Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Transformation

As a veteran with four whole days of daycare under her belt, I'll say it's... fine. Really fine. I cried a little every morning that I dropped him off last week, while Lion was his usual happy self, smiling and showing off his dimples and completely oblivious to the fact that his mother had been having anxiety-related intestinal problems for THREE DAYS.

"You can come visit or breastfeed him any time you want!" consoled one of the women in the infant room. More tears leaked out. "I w-w-work too far away to do that," I gulped. "Well then," she said. "You call on the phone as often as you want. We'll tell you what he's doing."

Shuddery sigh. I smiled bravely and handed Lion over to Miss Thelma.

"Come on, little Lion," she said. "Come with me while I give Natalie her drink. Sometimes a little drink makes everything better." She winked at me, and I desperately wanted to fling myself at her and clutch her pants leg and say, "Yes, that's exactly what I need. LET'S GO TO A BAR."

On the first day I asked Mike to call and check on him, then call me with the report. I guess I didn't want to seem overbearing, especially since that was my half-day and he would only be there for a few hours anyway and would you just RELAX, mommy? Nothing like daycare subterfuge.

I'm still exclusively breastfeeding, and pumping at work has been a challenge. The fact that I don't have a private office makes it difficult, as does the fact that the "special" designated area for pumping where I work is esentially a shower stall.

And no, there's no law against that.

The first few times, I scambled to find places to pump. First in my supervisor's temporarily empty office, looking at a picture of my son while the machine whirred and I wept. Then I attemped a bathroom stall, where I got the pump set up on a baby changing station, had myself exposed and ready to go, and the battery pack died on me. Then behind my desk in my shared office with no lock on the door, as I hid under my nursing cover and a tower of empty boxes, just waiting for someone to ignore my Do Not Disturb sign and burst in on me.

A professor heard of my struggles and came to offer me a key to her office, since she's rarely there. I promptly burst into grateful tears.

"You know," she said as I blew my nose, "I had to go back to work four weeks after my daughter was born because I was a single mom and I couldn't afford to take any more time off. I pumped one time in a bathroom stall, cried the entire time, and then said fuck this shit, I'm switching to formula. You come use my office any time you want."

I have to tell you- back when I was pregnant, I fully expected to go skipping back to work after maternity leave ended. I thought being home with an infant would eventually drive me crazy, and while I would of course love my baby, I'd be longing to ditch the sweats and get back to heels and adult conversation and challenges that didn't involve bodily fluids.

It turns out that I'm pretty good at holing up with a baby. Once we got past the horrendous period that was early breastfeeding, I loved caring for him every day. During those first few weeks, my favorite part of the day was our afternoon nap, when we'd lie skin-to-skin under a warm blanket. I'll always remember holding him to my chest, breathing in the sweet smell of his breath, stroking his impossibly soft skin, and kissing his downy head as I drifted off to sleep. Even the sight of his hair sticking up could bring me to thankful tears. The fierce love I have for him, and how I want to be with him so much that my arms literally ache, has been the surprise of my life.

But that doesn't mean that it would be good for me- or, ultimately, for him- to be home full-time. I need the structure and stimulation of my job, in a way that I didn't fully realize until I went back to work that first day. I am not interested in starting a debate on stay-at-home versus work-outside-the-home. Everyone makes the choices that are right for them, whether the reasons are moral, emotional, professional, or financial. Live and let live.

What I do find interesting is how I now view the world through Lion-colored glasses. Everything I do, I do with him in mind. It's like I'm becoming a better version of myself. I want him to be proud of me. I want him to know that I did things that were hard because I love him.

I want to be proud of myself. And I am.

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6 Comments:

Blogger BabelBabe said...

you are amazing, and he will be proud of you.

I am proud of you, too, my friend.

I am glad the prof came up trumps; what a great woman, to help you like that. From another pumping mama, kiss her for me! Or maybe not, but you understand : )

and those infant room ladies are awesome, sounds like Miss Thelma is as nice as my miss Betty was.

smooches to the Lion. and hugs and a big fat coffee to you. or maybe no coffee, if the intestinal er issues are still happening...

12:20 PM  
Blogger J.M. Tewkesbury said...

Yeah, Liz! What wonderful insights and wisdom. And lucky, lucky Lion!

4:30 PM  
Anonymous Betsy said...

You are a trooper! And you have every reason to be proud of yourself.

And I don't think the wanting to snuggle and just be with your baby ever ends. i think my mom would still do that with any of her kids, and all of us are well over 25.

7:20 PM  
Anonymous Garlock said...

My son is now 13 months old. And it still hurts every day to leave them at daycare--especially when they take it so well! But trust me, it'll get easier. And just think of all the stimulation he's getting by being with other babies his age.

I'm glad you're still posting occasionally. Because your birth story made me cry--in a good way!

(Long time lurker sent over from Caffienated Librarian)

9:01 AM  
Anonymous Frema said...

It's good to see you, Liz. I really worried we'd be without you for a lot longer.

That's wonderful that your professor friend reached out to you. And I remember snuggling with Kara on the couch in the afternoons on my own maternity leave. Some of the best moments of my life.

Anyway, the Internet is proud of you, too.

3:26 PM  
Blogger kj said...

when i don't visit your blog for a while and then i do, i realize i've missed your writing and your take on the world...

:)

11:47 PM  

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