May 29, 2007


This is the last day of my maternity leave. It's been twelve weeks since my doctor advised a very pregnant me to stop working.

It is hard not to feel a twinge of disappointment in myself.

I didn't do a scrapbooking project. I didn't write every day. I didn't get in shape or read a great novel or test new cake recipes. I didn't figure out the secrets of training employees to be better critical thinkers and problem solvers.

On the other hand, I did a lot in twelve weeks.

I gave birth to a healthy little girl and helped her survive the first ten weeks of her life. That feels like a lot.

I have a new respect for stay-at-home moms. Evie is a well-tempered baby, but the challenges I found at home far outweighed any I had encountered in my professional or academic worlds: Unloading a trunk full of groceries into a second-story kitchen with a hungry baby who has blown out her diaper. Feeding her every hour through a growth spurt. Preparing and eating lunch while she naps against my chest. Sitting on the couch and realizing that an entire day has gone by, I never got dressed, I've had to go to the bathroom since 9:30, and these things will have to wait because Evie's hungry again.

I've missed my job. I enjoy my work; I like my coworkers. I've missed the sense of accomplishment that comes from a completed project, recognition for a job well done, feedback to help me improve, and the chance to eat my lunch while it's still warm, using two hands.

And yet, my heart is breaking.

Goodbye to long, quiet mornings of feeding and cuddling in bed. Goodbye to grocery shopping when the store is empty and the employees are genuinely interested in how much my baby weighs. Goodbye to aimlessly wandering Babies R Us because it's something to do, swapping empathetic looks with the other bleary-eyed new moms.

I won't be away from Evie for long. She'll be in good hands with her Auntie Kirsten. There's no doubt in my mind that going back to work is the right decision for me and my family.
And yet...

A chapter is closing, and it has been a beautiful one.

I didn't organize her baby keepsakes. I didn't learn baby sign language or post-partum yoga.
But I did sing to her in an off-key voice. I learned how to change a diaper in the backseat of a car, and I learned (the hard way) why it's important to carry an extra onesie when you take a baby out to lunch. I played with her on her rainforest mat, pushing things just a little too far when she voiced her objections to tummy time. I read poems to her and wore her in a sling while I made Chex Mix.

For ten weeks, I was a full-time mother in my unique, imperfect way.

And so it's time to pack a smaller purse, find a photo of Evie to put on my desk, and turn my thoughts to meeting agendas and project plans. I'm not sure how I'll muster up the strength to back out of the driveway tomorrow morning, but I will find it somewhere. Perhaps I will remind myself that each chapter concludes as it must, and that each ending is also a beginning.

And even if I'm a complete wreck during my first day of work, at the end of the day, I'll come home to the sweetest baby I know.


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