Friday, July 1, 2011

First day back at work

My first day of work has come and gone.  I went to work today and am now officially back at the office.

As far as transitions go, this was an easy one. I only worked a half day, then will work only 1.5 days next week, before going up to 2.5 days the following week.  So it was more like a reintroduction to the office and a trial run.

There were parts I liked.  I received a small promotion and will be earning a tiny bit more.  It was great to be around adults, to be in such a clean office (I’d cleaned all the piles of paper before I left), and to be able to focus on a task.  The free bagels on Friday made it easier, since I didn’t have to prepare breakfast, and it was nice to catch up with some people I hadn’t seen in a while. 

But some things will take adjustments.  Pumping is going to be the biggest issue.  Though I must have put in at least five requests before and during my leave, there was no lock on my door.  They promised they would install it next week.  But for today, I had to pump with a “Please do not enter” sign on my door, and an inner terror that a colleague would see me with my nipples sliding through plastic shields and my body attached to my bright blue pump. 

Also, sitting in one place for up to 8 or 9 hours is going to be tough.  I found that challenging before my maternity leave and know it will be again.  I left today at lunchtime, picked up Willow, fed her and put her down for a nap, prepared some food, ran an errand, and realized that people at work were still sitting at the office.  It will be a couple of months before I have to work two or three days in a row, so hopefully alternating active with sedentary days will help early on.

Whether or not I can meet Willow’s milk needs remains to be seen.  I pumped for about 50 minutes today and got only 3.75 ounces of milk.  I was sure Willow would consume double that during my six-hour absence.  But a great caregiver was able to keep her happy on only 3 ounces, so I did replace her consumption.  I’ve commandeered the car from Mark so that I can drive to work.  My plan is to come back and feed her at lunchtime on my full-days of work, and pump twice at the office in addition.  This can only be temporary though, since Mark is anxious to get the car back.  So we’ll have to see how it goes.

Willow must have known I was heading back, because last night was a horror.  Lately she’s been waking up twice between 1 and 4 a.m., then gets up for the day at 5 a.m.  Last night she seemed to be up one time after another, starting at 11 p.m.  At 5:45 I had to hand her to Mark and beg for an hour of sleep.  I got an hour and a half, which was great, but that gave me a later start than I’d planned on. 

I’d had trouble falling asleep the past few nights and I think part of it was anxiety about going back.  Now that the first day is over and done with, hopefully I will be able to relax a bit more.  Nevertheless, even working only half-time, between working on a personal project, trying to get River’s baby book done, meeting my daily exercise goal, and doing other normal household management tasks, I feel like I am consistently short on time.  I suppose this is part of the adjustment to having two kids.  I have to identify the places where I can cut back (so far it’s cooking) and prioritize what I most want to accomplish.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Growing up

My baby started solid foods yesterday.  This picture represents the almost 18-pound child that until yesterday, was nourished and sustained by me (with a little initial help from my husband).  It really is a miracle.

I had planned to wait a few more days before beginning solids, in order to maximize the milk stimulation before I head back to work on Friday.  But after having her milk, she was sucking on everything in sight, including my chin, making me think she was still hungry. 

I mashed a banana, as the easiest option available and she ate it with gusto, grabbing the spoon and shoving it into her mouth, sucking on the little plastic spoon with loud chomps and holding it so tightly it was a struggle to get it back to refill it.

Today she received sweet potato with breastmilk and cinnamon and ate with just as much gusto. It looks like she’ll take after River, and after me, as being someone who appreciates some good food.

At the same time she’s increasing her intake, I’m decreasing mine.  I finally feel up to sticking with a diet.  It’s not too severe, since I’m still breastfeeding, but the first week has gone well, so I’m hopeful more weight loss is on the horizon.  I’m really looking forward to the thighs not rubbing together any more.

The toughest thing now, harder than the thought of heading back to work, is that our wonderful sleep training unraveled during the trip.  I had a marvelous week solo with Willow in Iowa, in which she either slept through the night or awoke only once every night.  But when we gave my friend back her magic pack and play with the dip and returned home, she’s up at least two times, often three, sometimes more, before waking up for good at 6 a.m.  Last night I didn’t go to bed until midnight and she was up multiple times.  It was very painful. 

There isn’t much I can do when groggy and exhausted at 6 a.m.  I often sit with her on the front porch. But today I decided to take a short walk.  Might as well get some exercise out of it.  I love the freedom that summer offers to step outside whenever we want to, to put her outside to enjoy the air, to have sunlight at 6 a.m. and well into the night. 

Tomorrow is my last full day before returning to the office.  I probably won’t do anything special, other than assemble the things I’ll need at the office.  Because I only have to go in for four hours on Friday, and because I’ll be off for four days after that, it’s really not too bad as far as transitions go.  Part of me wouldn’t mind more time off, and another part of me thinks that perhaps it could be good for me, and for Willow, to spend more time apart.  

Saturday, June 18, 2011

My baby's skin

My baby’s skin is smooth like a warm lake at dawn. I run my finger from her shoulder to her hand.  It falls down at the first fold, a narrow but deep canyon, where stray hairs, milk and other detritus tend to gather, then rises to the pillowy fullness of another ring of soft, luscious, velvety baby fat.  Five folds separate the six marshmallows that make up her arm – grasping, reaching, exploring, wanting, loving.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Good times

I am loving this trip with Willow.  I’m feeling so lucky, so grateful, so happy.  When I tried to figure out why, this is what I came up with:

1.              Good sleep.  Two nights sleeping through the night and two nights with only one wakeup has been absolute paradise for me.  She’s also been napping four hours a day, showing me that sleep begets sleep (a cool swing at the daycare helps too). 

2.              Plenty of childcare.  I have close to all the time I need to attend to the tasks I need to do, but I also have the flexibility to run out and feed her or to pump.  I’m not able to participate in the conference or care for her perfectly, but I’m doing a good enough job on both that I’m content.  River is having a blast with my parents, so I’m comfortable that he’s happy too. 

3.              No household chores.  It’s great to be in one place for a while that is not your home.  No moving, no packing, and no responsibilities.  I need to pick up after us, wash the dishes, and other minor things.  But no big projects, no large messy spaces.  When I’m in the rooms with Willow, we can just play together.  And we do.  Each evening we have a 10-20 minute giggle fest, full of belly laughs.  No one else is around to distract my attention from her.  She is a roly-poly little doll and I love to see her smile.   

4.              Stimulating people and activities. My time away from Willow is spent with inspiring people who make me think and encourage me that I can make progress on some long-term projects.  I enjoy my time away from her and my time with her. 

5.              Pumping is going well.  Being able to keep up with her milk needs was what I was most worried about.  I’m covering them fully, and even have a bit extra.  This is thanks to a great caregiver, who is really able to make a little milk go a long way.  But it’s a huge relief.

I know this won’t last forever. Reality will set in soon enough.  But in the interim, I’m enjoying it.

Tonight I took Willow to part of a conference dinner.  She wore a little sundress and I wore a dress.  I put her in the stroller and we rolled down the street together.  It was mom and daughter heading out for the night, one of many joint outings I hope.  She’ll never remember this, but for me, this has been a wonderful week with my daughter.  

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A quiet, rainy evening with my baby

Rain pours down, like a shower someone forgot to turn off.  Thunder peals. Lightening occasionally lights up the sky. I’m in an old house on the second floor, with tiny windows that make me feel I’m looking out from an attic.  Some of the windows don’t close, bringing the sound and the chill of the rain even closer.

My baby is in the next room, near one of those windows I can’t close. The drips, the bangs, the flashes surround her dreams. I want to hold to her to my chest and protect her, though I know it wouldn’t do any good.  Love pours from me, as the water empties from the sky. 

Parenthood eliminates the questions

At a lecture I attended recently, a writer said that parenthood eliminates the questions about the purpose of life in a way that doesn’t happen for people who don’t have children.

In a way I understand his point.  Much of my purpose at this point is to ensure safe, healthy and happy environments for my children, to ensure our genes are carried on, to do what I can so that the world is a good place for my children to live in.  There is a sense of fulfillment in these activities that I appreciate and that calms me and slows me down. 

For me, though, being a mother isn’t everything.  I do want to touch the lives of others, I do want to enjoy the beautiful sensory pleasures the world has to offer, I want to have quiet time to focus and reflect, I want sleep and exercise and the ability to use my mind and skills. 

I think becoming a parent has calmed down my need to achieve.  It has made me more content with small things.  I do feel a certain sense of achievement and purpose in providing my kids with a safe, loving, enriching atmosphere. 

What do you think?  If you are a parent, has parenthood eliminated, or reduced your questions about the purpose of life? If you aren’t a parent, what do you think the purpose of life is?