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"Really Sleepless": Ventura County Mom On Coping With A Three-Week-Old 'Pandemic Baby'


While many of us were watching the Inauguration of Joe Biden, a Ventura County mom was in labor and getting set to give birth to her daughter Fin – a so-called “pandemic baby”.

KCLU has been following their story and caught up with sleep-deprived mom Genessee Semler.

It’s been three weeks since Genessee Semler welcomed her daughter Fin, and Fin is fast asleep in a baby carrier as we take a walk from her home in Thousand Oaks.

There’s a lot to adjust to, with a new baby, even more so when pandemic restrictions mean visitors aren’t possible and sleep is limited.

'This is the only time we get out now," says Semler, of the walk. She says that she makes sure she takes a walk every day to keep healthy physically and mentally. 

"This is something I'm doing for myself," she explains. 

Semler says the first three weeks have been "really sleepless," and this is the first week that she's been flying solo after her husband Zach's two-week paternity leave came to an end. 

She says that friends are keeping in touch on line but that even finding time to reply to their text messages in a timely manner has been difficult. 

Of sleep, Semler says she tries to go to bed at 10pm, "then I get a solid four hours, which isn't too bad."

It’s only the US - and Papua New Guinea - that have no national policy guaranteeing maternity leave for new mothers.

The State of California is better than most states, offering job protections and paid family leave and disability pay to those who qualify. 

Genessee is already half way through the six week long maternity leave given by her employer.

"It's hard. I never wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom, no offence to women who do that. It would be hard for me to tie my identity up completely with a child. So it's a balance. 

"At the same time I want to spend time with her and bond with her. I don't know if I supposed to say it but I'm kinda looking forward to going back and having my own thing going on...and getting some help taking care of her!"

Genessee says that the price of infant childcare in her area is around $1600 a month, and that's "pretty expensive." 

She says she's looking to work from home and her mom is helping out, so they can hold off paying the extra expense for as long as possible. 

"I see people moving out of California because it's just so expensive to have a house, to have kids, to pay for childcare, even if you're a dual income household. It's a concern for us. It's part of why I'm so determined to breast feed as I don't want to incur that additional expense of formula which can get pretty expensive too," she said. 

We will continue to follow Geneesee and Fin, here on KCLU.

Caroline joined KCLU in October 2020. She won LA Press Club's Audio Journalist of the Year Award in 2022 and 2023.

Since joining the station she's won 7 Golden Mike Awards, 4 Los Angeles Press Club Awards and 2 National Arts & Entertainment Awards.

She started her broadcasting career in the UK, in both radio and television for BBC News, 95.8 Capital FM and Sky News and was awarded the Prince Philip Medal for her services to radio and journalism in 2007.

She has lived in California for ten years and is both an American and British citizen - and a very proud mom to her daughter, Elsie.
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