Thursday, May 7, 2009

This post brought to you by jet lag and insomnia

3:43 AM. We got back from Australia yesterday (uh, Tuesday, May 5, to be exact) and got home around midnight. We all managed to sleep last night and stay awake all yesterday. We all crashed around 8:00 last night, and I slept for awhile, but sleep, it is not happening any more just now. For awhile, Seth, Helene and I were all awake at the same time. The other two seem to have gone back to sleep for the moment, so I guess two people sleeping is an improvement over three people not sleeping.

And with no sleeping and lying wide-eyed in the dark often comes contemplation. Which often leads to more insomnia. How is it that my little baby will be six months old in less than two weeks?

When I'm on vacation, I feel like I've stepped out of time, and that it stops or slows. Then, I come home, and step back into the pace of regular time, and sometimes, it's kind of shocking. It happened to me on our honeymoon in Hawaii almost four(!) years ago. My dad died suddenly two weeks before our wedding. After the memorial service, we all had no choice but to go on, and plunge headlong into the whirl of the wedding. Our wedding was amazing and wonderful and perfect - my dad wouldn't have wanted us to be sad or to change things because of him, and we didn't. Then Seth and I had two weeks in Hawaii that are always secreted away in a special box of my memory as utterly relaxing and beautiful, removed a world away. I cried for my dad in Hawaii, when I saw things he would love to see, or when I wanted to ask him a question and realized I could not, not ever. But I was buffered by the timelessness of a perfect vacation, by the staggering beauty of Hawaii, by the joy and sweetness of a new marriage to the person that is my partner, my balance, my life. When we got home it was a different story. My dad was dead, and my life had to at least pretend to resume as normal. All the grief that had been buffered in Hawaii came rushing back in with the normality of my every day life. There were memories of my dad everywhere. I think I managed to go to work every day, but I cried every day too, for weeks - behind a locked office door, silently in a bathroom stall, on the treadmill at the gym. I hysterically sobbed with disappointment when we got the proofs of our wedding photos back. In reality, the photos were stunning, but all I saw were the photos we forgot to take, the photos that were missing. It wasn't the photos, of course. It was my dad that was missing, my dad that was supposed to have been there. It took me several weeks before I could really look at our wedding photos and see that they were actually breathtaking and artful.

This time, returning from the stop-time of a full month in Australia, I gasp that my little baby Helene is almost six months old. She ticked off a ton of developmental milestones in Australia, and she's so fun and funny and engaging right now. Now that we are home, I can see how she's grown - how that one footie sleeper that just fit her when we left wouldn't go on last night; how much more of the co-sleeper she fills up with the length of her body; how deft her little hands are when she grasps toys; how quick her eyes are to see something new in the room. And then I panic, because it's going too fast. If we were sticking to the original game plan, I would be going back to work in a couple of weeks, and Helene would be going to full time daycare. But despite being on the waiting lists for over a year, Helene does not yet have a place at a daycare. One of the five says that September looks good; the others have pretty much said, uh, nope, never, no chance in hell. It's a reprieve in a strange disguise. When we found this out Seth said that we could probably afford for me to stay home until September. When I told my office that I did not have daycare yet, but that I might in September, and that I was exploring all options, they said they could do without me until September, but no longer.

I think I just need to grab this gift and run. I have an overdeveloped sense of obligation, though, and I feel like I should be going back to work, like I owe them, like it's been incredible hardship for them to do without me. I get antsy, and feel like I should be going back in two weeks because I told them I would. But the truth is, they're just fine without me. And they seem, incredibly, to be fine with letting me be gone longer. I hope that's true. Because I don't want to go back. Not yet. I will have to go back - this house renovation and the kid's college tuition aren't going to pay for themselves, unless Seth's plan to sign Helene over to a former Romanian gymnastics coach and get her in the Olympics and on a Wheaties box works out. Yeah, I have to plan to go back to work. What's killing me is the thought of being away from Helene for so many hours every day. I haven't been away from her for more than a couple of hours since she was born. I've seen her change before my eyes, witnessed all the new things she can do. I have her every expression and the softness of her skin etched on my heart. How can I just give that over to someone else, to let someone else see the newest thing she does, let someone else just tell me about it? It hurts too much. How does everyone do it, all the mothers who have to go back to work when their babies are even smaller? I know they do it because they have to; we all do what we have to.

So, around and around in my head, I've been whirling my options around. Part time work would be ideal, but my office won't allow it. They're always afraid that if one person does it, everyone will do it. Should we hire a nanny, and I could work from home a couple of times a week, so I would get to be with Helene during the day? I thought I wanted group daycare, to have Helene around other kids, to learn to socialize. Now I think maybe I want her at home, with one person who cares for her, with playgroups and classes arranged. Could we just get a nanny a couple of days a week now? Probably not- that's money going out that isn't coming in. I have to be working for us to have a nanny, and if I work, it has to be full time. Could I find another job? Part time? Maybe. Maybe not. Damn, why did I not just marry rich?

I thought at six months that Helene would be less dependent on me. I imagined she would be eating solid food, breastfeeding less, needing me less. So far, not the case. She loves to watch us eat, but isn't interested yet in eating her own food. She's still breastfeeding exclusively. She can't sit up without a lot of assistance. She won't go to bed at night without me lulling her into sleep. She cries if someone else tries. She won't drink from a bottle. She did willingly, until two and a half months. Then she began to refuse, and it became an awful screaming, crying ordeal for Seth, who would try for a couple of hours in the evening while I hid upstairs. He even tried when I was out of the house. My mother in law tried when we were out to dinner. No dice. It just makes her screaming mad to offer her a bottle now. So we just gave up. She didn't have to drink from a bottle, not anytime soon, and it wasn't worth the heartache for us. It's another hurdle/cause of stress for daycare - many places aren't too tolerant of babies who won't drink from a bottle. I don't know what I'm going to do about that. We might try going straight to a cup, or we might try one of these uber-suggestive boob-like bottles that seem to work for some folks. Again, another reason I need to just grab this reprieve of time and run. In September, she will be almost 10 months old. She will certainly be eating solid food, and I hope she can drink from a cup.

And I will have a few more precious months, days, hours with my baby. I don't know yet if I'm going to have another one. This might be my only chance. To be the first one she sees whenever she wakes up, to be the one who rocks her to sleep, to be the one who sees first what she does next, to play with her, make her laugh and to just watch her beautiful eyes and wide smile. I am still struck breathless by how much I love her.

1 comment:

Seamus Furr said...

Taking your kid to day care is the worst day of your life. Leaving her behind in *that place* is just devastating.

But she gets used to it. It becomes normal. And if you're lucky, it becomes stimulating and fun for her. Her immune system becomes strong. You make the most of your time together at night and on weekends. And when she's old enough for pre-school, she's ready.

This is a rough time for a parent. Aren't they all?

Welcome home.