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01 September 2012 @ 11:14 am
Maternity Musings: The Home Stretch.  
I'm up early on Saturday mornings, usually stirred out of bed by a combination of aching hips and hunger. (These days "getting up" has a different meaning than "waking up" since I'm now waking about 5 times a night from the bathroom breaks or - my favorite - the baby's seemingly endless hiccuping.) This morning, my husband is asleep in bed, leaving me some quiet time to eat some oatmeal and write in case this is my last opportunity to chronicle my end-of-3rd-trimester experiences.

It is Labor Day weekend, after all.

At a little over 37 weeks pregnant, I'm officially "full term", meaning I could theoretically go into labor at any moment between now and 4 weeks from now. In addition to my telework-generated to-do lists, I'm counting fetal movements, watching stretch marks sprout along the underside of my belly, integrating some kind of physical movement that will help keep me active without aggravating the sciatica that sends sharp pains down my right leg, reading several books at once (hello Working Mother, Nursing Mother, Mindful Parenting, and Happiest Baby on the Block) and incrementally finishing preparations for baby's arrival. Bassinet, check. Nursery, check. Home delivery setup, check. (And today, I will somehow remember to wash my child's onesies in addition to my own laundry, which is about 4 days overdue for a wash due to all of the above.)

Overall, I can't believe I've made it this far, this quickly. Wasn't it just yesterday that I was nauseated, exhausted, and examining myself sideways in the mirror, noticing a barely-there baby bump for the very first time? Suddenly I feel like I'm on a freight train heading to a destination I'm completely unprepared for in spite of all my prenatal vitamin popping, wall painting, and vitamin E oil slathering. These days, I am acutely aware of having potentially forgotten a crucial step in preparing for parenthood: the confrontation of all my identities.

It's like a prenatal celebrity death match. "In this corner, you know her as the closet writer/illustrator hungry to explore new professional frontiers! In the other corner, the government contractor clinging to the security of a comfortable workplace and consistent paycheck! And introducing a brand new opponent to the ring - the hormonal, the feared, the rapidly expanding Mother-to-Be! Who will come out alive??"

An adolescent part of me doesn't want to play. On some subterranean level, I knew that having a baby would equate to bungie jumping off a professional cliff, since the American work ethic rarely leaves space enough to be both coworker and mother without having to sacrifice some vital part of one's self. Like it or not, parenthood ranks low on society's scale of worthy contributions to humanity (even though there would be no humanity without it) or else American maternity leave would last longer than the first 12 weeks of your baby's life, forcing us back to work "at just the moment our babies start being cool", as a friend of mine put it. Unable to fully integrate a professional identity with a personal one, working moms split themselves down the middle, playing the parts of coworker and mother in such a way as to keep one role from bleeding into the other. Only at some point, they WILL bleed into each other. You will have to use your sick leave to take care of your sick child. You will give up opportunities for promotion because doing so will conserve energy you can put towards your family. You will discover that your progressive workplace is actually sort of squeamish about pumping breastmilk and you will probably be treated differently because of it, since time spent pumping means less time at your desk, which means all your heroic efforts to achieve the same output as everyone else don't mean much if everyone sees you disappear for 20 minutes at a time...

The alternative: Put the workplace first. There are plenty of women who have no option but to do this, lest they lose a source of income that their families thrive on. The downside? Potentially lose a chance for meaningful attachment with your chlld and/or confront a sea of people waving Time Magazine in your face, judging you for not being Mom Enough.

I'm making sweeping generalizations, of course. But they're not unfounded, especially given how many friends working with children have experienced the tug of war unique to being a working mom. A part of me knows I will put my children first, no questions asked. Another part wonders if doing so will result in being professionally derailed... and cares deeply about whether or not that happens.

*Ow.*

As I write this, the baby is awake, his tiny feet moving in a pedaling motion against my side, as though crosstraining for the years of playing, running, and jumping that lie ahead of him. His little baby strides are a strong (and sometimes painful) reminder that the answers to all of my anxiety-inducing questions may lie in simply putting one foot in front of other, in taking things one day at a time with the expectation that somehow everything will work out as it should. It occurs to me now that I've done this throughout my entire pregnancy.

Maybe I'm more prepared than I thought.

Would love to hear from other LJers about their thoughts on life/work balance. In the meantime, I'll keep you guys posted on the imminent arrival of our little one. Hopefully, he will come sooner than later!
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( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Nate the Great: Dumbledoremajor_dallas on September 1st, 2012 04:07 pm (UTC)
not a mom, or a dad, just an uncle who gets to pinch hit as a father-figure for my oldest nephew who stays with me during the school year for an education far superior to the one he would get at home. How do I balance it all out, by working overnites...which leads to fatness, irritability, and the irrational fear of the sun.

I don't recomend it...

So, missing pizza yet? :p
Venessa: Must write!mudblood428 on September 1st, 2012 05:39 pm (UTC)
Lol - so you've become a vampire? I'm headed there myself! You're truly a blessing in your nephew's life (the proof is in that photo you posted of the two of you). Hopefully that makes the overnight grind worth it. :)
Nate the Great: Farfmajor_dallas on September 1st, 2012 06:04 pm (UTC)
Nope, not that nephew(that one is four and muy chiple ), the other one, I may have posted a short vid of him being dragged around on the ground by my puppy rotty Tex a few months back, but anyways. My vampiric ways are coming to an end as I've had it with overnites, career change time!

The Grind, yeah, just wait until the daughter comes along, muwahahaha!
Why be normal?: baby -  toys for babylunalovepotter on September 1st, 2012 04:19 pm (UTC)
Alas, I have reached the age where motherhood (at least in the natural biological sense) is a relative impossibility. Honestly I didn't really feel that much regret about not having kids, up until about a year ago. Now I feel those pangs pretty regularly, especially since a younger co-worker of mine and my cousin's girlfriend both had babies in the last four months. Both were girls, both are heartstoppingly beautiful, and both started me on this path of wondering what might have been. For now I am anxiously awaiting - but withholding my hints - for my sister to start her family. She is marrying this October, and has promised the grandparents-to-be that children are in the future. I will settle for being the best aunt I can be, and that will be enough.

And for the record, I have dibs on introducing my future nieces & nephews to Harry Potter. I can't wait.

I am so deeply thrilled for you and Mike, and can't wait to "meet" your own little Harry. I don't know if I have expressed it enough, but I absolutely love the name you have given your future son. It is both deeply personal, and unique. He will be one blessed (and extraordinarily talented) child. You will be a wonderful Mom, and even though there will be struggles to balance your work and your personal life, it will be an amazing journey.

Congratulations, again. And best wishes for a smooth, happy home delivery. ♥

Edited at 2012-09-01 04:20 pm (UTC)
Nicole Bruno: pic#118329929Nicole Bruno on September 1st, 2012 04:56 pm (UTC)
I think you will be amazed at how clear things become once the baby is a part of your life. You will have passing whims of what could be, but none of it is as rewarding as watching a child grow and blossom (the blossoming is a good metaphor for labor and birth too! :) ) You will discover a piece of yourself (once you get some sleep) that you didn't know was there, and learn things about yourself that you thought you would feel different about. It is as much about growth for your child as it is for you and your family as a whole.

It is not an easy transition, especially having to juggle work (I work part time and we avoid daycare, and that helps a lot), and nursing and wanting to be there, but everyone finds a balancing act, and it is important to understand that the best people you can work for are other people who have families as well. Good luck, I can't wait to hear how your labor goes! :)
Venessa: Must write!mudblood428 on September 1st, 2012 05:51 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much for adding your voice to the chorus (Ha!) of friends who have assured me of the same. The shift into parenthood is so dramatic, it's easy for the fear of failure to dominate your thoughts before the baby comes into your life. I try to visualize what that life will look like, and it feels a little like trying to foresee the act of walking after having a leg amputated! I know you're right, though - and that somehow the universe will support this transition in spite of all my anxiety. Thanks again for the support, and I look forward to introducing our little guy to you and the rest of SDS soon!
Venessa: Must write!mudblood428 on September 1st, 2012 05:45 pm (UTC)
I definitely believe that people can be awesome surrogate moms to their friends and families' children. I had a band director whose wife was also a school music teacher - neither of them had children. But when asked, they confessed that the reason why they never had kids was because all their students were their children. Speaking as one of their students/daughters, they truly took care of us and loved us in a way that imprints them on our hearts as far more than just teachers. You'll usher your neices and nephews into the world of HP and - even better - doubtlessly become a vital part of their nurturing and growth as a result.

Thanks so much for the well wishes. I can't wait to introduce him to all his loving, wonderful LJ fans!
OMG it's full of STARS!: ravens besiegedleelastarsky on September 1st, 2012 05:04 pm (UTC)
I left a very lucrative career to have baby#1. But I had the understanding with my employer that I'd be able to go back part time in the future. I did manage to get a few days here and there after Huw turned 1, but the recession hit and there was no work so my part time possibility vanished. Plus I had a child with a disability, so my child care options were...more difficult.

After baby #2 arrived, I started seriously looking for work in my trade but local, so I wouldn't have to travel as far; time etc. When Ben was 6 months, I started 3 days a week. This was ok. The boys went to Day Care on those days, and I expressed the lunchtime feed (in the toilet, which was something I'd sworn I'd NEVER do...)
But if either of the boys was sniffly or goey-eyed (or vomited in the last 24hrs) I was not allowed to take them to Day Care. Which meant hubby or I had to stay home with them. Hubby refused cos his was the 'primary' job, even though I earned more, and didn't get paid if I missed a day. Which put a lot of strain on our marriage, and our financial stress got worse.

Then I had baby#3. Lovely normal baby and delivery (my first!) Planned to go back to my part time job when Annie was 3 months...SO glad when the boss rang and said there wasn't enough work for me, and to leave it another month! So, at 4 months Annie went off to Day Care with her brothers, but she flatly refused a bottle, even with expressed milk. Fortunately I worked a block away from the Day Care, so was able to go there in my lunch hour and breast feed her. Which was a win/win for both myself and my daughter!

Then #4 happened. Our "surprise." I had to leave work because I would have been paying more in Day Care fees than I was earning. And while a lot of my stress was removed - I no longer had to fight with my husband over whose work had priority - our financial problems... Well, we still haven't recovered. And while I was off having babies, my trade computerised, leaving me unemployable without serious retraining. Which I couldn't afford, and no employer would do when they could pay and train an apprentice for less than half of what they'd have to pay me. I also got Post Natal Depression after #4, which seriously SUCKED.

I don't really have any advice for you either way. We need to work to keep our heads above water, (and I'll admit I enjoyed my job most of the time) BUT... I'll also admit that I was VERY lucky to find a Day Care that was beyond AWESOME, and that my kids adored going to. (the first one we went to was not so good)
Once we started on the school 'merry-go-round' things got even more complicated. Schools here pull 'student free days' at a whim, and sometimes there were SO many of them that I can't imagine how working parents managed. Especially when you're dealing with more than one school!

And now I have my Mum to look after, so even my pathetic freelance art career (LOL!) has been put on hold!

I think one of the hardest things about having to put your child in Day Care so early is the chance of missing 'milestones.' Their first smile/word/step. The list goes on. :P

It's a hard and horrible decision, and there will ALWAYS be people wanting to point an accusing finger at you for 'doing it wrong' whatever your decision. But you have to do what is right for YOU at the time.

Big, big hugs and best of luck! My first 2 were born at 37wks. #3 at 38wks, and #4 at 36wks.
♥ ♥ ♥
Venessa: Must write!mudblood428 on September 1st, 2012 06:01 pm (UTC)
So much admiration for you and all you went through for your children. And there are so many that have had to make similar decisions, driven to choices they may not have made otherwise because of finances, disabilities, fill-in-the-blank. From what I can tell, despite everything you've all been through as a family, you're still close and love each other dearly, and at the end of the day, that's a success worth celebrating!

Thank you so much for sharing your story with me, Leela. Someday, I would love to personally contribute to your freelancing career and get a special commish for my special boy!
Mistress of Squicktripperfunster on September 1st, 2012 05:44 pm (UTC)
IMHO, you will care a lot less about your career once the baby is born. Not that you won't care, but the world suddenly shifts and priorities slide around.

Babies don't get REALLY cool until around six months. (that's when our maternity leave ends). ;)


My advice? Do what you've got to do. Be Zen. Enjoy each and every moment, be it work or baby or hubby. There is no AFTER the diaper change, there is ONLY the diaper change.

also? Put down those books. Use your common sense. I totally over-read what to do (when you're expecting etc etc) and I think it caused more stress than relief. I worried too much about 'nipple confusion' and feared letting him have a bottle once in a while. Man, if I could do it all over again, I would pump WAY less and let him have formula now and again. Pumping sucks. (literally)

Good luck hon. It really is so fantastic and scary and hilarious and heartbreaking and sweet and uplifting and exhausting and and and and.

And as much as your entire life gets turned upside down those first few days/weeks/months/years, eventually the dust settles and you get to breathe again and you find that you are still you, except a bit flabbier and a whole lot smarter and you have this great human being that you've brought into the world to share it all with.

<3
Venessa: Must write!mudblood428 on September 1st, 2012 06:09 pm (UTC)
You and my sister could be related just based on your advice alone. On some level, I absolutely think my instincts will kick in and all my Type-A preparation will be thrown out the window anyway. As for priorities, I can definitely see things getting rearranged naturally. It's just so hard to envision considering I've spent the majority of my life being some version of a workaholic. I'll be honest -- there's a major part of me that's looking forward to having a child so that I can be forced into a mindset where I can release outcomes and just do my best, even if my best isn't perfect (or contributes to a strategic end).

Thanks so much for your awesome advice, Tripper, and for reminding me that what's ahead will be "fantastic and scary and hilarious and heartbreaking and sweet...."
naiad8: defaultnaiad8 on September 1st, 2012 06:02 pm (UTC)
One day at a time is absolutely a mantra that will serve you well. Whether it is dealing with work/baby situation or dealing with a child with special needs, that's what keeps you sane. Also, it's "what works for your family is just fine". With my older son, he had problems nursing due to a suck-swallow-breathe rhythm problem (probably first sign of his autism). I nursed as much as I could and supplemented with formula and that was ok! You don't have to pick all one way or the other. With Lia, I had supply problems and had to supplement for the first 2 months and pump endlessly, but now I've caught up and no more formula (whew). You do what you need to do in order to make you life work and your babies happy.
I'm fortunate in that my husband does very well, and we make the choice to have a very small house and try to keep expenses as low as possible while saving a lot. This lets me work as a freelance writer. I don't make much, but it means that we don't need daycare. I had always planned to go back to work after Alex, but with the diagnosis of autism, our priorities changed a whole lot. This is what works for us. But I have to do some work, or I will go insane. It's ok to mentally need work, some kind of success on a personal level.

My advice: Use a lactation consultant, they are amazing!
Mylicon gas drops are your best friend. Gas is your number one enemy as a mom.
Use a sling if your back can stand it, they really help to calm baby and leave your hands free.
You are not a horrible mother if the baby sleeps with you in your bed sometimes (or even all the time). If it lets you get more sleep and baby is safe, it's ok. Sometimes if you are working, those hours cuddling in bed feed something in your heart that needs that time.
Listen to your own instincts. No one knows your baby better than you.
The Elephant in the Room: Sherlockedpennswoods on September 1st, 2012 06:45 pm (UTC)
I wish so much that US culture allowed for more time off or at least allowed for the better integration of parenting and work for those who need or want to continue to manage a career and parenthood. I look around at the social system in place here in Sweden and can see how the structure in place may have led Francis and I into making different choices about parenthood (not that there weren't other considerations - but the financial one was paramount).

And what you and others have written about being parents to others as teachers or aunts or caretakers seems to ring true. I know that I really was able to throw myself into caring for my students because I had a need for this type of role and I had room in my life to really allow my job to consume me. But at the same time, I sometimes envy those who are parents because I think that having children who depend up on you is one way to make sure you do not allow your job or your work to take over your life.

You're off on a great big adventure and I look forward to learning more about you and how you negotiate these different facets of your personality.
rickey_a: flowerrickey_a on September 1st, 2012 06:47 pm (UTC)
ahhh, mother to be...

Becoming a parent is indeed a pardigm shift in your life. Everyone must follow their path based on 8 barjillion factors and issues. That said, I struggled for several years having a full time (live out) nanny, and doing the full-on high octane career. When my oldest was Dx w/autism and second son born, I even switched to a nanny with ABA/Autism experiece. But when oldest entered kindergarden (fully included), I wanted to become more involved at the school, help foster relationships both for him and our family in the community, and otherwise not be so mentally torn between work and home. It was exhausting- physically and mentally. I know some women do it. Kudos. My job was as a director of product development managing lots of people and money, so perhaps if it was less responsibility it might not have been as hard. Can you do it all? Maybe some can. I guess deep down, I didn't want to.

I've been home for over 6 years now and don't regret it for a second. I sometimes miss the challenge of the workplace, but I was older (33/35) when I had children, so I already had a fulfilling 15 year career behind me and wanted to truly focus on family. I also had that luxury financially (hubby has solid stable career). I've been extremely involved in my children's live and yes, it is a substantial portion of my life being wife/mother/homemaker. I have a strong enough identity that I still have 'me' and do take the time for myself, friends, and writing.

Much luck and love to you... and a very smooth delivery. My advice would be to enjoy those early weeks. Despite the odd sleeping patterns, it is a very wonderful time.
mrsquizzical: motherhoodmrsquizzical on September 1st, 2012 09:36 pm (UTC)
Prehumous Professor of Morbid Bibliomancy: Libraryblpurdom on September 2nd, 2012 02:58 am (UTC)
You mean we're this close to cute baby pictures? Squee! And :hug:.

When it comes to the work/home thing, specific intentions can fly out the window once reality collides with what you've planned. I went back to work part time after having Ben (my company let moms work at 60% of full-time) because we needed the money. This didn't allow for a huge daycare budget, so my mom took Ben while I worked three days/wk and we paid her a nominal amount (she set the ridiculously-low price) also paid for her transportation to and from our place.

A couple of unexpected things happened. I didn't know, at the time, that what my company did with my job after I returned was illegal. You're supposed to have the same or a comparable job (or a better one), but they added the job I had when I left to half the job I had pre-promotion, giving me 150% of the duties I had pre-birth, which I now had to do in 21 hrs/wk instead of 35. Getting 100% of a job done in 60% of the time I was prepared to tackle to the ground; doing 50% more in 60% of the time (overtime was no longer an option) was kicking my ass. For the first time, I got a less-than-perfect job review, since I was only getting 90-95% of my work done (really about 135% of my pre-birth duties). Pointing this out got me no sympathy from my bosses, HR or anyone else, even though they were treating me illegally (and just plain unfairly), post-partum.

When the second unexpected thing happened, my mother breaking her foot, I had to either take a leave of absence or find childcare that cost 4 or 5 times what we'd been paying, leaving us even with even less of my salary, I decided that I wasn't going on leave--I was walking out and not looking back. Two months later, I was pregnant with Rachel.

I never intended to be a stay-at-home mom, circumstances just snowballed and the next thing I knew that's what I was. While I did get to see all of the kid milestones, the downside was that my income going away was a horrible hit to our finances. For twenty years we couldn't do basic house maintenance. No vacation trips. Thrift stores and drastically-reduced sales were our friends. When we tried to refinance our house to bring the interest rate on the debt down, we were turned down because I wasn't working. (Hello, that's why we needed to refinance!) We were in debt for a long time, until several months before Ben graduated from high school, once I'd been working again for a few years, the additional income finally eliminating the debt. (I decided to leave school and go back to work because I knew I couldn't complete my degree without plunging us deeper into debt and making it impossible for our kids to go to college.) My current job is a trade-off (a part-time position that has a good hourly wage and allows me time to write), so I may need something more lucrative if we get into financial dire straits again (i.e., ridiculously high college tuition increases), which will mean less time for me to write. And while one might assume that getting the B. Arch. degree would have made it easier for us to send the kids to college, the economic reality is that I know a lot of former architects either on unemployment or pursuing non-architecture-related work because the ones just out of school were the first to be sacked when the housing market tanked. (I believe I made the right call on that.)

So--it's a two-edged sword. Possibly more-edged, even. There are times I wish I'd continued to work--preferably someplace that wasn't breaking the law--and never built up the debt. Or that I'd finished the B.Arch. degree. And there are times I'm glad that I was home with my kids. (Hey, I probably wouldn't have discovered Harry Potter fandom! And rediscovered my love of writing!) No matter where you end up, you inevitably think of the grass on the other side being greener, I suppose.
Rosegestaltrose on September 2nd, 2012 05:31 am (UTC)
I always knew I wanted to be a parent, I am still not sure what I want to be when I grow up and I'm looking at the other side of 40. Thankfully the last 9 years I've been working for the local water district, setting my own hours for the most part and it has been fantastic and allowed me to be the parent I want to be. *hugs* If you ask me was it worth it, the weight gain, the many stretch marks, the long nights when their sick, the OMG I have to take my child to the ER because they are hurt (or swallowed a nail), the headache, the heartaches, all of it... I would say unequivocally yes. Easy... rarely but worth every second.

*loves*
Margie: Sorting Hatcauldroncakebkr on September 2nd, 2012 05:42 am (UTC)
You are going to do just fine. We all fight in that ring at some point. But Look out, that “MOTHER TO BE” is one tough cookie.

Also I loved the hiccups part the most too. They were not always fun when they started at 2:00am but it was nice in the daytime.

Love ya Sweetie! It won't be long now. Get those arms ready to hold him.
Rod: shuggeezer_also on September 4th, 2012 04:23 am (UTC)
What do I know, I.m a guy.

Seriously, the "advice" I would offer would be, as someone else mentioned, take it one step at a time. You really can't make concrete decisions, because there are way too many variables, including things that you can't even imagine, nor can anyone even warn you about everything.
From your writing (which is the only way I know you) I have no doubt that you will do fine, and be able to adjust if a decision you make needs to be changed.
The real balancing act will not be between job and kid, but husband and kid; interestingly enough that "problem" is more on his understanding, patience, and support than yours. From you comments about him, he is probably up to it!
From my perspective, prayer (and I would toss in being involved in church, but that's me, and sadly not all choir directors are happy with babies at practice ;D) is the most important thing.
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