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December 14, 2010

Mommy update: 31 years

I learned a very important lesson this week: I should never, never write that I wish I had more time to blog.  I will undoubtedly end up sick and in bed within 48 hours.  At least Neal and Addison seem to be staying healthy for the moment.

So here’s your fair warning that I’m going to cover a lot of territory in this post.  Pretty sure a LONG POST ALERT is in order.

For starters, I’ve alluded to the fact that I am officially a “working mom.”  While I had technically been trying to work on my thesis since the summer, it was always in whatever time I could squeeze out during naps and playtime with daddy or grandparents.  But back in early October, Neal was approached by a tutoring company about designing an SAT preparation curriculum (if you didn’t know, Neal runs a small test-prep business, helping high school students prepare for college entrance exams).  Although taking on the project complicated our lives in numerous ways (adding a 350-hour project with a January 1st deadline to school and a baby turns out to be incredibly difficult) and required a crash course in business law, when you live on an irregular income as we do, you have to take the opportunities when they come.  We started looking into drop-off day-care centers so we could get some uninterrupted time to work, but it was definitely hard to take the leap from never having hired a babysitter before (only a handful of family members had previously watched Addison) to putting her in day-care, even part-time.  By chance, I was visiting my friend Meg one Saturday afternoon when she offered to watch Addison for us.  It ended up being the perfect solution!  Even though Addison does really well with new people and places, it gave me a lot of peace of mind to leave her with someone I know.  Plus Meg is a fabulous mom and her child-rearing philosophy lines up well with what I aspire to, so I feel like I’m learning some tips and tricks along the way.

Working on this project and learning to juggle baby care has turned out to be more of a prelude to the future than I expected.  Shortly after we signed the consulting contract, I was offered a 15-hour per week job for next semester.  Justin, the fantastic-PhD-student-turned-BYU-professor that I worked with in Illinois collecting my thesis data, asked if I wanted to work with him again on a research seminar, helping undergraduate students explore the data we collected in 2008 and hopefully get some publications going from it.  Undergrads + research on incarceration + finally polishing a paper that has been in limbo for a year and half.  Yes, please!

I’m not going to take the time now to address all my conflicting feelings about stay-at-home mothering vs. working/juggling (that is one emotionally-chaotic topic for me), but I can say that I am very excited about this research seminar and seeing what comes out of our data set.  And in an unexpected way, it has been a key part of finally kicking my postpartum depression to the curb.

In fact, I can even point to a specific date — 29 September — that a real breakthrough occurred.  I had gone to campus for the first time in months to meet with my thesis advisor and I ran into Justin as well, the first time I’d seen him since he’d started his professorship.  I was only on campus for about an hour and a half total, and during part of that time I was feeding and wrangling my baby girl, but it was long enough for me to feel a sort of renewal.  Suddenly I was talking about juvenile detention centers and economic socialization, and I realized that even though that part of my life had been mostly dormant for a while, the knowledge was all still there — and the passion too.  And on that day, I noticed something about my postpartum depression that I hadn’t seen before — that it wasn’t just about how hard it is to care for a baby, or post-delivery hormones, or struggling with the loss of autonomy.  It was like a cloud hanging over me, dampening my outlook on everything.  I spent months trying to figure out why I wasn’t making progress on my thesis, even when I enlisted my mom’s practically full-time help over the summer, and it never occurred to me just how much it was affected by the postpartum issues I was having.  I had conceived of them as more compartmentalized, but they weren’t at all.  They were affecting every part of my life, and shaking my confidence even in areas where deep-down I knew I had achieved a high degree of mastery.  I didn’t put all of it together on that day, but I remember feeling somehow more alive and awakened than I had for months . . . and by mid-October, around Addison’s 8-month mark, I felt that the postpartum depression was over and done.  Hallelujah!

Although that day of renewal was a key player in overcoming my postpartum depression, another element that happily coincided was Addison learning to crawl.  For some people, baby mobility complicates life, but for us it has undoubtedly made things much MUCH easier.  Carrying her around, constantly having to hand her toys that had fallen just out of her reach, watching her frustration as she wanted to move and couldn’t quite get where she intended was exhausting.  She still craves near-constant human interaction, but not having to hold her while giving her that interaction has been a lifesaver for me.  So crawling = awesome . . . but I’m still leery about the walking thing.  Hoping to put that off for a couple more months at least!

Still, there is one postpartum issue that still plagues me a bit.  It’s nothing new that I have intense and often disturbing dreams.  Since the baby was born, they often revolve around her: I’ve lost her; I’ve rolled over and crushed her (even though we’ve never slept in the same bed); I’ve let her fall off the bed; I’ve inadvertently used her as a pillow (these dreams usually terminate with me waking up patting and soothing my pillow).  I thought that by the 9 or 10-month mark my psyche would be adjusted enough to motherhood that these nightmares would cease, but apparently not, since just the other day I woke up to find myself in the funniest situation yet.  Picture me, sitting on the edge of my bed at about 3 a.m., leaning over my dresser drawer, shushing and caressing a t-shirt, which I firmly believed to be my baby.  [For the record, I did try to find a picture on Google Images to demonstrate, but appropriate search terms were tough to come by.  It’s probably better this way.]  Still, I’ll take these over my pregnancy dreams any day.

Speaking of pregnancy, I’ve been reflecting on it a lot, as last week marked one year since our pre-term labor/appendectomy/almost having a 30-week preemie extravaganza.  Our life would have been so so different if any number of things during those few eventful days would have gone just a tiny bit different.  Those days and their wonderful aftermath remind me just how mindful of us God and his earthly helpers have been over the past year.  There is no greater gift than such an unexpectedly healthy, roly-poly baby girl.  And we couldn’t have cared for her without so many family and friends stepping in to assist, both in-person and via long-distance encouragement.  Thanks for that.

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5 Comments »

  1. I didn’t know about your job. I suspect you will be doing a lot more of this kind of thing in the future. Very exciting. Good luck.

    Comment by Audrey — December 14, 2010 @ 5:04 pm

  2. I would love to read your thesis! Having worked at an alternative High School for awhile, I am very interested in that area of social science. When Max was about six months old I had the chance to work teaching full time for a few months. It was wonderful. I loved being a working mom. It made the time that I spent with him so much more rewarding. I totaly agree with you on the crawling phase. I am always waiting for the kids to get to that phase, so much easier as long as you childproof the house. It does make church harder though, so watch out. Don’t be afraid of walking, it is even better.

    Comment by Emily Larkin — December 14, 2010 @ 9:01 pm

  3. The Lord truly has a hand in the minute details of our lives, doesn’t He?! I am so grateful things have fallen into place the way they have for you, and that we got the time together we did! Thanks for everything!

    Comment by Meg Romney — December 16, 2010 @ 4:23 am

  4. Oh and P.S. I couldn’t stop thinking of that dream you had! I believe it inspired me to have some weird dreams of my own last night.

    Comment by Meg Romney — December 16, 2010 @ 4:24 am

  5. I still struggle with the working mom thing, but I’ve delude myself into believing that it’s getting easier…finally. It only took…a year (!)…for me to reach some level of quasi-normalcy.

    Comment by Soo — February 19, 2011 @ 3:14 am


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