This blog is not intended to provide legal advice, legal services or legal anything else. Don't sue me. All I have is debt anyway.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Reflections from a Mom in Law School

Thus ends 2L year. A whole lot of good, and plenty of suck to go with it, but we made it through relatively unscathed. And we’re ready for an awesome summer!

Having a baby during the second year of law school was pretty crazy. I knew it would be tough, but it was easier in some ways and much harder in others.

First, the pregnancy itself. The entire pregnancy was probably the worst experience I’ve ever had in my life. I knew pregnancy was going to suck, but I had never anticipated the problems we had, and how shitty I felt. I thought if there were any problems it would be because I was starting the pregnancy over-weight, so I was very mindful of how much I ate (being sick the first trimester certainly helped control my appetite), and I only gained 20 pounds (15 of which I left at the hospital). Anyway, we were in such a low-risk category that the idea there could be a serious congenital defect never crossed my mind. Definitely something we had not anticipated, and which made 2L Fall really awful. Now, overall, my health was fine, even being on “modified bed rest” for 12 weeks after the fetal surgery. Okay, so I didn’t always come right home from class to lay down with my feet up, but I didn’t exercise or do yoga, or walk a lot, or lift anything heavy, even my casebooks. But I think the restrictions made a huge difference in how awful I felt, and for the last trimester, I felt really awful. Some prenatal yoga would have made a big difference in all the back and hip pain, I’m certain. So hopefully next time I’ll have the opportunity to do so.

Maybe I just had unusually bad morning sickness (and fatigue), but I was barely functional sitting at a desk. I’ve often thought maybe that’s why I lost my job, that I managed to screw something up in those 6 weeks during summer that I felt like complete shit and no one ever told me so. (However, I doubt it, I was just doing bitch work on [crappy litigation] instead of doing real legal work. And they kept me on during the fall, when I was back to being a functional human being. I dunno.) But I am glad that I was only a clerk and not an attorney. First, I wasn’t doing anything important, so if I had screwed it up, it wouldn’t have mattered. Also, if I was actually supposed to bill real hours, I definitely wouldn’t have been able to bill much. And once I had activity restrictions, I probably would have lost my job for sure. So one really good thing about being pregnant in law school is that if things had gotten really bad, I could have just withdrawn for the semester. It would have totally sucked, and set us back financially, but not as sucky as losing a job as an attorney and not being able to make my student loan payments.

Even so, there was plenty of disappointment fall semester, and some setbacks. First, I bailed on doing the write-on for Journal because I’m lazy and also because I felt pretty awful thanks to the morning sickness. Not that I really care, because I definitely didn’t need anything more to do this year, I think a source and cite and writing a note would have made my brain explode. But I do sometimes regret not doing Journal. I don’t regret not doing Moot Court. I would have torted someone this year had I been. I’m still bitter about the whole TAB situation, but I’m going to try out for a trial team next year, and I’m taking Lit Skills, so I don’t think I’m at any disadvantage for a career in litigation.

The big success of the semester was, of course, having Cora. I’m well aware of exactly how blessed we are that she is alive, and how the result is nothing less than a miracle of modern science. That the fetal surgery worked, the hydrops resolved, the surgery didn’t have to be repeated, that she grew normally, that she made it almost to full term, that she made it through her emergency surgery with no permanent organ damage and is a healthy, normal five-month-old with very good lung capacity. I’m so thankful to have Cora, but I know it all could just as easily have gone the other way. I think it helps keep us appreciative of what we have, and how precious it is. It also puts things into perspective, about what things matter, and what things just really don’t.

Anyway, back to lighter topics. Giving birth during finals rather sucked. I was happy for the reprieve from Tax, but I really had wanted to take my Insurance and Torts finals that week. I definitely would have done better on the Torts final. I’m happy with my Insurance grade, but maybe I would have done even better if I hadn’t taken it the first week of Spring semester, barely functional. Oh well. I blame my Internet professor. I told him his final was so stressful it put me into premature labor (I had him again this semester for Trade, he's a lot of fun). Now he has a “hardcore” law professor story to tell, much like our Civ Pro professor making some dude pass out in our class while being "socratized."

After all the insanity of Cora’s emergency surgery and near-death experiences over the holidays, she came home on January 6. I started school on January 7. That was craptastic. But Husband being off work for the month of January really helped. I would have been a useless zombie if he hadn’t been. I think I did pretty good, even in the beginning when she wasn’t sleeping very much. I managed my time well, did my reading in the middle of the night when Cora was eating. We got her into a pretty good routine pretty early of eating every 3 hours and going right back to sleep at night after eating. So it wasn’t terrible.

I think the worst thing throughout the semester was the fight with breastfeeding. She didn’t actually latch and feed well enough until almost 3 months, and by then her appetite had far exceeded my production. She was on breast milk exclusively for about two months, which I got from attaching myself to a medieval torture device like some sort of dairy cow six times a day. It’s bad enough feeding a baby every 3 hours, but pumping then feeding the baby is even worse. Not to mention constantly cleaning all the equipment to do it. But pumping doesn’t keep up production like nursing does, so it just kept getting worse and worse. Now she usually only nurses first thing in the morning and her last feeding of the day. I took medication to stimulate production, but it didn’t make a whole lot of difference. Next month, the boobs get turned off for good, as the pediatrician gave me the green light to wean at 6 months. (I can’t wait to wear normal bras again.) I wouldn’t have gone through all that insanity except for the fact she was missing a lobe and she could use the extra antibodies to avoid getting sick. If the next kid doesn’t latch, it’s just getting formula and we’re going on with life. No more medieval torture devices, and strange women touching my boobs, for me.

I also took way too long to read Baby Wise and realized I could have had her sleeping through the night long ago. It took less than a week of Baby Wise to have a baby that sleeps through the night. We were doing really well, but she’d still wake up between 4 and 6 for a feeding. But I let her cry it out one night, and the next night she slept for 10 hours. I couldn’t believe it worked so quickly. She’s not on a very strict schedule, which I like, because we need her to be flexible, but she goes to sleep between 10 and 11pm without much fuss, and she now sleeps until about 8am. She takes two really good naps during the day, and then usually a short nap in between. She just started the rice cereal at 4 months, and she really likes it. It probably tastes like her formula, since we get the thicker stuff for less spit-up. At 6 months, we’ll be starting her on baby food, and get to find out what she likes, and what she spits back at us.

Cora really is such a good baby though. We are very lucky in that respect. She didn’t have colic, and only on very rare occasion does she scream for no discernible reason. It was difficult there for a while when she always wanted to be held though. That was fine when all I was doing was reading, but that made outlining really hard. I took a hit on some exam preparedness for that reason. But then she took a real liking to the swing, and now that she’s more active and playful, she loves her exer-saucer, her play mat, and her Baby Papasan (when she’s watching Baby Mozart). She’ll tolerate the tummy time mat for awhile, but she likes being on her back/side much better. She’s very close to rolling over (Husband says her giant cheeks serve as a bumper otherwise she’d already be rolling over). She’s a lot of fun, she smiles and laughs, and now she does this thing where she wiggles her whole body in excitement. She’s just a joy to come home to. I really missed her when Mom kept her for those two days because of my finals and Husband working. I like to think she missed me too, but I’m pretty sure she missed her ducks much more.

Another really good thing about having Cora during law school is that I was able to spend a lot more time with her as a baby than I would have if I were practicing law already. Sure, I didn't get an actual "maternity leave," other than a month off after she was born, (more than two weeks of which she spent in the hospital), and had to start school the day after she came home from the hospital in January. But I only had to be on campus a couple hours a day, then I got to come home and spend time with her. I was gone even less than having a part-time job. If I'd been working, I would have had at most 12 weeks off work (and probably not that much, likely I wouldn't have gotten more than 5 or 6 weeks off), and then would have gone back to work 40 or more hours a week (probably more). We would have needed full time daycare. But with being in school, I didn't get the stir craziness (which I was starting to feel just before she went back to the hospital), I had a good amount of structure, I was intellectually stimulated, socially stimulated and I got to enjoy being with her.

Cora may not have given a crap whether I was there or not, but I really enjoyed it, and it's been fun watching her grow and discover things. I'm glad I have that opportunity over the summer as well, since I'm only working part time. I probably won't have that opportunity with subsequent children, and I'm grateful I had that "new baby" experience (in moderation of course... I'd probably have gone bat shit crazy being home alone with her the whole time. I would have gotten really fat too.) I think she's even starting to like me too. She gives me huge smiles whenever she sees me, like, oh hey, it's you! It's just fun.

I have to admit, I like being a parent. I'm not really a big fan of other people's kids. I like my friends' kids, and (usually) my nieces and nephew, but I don't like most kids. I like my kid though. She's pretty cool. It's pretty awesome to watch her develop and become a little person (as opposed to a sack of potatoes that just eats, poops and cries). I've always said I never really wanted kids. I was willing to have them if I married someone who really wanted kids, but if I didn't get married, or if I married someone who didn't want kids, it wouldn't have bothered me one bit. But having a kid is pretty awesome. It's a lot of work, obviously, and it definitely requires certain lifestyle changes, but it's really rewarding. I'm glad we did it.

I also like to think that even though we had a kid, we haven't morphed into "Cora's Parents." We've been pretty caught up with school since Spring Break, so we haven't gotten to do a lot of social activities lately, but we still went out and did stuff earlier in the semester. We brought her out with us, or we got a sitter. And, with the exception of the past month, we did stuff as a couple too. That was also something I really liked about Baby Wise, was the philosophy that a baby becomes a part of your existing family, not the center of your universe. My relationship with Husband is the foundation of our family, and being happy in our marriage, and most importantly in ourselves, is what will help us be good parents. And 18 years from now, when Cora's out of our house, we'll still have each other, our careers, our lives, and we hope Cora will look to us as a source of wisdom and inspiration, instead of an example of what she never wants to be. Being a parent is now part of who we are, but it isn't all of what we are.

So that’s that. That’s been our year. I think as crazy as it was, I’m very glad we had our kid during 2L. 1L is crazily hard and sucks ass, I would never recommend anyone to have a baby during 1L, and if you've done it, I commend you for your bravery and perseverance. 3L wouldn’t have been bad, but I wouldn’t have wanted a newborn while studying for the bar. But like I said, with all the problems we had, I’m glad we did this whole pregnancy thing during law school and not while I was out practicing. I have to admit, I’m a little apprehensive about having another one while I’m just starting out in my career, in case we end up with more drama. But hopefully we’ve gotten the drama out of the way and the next pregnancy will be much less eventful. (Which won't be happening for quite awhile.)

Tummy Time for Cora. Yes, that's a bunny on her butt.

Enjoying her bottle


Cee said...

you really have had a busy and eventful 2L year! Thank you for sharing your experience, it feels really good knowing other law students are doing it- and successfully!

It's encouraging to me when you say you don't feel like "Cora's parents" -- lately I've been anxious about all the things that will change when my baby is born- it's nice to know that you can be a parent AND retain your own identity.

Thanks again and congrats on all your accomplishments this year!

CM said...

What a great post. She's such a cutie. When you post pictures of her now, sometimes I forget about all the medical problems, the in utero surgery, and the weeks in the NICU -- it really is amazing that before you weren't sure she would survive, and now she is thriving.

LL said...

She is such a cutie!

Excellent law student mama summary post. I could have written a good portion of it myself (remove all pregnancy drama, the serious medical drama, add some DCFS drama; keep the stuff about not just feeling like a parent and even though you're extremely busy, you're still sure it was better to do this in law school than afterward).

And congrats again on being done with your masters program and 2L year!

Kathryn said...

What a great post! You've been through so much this year, yet managed to accomplish so much. Cora is such a cutie pie!

Law Student Hot Mama said...

Good for you for hanging in there!

I gave birth to my baby in the four weeks between summer school and fall semester of my third year. Timing was great! Two weeks after summer school, I gave birth .. . . two weeks later I was back in class. Though admittedly, when my husband went to Iraq . . . that wasn't part of the plan. Things got a lot harder after that.

But you know . . . I think I view law school as survival at this point. It's almost over. I have ALMOST survived it! When I survive it completely? Now THAT will be a happy day.

Good for you for also surviving!

Beanie said...

Cora is such a sweetie. It gives me hope to think that if we chose to have a kid that it would be good, and if we didn't, that'd be okay too. Thanks for the even-handness of it.

LEO said...

de-lurking to say I really like your post. I found you because of LL, whom I found from a post she wrote which talked about her decision to have a baby in law school. I will be having a baby in the middle of my third year and I hope that it will be a good experience for me too! Congrats on finishing the second year! And what a darling girl!