Self-Diagnosis: Drink More Water

My water bottle broke this weekend. The toddler decided at 3am to come into our room and drink my water instead of his. Finding it empty he decided to drop it on the floor, breaking the spout. The morning of work, I suddenly felt a bit sick heading to the subway to get to work without it… like I was missing something…

I should probably explain…that bottle was my only water bottle. I carry it with me everywhere… In the past I’ve fainted multiple times but only ever on the subway. Lack of oxygen? Dehydration? I never could quite figure out why, but i always carry a pack of really strong mints and a bottle of water to sip on to keep me conscious when i feel it coming on. Its been a few years now that I’ve always gotten to the point of fainting, but not actually fainted. Multiple blood work, x-rays, cat scans, and even electrode tests have failed to indicate an underlying problem. So I’ve just been dealing with it in the best way I know possible… by always having a bottle of water on me at all times. Doctors have suggested panic attacks to be the cause … but if that were so, why have years of being on antidepressants not rid me of this issue? The only thing that has been my savior these past few years have been that bottle. Even when it contained lukewarm water, the outside of the bottle always felt nice and cold on my neck. Just cold enough to keep me conscious for the last stretch of the train ride, just enough time to get to my stop and step out of the muggy, stagnant subway air… to breathe in the outside cool, fresh air.

I can always buy another bottle. Its just… I didn’t realize how much i needed it until it broke. I’m a bit worried about how this summer will pan out. Its going to be the hottest summer on record. I decided to be extra prepared, and ordered a rechargeable mini fan, and a cooling towel that evaporates to keep you feeling slightly less melty in the summer heat.

I only ever own 1 water bottle at a time. I can’t stand owning duplicate items as back up “just in case”. Mainly because my tiny nyc apt doesn’t allow for much storage so the minimal personal items theme that have carried on to include my water bottle. I guess i shouldn’t think of it as just another water bottle but more of a life saver. Maybe time to get some extra water bottles?

Art by Laura_the_gal

Guilt and a Freelance vs Full-time Mommy?

For the last month I’ve been running to last minute interviews for a really big job that I wasn’t sure I was interested in. I’ve done next day phone interviews, meeting my husband at lunch to have him sit with our baby so I could run to another quick interview, and missing a half-day of a convention because I had to meet individually with a few people over a several hour long interview. It’s a bit odd. I’ve been a stay at home mom (freelancing from home) since our little baby A was born 9 months ago. I had also traded in about 8 months of full time in-office work for freelance at home work before I gave birth because of pregnancy induced fatigue. I feel … a bit off my game as far as my career goes. I’ve been freelancing, but I’ve limited the amount of work I’ve been taking in pretty drastically. Working no more than 25 to 30 hours a week. And I guess all this extra time has left me feeling… a bit deprived of the office life. Is that what I’m craving? Maybe that’s why I’m suddenly seeking a full-time office desk job– when that was exactly the opposite of what I wanted pre-baby. Suddenly my post-baby self is ready to give up freelancing … Perhaps I’m trying to abandon my responsibilities as a new mom? Or simply feeling overwhelmed by the isolation and loneliness (and lack of conversation) that I’ve been limited to…?

It was also really nice to dress up, wear some fancy clothes and shoes and look… nice. Like nicer than date night nice. Like… expensive well-paying job nice. No mom frumpiness was visible when I was dressed up. Someone even made a joke, assuming that I didn’t have kids. It felt nice. I guess I just miss the idea of being my old self. I mean I do go on baby-less date nights with the husband… but that’s only for a few hours… this job thing would be the whole day! I’d get to look nice, feel important (to others besides family), and design without little baby interrupting me every few minutes… I’m not sure why I’m suddenly thinking that I need is MORE time away from my baby… ? I’d be happier with more time… working? Maybe the postpartum mania is taking a hold of me…  This doesn’t sound right.

And here is where my thoughts always end:  Mentally preparing to leave A at home with someone else. I just can’t picture anyone else caring for him better than I can. I respect women who can go full-time and are able to deal with those emotions. I know that sometimes when you HAVE to do something, you do it, no matter how hard it is. Maybe that’s what I’m missing. I don’t HAVE to go to work. I can sit here and go back and fourth on getting a nanny or staying at home all day with him. At the same time being a stay at home mom is not what I originally wanted, and I’m not the best suited to stay with a baby all day. But maybe being his mommy and making an effort to be the best mom I can be is enough. And… perhaps, hiring help on the days when I need to work from home. Sometimes it’s a bit nuts trying to balance the two…!

Art by Laura_the_gal

Discovering What You Love

I logged into Tumblr for the first time in ages, and came across a post from an old friend. I’ve always been a fan of his artwork, but I hadn’t seen any for a few years. I remembered vaguely in college, how amazing he was at storytelling, but mostly in telling stories of a sad nature, and not so much with humor, even though humor was the area he focused on most. The current stories that he now posts are so much more mature than the ones I had remembered. And it seemed he changed his storytelling focus to telling sad stories, the one topic he was best at. When I remember his old work, I remember it as being great, but never something that really seemed completely natural to him. It always looked a bit forced. But these new stories, wow! They are so deep, thought provoking, and feel very genuine. A true testament to how good you can get at what you do by practicing, a little at a time.

Now, I’m finding myself falling into a bit of jealousy reading his stories.  I feel the same way viewing others peoples artwork as well. It’s the work that feels very much a part of the person who created it. Something that could never be mistaken as being created by anyone else. It feels as if it was completed by someone who had mastered their craft. For me, I’ve never been very good with sticking to one thing over long periods of time. Never satisfied, always looking for the latest and greatest. It’s been a bit hard figuring out the difference between loving something, versus doing something because I’m good at it. By truly loving something, you end up sticking to the trials, tribulations, and evolutions of that craft. Whereas, if being good at something is the only reason for you to create, the viewer ultimately can sense that… feeling the emptiness contained within (at least, thats how *I* feel about it!).

I’ve drawn, painted, sculpted, molded, sewn, sanded, and written. I’ve programmed, designed, cooked, and planted. Yet I still feel that I haven’t discovered my niche. I guess I should just remember that not everyone discovers what they really love, even after 30 years, but it feels so painful to see people in their teens create masterpieces that show obvious commitment not in skill, but in love. Or, perhaps I’ve already created these things filled with love, but have overlooked them because I felt I was ready to move on to the next thing? (I’ll have to dig up some old work and discover!).

I think a part of finding the feeling of creating something you love, might also stem from outside perception. Oftentimes, you can’t perceive how much love you put into something you’ve made without input of others. It’s that outside eye that helps you discover that you love something… sometimes…? Or maybe they just ‘knew’ it was the right thing for them?

Maybe this is where I start to invest in a life coach?

Art by Laura_the_gal

Being Middle Class and Giving Birth in the Age of Obamacare

I love the idea of socialized healthcare. The Affordable Health Care Act is a great way of making health care more affordable for low income people and for a good amount of Americans who sign up for it. That’s not my issue. My issue here is for giving birth as a middle income family, who suddenly qualifies for a tax discount because of the birth of their first child… and trying to get coverage for that new baby for his first month of birth.

It started when we signed up for insurance through the Health Exchange website, way ahead of the deadline. The insurance we had prior was provided by my old employer, via COBRA, and expired in January 2014– we needed to find something quick! My husband and I are both freelancers living in NYC, so buying our own insurance was something we needed to do. I think we were paying about $1100 for the two of us, so we were very excited to see that for about $850 we could have even better coverage through another provider! The due date for our first baby was predicted for December 2013, and since coverage would start on January 2014, we thought it’d be easy to start off the year without any adjustments! Actually, we had also completed the estimate on the Health Exchange website again (to see if we’d qualify for a discount with our newest family member) and we did! But, obviously, we couldn’t apply until his birth, so we waited…

The doctors ended up being a bit off with our calculations, and I ended up giving birth the second week of January, at almost 43 weeks! Two days after, a bit burned out, I went back on the website, went through the all the form pages, and was offered two options. We could add him to Child Health Plus (a government subsidized program) for $30 a month with a nice discount of about $450, OR we could add him to our own insurance for $1250 a month… without any discount. Whaaaaat? Why were we restricted to only two options?

I called into the Health Exchange help line. They notified me that the discount only applied if we signed him up for Child Health Plus… and that was just the way it worked. Another issue, Child Health Plus did not cover retroactively, and took about 30 days to take affect. The Health Exchange rep mentioned the only way to get coverage for the month after his birth would be to sign him up for Medicaid… which we did not qualify for. So that meant, to get the discount, we’d have to let our newborn go without coverage for 30 days after birth??! I was then informed by the representative on the phone, that our current insurance company should cover him for the first 30 days until he had coverage through Child Health Plus, but that I should them call to confirm.

The next seven days were a series of back and fourth calls between the help line at the Health Exchange website and our current insurer to try to figure out who was covering him. There was no way I would feel comfortable letting my baby go without coverage for 30 days. There were too many things that could go wrong the first month after birth, and I needed the ability to bring him to a doctor (or hospital) as needed, without fearing debt.

Using up all the minutes on our family cell phone plan (mostly on hold for an hour at a time, per each call), I received two different responses from our health insurance that he’d be covered for 30 to 60 days after birth. I also received two responses stating that they didn’t know about any such policy and to call the Health Exchange, since they should be covering him. I did also get one response that he would not be covered by our insurance unless he was added to our health plan. Every single time I called the Health Exchange reps, I’d be told that I’d have to work something out with our insurer.

Four months later, and still figuring this whole thing out!

I am mostly upset that there was no written language of how new births would be handled on the Health Exchange. How can you claim to cover everyone, except for those newly born that aren’t very poor or very rich? It seemed that middle class families were left to fend for themselves, while everyone else was covered. Even with the unknowns of our son’s coverage, I still brought our baby to his first checkup. I wanted to make sure everything was okay. He’s turned out to be a healthy, thriving infant, who is doing great!

It’s now May 2014, and those visits have finally made it through our insurer. Guess what? They sent an ugly rejection letter in the mail, stating they would not cover it. The Pediatrician also sent a bill to the tune of $700 for the two visits in his first month and refuses to offer us a self-paying discount. We’re currently waiting on a response from our insurer, since I did not agree with their determination of benefits for non coverage.  I’m hoping that it doesn’t take a few more months to resolve this issue, nonetheless I’m sure it will.

Neither the Health Exchange or our insurer was very clear on coverage for a newborn for the first 30 days. There is nowhere in writing that stated anything about how it was supposed to be handled. It seems that the only way of handling it is to have the baby covered by Medicaid, isn’t of use if you’re unqualified. If we had the money (and the power) to go back in time, I would have avoided this mess and added him to our plan. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. I hope our story brings to light one of the hidden pitfalls of the Health Exchange website. I still feel that it’s a great option for buying your own insurance, but perhaps we would have been more prepared if we had known of the issues with coverage for newborns in the first 30 days.

Babywearing Shmaybewearing!

I had my first baby about four months ago, it’s been a whirlwind of a change! Mostly a change of interests. Being pregnant gave me a glimpse of how different things would become. Suddenly, shopping for a stroller felt like shopping for a car, seeking the perfect balance between something long-lasting and sturdy but also it had to be beautiful and sexy, to look good alongside the rest of the Brooklyn stroller crowd when we went out! Even diapering had a limitless amount of options! We decided to use reusable ones, and there are hundreds upon hundreds of different types of diapers. I probably spent a few weeks researching all the different brands, and a good amount of money buying different styles and different brands. Even now, after purchasing everything we needed, I STILL find myself looking over others’ baby gear at the farmers market, wondering if there is something trendier than what we currently own… so I can eBay our current gear, buy the new gear, all while keeping our baby in trend with the rest!

Mexican Baby Wrap
… and me and the little one in the Mexican cotton / poly blend wrap. Looks beautiful, but its hot as balls, I promise! Cotton only next time!

So naturally the next thing to hit my radar just after his birth… Babywearing! We had purchased an Ergo and Ring Sling prior to the birth, but I found myself not completely happy with either of the two. With the Ergo, it definitely lived up to its name, very ergonomic in feel and function, but I wasn’t really happy with the look. It felt like a backpack for my baby, and I wanted to wear something that looked more natural on me (as I rarely used backpacks before he was born!). As for the ring sling, it was pretty, and I loved the way the fabric draped over me. It is a beautiful blue color, made of cotton gauze, and was extremely light! The breathability of it was even more important, as my fading memories (nightmares) of being pregnant included a ridiculous amount of heat sensitivity. So, I wanted to make sure that I could wear something that wouldn’t bring back the trauma of overheating on short walks. Celebrating the ability to not have to deal with the heat (at least I can take temporary breaks now!). Alas, even the ring sling had its faults, it was extremely uncomfortable for long stretches, bearing all of the baby’s weight on one shoulder!

Someone’s awesome wrap stash on Pinterest… I see a few Didymos Indios in there!!

Accidentally, during the first sleep deprived month, I stumbled on woven wraps. Oh my gosh! So many beautiful patterns, colors, fabric types, and and AND… you could use both shoulders! There were tons of different ways to wear them, and even some great ideas of what to do with the fabric once you’re finished using them. I NEEDED (wanted) to get one! Most countries in Africa and Asia wear their babies in a wrap, a tradition that has carried on to the present. Most of the woven wraps you’ll find on the market are German in origin. Similar to woven wraps are the Moby Wrap and Boba Wrap, they are less expensive but come in limited colors and patterns. Most of what appealed to me about baby wrapping, were with the different patterns and colorways. There are some beautiful jacquard and twill fabrics that are used in woven wraps!

So far, I’ve ordered a Didymos Houndstooth wrap from Germany… but still waiting for that to arrive! So for now, I snagged a ‘like new’ Mahogany Tablecloth on Amazon (for $16 bucks!), and found a tutorial to create a DIY Mei tai, wrap style. These are similar to wraps, in that you still have full back support, wrap-like straps, and more adjustable than the Ergo. But, quicker and easier to use because the wrapping options are limited only to one style of wrap. I also found a seller on Etsy that sells mexican woven wraps that I ordered from, but alas, they are a cotton polyester blend… so it LOOKS amazing, but MAN it is HOT… Polyester is not meant for baby wearing… not in the warmer months at least.

My DIY Tablecloth Mei Tai
My DIY Tablecloth Mei Tai

I love how it turned out! Can’t wait for the real thing to get here… I also just got some beautiful twill fabric in the mail… gonna wrap-ize it ASAP to help with the waiting time for my package to get here from Germany. So excited! Have you heard about wraps before?