Last night a miracle happened. Not only did Willow sleep through the night – that itself would be a miracle, after a good 3-4 wakeups per night in the last few weeks – but she slept a whole 11 hours in a row, and might have slept more if I hadn’t awaken her.
I didn’t benefit as much from this as I could. I first awoke at 2, then several times afterwards. Each time I sat up in partial panic and partial wonder. “She hasn’t woken up yet? What’s going on? Did the babysitter do something? Did she drug her? Is she OK?”
Three times I went into her room to check on her and didn’t leave until I saw movement. By 6 a.m. my breasts were boulders and were starting to hurt. I was torn between waking her up to relieve the pressure and enjoying the blissful serenity of a sleeping child.
Today also was an experiment in trying to attend a conference with a baby and trying to keep said baby fully breastfed. It went better than expected. Willow had only 3 feedings in 9.5 hours of daycare (If she’d been with me for 9.5 hours, she probably would have had at least 6). I drove to the daycare for two of those feedings (20 minutes roundtrip each time) and the provider gave her 2 ounces of milk from a bottle.
So she only drank two ounces of expressed milk and I pumped more than two ounces today. So not only did I keep up, I have a bit of a surplus. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll try making only one extra feeding trip during the day.
The situation is working in that I’m able to attend most of the conference activities, my baby is being well cared for, and I’m able to keep up my milk supply. I’m also getting practice in how to manage work and breastfeeding without the actual pressures of work. I found that as I raced to make the 5:30 daycare pickup (I was the last one there) that I was excited to see my baby at the end of the day. And when I took her to a wine and cheese event, she was the center of attention.
But it has its downsides too. Just about every moment is spent caring for her, transporting her, feeding her, pumping or attending to conference-related things. I have no time for a leisurely lunch or a casual conversation after an event. It’s hard to network when I have to leave each session promptly to pump or to feed. When some people gathered for dinner this evening, I couldn’t join them because I hadn’t scheduled a babysitter.
Nevertheless, I think it’s as good of a balance as I can get. I’m with my baby, am able to enjoy her, and am able to maintain my milk supply. I can attend the conference, learn things, be inspired, and make connections. I can’t do either thing to the extent I’d like, but that’s the price of motherhood.
One thing I especially love about conferences is that I get to meet fascinating mothers with older children. I am reminded that these struggles are temporary, that soon enough I’ll be sleeping through the night again, and confronting different challenges. These women help me to remember that their careers and interests carry on when the children no longer assume center stage, and that it’s a good idea to have something to devote oneself to then. That makes me feel better about the balance that often feels off-kilter. As long as I keep a toe in the waters that interest me, later on I can put in a foot, then a leg, then jump fully in.