaks my heart. She is still so helpless at 8 weeks. All babies are. She will still need support and all of my love. I have an overwhelming sense of panic. 8 weeks is not enough. 

I have to hand her off because I work for an agency that doesn’t get it. *** Reminder *** sick leave may be used for a “serious medical condition” such as “pregnancy or prenatal care,” though crucially not recovery from childbirth. Ugh!!!

This is how the government puts FML in FMLA. FMLA is dog shit wrapped in cat shit. 

That’s all.

XO

Thanks for stopping by,

Valgal

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The Pitch – My Relentless Pursuit to Run 13.1 Miles for Two

30 Mar

Hello lovelies!!!

 

Happy Badabump [insert Hump if you’re not lucky enough to endure unprecedented weight gain despite workout efforts, heartburn (from water), hunger pangs at 5a that are only satisfied with a slice of toast with a light spread of natural peanut butter and drizzle of honey, kicks and jabs from within that wake you up but melt your heart, the insatiable appetite for an entire bottle of wine – Chardonnay, Prosecco, or Malbec – because close to 9 months of sobriety is a bitch and I’m jonesing for a buzz, oh yeah, and upper/lower back pain] Day to you all!!!

 

Anyway… Let’s get to the content.

 

Well holy guacamole runner friends – this mama-to-be ran a half-marathon pregnant! Yes. Pregnant. All of 31 weeks of me and my little macaroon hit the pavement running. If you’re reading this and you follow me on IG and/or Facebook I’m certain you saw my photo spam that documented this incredible journey. Anyway, I’m here to give you a little glimpse into how I convinced my man to let me run 13.1 miles for two to mark the most epic and total experience ever.

 

A little disclaimer: The Rock n’ Roll DC Marathon Series is significant to me. I ran the Rock n’ Roll DC Marathon Series in March 2014 and it marked my first ever participation in the full 26.2-mile trek to the finish line. I trained for months on the unforgiving apparatus – the treadmill – during my first winter in the District classified as “snowmageden.” Despite running on the treadmill with an even incline, I finished the race and with far too much energy left in the tank – after the hills and all. The energy stores left in the reserve triggered my affair to find perfection. I would go on to run more marathons as the ultimate test of my running ability. Fast forward to the Rock n’ Roll DC Marathon Series in March 2015 – this would be the third marathon I would complete. Having just come off the residual high of missing a BQ by 4 minutes (I ran the Marine Corps Marathon October 2014 with bronchitis and stopped several times to hack a lung or two) I was more than ready to race and secure my spot on the Boston Marathon starting line. I was certain I’d qualify and at the very same race only one-year prior that ignited this passion. My legs were light. My body told me I found the balance between training and rest days. I was at my perfect race weight. I was alert. I had no fear that I wouldn’t give 100%. I hadn’t exhausted my limits. I would BQ. I was flying. “Light. Easy. Fly.” was written on my hand for support during the moments when the fun of running manifests itself into drudgery. But BQ I didn’t. The significance of this race was the mounting wave of pain that overtook my right hip . After a failed BQ attempt, an arthrogram (painful) and x-rays I was told surgery would be the placeholder for a BQ (at least for a while) to repair the FAI and large labral tear. I didn’t know what was worse. The constant state of excruciating pain felt on my right hip or the fact that I’d be forced to be immobile for 6-9 months post-surgery. That reality led me down a rabbit hole of emotions and what-ifs. Thoughts of losing all athletic ability, losing muscle and form, endurance capabilities, maximal aerobic capacity/peak VO2, etc. I was devastated. Ugh!!! I was told by the doctors that surgery would help me – it’s the setback for the ultimate comeback. But I didn’t care. I wouldn’t be running. And life without running is not life – at least not for me.  Then through Immaculate Conception (wink wink) my body decided to carry a life – and voila – I found myself 31 weeks pregnant and flirting with my third Rock n’ Roll DC Marathon Series  – but this time I’d only tackle the half-marathon – that is, if everyone cleared me to run because of baby girl and my hip. Talk about the significance of this particular race. Each one marked a pivotal moment for me in my exploration of mind, body, spirit and ability.

 Note: I’ve been running with FAI and a labral tear since diagnosis. The pain is not terribly significant since distance has been minimized. It’s there. But tolerable.

But let’s talk about this third Rock n’ Roll DC race, my being in the third trimester and the arduous pitching I had to conduct to make the sale. Because I was a runner before being pregnant and maintained my activity during pregnancy I was cleared outright by my doctors to participate in the half-marathon. The only convincing, pleading, marketing, selling, and solicitation I had to do was with Andy – the father of our unborn child. His concerns were that of my health (especially my hip) and baby girl. Granted he knows I would never jeopardize the health of our baby he had his worries, despite what the doctors said. Naturally, I petitioned him. Every. Single. Day. 

 

Because his obstinate stance opposing my participation running a half-marathon was met with my obstinate stance for participating, we missed each coupon code and price reduction incentivizing runners to join.

 

Then shit got real. 

 

The last-call for registration was during the Health Expo for package pickup. Hello, this was two days prior to the race. My sales pitch obviously lacking. Andy wasn’t budging. Couple my plea to run with a higher cost to race – I didn’t see a favorable outcome. This wouldn’t be an entry fee paid for in the race with my unrestrained willingness to push myself to collapse and PR. No. This is an entry fee I want to pay so that I could run effortlessly with a moderate heart rate to feed ego and pride – to say I did it. To say I ran for two. (But don’t I most days of the week on the treadmill for $29.99/month?)

 

I channeled my inner teenager. I flooded him with texts. Message after message pinged his phone as if we time traveled back to when we were teenagers and he pulled some dumb shit (okay, me too) and I was appealing his requests.

 

I explained why I had to run. And I am sharing my mini dissertation with you so you can get a glimpse of my conjunction of life and running.

 

“…my being pregnant is really a marvel to me. I haven’t lost the lust to run and it is who I am. I don’t want to be like the norm because of the lack of perfection (my being pregnant, not a race weight, etc.) as a reason not to participate. I have the intuitive and instinctive nature to care for my daughter – unborn or not – and me. If I need to walk I walk. It’s not about racing. It’s about being a part of a community and a tribe that is unlike anything else. It’s about me being out there – moving – slowly – and with the grace of God and my will behind me. It’s about showcasing that you can be fit and active and pregnant at any size and at any stage. It’s my play time. Where I can be interacting freely in an environment that I love – and outside with nature – in my element. It’s liberating. It’s euphoric. And I miss it terribly. It’s so much more than running. It’s my lifestyle. And I know you came back in my world when I was prepping for a surgery – but you don’t know who I am and how liberating and free it makes me. I found myself through running and it’s because of running I’ve found confidence and self-acceptance. It’s gives me so much joy. It fulfills me.”

 

And there you have it. Like an overdramatic 16-year old girl I was committed to convincing the man I love to accept me.

 

So what did he do? He went ghost on me. The sound of silence was loud. Unbearable.  Each passing 45 minutes I glanced at my phone. Nothing. Not even the little dots to indicate he was typing. I was convinced I wouldn’t be running. He won. My determination to run was no match to his contrarious petition.

 

Then I got the call.

 

The call of calls. My florid of texts worked. He granted my request!

 

I was in shock. Giddy. Childlike enthusiasm came over me. You couldn’t wipe the grin from off my face. I was smiling ear to ear. Big. Wide. Showing all my teeth! I giggled. I shrieked. I jumped up and down. No kidding. I was time warped  back to being 16 when he asked me to prom – I couldn’t wait to announce the news but more importantly, dress for the occasion! Except this time I wouldn’t need long preparation, a fancy dress, my hair all done up, or makeup – only the essentials – colorful compression socks, a matching headband, sunglasses, my Garmin (I’m eyeballing the new Garmin Fenix Sapphire 3  but it’s totally unnecessary as I’m 8 1/2 months pregnant), iPod, a hair tie and my Newtons.

Fenix Sapphire 3

 

So there you have it. I signed up…

 

Not to race. Not to smash a PR. But to simply run.

 

And run I did.

Thanks for stopping by!!!

 

XO

 

Valgal

 

PS – My experience running for two covering the distance of a half marathon at 31 weeks pregnant will be posted shortly. I’ve had the case of pregnant brain and speaking let alone writing complete sentences has presented me with a great challenge – that and maintaining a focus without being distracted “Squirrel!” Ha.

My Life Between the Miles: Cancer Can Suck It

12 Feb

Good afternoon lovelies!

 

It’s been a few short but evidently growing weeks since my last post from this mama-to-be! Can you believe it that we are at 26 weeks and 5 days – 2 whole days shy from hitting 27 weeks, which per American Pregnancy Organization puts me in the third trimester!

 

Where did the time go?

 

Time is fleeting. Andy and I have met so many unfortunate and fortunate realities over the course of our newest beginning to include that as parents-to-be but more romantically, our new beginning as Andy and Valerie – getting our shit right for the final time (it took us 16 years to get here – and the path wasn’t all that linear).

 

Anyway, I’m so fortunate to have Andy by my side. He has and continues to be my rock. Life is full of obstacles, burdens, blunders and at this moment the dichotomy of life and death has blinded my foresight – something I affirm to be a great strength of mine. There is so much ugliness in the world. Some of it is intentionally committed. Some of it takes shape as cancer. Some of it is concealed by mental disturbances. All of it is part of the journey of life. But I dislike it nonetheless. I accept that the ugly helps to contour the beauty.

 

And while I openly charge cancer for assault, disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, drug trafficking, extortion, harassment, identity theft, robbery, securities fraud, and theft to name a few – I recognize that these convictions do not dilute the love in our eyes. The love is stronger. Braver. More courageous.

 

Cancer can break you. It can break your loved ones. What’s healing is the love that manifests from places and people previously unknown to be there – but they were always there – silent champions for hope. There is so much magic in love. I can’t get over how such a dark truth can blossom unyielding love, hope, admiration and prayers that light hope. I’m moved.

 

I’m nearing 27 weeks of pregnancy. Baby girl will be here in 13ish weeks! I’m incessantly happy over becoming a mother. And I can’t stop thinking about how my sweet girl has given life to those I love – with whom she’s never met. She is already a savior. She is my little Saint with mighty force in her belly kicks. She has already saved me from focusing on the things I cannot change.

 

It is because of my unborn daughter that I can see past some the ugly and stale states of reality in my peripheral vision. She is all I see. And when I see her I see my mother-in-law. I see Ori being held by a woman who embraces hard things with a brilliant smile, a fierce attitude and a gentle touch. This is the image I have. Every. Day. It feels like a memory. It envelopes me with warmth and peace. It’s like describing a color I’ve never seen before but I know that it looks and feels like love. One. Of. A. Kind.

 

At times I pray in silent obstreperous fits pleading for a cure. It’s not rational but do you know or have you known a rational pregnant woman? Cancer Can Suck It.

img_2480

 

For any of you out there forced to struggle with grim realities, I hope you find magic in the moments that are ordinary. I hope you have a tribe of people who uplift you.

 

I am exceedingly blessed to have a man with whom he shares his heart with mine, who finds magic in the routine, acceptance in chaos, and loves courageously. It is because of him we are welcoming a daughter in this world who will embody his free-spirit of which he learned from his mother – a saint of saints. With each passing day I know that our little girl is one day closer to meeting her grandma. I can’t wait for the day I can take a photograph of the moment imprinted in my vision. Those two girls will have so much love in their eyes. (okay, I am sobbing).

 

Thanks for stopping by!

 

PS – I love you Andy, Yoshie, and Oriana.

 

XO

 

Valgal

 

(I’m off to run now-Blog about running for two to follow)

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