Whew – week one of my new life as architect/mother is in the bag! And as with all things baby, it’s been a roller coaster.
I dipped pretty low last weekend as my start date drew near – I got super-nostalgic for time gone by, remembering what it felt like to cradle a newborn in my arms with the promise of six months of maternity leave stretched out in front of me. I thought about all the mornings we woke up and snuggled on the couch together, Juliette looking up at me as I brightly (ok, sleepily) asked “what should we do today?” All our trips to the mall, lunch dates with friends, long walks at Alki or Jefferson or Madison Park. All those loooooong afternoons at home together. My heart ached at the thought of being away from her for nine or ten straight hours.
And then the tears started flowing – a few glistening drops at dinner on Sunday as I watched Juliette happily bang on the table with her measuring cups, and a veritable waterfall when I put her to bed that night. Tears morphed into stifled sobs as I kissed my sweet, oblivious baby goodbye on Monday morning and headed out the door with Shane’s arm around my shoulders. I spent the ride on Lightrail drawing watery-eyed deep breaths, trying like heck to compose myself before facing all my coworkers. And then I walked into the lobby, our office manager gave me a warm “welcome back”, and I dissolved into a blubbering mess. I mumbled an apology and spent a few minutes in the bathroom, wiping the running mascara from under my eyes and trying to convince myself that my face wasn’t that splotchy, but the moment I stepped back into the office and was greeted by another kind face, gah! Total waterworks. I settled into my desk and pretended to look at my phone whenever anyone walked by, so as to avoid any more awkwardly emotional interactions, but damn it if I don’t have my favorite picture of Juliette on my phone’s home screen, and seeing her face threw me back over the edge. We had an all-office meeting that morning and I hung out in the back of the conference room, cringing when my principal announced my return and everyone clapped and turned to look at me, all red-nosed and puffy-eyed. Let’s hear it for the falling-apart new mom in the room!
But I eventually managed to pull myself together. I organized my desk, got up to speed on my project, and poured myself a cup of coffee. I sat down, opened up Revit for the first time in what felt like ages, and got to work. Even amidst the hum of a busy office, I was struck with a strange feeling of stillness. No looking at the clock, trying to guess how long I would have before Juliette’s nap would end. No wondering when or how I would find the time to do something “productive” in the non-baby sense (because I still maintain that keeping an infant fed, safe, and smiling is some of the most meaningful work I’ve ever done). This new space in my life for focus, for problem-solving, for adult communication felt good. Surprisingly so.
That said, 5:00 couldn’t come soon enough. I actually slipped out the door at 4:45 and nearly broke into a full-on sprint once I got off the train. I was dying to get my girl in my arms. And sweet Jesus, it felt good to see her smile when I walked in the door, to scoop her up, bury my nose in her lavender-scented hair, and squeeze her as tightly as her squishy-but fragile little body could handle. I got the rundown from my mom and was thrilled to hear that they’d made out pretty well. Juliette’s naps were a little off that day, but they’d enjoyed a nice jaunt to the neighborhood bakery, read some books, eaten well. Seems Jules had handled day one better than mama!
Tuesday was tear-free (for me, at least – Juliette was a bit of a handful that day) and by Wednesday I was really starting to believe that we’d found our groove. I burst through the door on Wednesday evening exclaiming, “Baby! I’m home! For the next four days!” But where was her sheer joy? Her extra-huge smile? Her big cuddly hug? Instead I got fussiness, squirminess, discontent – three days of short naps and some tummy trouble had caught up with Miss Juliette, and she was one unhappy kiddo. I put her to bed early and then cried into my salad at dinner, worried that this transition was taking a toll on the baby, despite grandma’s expert TLC. And I was disappointed that our evening greeting hadn’t lived up to my lofty expectations, in which Juliette would be waiting for me with bated breath and reach for me with arms wide open upon seeing my face; I’d pick her up and twirl her in a field full of daffodils and we’d both laugh like we’d never laughed before. Apparently she’d missed the memo.
But Thursday was a new day. We took a good walk together, had a fun coffee date, and after a healthy dose of prune juice, Juliette’s bowels were back on track. She fell asleep in my arms while nursing and I relished the cuddle time like never before. All was well again.
Shane and I had an appointment on Friday morning to visit Juliette’s daycare so that we could meet her teachers and go through the daily drill. We spent some time in her new classroom and she sat happily in Shane’s lap as we chatted with her super-friendly teacher. Her gaggle of soon-to-be buddies crawled and rolled and cruised on by, and she watched them with interest, hardly batting an eyelash when one little boy reached out to tug on her pigtail. When the director asked us if we wanted to leave Juliette in the classroom for 15 minutes while we went over some paperwork in his office next door, we figured it would be a great little trial run. And it was great, for about five minutes – I poked my head in and saw her chomping on a new toy, sitting in a Bumbo while a couple of other babies scooted her way. Making friends already! And then we heard her start to cry. And then we heard her wail. We both pretended like we were listening to the director’s spiel about the center’s nurturing environment, but we were secretly hoping he would just put a sock in it so that we could go save our seriously distressed child. The second he finished, Shane shot out the door like a rocket and hopped over the baby gate to scoop Jules into his arms. Juliette’s teacher had certainly done her best to calm her down, but that girl was fired up. We held her and shushed her and she quieted after a minute, but this did not bode well. Come March 31st, we won’t be around to swoop in when she cries. The thought of her wailing like that, looking for us not and knowing where we are, it’s horrible. It was enough to send Shane into a desperate search on Friday afternoon for available nannies (though I’m not sure that would really make things any easier). We’ve talked about it some more and are telling ourselves we need to give this daycare thing an honest shot. It will most certainly be hard at first, but Juliette will eventually come to love her teachers and classmates, and she’ll learn that papa and I will always be there to pick her up at the end of the day. I mean, she already has a cubby and a crib and a daily report clipboard with her very own name on it. There’s no turning back now.
And here we are at Sunday night again, after a pretty perfect weekend together. A very, very small piece of me is ready to get back to the office tomorrow; a bigger piece of me is dreading three straight days away from my little girl. But Wednesday will be here before I know it, and then it’s all giggles and daffodils. Right, Jules?