Becoming a mother activated a tense, frayed worrier in me that I’d hardly ever seen in myself before.  It didn’t help that my pregnancy was fraught with quite a few scary scenarios that left me wondering if my child and I were going to come out of the pregnancy unscathed (or at all, in my deepest fears).  I had hoped those fears would be healed and become a distant memory after a beautiful, empowering, natural birth to a lusty, healthy baby.  Instead, a concern of mine was gaining steam as my belly grew larger and my daughter’s due date approached.  My body was not a hospitable place for a child and my pregnancy had greatly weakened me for delivery, when I would most need my strength.  This fear wasn’t entirely misplaced.

A traumatic delivery left us all wounded and weak and my daughter was whisked to the NICU.  The next week of my life my soul danced through stages of faith, peace, levity, black fear, panic, meltdowns, and exultation.  Every bit of my body, soul, and mind were ravaged by this experience.  The calm, laid-back mother I pictured myself being morphed into someone trying to keep the bile down and smile through the worry clawing at my throat.  She was only in the NICU for 8 days, but there was so much uncertainty.  What had gone wrong?  No one was entirely sure.  Would she be ok?  They wouldn’t know until the relatively new form of treatment was completed in 4 days.  She couldn’t eat, she couldn’t be held.  I spent those days wanting nothing more than to be with her, just to have her in my arms, reunited with my body where I knew she belonged.  She was torn from me when she needed me most, and my body was barely capable of sitting in the wheelchair long enough to stay by her bassinet for 20 minutes those first days.  From her first days I felt like I could never get enough time with her.  We are always filling the hole of that stolen first week, always trying to catch up.

I always planned on going back to work.  I really love working and I also need to work to pay bills.  My employer has always been incredibly understanding and accommodating of my need to be with my daughter.  They allowed me to bring her into work when that was feasible, work from home, and be forgiving and flexible when I had a hard time saying goodbye in the mornings.  And for the first few hours I’m at work, it’s great!  I know my daughter is well-cared for and I enjoy the adult interaction.  But the rest of my day is spent slowly unraveling and fraying at the edges feeling her little heart calling out to mine.  I think of the look in her eyes when she sees me at the end of a long day, “Where have you been?” they say.  My commute home is torture, how can I get there faster?  I have precious few waking hours each weekday with my daughter and I’m desperate not to miss out on a minute.

And I know I’m not alone.  I’m not the only mom mourning lost hours with my baby.  I’m not the only mom with a one track mind the minute 5PM strikes, who’s making her way to her baby like the world might end if we don’t have time to laugh and cuddle and hold our babies before bedtime.  Because it feels like the world will end.  They are our world.  We always feel like we’re making up for a deficit.  On top of it we’re worn the hell out from working, and then being our best mommy-selves at home (because we have to give them the best we have in the few hours a day we have together), keeping our homes running and functional, and honestly, the impossibility of it all is ripping us to shreds.  When do I take time to rest and care for my body?  I already feel like I short-change my daughter during the workweek, how can I rob her of more time on the weekends?

I’m not here to propose any solutions.  Sometimes I think I have answers.  But truthfully, most working mothers face a brutal and inhuman reality.  We’re all floundering in this unsupportive system and all we can offer each other is “me too” and “it’s so hard, I know”.  But don’t think those words of empathy and encouragement are meaningless.  The chorus of women saying, “me too” is my hope that we’ll find a way to quiet that unraveling worrier inside that feels we’ll never be enough.

 

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7 thoughts on “Chasing My Daughter: A Window into Working Motherhood

  1. I LOVE that you wrote this post without feeling the need to offer a solution! More people need to do this!!! I need to do this!!

    This made me realize that there are probably so many sentiments that go unspoken and blogposts that go unwritten because people feel they don’t “know the answer”. But empathy and shared experiences are just as important as figuring out solutions, if not more important!! It’s almost as if the universe gives us these challenges so that we can all connect.

    This reminds me of something I’ve been thinking about lately. I saw an article a few months ago where some woman was criticizing some celebrity for saying that her greatest accomplishment was being a mother. The author of the article felt this belittled the celebrity’s other important accomplishments–related to race or feminism if I remember correctly. (I think the writer also said something like “You never hear men say that their children are their greatest accomplishment!” I thought this was strange because I hear men say that all the time, men with very impressive resumes too. Anyway.)

    My point is. Not all of us have the time or resources to lead efforts in world aid or head important social movements. But everyone can be a parent. (For the most part, don’t get nitpicky with me). Every human being generally has the opportunity to take care of another human being or teach another human being. And so it would only make sense for this to be the greatest possible accomplishment, because it’s something that someone from any walk of life can achieve. See? Life really is fair after all.

    But yes! Connecting with others is so important! And empathy is a wonderful way to do that. Empathizing (or sympathizing) is a much, much better way to bond than offering advice. Sharing experiences with others is a great way to connect. Sharing vulnerabilities is a great way to connect! Isn’t it a wonderful feeling to know you aren’t the only person who worries about things?! Then all of a sudden it becomes something to laugh about “Like oh! How silly are we?! Worrying about [insert ridiculous thing or thing that can’t be helped here]”

    Bottom line: I loved this post 🙂 Keep doing what you’re doing. It’s making the world a better place.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh you beautiful, soulful stranger! Your exuberance reminds me of someone I know ;). Seriously, I think one of the amazing things about the mothering experience is that it helps to unburden you of the pressure to have the answers. Because you just don’t have them all and your child will help you face that reality on a daily basis.

      Like

  2. Me too! Really though, there isn’t an easy solution we can suggest, other than just hang in there, know we’re doing the best for our families, and we’ll get through this pain in our souls.

    Like

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