I’ve been a lawyer for 15 years. At the age of 40, I had a baby, and now I’m a new mother and a lawyer.
I lived a life before I had my son, who I’ll refer to in this blog as Punkie. “Punkie” is obviously not his real name, but he is kind of a punk sometimes. I hit the big, red “reset” button of life several times before, so I generally feel confident in new situations or during times of change. I’m rarely surprised. Things don’t faze me.
So, when my husband and I decided to have a kid, I didn’t think it would faze me at all. How hard could it be to have one kid? I’ve put myself through law school, passed 2 bar exams, worked 100 hours a week at a law firm, survived a divorce, moved to NYC, and moved back to my hometown to start over again. These things were difficult, and anyone can have a child – it’s biology.
Well, lesson learned and cockiness banished. It turns out that this coffee-swilling, 40-year old, stress monster needed a lot of medical assistance to get pregnant. Apparently, I have a disease called “advanced maternal age.” There were two years of early morning appointments with a fertility doctor and her many, many nurses. There were intra-vaginal ultrasounds, blood tests, insanely potent injectable drugs, and medical procedures – I lost track of how many. It wasn’t fun.
Finally, we were pregnant and, after all that, I was surprised. It was difficult to believe the nurse when she called to tell me the good news. It was really great news and wholly unbelievable.
Punkie is 4 ½ months old now. His toothless grin makes my heart swell up, and, when he cries, my heart aches. I was lucky to be able to stay at home from work with him for 3 months after he was born. My employer has been really great with my pregnancy and maternity leave. This is a much bigger topic for another day, but I can’t believe that some women go through a pregnancy and birth and are forced to return to work immediately, or after 6 weeks. Three months is far too short. But I digress.
I was even more lucky that my husband wanted to take leave to stay with Punkie for 8 weeks after I returned to work. His willingness to do this means Punkie didn’t have to start child care until yesterday.
This brings be back to the idea that I’m not easily fazed. Dropping Punkie off at day care fazed me. I’m totally fazed.
We brought him into the child care center and into his “classroom” and he began to cry. He somehow knew that this was not just a visit. He continued to cry. When we left, I tiptoed back to the room to check on him one last time by peeking around the corner, and he was puffy eyed and angry.
I never felt so horrible in my life. The guilt that I feel for leaving him at day care is overwhelming. I’m at work at this very moment, taking a 20-minute break to pump breast milk for Punkie to drink at day care tomorrow, feeling like shit. (Typing while pumping is not easy, so please excuse the typos and run-on sentences.)
I stopped into the child care center mid-morning yesterday to check on Punkie. He was still upset.
When I walked in, the care-giver, who seems like a warm and kind woman, was on the floor snuggling Punkie and trying to get him to take his bottle of milk. He was refusing the bottle, which he had never done before. Until yesterday, he had always done a happy little kicking and grunting dance when he saw his bottle. Yesterday, in stark contrast, his eyes were red and he was frowning and not eating.
At the end of the day, when my husband picked him up, the report was that the afternoon was a lot better than the morning. I wonder if it was, because I wasn’t there to see him myself and, to be frank, the child care center is incentivized to tell us that Punkie loves it there. They said he slept for 2 hours in the afternoon, which my husband (a trusting optimist) took as a positive sign. In my mind, the most likely scenario is that he passed out unconscious after crying all morning.
So I’ll be using a few more hours of my precious little PTO time from work to drive over to the child care center today and visit them. I feel like if I show up at random times, maybe they’ll take better care of Punkie. I hope they think to themselves, “don’t let Punkie cry alone in the bouncy seat because his mom might show up.”
These are dark thoughts and I’m not happy to have them. Like I said, I’m fazed.