Of course, I had all the greatest intentions on the blogging front this week.  The kids were on vacation, so I had what I thought were absurd amounts of free time on my hands to catch up on paperwork and get a good blogging momentum started.  Blog fail.  Monday I was at a conference all day long.  Tuesday, I did write about my surgical “options”.  Wednesday was endless staff meetings and a video called “Including Samuel” about a boy with cerebral palsy who is fully mainstreamed into his elementary school.  Thursday started off promising, but then I had an IEP from 10 till almost noon, then lunch, and finally I had to meet with a coworker to plan our summer language groups and make materials.  So I spent the afternoon photocopying, stapling, and filing knock-off versions of “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” as coloring books.  Today I had off from work, but Mr. Apron and I compiled a hefty to-do list which left me running around all day.  Sigh.  Here is my Friday blog.

Yesterday at work, a coworker admonished me for not enrolling in the optional short-term disability insurance offered by my company.  It’s fantastic, she said, and pays something like 60% of your salary if you can’t work or if you’re on maternity leave.  Of course, she was assuming two things:  one, that I hadn’t enrolled in it when I was hired or during our open-enrollment period which just ended June 30th; and two, that I was a young married thing and would be caring about such things soon.

Don’t you hate it when the know-it-alls are right?  When I have been interviewing for and hired at my two “real” jobs that offered benefits, I have been more concerned with getting a job and was not brilliant enough to go benefit-shopping like some of my classmates.  I guess that attitude came from the difficulty I had getting my first job, and how grateful I was just to be employed.  With my current job, too, having been hired at a time when it seemed all other sectors were cutting back, I was just happy to get an offer.  The other factor is that I can’t navigate my way into any of the benefits any more than Finley can free himself from a blanket we throw over his head.  I am now familiar with the workings of an HMO, thanks to my brain surgery experience.  I understand about diagnosis codes, copays, referrals, deductibles, and how insurance, not a doctor, decides when you are cured.  What I know nothing about are everything else in that healthcare packet I was given when hired.  Long-term medical, short-term disability, health savings accounts, dependant care accounts, etc.  During my hiring and during open enrollment, my eyes glazed over and I checked N/A on the payroll deduction form without giving it a second thought, because second thoughts about things I don’t understand make me cry. 

Nevertheless, I googled short-term disability insurance, short-term medical insurance, etc.  I went to the company’s website and clicked on the link to their STM provider.  I downloaded the form, printed it out, and e-mailed the HR lady who would know definitively about such things.  Of course, the form I printed out stated quite assertively one could only enroll during open enrollment.  And pregnancy is a pre-existing condition; you have to be enrolled before you’re impregnated. 

She called me back right before the IEP. 

“Now, you know the open enrollment period is closed, right?”

“Yeah, I was afraid of that.”

“But I called my supervisor, and I haven’t heard back yet, but I think I can sneak you for this year in because it’s only July 2nd.  But I need to know, and I’m not supposed to ask you this, but…are you pregnant already?”

“No, not yet.”

She faxed over the forms later in the day.  The cover letter read: “Urgent…I was able to get you into this year’s open enrollment.  Fill these out and return them  today.”   I was able to fill them out without crying, and I was able to use the fax machine to send them back.  Double success!

Now, my coworkers were as puzzled as you are why I was so excited to get that fax.  Last month-ish, I e-mailed HR to find out what the maternity leave policy was.  The HR lady elucidated something about the Family Medical Leave Act, and told me to check the hopelessly confusing and under-useful employee handbook.  They both said the same thing.  FMLA entitles one to take up to 12 weeks unpaid leave during the year a child is born/adopted.  You can take it all at once, or use it to cut back on your weekly hours, or some combination thereof.  But it’s unpaid.  For three months.  That’s a pretty serious burden to a family with a new infant.  Basically, this ground-breaking new allowance of leave, this new federal law, all it does is guarantee your job will be there for you when you come crawling back after being basically unemployed for 3 months. 

But short-term disability, which includes pregnancy and post-partum-ness as a short-term disability, entitles me to up to 13 weeks of 66 2/3% of my pay.  It can also be taken piecemeal.  So one could, if one was inclined, stay home for 8 weeks, then come back 3 days/week and use the other 2 days’ worth to keep one as a full-time employee, and therefore keep one’s health insurance. 

Ah, so this is how it’s done.  When I first found out about FMLA, I called my mother and asked her how women did this.  I couldn’t understand how the entire country’s worth of mothers takes unpaid leave.  But now it makes more sense. 

On face value it would seem odd that I enthusiastically texted Mr. Apron on Thursday teasing him, “Good news : baby-making”.  And even stranger that I’m so excited about STM.  But now we can start realistically thinking about baby-making.  Mr. Apron has been very gung-ho (read: horny), and I’ve been bogged down in the pragmatics and logistics of such petty issues as health insurance, child-care, maternity leave, medication restrictions during pregnancy and unpasteurized cheeses.  I think we’re cutting down these barriers one by one.  What’s funny is that we have all these pre-pregnancy books (see Mr. Apron’s blog for reviews) from the library, and not one says that checking out STM before you conceive is an important thing to do.  They’re too concerned with charting basal body temperature and supporting old wives’ tales about how to make a boy vs. a girl. 

It’s sad that these are the things we have to be concerned about when so much of becoming a parent is (I’m guessing here) about bonding with your ever-expanding belly, and, later, the thing that came out of it.  But it is important.  It lays the groundwork to let us have time to be with our children when they’re young.  And fill their eager minds with all sorts of poppycock designed to keep them safe and naive for as long as possible, or at least until middle school. 

Good luck with puberty.

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