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It’s 4:30 a.m. and I’m sitting in the dark, rocking, bouncing and nursing my very cute but fussy four-week old daughter. At the best of times, the night shift is an exhausting, lonely and often frustrating experience. But on this occasion, I had the added stress of knowing that in a few hours I was going on television to promote my new book, which had gone on sale at midnight.
I’m Robyn Doolittle, an investigative reporter at The Globe. My book, Had It Coming; What’s Fair in the Age of #MeToo?, hit shelves Sept. 24, 2019 – one month and one day after I gave birth. In the days since, I’ve had some time (thank you, late-night feedings) to mull over my role as a journalist and author who’s also now a mother of two, and the inherent, unfortunate struggle that can exist between those states.
The past two weeks have been a Cirque-du-Soleil-worthy juggling act: carting around the newborn to various events, wiping spit-up out of my hair before going on stage, finding places to pump between media appearances (I highly recommend the wardrobe room backstage at The Social), and making sure my toddler still feels important, all while managing the regular newborn grind of midwife visits, round-the-clock feeding and sleep deprivation.
“What were you thinking having a baby now?” someone half-jokingly asked me recently.
The reality is: for women who want to have children, we don’t have a ton of choice. Biology doesn’t care if we’ve got a lot going on at work.
I became pregnant with my first daughter while working on my Unfounded series, my 20-month Globe investigation into the ways that Canadian police handle sexual assault cases. I spent the last several months of that project battling constant nausea and fatigue. When the opportunity came up for me to write a book using Unfounded as a jumping-off point to explore rape culture, redemption and due process, I took it – even though I knew my husband and I were going to start trying for a second baby soon.
Maybe we could have waited until after the book came out, but we knew there would always be something else on the horizon. There is never a convenient time to have a baby.
Perhaps most importantly, and like legions of other women, I really enjoy my work, and I make no apologies for that. Still, I can relate to law professor Lara Bazelon, who wrote in this refreshingly honest piece for The New York Times, about sometimes prioritizing her job ahead of her children: “Of course, I sometimes feel doubt, shame and fear. I know I’m not a ‘normal’ mom, because my kids tell me so. I remind myself that this does not make me a ‘bad mom.’ I also remind myself that if I were a dad, I would be getting accolades for all the times I scheduled a doctor’s appointment or arranged a play date.”
In my case, I am so proud of what the Unfounded series accomplished – a national overhaul of police training, procedures and oversight around sexual assault investigations – and I think the conversation I’m trying to start with my book on #MeToo is a necessary one. The urgency of this cultural reckoning has become all the more important to me as I think about raising two little girls. So my husband and I stuck with our plan to try for our second, knowing what was coming.
Today, with a newborn and a toddler and a book tour, I’m not going to pretend that I haven’t been hanging by a thread some days. The Had It Coming tour has become a family affair, with both of my girls present at my book launch. I spent much of the night balancing my toddler on my hip while signing books. At a Hot Docs event a few days later, my husband had the newborn up in the balcony. When she started to wail half way through, I briefly panicked that I was going to leak through my shirt on stage. (He quickly hustled her to the back, where a pre-pumped bottle was waiting.)
Somehow, we’re making it work. And really, even in the hard times, all I think about are all the moms out there who don’t have the advantages that I do: an engaged partner, a network of family ready to jump in, a supportive employer. It’s easy to understand why so many women who want to work outside the home end up stepping away from their careers.
The result is fewer women in the work force, fewer women with economic autonomy, fewer women in positions of power. Here’s a harsh, unwavering truth, as shared by Leah McLaren in Maclean’s: “After giving birth, the vast majority of educated women never catch up to their husbands in earning power.”
So as hard as the last month has been, I’m really in no position to complain. Moreover, I know it’s totally worth it.
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