I’ve been back at work for two months. This is what people say:
IT GETS EASIER.
This is what really happens:
IT GETS HARDER.
In February, we started daycare. I LOVE MY DAYCARE PROVIDER AND SO DOES MY SON. NONE OF MY NEUROSES IN ANY WAY REFLECT HER EXPERTISE OR LOVING CARE. And now I have no fucking idea what he’s doing at any given moment. Overnight I went from spending every second with my son to not knowing exactly where he is most of the time. Apparently some days he goes on field trips to McDonald’s PlayPlace NOT EXACTLY THE ACADEMY OF SCIENCES BUT I WOULDN’T WANT TO TAKE SIX KIDS ON THE BUS EITHER. When I drive the streets of my neighborhood to drop him off or pick him up, I imagine him on those sidewalks, in a strange stroller, being pushed by a strange woman, and in my mind I look in and think, “Hey. That’s my son.”
BECAUSE THAT COULD FUCKING HAPPEN. I COULD RUN INTO MY SON.
Daycare is a relief — what else would I do? I have to work. But it’s also one more thing I have to manage: making sure he has enough diapers and wipes, making sure he has a clean change of clothes, making sure he has a clean bottle and a container of stewed fruit every day, making sure I write a check every Monday, making sure I don’t write the fucking check out of the wrong fucking account, making sure on their days off we have coverage.
Then there’s the Great Breast Milk Challenge. At first I wasn’t producing enough to just drop off a week’s frozen supply, so I was checking in every day to see how much they had left. ANNOYING FOR EVERYONE. Also, when we started, we’d only been feeding him solid food for a week, so I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing. I just knew the pediatrician said to give him one food at a time, and we were still on sweet potatoes. One day early on, the assistant called to say I hadn’t left them enough milk, I’d said I didn’t want her to give him formula (I HAVE NOTHING AGAINST FORMULA WE’RE JUST NOT THERE YET), I’d said he couldn’t eat their baby cereal yet, and he was crying because he was hungry. I sped over there to drop off more milk, and then I cried so fucking hard in my car because I HADN’T LEFT MY BABY ENOUGH FOOD. I HAVE ONE FUCKING JOB AND I’D FAILED.
The real problem is this fucking baby gets cuter and cuter. And he’s DOING THINGS. Just today, on his hands and knees, he moved one hand and then the other forward for the first time. He pulls himself up to standing when he’s in his bassinet. He has two teeth. He laughs when you blow in his armpits. HE ATE A FUCKING RICE CAKE.
And what I’m discovering about myself is I’m not the kind of mom I thought I’d be. Before he was born, I thought: I’ll want to go back to work right away! I’ll need adult interaction! We’re sleep-training at three months! We’re setting up the baby monitor! He’ll sleep in the other room!
NOPE NOPE NOPE.
The only person who sleeps in the other room is SJ, my husband. The baby and I snuggle and nurse all night, and although I’m tired as fuck I feel rainbows surging through my veins from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. When he turns toward me with his eyes screwed shut and his little zombie mouth pursing and his fat arms reaching for me, even though he’s gaining weight and I’m losing it in inverse proportions (I call him “my little weight-control machine”), I FUCKING SMILE BECAUSE I’M FUCKING HAPPY.
Then there’s the daytime. For 40 hours a week, I write terse emails about deadlines and grammatical mistakes NOT EXACTLY SAVING THE WORLD, and then, three to four times a day, I shut myself in the lactation room and milk myself while I cry and watch day-old videos of my baby on my phone.
Here’s the awesome thing about pumping: NOTHING. IT FUCKING SUCKS. The pump says different things to me at different times. The other day it said, “Let it out, let it out.” I’m still experiencing D-MER, or dysphoric milk ejection reflex, which doesn’t happen when I nurse the baby anymore, but it happens EVERY FUCKING TIME I PUMP. When I rig myself up, I have to take a deep breath before I switch on the machine, because I’m literally switching on depression. I CAN THINK OF BETTER USES FOR A MACHINE CAN YOU. I get a wave of tiredness so intense I have to close my eyes, and a wave of sadness so intense I just have to ride it out and thank god I don’t have clinical depression because Now I Understand.
By the way, this is what pumping in a public restroom looks like. Does this look dignified to you? Because it doesn’t feel dignified. This was last week in a public building in San Francisco. Twice in five minutes, the janitor leaned in and yelled, “ANYBODY IN HERE?” Twice I yelled back, “I’M PUMPING. IT WILL BE ABOUT TWENTY MINUTES.” The second time he made a noise of disgust before leaving. The stall was where he stored his “Caution: Slippery When Wet” sign (not pictured). My work has a lactation room. Does yours? If you have employees and you don’t have a lactation room, THIS IS WHAT YOUR BREASTFEEDING EMPLOYEES ARE FORCED TO DO 2-4 TIMES A DAY. TELL ME TO MY FACE YOU RESPECT WOMEN.
Also, in case it wasn’t obvious, this is why I have mom nipples.
I could go on. But it’s like SJ said the other week, when a friend came over to babysit so we could have a date:
Jenny: I like hanging out with you. We never run out of things to talk about.
SJ: You certainly don’t!
My dad makes these toast points, and they are simple and delicious. You need:
- 4 TB butter
- 4 TB olive oil
You need to:
- Toast the bread.
- Melt butter in olive oil on stove.
- Stir in salt and oregano to taste.
- Brush butter/oil/herb mixture onto toast.
- Cut toast into smaller pieces of toast, known as “toast points.”
- Gobble, gobble, gobble!