Eliza

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Allow me to introduce you to Eliza. She was born at 11:26 pm on April 29th, a mere half-hour early for her due date.

I expected her much earlier. Her sister was 10 days early, and I’d been having Braxton-Hicks like crazy since the  beginning of my third trimester.

But no, despite a lot of false starts and fake outs, she showed up pretty much exactly when she was supposed to.

The last few days have been crazy. We’re still working out how to be a family of four, and the wild woods of newborn days are a lot harder with an almost-two-year-old running about.

But Eliza just takes it as it comes (unless it’s eating….we’re working on that) and I’m so glad she’s here to make our family whole.

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thirteen

In the United States a woman who has a child can take up to 12 (unpaid) weeks off under FMLA. Today is the start of my 13th week. I was supposed to go back to work, but I stayed home.

We looked at our new budget, and visited several child care centers, and came to the realization that the cost of returning to work simply wasn’t worth it. My paycheck would have to cover child care, gas money, work clothes, and the “convenience cost” that comes when mommy has only had 12 hours of sleep in the past three days and cannot summon the energy to pack her own lunch, or cook dinner that takes more effort than programming the microwave. After all that, there would be precious little left, and when you consider the tradeoff would be leaving my firstborn with a stranger for most of her waking hours, I simply decided it did not make sense for me to return to work.

It’s a difficult choice, and I think almost every woman who works and wants kids struggles when she finds herself at this point. And there is so much judgement that is either implied or explicit when we talk about ways that women can contribute to the workforce and to family life. I know I’ve read way too many headlines about “mommy wars.” Enough of that can make a girl feel judged and worried before she even sees that second blue line. I’ve worried what people would think of me for abandoning my career–or my baby.

And I worried (still worry) about so many other things. Am I setting a good example for my daughter? Am I teaching her my career matters less than her father’s? Or that there are more important things than having more money? Am I jeopardizing my family’s financial security? Am I pulling my weight in this household? Am I doing this for the right reasons? What would the “right reasons” be anyway?

So many women, including my mother, were here before me; and so many women, likely including my daughter, will be here after. That’s one thing that helps quiet my worrying, knowing that so many have joined me here. Some of us have more choices than others, all of us have our own unique set of priorities, but we all pass through the same place of hope and doubt.

We all have to make a choice about the thirteenth week. I made mine, but along with it, I’m reaffirming another choice I made in parenting: that I wouldn’t let my choices make me defensive or jealous of other moms. Maybe you work, maybe you stay home, maybe you do a combination of these things.The line in the media seems to be about “having it all,” but there’s no such thing. We all make choices that close us off from other ways of living. These choices can separate us, make us feel “other” and that leads to judgement. Instead, I’d like to focus on the fact that, regardless of where we go from here, we all were the same in the moment where we made a choice and followed our hearts.

love & work

The house is a bit of a mess, there are dishes & clutter, there is lots of laundry, but I am sitting up in bed, with a sleeping, feverish infant on my chest.

I was trying to get some work done; get some of her new clothes organized and put away. Little girl ran out of patience though. She didn’t want me to restart her music toy, or move duckie so she could reach him. She wanted to be picked up. I thought maybe I could move her to her bouncy seat and that would buy me a few more minutes to get something done around here.

But the second I picked her up, she rested her hot little forehead on my neck and went to sleep. It was such a simple thing. At this age she doesn’t speak or really even gesture. She doesn’t yet laugh, or reach out to me. Because of this, I don’t really get a lot of feedback. Sometimes I wonder if she just thinks of me as a giant food dispenser.

She doesn’t. I know that now from the way she found comfort in my arms. All too soon she’ll learn to talk, and kiss and hug, and make Mother’s Day cards with glitter and macaroni. But I think I will always remember today as the first time she told me she loved me.

conversation in my head

Since I had a baby I feel sometimes there are two of me. One of me is the “mama me”; she’s the one who maintains a soothing tone of voice as she sings a lullaby to a small creature that has been screaming for an hour. She’s the one who has at least temporarily allowed that yoga pants can be worn in public, and can do the complicated arithmetic involved in knowing the timeline and supplies that give the best chance of preventing an utter meltdown in the checkout line at Target, or in the car on the way home from a visit to see grandparents.

mama-me is not jealous that the baby has cuter outfits.

There’s also “other me” she’s the one who is kind of shocked about how much things have changed. There once was just her and the cat in a studio apartment with no TV and a pull-out sofa for a bed. Now there are two cats, a husband, a mortgage, and this adorable baby. This is the me that sometimes still gets a little grossed out to be responsible for touching another human’s poop. She sometimes forgets that spur-of-the-moment dinner dates, and to-do lists that are composed exclusively of tasks that require two hands are not really feasible options any longer.

Both “me”s are totally in love with this baby and the time I am spending at home with her. But it’s weird sometimes to take a step back and see how things have changed so completely.

This is what it’s like in my head sometimes:

Last night was amazing!

Did you have sushi again? You were pretty pumped about that last time.

No, the baby was asleep before ten! she slept for seven-and-a-half hours! both of those sentences get exclamation marks! also this one!

And that’s your current definition of an amazing night? Remember the night at the karaoke bar in Aspen? Or when you’d go see that Michael Jackson cover band in college? Or last year in Cancun? Those were amazing nights.

My eight-week-old baby let me sleep until five in the morning. Then she ate, and went right back to sleep, and I slept almost three more hours. New mom, eight hours of sleep.

I guess that is pretty amazing.

But I do see your point about the Michael Jackson thing.