This week marks a month since I’ve gone back to work after having Lila. Maternity leave proved to be just like summer vacation when I was a kid. At the beginning, 8 weeks seemed like such a long time. The big difference is the first two weeks after having a baby you go into some sort of primal survival mode. Your main goal is just to keep this bundle of joy alive even though you have no real idea what you’re doing. You blink and those first two weeks are gone, in a blur of 3-hour increments, endless feedings, dirty diapers and, in our case, doctor’s appointments. Lila was 13 days old on Christmas and I can see that dazed look in my eyes when I look back at pictures. I had no clue what was going on around me!
Then you start getting into your groove. You can warm up a bottle with one hand while holding a squirmy baby in the other. You can let the dog out of his crate while nursing (because you forgot to let him out when you came home 15 minutes ago and he patiently waited this long to give you a reminder whine.) You can take a deep breath a few times a day and say to yourself, “I got this!”
And then the countdown begins. Every Monday you think, “I’ve got four more weeks, that’s lots of time!” or “I can get a nap routine down in two weeks before I go back to work, no problem!” And just like that, it’s over. You are getting ready to hand your baby over to another person, who is very capable, but still isn’t you. You are packing that breast pump bag every day, along with a diaper bag full of everything a 2-month old MIGHT need in an eight hour day, AND you are FRAZZLED! I have never experienced the feeling I had the first time I had to get all of Lila’s things together, change her diaper and her clothes, put grown-up clothes on myself, not to mention makeup (I had forgotten what I even looked like with that on,) and get out the door. The only thing that came close was being 10 minutes late to take a final exam in college, trying to park and run to class, only to slip in the desk, sweaty and exhausted and feeling like you have mush for brains.
That’s what I think motherhood is a lot of the time. It’s a test that you put yourself through. With all of the other women in your life serving as the curve. Some of them work, some of them don’t. You find yourself wishing you were in whatever category you don’t fall under at least half of the time. You think everyone else has it so much more together than you, that they never accidentally put face wash on their tooth brush before bed, or completely forgot they set up that interview at work.
In the last month, I have tried to merge these two “MEs” together. The one who just wants to sit at home and gaze into her new baby’s eyes and refuses to put her in the crib for naps because holding her is so much more fun. Then there’s the one who really enjoys her job, 98% of the time, and wants to show her daughter what a strong woman can accomplish if she puts her mind to it. The one with lots of ambition who loves the feeling of accomplishing just a little bit more today than yesterday.
And this is what I have come up with: sometimes I like not worrying about feeding Lila every three hours (I know, burn me at the stake!! 🙂 ) Sometimes I don’t care about that work problem, because all I want to do is get home and snuggle my baby (I hope my boss doesn’t read this particular post.) Sometimes I feel guilty, but sometimes I don’t. Guilty for the 50% of my brain that is still at home while I’m at work. Guilty for the hours I spend away from a baby that is changing and learning literally EVERY MINUTE. Guilty for the physical therapy I could be doing with her at night, but instead I let her fall asleep on my chest because I’m just so damn glad to see her!
The reality of our new life is that I will probably always HAVE to work. Lila will need that double coverage health insurance and two salaries for as long as we can provide it so that she can have the best life possible, with as many advantages as any other kid in our circle of friends. She will need those extra financial resources and that scares the CRAP out of me! And then I remember, that’s how most parents feel regardless of how many chromosomes their child has. Providing for someone else is scary. Whether you are working to provide this…
(Lila at Physical Therapy)
I guess what I’ve learned is that we work so hard, at home or at work, to try and achieve this…
a family that will sacrifice when need be to achieve what we’re all looking for… a child with a smile on their face and a sparkle in their eye, regardless of whether it’s shaped a little bit differently.
It’s something that will always be a struggle, but one that’s very, very worth it.