Normcore maternity 🐣
Like I wrote on Twitter this weekend, I had a baby boy!
My husband and I are both very happy and very, very, very exhausted. This is our second baby - my daughter is four. I’m on maternity leave until December.
In the Normcore spirit (and since work-life balance in tech was requested as an issue of discussion), I want to be transparent about what having kids entails for women (or at least me), since it’s something that half of the population of women in the United States goes through, but a stage I personally had no idea about until I went through it myself, since it’s not frequently discussed in the popular press on work culture. (Unless you’re specifically looking for it.)
As I wrote in a previous blog post,
But, we want women to conceal the true effects of pregnancy through favorable images and elision of details of what pregnancy really entails. Today, pregnant women should be successful at work, at home, look stylish and put together, and carefully tuck away any physical indications that they are growing a baby into pictures they never post to Instagram.
The side that is portrayed is what Meghan Markle’s handlers want us to see, what they think is appropriate. In the corporate ranks, there is a symmetrical equivalent in the world of Sheryl Sandberg’s egregiously harmful Lean In, and Marissa Mayer’s glib “I’ll be taking two weeks of maternity leave”
Where are both of those women now? One, having lost her husband, continues to work insane hours defending a company continuously in the headlines for some of the deepest ethical violations of our time, and the other lost her CEO job at a company that no longer exists. Was it worth it for them to continue to push these power structures for an industry that’s grinding through them as much as they are grinding through it?
The story that pregnancy and early motherhood are special, liminal classes that need to be accommodated, and that pregnant women and mothers to newborns can and should lean out for a bit in society until they are physically and mentally ready for re-entry, is simply not a story that ever plays in the Western narrative of what it means to be a working mother.
So, in that vein, physically, I’m recovering from giving birth to a human and all the things that entails. The amazing human body takes nine months to grow a baby. It doesn’t bounce back immediately once birth is over. The process of returning to normal takes weeks and months.
As I’m recovering, I’m also constantly feeding (newborns eat every 2-3 hours), pumping, and in between that, I’m trying to get in naps when the baby sleeps. And, I still have a second child who has her own set of needs. ALSO, while all of that is going on, my husband and I are processing maternal leave paperwork, insurance paperwork, buying groceries, washing pump parts, and taking out boxes and boxes of baby paraphernalia kipple. Life goes on.
I’m home from work for six months (three paid, three unpaid), and my husband is also home for a month, but we’re not on vacation. Maternity and paternity leave are a special kind of shadow world apart from society, where you’re home, but both living at day and at night, blending time, fully in the world but also entirely not a part of it, on your own schedule as you learn your baby’s rhythms at three in the morning.
So! What does this mean for Normcore Tech?
A slower, maternity schedule for a couple months while I get back into the swing of things. I’ll be working on the newsletter as much as is reasonable without exerting myself physically or mentally. That may mean a post a week or so, or it may mean shorter posts. I’m feeling things out.
I have a built-up catalog of posts, but I want to pace myself, and get back to a place where my mind is not a hazy fog of feeding times and washing machine cycles.
Like I wrote about my first pregnancy,
There is a reason that many cultures have a lying-in period. Because there is nothing easy about the first weeks, but it becomes even harder when society tells us that, in addition to learning or re-learning how to parent newborns, we need to be falling head over heels in love with them, posting starstruck pictures full of exclamation points, and generally taking [about] parenting in a breezy manner that indicates that nothing has changed in our lives.
We’re extremely blessed to have a lot of help from both my family and my husband’s family, and to be able to take leave ourselves. And, having a second baby is in many ways easier than the first.
But still, it’s very, very hard to have a baby, and things are going to be different, at least for a bit as we all adjust.
Stay with me. :)