Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How I Spent my Maternity Leave

Where the birth story ends and the adventure begins...

The gold stars were recently taken down from Cece's house.  In December my friends threw me a fantastic "celebrity themed" baby shower at Cece's house (which is right down the street from my house) and bright gold stars adorned her doorway.  I love that she kept them up, a small reminder of the final days of my pregnancy.  All of the anticipation, fear, excitement, and questions.  After bringing Jack home from the hospital, seeing them when I drove up the street reminded me that he was still new.  But recently they came down, fitting in a way since I go back to work this week and it's time to move on from the scared, anxious mom I was to the confident, brave working mother I'm to become.

12 weeks.

It passed in the blink of an eye.  Hardly enough time to establish a regular routine, but when I think of the changes Jack's made in 12 weeks, it seems like an eternity.  Where there were no eye lashes, there are now long curly ones.  The 5 lb baby I brought home has been replaced by a chubbier 12 lb baby with dimples where his knuckles will be (kitty dishes as my mom calls them) and a proper double chin.  I get glimpses of the little boy he will become, but for now, he's still my cuddly baby who grips onto my shirt as I take him for tours around the house showing him different rooms.  Poor winter babies hardly get a glimpse of the outside so we need to make inside an adventure for him.

So how did I spend those 12 weeks?  They say when you give birth, you are reborn yourself and in many ways I believe that's true.  I am not exactly the same person I was on January 6th.  I'll begin where my journey ended- with forgiveness. 

I asked my body to forgive me.

In the days that followed Jack's birth, I was unbearably hard on myself.  I was still wearing my maternity pants, my wedding ring didn't fit and where there once was a round basketball under my shirt, I was softer with the ghost of that precious passenger still lingering there.  Two weeks ago I stood in a dressing room wearing pants in a size I have never been and looked at myself honestly for the first time.  I looked at the curve of my hips and the fullness of my breasts.  I thought of my beautiful healthy baby at home.  Staring right at my reflection, I just kept thinking over and over again, "I'm sorry."  And, "thank you." The roundness of my hips helped me deliver my baby quickly and without any complications.  My breasts contain all the nourishment he'll need for months.  My body is a miracle machine that couldn't be replicated by any engineer.  It created life. 

Trevor always says he provided the blueprints and I took over from there.  Looking at Jack, I can honestly say we are quite possibly the finest architects in the world.  The words of my beloved Tim Gunn rang in my ears that day.  People will never know the number on the tag of your clothing so wear clothing that fits you and makes you feel great.  Thank you Uncle Tim.  He's so right!  So I learned never to say "I'll never wear that size again!"  Because it really doesn't matter.  My body is a miracle and I should start loving it more and judging it less.

I learned to live consciously. 

With my return to work date hanging over my head I learned to be fully conscious of each moment.  For my wedding, my mom shared with me a prayer by Anne Morrow Lindbergh:

"God, let me be conscious of it!  Let me be conscious of what is happening while it is happening.  Let me realize it and feel it vividly.  Let not the consciousness of the event (as happens so often) come to me tardily, so that I miss the experience.  Let me be conscious of it!

There were many times when dishes sat in the sink and phones went unanswered because we were sleeping together or I was feeding him.  Calls can be returned and dishes can be washed later, but my baby is sleeping on me now and I will never regret letting the world pass us by while I watched his chest move up and down and stroked his head while he smiled in his sleep. I found out how best to rub his head while he was nursing, I finally hit just the right tone of voice to make him smile.  We danced in the living room to "September" by Earth Wind and Fire on more than one occasion.  I don't regret a single minute of this past 12 weeks, I have sustained my baby using nothing but my body for nearly a year.  I understand now the bond between mother and child.  I will positively lose it the next time I watch Dumbo.  If you mess with my baby, you might as well lock me up in chains too.  (I'll never be able to hear "Baby Mine" without a waterfall happening :)

I think the biggest fear of a mother who works outside of the home is that she'll miss something.  I have to remind myself that you could easily miss something while you are in the next room over and that if you live consciously you won't miss a thing.  As parents, "firsts" are a big thing.  I may miss one of his firsts, but when that thought makes me sad,  I think back to 1/7/11.  I was there for his first breath.  Everything he does for the rest of his life is one miraculous extension of that moment.  So God, let me be conscious and present for the moments I am there.

I loved my husband more, I probably showed him less.

During the most fragile, precarious, first weeks of a human's life, they are entrusted to the care of delirious, sleep-deprived parents.  Seems like a recipe for disaster, no?  I absolutely fell more in love with Trevor, but I know there were times when I looked at him, frustrated and exhausted when we couldn't find a way to get the baby to sleep like "why can't you figure it out already?!"  We married each other for many reasons, not the least of which was how intelligent we thought the other person was, but when it came to raising Jack, both of us felt like dummies many times.  Trevor, I know you're reading this.  You are the most wonderful human being I know.  I get tears in my eyes because my words cannot express the gratitude that my heart feels for you helping me to create Jack Rigel.  He is the greatest gift I have ever received.  He embodies the very best parts of both of us and I know you will play a major role in shaping him as a man.  The world needs more strong, caring, sensitive and brilliant men and there is no one better I can think of to make our son such a man.  Thank you for the late night diaper changes and strolls around the house as I tried to get some sleep.  I know you will treasure those times with him, even when both of us thought we might lose our minds from lack of sleep.  I love you so much.  Thank you for making me a mom.

On Thursday night, I'll pack up  my lunch, I'll make sure my breast pump is ready to go, I'll lay out those pants and I'll disregard the number on the tag.  I'll cuddle my baby and pray that he's proud of me.  On Friday, Trevor becomes a stay at home dad.  I love how excited he gets when he talks about the things he wants to do with Jack this summer.  My two amazing men, how did I ever get so lucky?  On Friday I'll return to the loving embrace of my coworkers, many of them mothers themselves.  I will be wrapped up in support and encouragement.  Friday will be the first day I go to work without Jack.  For 9 months he accompanied me to every meeting and class I taught.  I'll miss him kicking me during meetings, I won't miss the heartburn or the frequent bathroom trips.

To my fellow moms out there who work outside of the home, I am so proud to join your ranks.  I wouldn't trade places with anyone in the world right now since that would mean not being a mother to this amazing creature, who right now is sleeping on the couch next to me.  God, let me be conscious of it all.

A few nights ago, I came downstairs to catch Trevor holding Jack in his lap as they watched an episode of Trevor's beloved show, "Firefly".  I laughed.  "Turning our son into a little sci-fi geek, eh?  Aren't you glad we had a little boy?"  Trevor turned to me and said, "I'm glad we had Jack." 

I'm glad I have them both.

 Picture mail sent to me on my first day back at work