Well, we survived the week. Barely.
On Monday I suited up for the role and put on something other than jeans, spit-up stained shirts, or pajamas for the first time since the Gadlet was born. I donned my new button-down shirt and fancy work pants, which were only made possible by the control-top tights that held in my postpartum gut. As I tugged those things on I fervently hoped that the "control-top" helping me hold in my flabby belly would also help me hold in my flabby emotions. But for some reason that wasn't one of the benefits advertised on the package.
I gathered together the million and a half bags it takes to get a baby and a returning professor out of the house, packed up the Gadlet and drove her over to Darby's. I brought her in and kissed her goodbye and was thinking I'd make it out without tears until Darby asked me how I was doing. I got a little weepy then and so bolted out the door before I had a total breakdown.
Then I was free. I thought it would feel awful. I had fully prepared to weep in the car. But I didn't. In fact, it was great. I felt so good. The Gadlet was safe, cared for and happy and I could work uninterrupted for HOURS at a time. The last few weeks it had been really challenging to feel like I had to be working on my dissertation, prepping for classes AND taking care of the Gadlet. Monday I just had to do one of those three things. Life had gotten much, much simpler.
The only less simple and slightly crazy thing was making sure the Gadlet had enough milk for the next day. In the interest of multitasking, and since I have an hour commute with nothing to do in that time period, I had decided to pump while driving. To facilitate this bit of automobile gymnastics I bought this insanely overengineered bra for "hands free" pumping. It looks and feels like an unholy cross between my grandmother's knickers and a Madonna video. So in the morning along with my control top undergarments, I put this contraption on underneath my shirt, then put in half of the pump part (the part that covers my boobs), and stuck it through the convenient hole in the bra leaving exposed the hollow pipe that hooks up to the valves, etc. I looked exactly like a femmebot with guns sticking out of my jubblies. After I dropped the Gadlet off, I got in the car, hooked myself up and pumped while I commuted. I don't love pumping, but I love the Gadlet so I kept at it. I was simply terrified the whole time, though, that I'd get stopped by a cop for something and he'd look down and I'd be hooked up to the milking machine. But at least I was "hands free." I mean, if there's laws about cell phone use while driving, what about pumping?
Fortunately I was not arrested for indecent exposure while driving on my first commute. I got a lot done on Monday to prep for teaching on Tuesday. I printed out a bunch of stuff and got my syllabi and handouts ready. (I'm one of those profs that handout out a million pieces of pieces of paper the first day of class.) Then I headed home to the Gadlet.
When I got to Darby's, apparently the Gadlet had been crying or grousing for about an hour. Poor kid. I think she was ready to go home, because as soon as I put her in the car she started chattering a mile a minute -- like she had to tell me all about her adventures of the day. Then at home she got very quiet and subdued and wanted to be held all night. I was worried that she was trying to show us how good she could be so that we wouldn't take her back to day care. But Spousal Unit said I was being ridiculous.
The best part of Monday, though, was coming home. I walked in the door and the house was clean and all lit up and it smelled wonderful. The table was set and there was a beautiful salad waiting. While I admired all of this and unpacked the Gadlet, the oven timer beeped and Spousal Unit pulled out homemade enchiladas. It was so amazing. I felt so cared for and supported. The only thing that might have made it better was if he'd been buck naked except for an apron. But since we live in the North and it is January, I can understand why he decided to keep his clothes on. But lack of nakedness aside, let me tell you, I don't think I've ever been so happy to come home and find dinner waiting.
Tuesday's commute was a little trickier because I had to drop the Galdet off and then pick up my commuting colleague. But it worked fine. Then I taught again for the first time in ages. It felt great. Well, after I got over that gut-wrenching nervousness of the first class. Within a few minutes I remembered how much I love teaching and how much I love my students and how much I love history and how much I love my colleagues. It was such a good day. I was totally high and as I left work I felt really ready to launch into the Dreaded Dissertation on Wednesday.
Then I picked up the Gadlet on Tuesday night. Darby said that she had been coughing so desperately badly all day that she had made herself hoarse. It was terrible. My baby was sick. This ocean of guilt crashed into me. I had left her and she had gotten sick and she felt bad and didn't have her mama all day. I was the worst mother ever to enter into mothering. How could I have been so cruel? I was never ever going to leave her again. Tuesday night she was so full of phlegm she couldn't sleep because she kept coughing herself awake. So I took her to the pediatrician Wednesday morning. They stuck this pipe cleaner looking thing up her nose and sucked out a booger to test it for RSV, a respiratory virus that little kids get. Then they tested her blood-oxygen levels to make sure she was getting enough oxygen. The scariest thing was that they wanted to know about a family history of ashtma. (Maternal Grandmother, Mother, Brother, and me a little when encountered with molds.) But she was negative for RSV and they didn't think she has asthma. Just a cold. Phew. But oh did I feel terrible. Oh, and best of all? The pediatrician said that she couldn't go back to day care because she might make Darby's baby sick.
I deflated like a little balloon. So much for feeling liberated and like I had time to do my own work. Dammit. I had to stay at home with the baby. But, wait, isn't that what I wanted to do all along? How confusing. Then I felt all guilty because I felt bad that I had to stay home with my sick baby that I wouldn't have wanted to leave anyway because she was sick. See the conundrum? It wasn't fun.
Anyway, I lost Wednesday's work time because she just wanted to be held all day. Back to being a Mama and feeling like I had to do other stuff also. Thursday was Daddy Day so she got to be at home with Spousal Unit and I got to go to work guilt-free. Then Friday I caught the cold so we just lazed around together, me blowing my nose, the Gadlet squirming and screaming while I used that bulbous thingeymabob to suck the boogers out of her nose. Good times, my friends, good times.
So all in all, a complicated emotional roller coaster this week. With mucus. But somehow we survived and are poised to try it all again next week.
I haven't updated my blog list in forever and I really want to apologize for not adding all of the new readers that have been coming by lately to the sidebar. It isn't personal at all -- believe me! Also, I've been a bad blog citizen and haven't commented on ya'll's blogs. Thanks so much for all the support and comments -- I love them. I'm just swamped and haven't had a chance to reciprocate. But I will do someday soon, I promise.
Also I have two giftlets waiting for addresses from that gift meme a while back. If I don't hear from the two people who ostensibly won them but never sent me their addresses, I'll give them to the first two folk to send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Delurk and drop me a note and I will send you a cool little thing that has been cluttering up my desk since October!
- At 2:23 PM Psycgirl said...
Thanks for being so honest about all the feelings you've had going back to work - its interesting to read. I hope you and the Gadlet feel better soon!
- At 3:48 PM Kathleen said...
I've been wondering how the first week back went. All in all, other than the sick, it sounds, well, not that bad.
Whoo hoo for SU for the dinner ready when you got home. That's awesome. But you knew that.
Hugs to all!
- At 7:37 PM Mimi said...
Ah, the damned if you do, damned if you don't feelings! Those are great! You know, once I got used to leaving Munchkin at daycare, it felt like such an amazing luxury just to be teaching and doing service and researching. But I make up for it by pulling the long nights with the sick baby, or the tantrumy baby, or whatever. Is that what they mean by work/life balance?
I'm really impressed by the car pumping! Wow!
- At 8:42 PM Nik said...
I'm away from my kid for 10 days in a row this week so I know how you feel. The pulling directions. The juggling. The desire to do everything 100% At least we have great husbands who make our days easier. Well, you do a great job with the blogging and the gift sending and the parenting and seemingly everything else!
- At 10:12 AM What Now? said...
Sorry to hear that mucus gummed up the works of your first week back, but it sounds like everyone survived this transition in fine style.
- At 4:53 AM spark said...
Hope you all feel better soon!!
- At 11:02 AM Histgrad said...
Thanks for the great post. Good to hear how you're doing. I always think about what a (lawyer and working mother) friend of mine said about this "balance" we try to strike, is that she realized that she could only be about 80% of the lawyer she wanted to be (or less), and 80% of the mother she wanted to be, and that was just going to have to be good enough for all concerned. No one can do anything 100% anymore, I think.
- At 3:08 PM Scrivener said...
There's a lot in this post that struck home for me too. Thanks for telling this not only so openly but with such humor.
Speaking of housekeeping, when you do update your sidebar, please put my new URL in over there. :)
- At 11:12 PM Anonymous said...