Many thoughts about the world, meditation, parenting, Judaism, pregnancy, teaching, cancer survivorship, moving from West Coast to East and more.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Problem With Baby Einstein

State of the Union addresses always have that part of the program during which the president focuses on some token individuals... sometimes it's really nice and sometimes kind of pathetic. I won't wax too much about that now. This year President Bush talked about the maker of Baby Einstein. I scoffed. Baby Einstein is just one more product that parents are convinced they need to buy in order to be good parents.

Below is a copy of the e-update I received from The Campain For A Commercial-Free Childhood about Bush's reference:

The following is the statement of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood in response to President Bush using his State of the Union address to promote the Baby Einstein video series. During his speech, the President lauded Baby Einstein's founder, Julie Aigner-Clark, as an example of the "the heroic kindness, courage and self-sacrifice of the American people," and described the success of Baby Einstein in detail. In 2006, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood filed a Federal Trade Commission complaint against Baby Einstein for false and deceptive marketing; that complaint is pending.

It is extremely disappointing that the President used his State of the Union address to provide a free infomercial for a company built on false and deceptive marketing. Despite its claims, there is no evidence that watching Baby Einstein videos is educational for babies and toddlers.

The President claimed that Ms. Aigner-Clark "represents the great enterprising spirit of America." We respectfully disagree. We don't believe that preying on parents' concerns about their children's well-being; deceiving customers about a product's benefits; or exploiting our youngest and most vulnerable children should have any role in the American marketplace.

Research suggests that -- for babies -- TV viewing may be harmful. It's been found to interfere with cognitive development, language development and regular sleep patterns. The more time babies spend in front of TV, the less time they spend engaging in two activities that really do facilitate learning: interacting with parents away from screens, and spending time in creative play.

TV viewing can also be habituating. For older children, hours of television watched are linked to bullying, poor school performance and childhood obesity.

Despite these concerns, more babies are spending more time in front of televisions than ever. They do so, in part, because well-financed sophisticated marketing campaigns insure that we've all heard of Baby Einstein. Meanwhile, only 6% of parents are aware of that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under two.

Americans would be much better served if the President used the bully pulpit to promote the AAP's recommendation rather than promoting a company whose marketing deceives parents into believing that it's educational to plop babies in front of screens.

To learn more about CCFC's FTC complaint against Baby Einstein, Brainy Baby and BabyFirstTV, please visit

If you have not yet signed our petition to the FTC urging them to investigate our complaint, please visit

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

7 Things About Our 7-Week Old

Declansmom sometimes does something called Six on Sunday (or Seven on Sunday... I can't find it on her blog right now with this baby on my lap) in which she shares her son's responses to 6 (or 7) questions.

I want to try to find 7 things on this 7-week birthday.

1. ND is very strong. When held under her arms, she pushes very very hard to stand up. It's adorable because she hooks her arms down like a strong man, makes a face and trembles as she exerts this energy. It's especially cute when she's naked.

2. Her little ears stick out in just such a way to make her look a little yoda-, or maybe elf-like.

3. She's becoming more independent during breastfeeding. It used to be that if she needed to burp she would kick and go "mmm mmm mmm" urgently until I removed her and burped her. Now she pulls herself off and looks at me.

4. She smiles socially now. In the mornings, especially, when she's just hanging out on the bed while I'm dressing, breastpumping or whatever, she laughs and smiles and kicks around. Her first really incredible smile came in the middle of the night once when I was EXHAUSTED and not so keen on being awake with her. She just beamed at me and I completely melted. She also smiles a lot when she sees I'm preparing to nurse her.

5. Sometimes her smile hooks up a little on the left side of her mouth, making her squint that eye a little. Very mischievous. Makes me think of her dad's childhood photos.

6. When sleeping, she seems to have the tiniest little lips. But when she's tired, it goes like this. She'll just be sitting there, hanging out and looking mellow. Suddenly she'll let out this SCREAM and her lips will expand with all of her cheek muscles into this enormous oval. I'll "shhhhhhhhhhhhh" loudly, right into her ear, her soft precious cheek right against mine. Eventually the scream dies out to more of a putter until she finally passes out w/ her mouth wide open and one last little "Ah" of protest.

7. When she's really really upset... as in, strapped into car seat and hungry but can't be nursed until we get her out of the car and into the apartment, her whole face turns red, she screams so hard it sounds like she can't breathe, and her little arms alternately work up and down like a mechanical toy... a reflex, I guess. Thankfully, she often does this when tired and will fall asleep as soon as the car starts, there is a change of scenery or, of course, a breast comes into view.

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And Even Better

Well, not only did we have a good night, but we're having a good day too.

First some background... yesterday I got a call from a woman whose mother taught U. in his home town. The woman (not the mother), in fact went to school with U.'s oldest brother. Confused? Don't worry. It doesn't really matter. She now lives nearby and called because she had a present for us from her mom.

When I went to pick it up last night (yay! an outing!) she told me she works for Mary Kay cosmetics and asked if I would come today to special thing where she could practice a makeover on me. (In other words, to pitch a product.) Now, I assume you all know this, but I almost never never never wear makeup. When I saw almost, what that means is that I tried it for the first time last year (age 29!) and use it for special occasions and when I feel like I want to look a little better on a bad day. I usually use it so sparingly even I can't see it in the mirror. Well, I went. It was fun both as a makeover in and of itself (I did look pretty good afterwards) and also just because it was funny to me that I was doing it. I even almost succumbed to buying stuff, but in the end just bought one small thing because I liked it but also kind of as a courtesy. As much as I liked the new look, I kept reminding myself that this "group" didn't fit me. It wasn't hard to keep that in mind when the women starting talking so comfortably about scheduled convenient c-sections.

Just after we left there, ND suddenly really wanted to nurse. So as we sat in the back of the car in the parking lot nursing, I spontaneously made a phone call to a friend I made at the La Leche League meeting last week. She had a book I wanted to borrow and so ND and I went over to visit with her and her son.

I have so much in common with here. We're both "natural" types in a sea of "not-so-naturals." We asked each other questions about how we decide things about raising our babies with our spouses, and about the conflicting advice we get from others. (Not just conflicting, but unsolicited as well.) On top of that, she's Canadian. (I told her I should have guess it because she's so low-key.) And she and her husbnad once traveled to Japan - the only frum couple I know to have done that, and we've talked about wanting to try that ourselves some day.

In any case, we're hoping to get together often and soon.

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Much better...

I've had several comforting emails this morning and want to happily report that we had a good night's sleep! Once again, ND was wide awake at bedtime and every time we got her to sleep and put her down she awoke and cried again. So I finally resorted to something I did weeks ago... I wrapped her in a swaddling blanket. She's outgrown all of her old ones, but thankfully we just received a brand new, bigger one. Then I laid down on my left side so I was facing the middle instead of the edge of the bed, and held her tightly next to me, her back to my chest, so we were both facing the same direction. I think did a steady rythmn of "shh" noises to replicate the womb until she calmed down. Finally I just started deliberately breathing as though I was asleep, though louder, so she'd get the hint. It worked beautifully. I awoke again a few hours later, put her into the car seat next to the bed, and went back to sleep. I only woke up once more after that when I heard her stirring around a little. Rather than worry about whether or not she was waking up, and listening to those little noises for the next hour or two, I just pulled her out, nursed with her, and put her back without her hardly even waking up. She was good then until 7:30!

A lot of new moms need to be able to sleep in and lounge around a bit, but I know myself well enough to know that makes me feel a lot worse (which is what I've been doing). I think that even when I'm tired, it's more important to get up earlier and face the day a little, even if that means returning to bed for long periods later on.

OK. We're off. Meeting with someone today. Very exciting!

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Monday, January 22, 2007


During my pregnancy, people warned me a lot (as I've complained here) about sleeplessness. Also, every time I went to a doctor, I was given a pamphlet on post-partum depression, so I'd be aware it was normal and get help etc. etc.

Now, I was under the assumption that these two things would most likely occur within the first weeks and then would steadily improve.

This is not necessarily how it works. I now know, first from my experience and later from reading about others' experiences, that it's pretty normal for these problems to not actually arise until after the first month!

For perspective, ND will be 7 weeks old on Wednesday.

During the first few weeks I was in baby euphoria and feeling surrounded by loved ones. ND was also sleeping fairly long and predictable periods at night. Is it any surprise then that I felt confident enough to tell my supervisor at work that I would be up and running before I was even 6 weeks away from the birth? Remember the entries titled When Will I Work Again? and Daycare Troubleshooting?

Well, our nights are not as regular as they used to be. The past three in particular have been challenging, climaxing last night in my excitement over getting to bed early at around 10 only to find that ND was not interested in sleeping until about 2! U. took her for part of that time, but I could not fall into a deep sleep. And on top of that, once she finally conked out, I was wide awake and worrying! Thanks, insomnia. And when I did finally fall asleep after 3, we had to wake up several times to nurse before the night was over.

As a result, my brain no longer has the strength I'd like to think it used to. If I think of something I want to tell someone, and don't say it or write it down right away, the thought is gone. If I empty a garbage can, it takes a large amount of concentration to replace the liner.

But the really weird part is just the being home all day. I've never been good at having such unstructured and isolated time, and this is no exception. Why does it seem like the alternatives are to 1. Be home with ND, caring for both of our needs and 2. Be at work and available physically, intellectually and emotionally to 18 other children without mine nearby at all?

I'm trying to get out and meet people or do things, but it's tricky with ND's spontaneous "schedule" and because I'm shy about finding who to see or what to do. It's also cold outside, which now makes walking a bit difficult. I don't like using the stroller so much because the sidewalks around here are so bumpy. Looking forward to receiving a new sling I ordered in the mail which should hopefully make it possible for us to just walk out together rather than bundle into the stroller.

In any case, those of you who know me know I'm an active, independent and energetic person as well as a self-guilt-tripper and worrier. Is it any wonder I feel fairly down much of the time?

Now I must say, I would not quite call this depression. Depression is helplessness or hopelessness and I'm not exhibiting the signs that should make anyone fear for me or my baby. But I also don't have the high that I felt right after ND was born and I miss it. I also feel I've been misinformed about the difference between baby blues and postpartum depression. I know what I have is sporadic and fits more into the former of those two things, but somehow it feels more of a relief to call it the second. In other ways, "I feel kind of yucky because I'm in a postpartum phase." I do know all this will pass, but it's so important to be honest about all of this.

In any case, just as I labeled the other day a "personal day" to help me relax with ND and not do so much around the house, today I labeled a "sick day" because if I don't get some rest, I know I'll get sick.

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Response

Below is the response to my letter in Breastfeeding Activism:

Dear Mrs. {Me},

Thank you for emailing ShopRite. We appreciate the opportunity to respond. The coupons you are referring to are Catalina Coupons. This is a national program and is managed by an outside company. It is their job to get companies to advertise their product and offer a discount to the consumer. In effort to entice you to purchase their product, a coupon is generated when a competitive brand is purchased.

I can understand how frustrating this must be to the consumer and will forward your comments to Catalina Supermarkets.

Have a great day and please do not hesitate to contact us if you need further assistance.


Judy B.
Customer Care Specialist


In other words, nothing really yet. I'm not expecting much, but if I hear from Catalina, I'll post that too.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Breastfeeding Activism

When I checked out of the supermarket yesterday I received a coupon (through the cash register) for baby formula. This happens every time I shop there and buy baby stuff. (I think it was diapers this time.)

I just wrote to the company and said the following:

"I have a new baby at home and, naturally, have recently begun to buy baby-related products at {store name}. I find that at the end of every purchase I receive from the cash register a coupon for baby formula. Surely you're aware that breastmilk is healthier for babies than formula but that the vast amount of marketing from formula companies, in addition to the lack of community support, often leads to women becoming pressured to stop breastfeeding.

It disturbs me, then, that of all the products you might advertise for babies, it is formula that I consistently see in your coupons. Would you be willing to reconsider what message you are sending?

Thanks for your time."

I realize that they are probably paid by the formula companies to do those ads, and that moms who do need to use formula really benefit from the coupons. But I need to do my part too.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007


We just got home from our first late-night outing... a meeting with La Leche League. You know, I never knew what an enormous part of my life breastfeeding could and would be, and I'm really glad to have had the meeting. It was mainly just great to be with other moms who are breastfeeding now or have been before. I met one person in particular that I connected with and want to call sometime. Her son is just 6 weeks older than ND and we are both observant Jews. But also, I learned a lot about pumping, latching-on, thrush, and baby carriers that were major issues on my mind. Who ever thought there could be so much to breastfeeding? And besides that, I was given so much information about EVERYTHING when ND was born, and lately I've felt alone in a void. This meeting tonight was a real blessing.

The rest of the day was interesting too. As the week has progressed since my in-laws' visit, I've had a steady accumulation of not-enough-sleep until today I was just really crabby. ND and I took our first grocery store trip out together without help. I carried her in my sling (which I know now is not the right one for me, thanks to the complaints I shared with the LLL group) while I pushed the cart, and mostly all went well. She cried a little in the beginning but then fell asleep. I felt great with her, but felt like everyone else in the store was in my way, or too loud, or too slow etc. I came home feeling very crabby and called a good friend (who might read this entry) from back home. That too was an enormous help. But finally, the most important thing of all, ND and I took an hour nap together. When we woke up, I was so much happier, and then we spent most of the rest of the afternoon in front of the TV, nursing or just hanging out. Most of the time I'm trying to GET STUFF DONE (I have a desk I've been trying unsuccessfully to clean since even before she was born), but today we took a "personal afternoon" and it made all the difference in the world.

Tomorrow I'm going to tackle cooking for Shabbat. I'm planning on prioritizing the dishes I want to make and just see how much I manage.

Oh, one more thing about today. We received ND's Purim costume in the mail. We'll have to adjust the little chili pepper hat a little better when the time comes.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

De-lurking Week

Apparently I missed delurking week again.

That means I'm asking you to leave a comment. To provide a focus, please tell me what work you do for "work" including at-home parenting) and/or what you do instead of work and choose how you feel about it:

A. I love my job, couldn't be happier.
B. This is just temporary. I REALLY want to __________________.
C. Other: ____________________________.
D. I'm not willing to comment because by doing so I might put my night-time secret identity at risk, but I WILL tell you that my superhero powers include__________________________.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Return of the Fridge Poem

For those of you who have read my blog since the very beginning, you'll remember my Fridge Poems created from Magnetic Poetry. (Once I finish tagging all my past blog entries you'll be able to find all the fridge poems under the heading of Poetry.)

Well, it was bothering me last week that I have 3 beautiful magnetic poetry sets and even a magnetic surface on my desk for said poems, and have not created but one or two since my arrival in NJ a year and a half ago. So I created a new poem, but this one has new rules. Instead of forcing myself to use every word that I randomly chose, I went through small groups of words and picked out those that resonated with me. I did not add anything to make it more inteligible. I will just let the words speak their own meaning and not try to make them into anything more. (You see, I ran out of time...)

The following poem is dedicated to my new daughter.

lapse worry
soft melt surround ocean love
need kiss snuggle
graceful blue

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Not-Too-Noisy-ND (And Mom)

We've had some terrible experiences in the past with neighbors who go to landlords and accuse us of being loud without telling us first that there is a problem. (Mainly from a really horrible and mean landlady who hated us and who I think was trying to gather dirt on us. Thankfully she is not anywhere near here.)

Well, I just ran into our downstairs neighbor. I usually feel pretty meek around her, fearing that we are very loud but that they don't have the courage to tell us and that someday this will explode in our face.

It just so happens that she didn't even know ND had been born! This is great! It means that not only is ND not too loud, but that no one even heard me in labor! I was sure that every bordering neighbor had, but each has said they didn't. This neighbor was impressed to know I did so much of the labor at home. I would have liked to talk more, but I was worried her arms would fall off from the enormous bag of laundry in her arms.

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Sunday, January 14, 2007


ND got her first trip into the city today as we attended a shindig with U.'s extended family. Lots of relatives, some I remembered and some I didn't. The highlight was hanging out with a couple of other moms in just the sort of way I never expected myself to. However, as is normal with me, the best new friend today I made was an almost-three-year old. Kids are so much easier to get to know than adults!

Anyway, I was given a tutorial on using a baby sling and had many many conversations about (and time spent) breastfeeding. I really want to discover La Leche League now, not so much to talk about breastfeeding (although I admit I like doing that now and do it quite a bit... it's the main event in my life most days), but to be with other moms and just sort of evolve further into mom-hood.

I'm typing this with ND on my lap and sort of mouthing my knuckles. Very cute.

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Injustices to the Mother/Baby Bond

One of the things I discovered in the natural child birth community and culture is an enormous list of heartbreaking stories about how the medical world has interrupted the mother/child bond. Below are a few brief stories I've heard from real people in my life and not just read in a book. These break my heart.

1. A relative of mine in the 1940's had natural child birth that progressed just fine with her first two children. Right before the baby emerged in each situation, the doctor gave her gas and knocked her unconscious before the crucial moment.

2. Another relative was so full of poorly chosen pain medicine that she wasn't even aware of why no one would make that distant baby stop crying. Once she realized it was hers, they pinned her arms down so she wouldn't "contaminate" the baby.

3. Someone I met recently was not allowed to breastfeed. The doctors said her breasts were too big and they gave her a medicine to "dry her up."

These events happened in the past, but there are practices today that are just as insensitive and so many women are robbed of so much.

Don't know why I'm writing about this right now. I guess I'm just very sensitive to how close I feel to ND right now and am grateful for the support we've had.

Maybe I'm thinking about this because tomorrow I would have gone back to work according to my original plan, and that would have been another kind of separation. Even the thought of it makes me sad right now, regardless of the change in plans.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Second 1st Shabbat in Shul

This time we showed up in time for me to bentsch gomel. I'm getting better at waking up early enough to do everything we need to do before going, doing it efficiently, and getting her fed and satisfied before leaving. As it was, while I waited for my chance to say the blessing, she started getting fussy and my mother-in-law, who is visiting, took her into the hallway. As soon as I'd finished and beamed all over with the singing of mazel tov, I took her upstairs to nurse.

It was nice to be there. Nice to see people. Not quite as awkward as when I'm just there for kiddush and have to think of things to say while I'm with others. Nice instead just to be daven in the same room as them and to smile back and forth with them and have them admire ND. But also exhausting. It's hard to be in groups of people and/or away for home with ND for very long.

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The other day, a squirrel climbed up the screen on our kitchen window.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Guilt Games

This morning I felt really miserable and guilty about my need to call work and make the decision that I did. As the day has progressed, I have felt enormously relieved.

And yet I keep finding myself thinking about it and almost intentionally reminding myself to feel guilty. It's like I don't feel alright about the fact that I've inconvenienced others unless I make myself suffer.

But feeling guilt, doesn't fix anything for anybody. The best thing I can do is be grateful and try to pay them all back in some way.

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3 Months After All

I've been absent from the blog for a few days for a reason.

On Monday I went to the school where I work to be in a school portrait. It was fun to see my students again, but since I left I have found myself crying continually. I had told my boss I'd be back on Monday. I would teach for three days, then have Winter Break, and then come back to teach in earnest. I found I just wasn't ready to return.

On top of that, I went that day to a Mom and Baby yoga class. I cried there too, so the teacher, who I think is a doula, took it upon herself to coach me through it a little.

To make a long story short, this morning I called my supervisor and asked for a full 3 months off instead of just the 6 weeks that were almost up. I feel terrible about it because she had asked for more notice and now my substutite is not available for next week. (The substitute is a friend who I spoke to about this last night.) My supervisor was amazingly understanding but I know I've let her down and I know that she is worried now that I won't come back after the 3 months. Who can blame her? I wish I could reassure her, but I don't trust myself right now to know what's what anymore. I really intend to return, but I promised her a more certain answer in about two weeks.

I thought that once I'd made this decision, I'd feel relieved, but I don't know what I feel right now. I think I need some time to just live it first. I think I need to get out of the apartment. And at this stage in my development as a mother, that will take a few hours to accomplish.

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Saturday, January 06, 2007

1st Shabbat In Shul

ND is one month old today. Amazing.

After giving birth, a mother is supposed to say a prayer called "birkat hagomel" which is for people who have been in dangerous situations. It is meant to be said among 10 men (although today someone told me you can say it that a woman can say it with 10 women instead), and ideally during a Torah reading at shul).

On Dec. 25 I tried to go when my dad was visiting because it was not Shabbat and I could drive there, plus the services started later than on a weekday. But I wasn't feeling well so I didn't make it. I tried again on New Year's Day, but ND wanted to breastfeed as soon as we arrived and I realized I wanted to say it when women and/or U. were there with ND and me. So today we tried again. It was POURING rain at 2 AM, so I was a little nervous, but then the weather was gorgeous for us. But by then we had decided to sleep a little extra (ND was so cuddly at 7 AM!) and we didn't actually leave until past 11. I had hoped we could at least be there when they did mincha (afternoon prayers) right after the morning services. Of course, today was the day they switched times so that people would come back in the evening for mincha.

Whatever. The long and short of it is that we only got there in time to socialize and I need to try again to bentsch gomel.

As we pushed the stroller up the drive and parked it with over a dozen others, both U. and I felt for the first time like we really were parents. It was a little frightening. And since I haven't been to shul in at least two months, I was surprised to see how much so many of the other kids have grown. Some weren't walking when I saw them last, and now they are!

Lots of people came up to admire ND, but I was sad to feel afterwards that I felt just as awkward as always. I have felt very loved by the community as they have been bringing us meals and gifts, but once we are all in a social situation, I just feel like I don't fit in. There are a number of people I really like, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's easy to know what to say and to feel natural around them. (I think U. feels similarly.)

It may be a symptom of being far too much into myself, but I've always felt very different from many of the people in our community in that I like earthy spiritual yoga-ish "granola" things. But here I've just had this baby, one of the most spiritual events of my life, and almost EVERYONE in this community has been there and done that already, and often more than once. Sure we've all done it different ways. But I've needed years to be ready for this, and so many of these families have already been families for so long. Maybe that's why they felt they didn't need those "extras." At the same time, I'm no less "crunchy" than before. Besides the natural route of constantly breastfeeding, I've also been learning about baby massage and mom/baby yoga and meditation.

I'm not sure how much sense I'm making. I think I'll stop here...

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Wow! 3!

We managed THREE errands in one car trip today. Very exciting! Also got in a very long walk with two errands along the way there (picked up a present and dropped off some borrowed books) and gave ND a massage. (Have been learning how from videos.)

I really just want to post these pictures. I've been holding back on putting too many on here, but these are just too precious and probably are the most expressive of my little darling.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Daycare Troubleshooting

As I've said before, the scariest and most emotionally trying aspect to returning to work is leaving ND in someone else's care. Today something happened that I think will help tremendously.

I had her signed up for a center that is fairly close to where I live. But today I found out that I have permission to transfer to another branch. Then I discovered that there is a branch less than 2 miles from where I work!

I visited today. It's smaller than the other one and I felt much more comfortable visiting. There are only 3 infants in the infant room right now, and the center was very flexible with me. I can decide a number of things at the last minute with them if I need to.

This makes a tremendous difference to me.

1. She will just be closer to me which means I won't have to suffer a 15-minute or longer drive in agony as I work through my guilt and miss her so painfully, and I know I can be there within a matter of minutes if she really needs me.

2. It means there will be fewer hours ultimately that she will have to be there because I can subtract that extra travel time from our contract now.

3. It also means fewer hours because now I can pick her up right away and take her with me on errands. Before I had imagined either paying for more time while I run errands, or running all the way home to get her and then heading out again.

I think gradually things are falling into place, and the sooner I actually start back to work (planning for the 15th still), the sooner I can stop the stress of anticipating it.

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