Mama has loved you since last February on Valentine’s Day when she discovered that you were just a little bean in her tummy. Back then, Mama didn’t know if you were a beautiful boy or girl. Mama carried you for nine months and never felt alone with you swimming in her belly. Gaining more than forty pounds was okay. Mama happily carried you, a healthy and energetic baby. She had never felt more feminine or beautiful as a woman.
In March, Mama took you to Old Town in Alexandria, Virginia where she worked for the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. Then in April, you flew together to Tokyo and Hong Kong. You had a little taste of the freshest sashimi and the best tempura. Mama couldn’t hold down any of her food for the first three months: shark fin soup, abalone, real wonton soup, golden egg tarts, a lobster the size of a miniature poodle–you had a little taste of everything (not the poodle) before you were even born. In July, you went to Minneapolis where Mama accepted an award from the National Association of Health Care Recruiters, proudly rubbing her belly on stage. In September, her CEO recognized her in front of more than three hundred rehabilitation therapists. Even in utero, you loved the limelight.
Carrying you, Mama felt like an amazing woman, one who can accomplish anything. None of her accomplishments could compare to giving birth to you, beloved Philly. Mama endured Pitocin-induced contractions for seven hours before begging her nurse for an epidural. Twenty hours later, you came into the world via a c-section. When the anesthesia wore off and she finally held you, you two have never been apart.
Until now. Sorry, dearest Philly. Mama doesn’t want to leave you, but here in America, she has no choice. If she doesn’t work full-time, she’ll have to give up your home. She won’t be able to put aside money for you to go to college. She won’t be able to give you a life you deserve, here in America where her taxes pay for other parents to stay at home and have dozens of children.
When Mama takes the train to work every morning, she will think about you and wonder if you’re still sleeping. When Mama uses the breast pump in her office, she will close her eyes and imagine that you’re in her arms as she’s feeding you. At lunch, she will call and hope to hear your voice, even though you are a stingy babbler. On the ride home, she will power-sleep, so she can come home and spend approximately six wonderful hours with you before both of you sleep for the night. Every day at work, she will try her best not to cry. If she has to cry, she’ll close her office door and turn on Pandora. Missing you will break her heart, but she’ll be strong. She’ll treasure the time she gets to spend with you when she’s at home and during the weekends.
Mama will probably miss many of your milestone moments. Your first word. The first time you sit unsupported. The first time you pass a toy from one hand to the other. The first time you stand. Maybe even your first steps. Mama will make sure those moments will be recorded, and Mama will watch those recordings over and over again.
Dearest Philly, you may not remember these moments when we’re apart, but Mama will. Mama will remember napping next to you, seeing your happy, chubby face. Mama will remember your soft hair, your beautiful smile, and Mama will even miss hearing you cry. Yes, even that loud wailing that you do in the middle of the night. If Mama could, Mama would choose to be with you longer and watch you grow and change, day by day. In the wild, an orca mama whale nurses her newborn for at least a year. Mama only had a little more than three months with you after you were born.
And those were wonderful and unforgettable months, albeit too short.
Just know this, Philly, even when Mama’s not with you, Mama loves you, now and forever. If it were up to Mama, you would be with her 24/7, as you should be during your first year of life.
In Canada, Kat’s home country, moms get 50 weeks of maternity leave at up to 45% pay.
In Serbia, moms receive 52 weeks of maternity leave at 100% pay. So do moms in Denmark. In Britain, moms receive 52 weeks of maternity leave at 90% pay.
Moms in Sweden receive 60 weeks of maternity leave at 80% pay.
You’d think it’s bad in France where moms receive only 16 weeks of maternity leave at 100% pay. It’s not as bad as it is in the land of the free and home of the brave.
In America, Kat used up two weeks of sick days and one week of vacation days. She still hasn’t received her short-term disability pay checks yet (three weeks worth at ~$107 per week.) For the last 12 weeks, she’s been on unpaid maternity leave (Family Medical Leave Act). Go figure.