When Matilda was born, I took the whole 13 weeks off of work. I cherish those moments to this day - going on walks with her, nursing and rocking her, staring at her and snapping photos nearly every five minutes. Being a new mother was lovely and joyous - even amidst the spit up, the diapers, and the 3am wake up cries - I took pride in the luxury of giving Matilda my full, undivided attention.
But, as soon as she was born, I also felt something else that I didn't anticipate. A clock was ticking. As I had counted down the days to her arrival, I thought that the "ticking" would stop when she was born...but, instead, the clock continued...week by week...now counting down to the day I would have to leave her to return to work. The day I would have to adjust to a "new kind of normal" all over again.
I started crying about it nearly 3 weeks before the day came. I felt guilty, I felt sad, I weak. I felt nervous about things I'd never done before (how does one excuse oneself from a meeting at work to go pump breastmilk before her boobs might explode?) I felt self-conscious (can you see my Spanx under this top? what about my nursing pads?) I felt excited to catch up with everyone - to show off pictures of my new baby, of course! But, most of all, I just felt burdened. How can I do this? How do I juggle it all? How do I not cry at my desk all day? How will she make it through the day without me? How do I FIX this so I can stay home???
Don't get me wrong - work wasn't a horrible place or anything. Everyone at the office was very encouraging, empathetic, totally accommodating and sensitive...but, well, they weren't my baby! I kept reminding myself why I was doing this. First of all, we simply had no choice. We couldn't make enough "cut backs" in our life to afford to have me home. It wasn't a matter of adjusting our value system. And, since I was returning to work, I could provide wonderful things for my child in the meantime: health insurance (that's a biggie) and also social interaction with others for her sake - this would be good for her, right?
And, as ideal a situation as it was (my amazing sister-in-law and her sweet daughter were going to watch Matilda at our home the 3 days a week I was at the office) it was simply hanging over my head. It was daunting and sad - and I just knew that the anticipation of it all had to be worse than the actual day-of. Indeed, it was. That first day was a hum-dinger...full of holding back tears and taking big gulps as people would greet me and ask how it was to be back.
I know this is all quite dramatic...I mean, I was going to return to her each evening, and she was going to be absolutely fine. But, let's face it, there's no "reasoning" with a mother who is separated from her child, no matter the time or distance. Bottomline: it sucked.
So, finally, finally when everything came together this last spring and my husband was offered a job that could actually support our family - we made the plunge into being a single-income home. Yikes! and Yippee! And here I am. Home. Babies napping, sipping on some coffee, writing because I want to be writing...dream come true. Sure, we worked hard to get here, we put in many prayers and hours towards this goal, but it is honestly only because of God's grace in opening doors that we are able to view this time for the blessing that it is!
What's awesome (well, not awesome, but you'll know what I mean) is that Matilda is actually sick today...and I didn't have to leave her or Daphne at all. Instead, I'm exactly where I should be. Staring at their little faces, not missing a moment...and wiping that sweet snotty nose for the umpteenth time today. Yup. This is where I belong.