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Archive for the ‘Motherhood’ Category

A working mom's lament

For five years I have convinced myself that I wasn’t missing much by not being a stay-at-home mom.

I am not the kind of person who can tackle a day without structure. I’m by no means saying that a SAHM’s day is without structure, just that if I were the one staying home, my day would be sorely lacking in organization and check marks next to the items on my to-do list. I work better working for someone who isn’t me.

I spent most of my maternity leave watching back-to-back episodes of “ER” and “Law & Order” on TNT, and when the time came for me to head back to work, I’d by lying if I said I wasn’t a teensy bit relieved to pass on the task of baby caretaker to someone else for nine hours a day.

Autumn has had excellent care since then, and I have occasionally felt that acute pain and guilt that mingles with a mother’s thoughts as she works her way through mortgage payments, grocery bills and credit card debt. I knew my child was in good hands, even if they weren’t mine, butI figured whatever internal conflicts I’ve been dealing with for five years over not staying at home with Autumn would dissipate once she started school.

I was actually kind of wrong about that.

I have taken this whole week off work to prepare for my trip to North Carolina and the Type-A Mom Conference, and in doing so I’ve been able to walk my daughter to and from school. It’s something I always hoped I could do, and in my fantasies in which I am a SAHM, I do this every day. Up until this week, our mornings have consisted of hurried drop-offs by car on my way to work. I pull up to the curb, get a quick hug and kiss, and wave goodbye as I try to navigate my way out of a parking lot ill-equipped to successfully handle the morning traffic.

This week, though, we have walked together and enjoyed the stroll to and from school. Monday I actually dropped her off by car even though I was just heading back home, but yesterday we hoofed it both ways. She held my hand, and on the way home we talked about her day, what she had for lunch and how the neighbor boy (yes, that one) invited her over to play.  The experience was everything I always thought it would be.

My heart aches when I think that I only get one more day of this before I leave and that I’ll be coming back to the regular routine of rushed drop-offs and too little time with her in the evening. I always thought working full time would make more sense and be more practical once she was in school full time, but now that she is, I realize there’s so much more to her world now that I’m not experiencing because I’m stuck in my own.

2011 is poised to be a good year for us financially. Even though Nathan and I probably aren’t going to see raises in our salaries this next year, we’re on the cusp of paying off two very large loans and our child care expenses will only be a fraction of what they were this year. I keep thinking that if we work hard, stop using the credit cards and pay down all our debt, there should be no reason why I can’t make my fantasy a reality, even if it’s only part time.

I’ve never felt such a strong pull to stay home as I do now. Maybe it’s because I know that next year Autumn may not want to hold my hand or give me a quick kiss as I drop her off at school. I mean the kid is already pulling shoes out of her closet and asking if they’re Sketchers. Before I know it, she’ll be perusing racks in the darkened caves of Abercrombie and Aeropostale, begging me to wait by the food court so she can flirt with Brody or Kyle or Devin or whatever the hell their names will be then.

I just want to be there for her while she still wants me around, but my window of opportunity only gets smaller the longer I wait. Some day there may be no point in trying to slip through at all, especially if there’s no one waiting for me on the other side.

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Type-S Mom

Things have not been great lately. I don’t know what it is, but these past couple of weeks I’ve felt a darkness settle in and take hold of me and I don’t know what to do about it.

I suffer from mild to moderate depression.  I’ve never written about it before because it’s nobody’s business, but it’s not as though I have a legion of readers who will spread the news to parts known and unknown so there you are. I thought I had the depression under control, but this past week has been hard. Nathan had to start work early all last week, leaving me to get Autumn ready and out the door by myself.  Autumn does not wake easily or happily and I don’t always wake early enough to manage both my time and hers, and I ultimately wind up walking into my office at one or two minutes past 8:00.

One of the side effects of my depression, other than mood swings, impatience and general snippiness is that I’m a shitty mom.  Or at least I feel like a shitty mom.  Nathan has assured me over and over again that I’m not a shitty mom, but it’s hard not to feel like one when you see how your moods affect your child.

Our week was rough, and at the end of it Autumn was just as tired and cranky as I. She dissolved into tears when I visited her at school during a morning break on Friday, something she has never done, and ultimately begged to go home to be with Nathan who had the day off.  She was fine the rest of the day and all during the weekend, but her breakdown led me to wonder if she’s just been pushed too far.

This morning she didn’t want to wake up, and though Nathan was there and got her dressed, there was still an element of urgency to our morning.  At one point she insisted she had to take the stuffed shark she got in Oklahoma and I told her no, she had to leave it at home.  But then as I dropped her off, I saw other children walking in with their stuffed animals and realized I’d missed something somewhere.  Sure enough, today she was supposed to bring in a favorite stuffed animal. #FAIL.

When I left her at school, my normally happy little girl who bounds into the room with a smile hid behind a wall and buried her face in her blanket.  It was so unlike her that I wanted to stay, to ask her what was wrong, but I didn’t have time to be a mom just then because I had to get to work.

So I left feeling like a really shitty mom-type person.

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Yesterday I did something I’ve never done since I became a mother and swore I’d never do…

I paid full price for an outfit at Gymboree.

It all started innocently enough with a visit there a few weeks ago. I picked up a few things on clearance and a few things I hoped to re-sell on eBay.  I then went to the website to sign up for their email newsletter.  Lo and behold I received an email last week about their new clothing line and oh my dear heaven if I didn’t see the cutest outfit in the world that Autumn would look adorable wearing.

Yesterday I brought Autumn to the mall and we stopped at Gymboree.  I ended up picking out a few more clearance items and the outfit.  The resale value of Gymboree is pretty good on eBay, but I don’t know if it was reason enough to drop that much coin on so few items.  Usually I’m quite happy shopping at Target and consignment stores and actually view buying from places like Gymboree way too indulgent and downright ridiculous.

The good thing is that Autumn should get some mileage out of the outfit this summer.  She’s been wearing 18 months sizes for the past 5 months and has yet to grow out of them.  I’m hoping this outfit will get her through all our warm weather.

If it ever arrives, that is.

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There are no words

I’m taking a photography class at the university where I work.  One of the nice things about this job is that I get to take one class per year during work hours.  I haven’t taken a day class since I found out I was pregnant and was looking forward to learning something new and getting away from my desk for a few hours each week.

The class did not meet at all last week in part because of the Labor Day holiday.  Thursday morning I received an email from the department secretary that said we wouldn’t meet again that day because the professor was called away for a family emergency.  He wasn’t present at the printing lab on Monday either.

Yesterday afternoon he was back in class.  He apologized for his absence and went on to explain to us why he had been called away.  Thursday morning his wife called him on his cell phone in tears to tell him their 7-week old grandson had died in the night of SIDS. 

He stood at the head of the class and calmly told us about the funeral, his pride at how his son handled the tragedy and even a story about the little baby he had just started to get to know.  It was heartbreaking to hear and I almost started sobbing.

I’m pretty sure I’m the only student in the class over the age of 25 and I’m fairly sure I’m the only student in the class who is married and has a child.  I wanted to look around me to see if anyone else was reacting to the professor’s story the way I was, but I didn’t want to reveal to anyone else how emotional I was.  I didn’t want to be labeled as “the woman who cried” for the rest of the semester.

All through the class I tried to concentrate on aperture, focal length and shutter speed but all I could think of was that I had to tell the professor how sorry I was that his grandson had died.  After class, however, about 3 or 4 students approached him with their cameras in hand to ask questions about the lecture.  I packed up my bag and rolled on back to my office without saying a word.

I told Nathan about this later and commented on how the story would not have bothered me so much just a couple of years ago.  I would have thought it a sad story, but I wouldn’t have felt as though a cold hand had just grabbed hold of my heart and squeezed. 

The compulsion to give my condolences to the professor started to fade as I realized there was nothing I could say that wouldn’t come out sounding trite.  I can relate to the fear of losing a child or grandchild, but I can’t relate to the actual loss.  That’s one club I’d rather not belong to.

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Yesterday was a long day.  I went to a bridal shower for one of Nathan’s cousins.  It was at his aunt and uncle’s house over two hours away, so five of the eight hours I was gone yesterday were spent in my in-laws’ van on I-96.  It was actually a nice trip and they ended up telling me a few stories about my husband I’d never heard before.  That was the first time just the three of us were alone together and it was nice.

I was pretty beat by the time I got home and was happy to see my girl again.  At least I was until she turned into a whiny crank monster.  Nathan said she had been the pefect child for him all day.  They’d spent some time at my parents’ house and had dinner, but she was fine the entire time.  Of course Grandma and Grandpa kept her occupied the whole time so she didn’t get much sleep in the afternoon.  I could tell she was tired so I decided to nurse her early.  I thought that was it and she was down for the count, but she seemed to revive herself and was ready to party, so we all kicked back and started watching Hoodwinked.

About 8:00 our doorbell rang.  Nathan and I looked at each other, both of us wondering who could be ringing our bell on a Sunday evening.  It was Marla, in desperate need of some female bonding time.  She’d had a rough day with Raymond and Conner and was ready to head for the hills and stopped by to see if I’d like to join her.  We ended up spending about an hour at Fazoli’s talking about how our husbands just don’t understand what it is we do as mothers.  We both conceded that we couldn’t do the job without them but agreed that it would be nice for them to learn how to multitask once in awhile.  I told Marla about asking Nathan if he’d put away Autumn’s clean laundry while I was gone.  He said he didn’t becuase he didn’t know how (which, in truth, he really doesn’t-you should see what he does with her two-piece outfits) so I asked him if he’d put away ours to which he replied he didn’t do that either because he was watching Autumn.

Marla shook her head and offered her own stories and the two of us comisserated while the Fazoli’s staff repeatedly tried to send us into a carbohydrate coma with their endless supply of breadsticks.  About 9:00 we decided to head back home.  Marla was feeling much better and I was happy to have been there for her when she really needed me.  When I arrived back home, I found Nathan hanging up our laundry while Autumn slept in her swing.  It was creepy, as though he’d put a bug in my purse and had listened to everything Marla and I had talked about while we were out.

I called my mom shortly after I got home to thank her for the beef stroganoff leftovers she sent home for me to take to work today.  “I’m sorry I forgot to include a pop for you,” she said.

“That’s okay,” I said, “we have pop here.”

“I know, but I wanted to pack the whole lunch for you,” she said.

“Aw, how very Mom of you.”

“Yes, that was very Mom of me.”

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Today Autumn is six months old. Hello! Are we in some weird time/space flux because I could have sworn I was holding a newborn just yesterday. I can now understand how my mother feels when she says “I can’t believe I have a daughter who’s thirty-four!” Mom? You can say that a little less often, thanks.

In honor of this day, I was going to re-tell Autumn’s birth story in more detail than I did just days after she was born, but I got a ways into writing and found the story to be utterly and completely boring. Part of that could be the way I was writing it, but when you’re robbed of the drama of telling your husband “its time” because your daughter doesn’t care to leave her cushy sac of amniotic fluid, there’s really no way to punch things up into an interesting story.

Instead, I want to tell the story of the first night Autumn and I were left alone together. It was Thursday night, the day after she was born. I told Nathan to go home and get some rest because neither of us had slept much since Monday night, so he picked up Molly from Ryan and Marla’s and went home to sleep.

He left about 9 pm, right around the time “Alias” was starting. It was the one where Sydney was on an op with Rene in Rome, all decked out in a leopard print coat and Marilyn Monroe wig when she runs into her professor from college who’s all “Sydney Bristow? What are you doing here?” Right about that time Autumn started crying.

What is it? Hungry or a wet diaper? Oh. Dirty diaper.

It was still very hard for me to get out of bed and nigh impossible for me to bend over. I waddled over to the plastic bassinet and loosened up the swaddled blanket to change her diaper and then tried to re-wrap her:

The nurses make this swaddling look so easy. Ok, start with that flap and cross over, pull up the bottom and then cross the other flap over. There we go! But wait, her little foot’s sticking out there. That’s not right. Try again. Now she’s crying again. I just changed her diaper so it can’t be that. Maybe she’s hungry. I’ll go with that.

Now how should we do this? Cradle hold or football? Or cross cradle? What about lying down on my side? Nope, that one’s not going to work, but oh it feels so good to lie down. Wait, don’t fall asleep with the baby next to you. Try the football hold again. Football is good for big busted moms who’ve had c-sections. Ouch! Ok she’s latched. I think she’s latched. No wait, she off again. Let’s stuff that Boppy under the arm here for support. Ok, let’s try that again. C’mon. It’s right there. There you go! Ouch!

At some point during all this I managed to knock the telephone over. Remember how I said I couldn’t bend over? Previous experience with the call button told me that a nurse would be awhile in coming, so I just left the phone where it was and hoped Nathan wasn’t trying to call. Yep, he tried to call. When he couldn’t reach me on the hospital phone he tried my cell phone, which was conveniently packed away in my purse and stuffed in a cupboard. So there I was trying to watch “Alias” while keeping Autumn latched on with the theme from Harry Potter ringing throughout the room.

Are you done? It’s so hard to get out of bed with you in my arms. I think I’ll just hold you for awhile. But I’m so tired. Maybe I can just shut my eyes and rest my head against the pillow. Nope. Better not. Don’t want to drop you. Better put you back in the bassinet and call them to take you to the nursery. I’m sorry, but I haven’t slept since Monday night. I know you can’t possibly care about that, but I’ll be a better mama if I send you away for now.

By the time a nurse came to retrieve Autumn, I had changed her diaper two more times and had my first “what the hell am I doing with a child?” moment when I tried to gently move the bassinet by pushing it with my belly and got Autumn’s foot caught in between my body and the plastic. She cried indignantly, probably wishing she had never seen the outside of a uterus.

I’m sorry! Oh, I’m sorry. Mommy didn’t mean to hurt you. Oh please don’t cry.

In spite of my exhaustion, I couldn’t fall asleep after Autumn was taken away. My mind was racing with thoughts of what my life was going to be like when I took my child home.

Do I have everything I need for her? When is my milk going to come in? What’s Molly going to think of the baby? Will I ever get to sleep again?

Eventually I nodded off only to be awakened about an hour and a half later by a nurse wheeling in Autumn in the bassinet. “Somebody’s hungry,” she said.

It was at that point I started to think this whole thing wasn’t going to be that easy. I wanted to call Nathan and beg him to come back. I didn’t want to be alone with this tiny little being who pooped black tar and didn’t understand that I really, really wanted to get more than 90 minutes of sleep. But she needed me. Even if she didn’t know who the hell I was, she needed me.

I guess we’re kind of stuck with each other, huh?

When I had finished nursing, I pressed the call button again for someone to take Autumn back to the nursery. Ten minutes went by. Then twenty. After a half hour I decided to seek out the nursery myself. It was the first time since I checked into the hospital that I walked more than the few feet from my bed to the bathroom.

Wow these lights are bright, aren’t they? Uh oh, someone’s baby is unhappy. Ok, where’s the nursery? You’ve been there, kid, give me some direction. Ah, there it is. Nope, that’s the door to a maintenance closet. This is the door to the nursery. Bye bye, sweetie.

I was able to sleep almost three hours before they brought her back to me for another feeding. By that time it was morning and the beginning of my last day in the hospital.

And you know what? I still have that episode of “Alias” saved on my DVR. I set it to record the night I left for the hospital. I just can’t bring myself to delete it.

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So yesterday was the big freak out. In light of my revelation that I suck as a daughter, I went out to the dollar store for another frame to give to my mother. I drove over there just after 10 am only to find that they don’t open until 11am on Sundays and 11 am just so happened to be Nathan’s desired departure time for the hour drive to his parents’ house.

Since a grocery store is in the same complex, I stopped in there, grabbed a cart and walked around the store hoping for inspiration. Nothing. I then drove to another store I knew would have picture frames but is undergoing a huge renovation. I couldn’t find anything. The dog food is where the pharmacy used to be and the pharmacy is now in the front of the store. The furniture is now where the toys were and I still can’t find the damn picture frames and we have to leave by 11 am!

I finally found the frames and picked out a nice one that was perfect for Nathan’s grandma. I raced home, printed out a picture of Grandma and Autumn and put the framed picture of Autumn that I was going to give Grandma in my mom’s bag, pulled out the Glade candles and replaced it with a nice Bath and Body works candle I had stashed away in a cupboard downstairs.

I was finally able to sit down and take a breath while I fed Autumn. Nathan was signing cards and assembling gift bags and asked, “Where’s my mom’s bag?”

I looked at him. “She doesn’t get a bag. She gets plants,” I said. We bought her a lilac bush and a hydrangea, both of which were sitting out in the garage waiting for the ride to their new home.

“She doesn’t get a picture?” asked Nathan.

Insert scream here.

After much arguing about who gets what and how much time we had before we needed to leave, I convinced Nathan to go to the dollar store and pick up another frame and a gift bag for his mom. He called me a few minutes after he left. “They’re closed for Mother’s Day,” he said.

How can a dollar store not be open on Mother’s Day? Don’t they realize there are really cheap procrastinators out there who need to find a Mother’s Day gift stat?

Needless to say, we scrapped the picture idea for his mom and vowed to give her one during our next visit.

The rest of the day wasn’t so hectic, thank God. Once at his parents’ house, Autumn was taken out of my hands and I was allowed to nap on the big leather sofa. Autumn fell asleep in the rocking chair with Nathan’s mom and was very put out when we pulled her out of Grandma’s arms when it was time to go.

We met my parents, my brother and my grandmas at Cracker Barrel later in the afternoon. Autumn was passed around the table like a plate of biscuits and didn’t even spit up after having nearly a whole bottle of formula. She sat on my dad’s lap for awhile, banging spoons on the table and dropping them on the floor. Each time she dropped one, someone would pass her another. The busboys probably hated us.

My mother ended up liking her gift. She’s not typically the type who puts a hit out on you after receiving a bad gift, but I wanted at least part of what I gave her to be something meaningful. Hopefully I succeeded with this:

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