insert emoticon here, The Tiniest Capen, working mother

This morning I got up at 6:30 to a happy, hungry, cooing Gwyneth. I changed and fed her, and when she was happy, cooing, fed Gwyneth, I gave her to Justin and started getting ready for work. They hung out on our bed and talked and played while I showered and dug through the laundry and got dressed, and then Justin noted that she had MouthFace again. MouthFace means she’s hungry, and since she slept for 8 hours I wasn’t surprised that she was hungry a mere hour after eating the first time. So I sat down and fed her again. No problem, right?

Yeah. Except for the part where when I turned her upright to be burped and brought back to her daddy, she puked all over my work clothes.

Right. Lesson number 3,043 in being a working mom: Don’t get dressed til you’re walking out the door.

Other frustrations that are now a part of my daily life:

  • My only alone-time comes in my office, pretty much only when I’m pumping breastmilk (since that’s Do Not Disturb time, and no one drops in to ask a question). At all other times I’m either in the company of Justin or Gwyn or my colleagues, and it’s emotionally exhausting.
  • Scheduling my day now revolves around ensuring there are appropriate and sufficient times in my calendar for me to do said pumping — and my work schedule was already sort of a nightmare. I’ve basically extended my workday by about 2 hours each day at a time when I most want to shorten it.
  • Making any plans for after work requires I consider pumping/feeding schedules, not to mention whether or not I’m being fair to Justin by not coming straight home, and considering the tradeoff of time spent doing whatever I’m doing vs time spent with my lovely daughter.
  • I can only wear clothes that don’t require a tank top that is too restrictive to pump in, since I really have no desire to strip naked from the waist up in my office several times a day, and that eliminates most of the tops I own since my style revolves around the tank top as base layer… and my wardrobe is already pretty limited by my post-partum size. I nearly lost it as I stood in front of my closet, wearing my only clean nursing bra, trying to figure out what else I could wear today after losing the pants, shirt, and sweater I’d planned on.
  • Packing for work now involves not only making my lunch and gathering my work stuff but also gathering an entire new bag full of pumping paraphernalia, all of which needs to be cleaned every day. I despise maintenance tasks.
  • I am stupid exhausted, and don’t envision the opportunity to sleep for more than 6 hours at a stretch to appear anytime soon, because breastfeeding means I physically can’t go more than that before things get wickedly uncomfortable. I used to be happiest with 9-10 hours of sleep. Alas.

None of those things, on their own, is really awful. They’re each just tiny oppressions, small inconveniences, manageable shifts in expectations and behaviors. But together, all of them, piled on top of each other… and the sleep deprivation thing acts as a compounding and multiplying factor. Maybe if I wasn’t so tired, so close to the edge of overwhelmed all the time, I could handle all the rest… but maybe not. Who knows — certainly not me!

This working mother shit is not for sissies. But as various of my friends who are parents say, babies are cute for a reason, and mine is seriously cute.

The Tiniest Capen, working mother

May Edition:

  • The terminal at SYR, waiting for a flight to Chicago
  • The terminal at ORD, waiting for a flight to Syracuse
  • At 37,000 feet somewhere over the eastern United States between SYR and ORD and back again
  • In the front seat of the car parked in an old cemetery outside Watertown
  • Silver Lake, on the Boathouse and Hogan porches
  • My office
insert emoticon here, The Tiniest Capen, working mother

Last week, on Monday, we drove for 4 hours with Gwyn and spent three days in a hotel while I participated in all-day and all-evening business meetings and networking. Then on Thursday we drove 4 hours home. On Friday I took a day to recover and repack my suitcase, and in the morning on Saturday I left a fussy and slightly sick Gwyn with Justin and drove to Montreal, then flew to Texas, where I checked into another hotel, had dinner with a friend and some librarians, then in the morning on Sunday I gave a speech, ate lunch, and flew home again. I drove back into the States around 11 pm on Sunday.

So that was my week. A year ago, that would have been an easy week. No problem, I can do that.

Now? “What the fuck was I thinking?” comes to mind.

There are several answers to that. I was thinking that this is the person I want to be, professionally, and sometimes you can’t argue about timing. That I’m the incoming Chair of the organization, so I needed to be present at the 3 day meeting. That I was well-compensated for the talk in Texas, and had signed a contract to do it ages ago, and I don’t go back on things like that. That I can, in fact, do just about anything, even when it’s hard.

All of that’s true. It’s also true that it was wrenching to be away from Gwyneth for 2 days, and hard as hell to figure out how to pump breastmilk when spending 7 hour blocks in airports and on airplanes, or when you can’t check into your room for two more hours (thus adding “the front desk manager’s office at the Hilton Fort Worth” to my “places I have pumped breastmilk” list). That I was flat-out exhausted by my 12 hour days of meetings and chatting and relationship-building, but I still had to get up at 5 to feed The Pook. That the very last thing I wanted to do at 3 am on Saturday morning was get up and drive to the airport. That flying on an airplane with my chronic sinus issues and no Sudafed due to breastfeeding is actually torturous. That my milk supply dipped because I was away from my baby. That I have never been so happy to be home as I was on Sunday night.

And then this week I started back to work half-time. A few mornings, a few afternoons. No problem, really — I have a lot of email to read, reports to assess, progress to get updated on, and plans to plan. I’ve started chipping away at those. I’m figuring out how to schedule my days so I can pump. I’m figuring out which of my clothes fit me, and which most surely do not yet. I’m learning how much time I have to add to my mental estimates so that I can get to work on time. It’s all good, and fine.

On Friday it was better than fine. Gwyn and I hung out all morning so Justin could work in the dental lab, and we slept in, we played, and then she slept again and I got a bunch of stuff done — prepped dinner in the crockpot, froze some chicken breasts and marinated others for dinner this weekend, made lunch for me and Justin, put away the clean dishes, started some laundry… all good stuff that made me feel like I had a handle on life. And I went to work for the afternoon, and was feeling equally good there. I started going through my email, putting invitations to events and meetings into my calendar.

And as I went to put a meeting with Ithaka S+R into my Saturday of ALA in Vegas, I saw a note in my calendar for the last weekend in June. It did not say “ALA in Vegas.” It said “Vermont camping trip.” And I realized what I’d done.

I double booked my two summer obligations.

I double booked our two summer vacations.

I double booked both sets of grandparents on the same weekend.

It’s too late to change either of them.

We have to cancel one of them.

My heart broke. My mood crashed. I’m still struggling to pick it back up.

There’s a lot to unpack in my strong reaction to this; part of it is about self-perception and self-identity and where I put my pride of accomplishment. Fucking up something like this really hits me in the soft spot of my sense of self, in which I am capable, competent, reliable, and on top of details. I also truly dislike disappointing people, and no matter which way we go on this we disappoint a set of grandparents and ourselves. And then there’s a sense of loss — we lose a vacation I was looking forward to, and I lose a piece of identity. I will not get to go camping in Vermont with my husband and his family, nor will I have the luxury of believing that I don’t make this kind of mistake. Because I patently do, and as a result we don’t get to do the things we wanted to do.

All of that hurts. And it would hurt no matter what, but it hurts more because I was feeling so good yesterday. I had a great morning, I felt like *myself* for the first time in ages, getting things done at home, handling planning and execution of a list of tasks with ease and comfort, and knocking down to-do-list items in my office. So when I hit the wall of my own mistake, it just threw me into a tailspin. If I’d been having a rough day, I probably would have felt just as bad, but the crash wouldn’t have had nearly so far to drag me — I was flying high on Friday. Right up until I wasn’t.

In any case, it’s been a rollercoaster month, so far. Emotionally weighty, physically demanding, and pretty fraught from my end of things.

I learned a lot these last two weeks, about how I might be able to make all of this work for the next few months, and what probably won’t work. Justin forgives me for screwing up our vacation in Vermont. And my baby is getting deliciously fat, so I’m clearly doing something right. Small victories in life are what keep each day moving, and I’m counting them.

But I’m tired.