Taking leave of maternity leave

Neve, about to leave for her first official day at daycare

We didn’t make any specific plans for how things would go on the morning of my first day back to work, after a 3 month maternity leave.

Joe and I didn’t decide that one of us would take both kids to the daycare center two blocks from our house; or whether we’d stagger it with one kid each in tow. We played it by ear, trying to be flexible while seeing how things naturally played out.

And despite our lack of planning, the day started idyllically.

Neve slept through the night, waking at 6:50 to eat. After I fed her, she went back to sleep, and a while later, Lily got up with Joe (as has become the norm since Neve’s birth). I spent a bit of time with Lily before she left with Joe for pre-school, and then I got things ready for my day as Neve snoozed in her room. At 9:30, after Neve had had nearly 12 hours of sleep, I woke her (she was still deeply asleep), fed her, and changed her (pooped-soaked) diaper. With all this going for her, she was nothing but big, flirty smiles and coos as we walked to the daycare center and I handed her off to one of the women who’d taken care of Lily when she was the same age.

I drove to work in Ann Arbor, plowed through more than 800 e-mails that were waiting for me (using the delete function liberally), used my breast pump there and at home, and then went to pick up the girls from daycare. (Joe and I feel so weird saying “the kids” now; it’s as if we weren’t really defined yet as suburban parents until we had a second child and started having to use the plural instead of just saying “Lily” or “our girl.”)

I decided to check in at Neve’s room at daycare first, since Lily often tends to be the Norm Peterson of pre-school (wanting to play and stay until closing time at 6 p.m.), and I was anxious to find out how Neve had done on her first day. Continue reading

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Why date nights seem to occur with the frequency of a leap year

Joe and I could only hope to look this put-together when we get out for one of our own rare date nights

My pre-parental views on certain things now feel downright quaint.

For instance, in the months when we were expecting Lily, many of our friends with kids, and the few books I read, recommended shooting for, at minimum, one date night a month.

I scoffed at this. “Well, that should be the easiest goal of all time to attain,” I thought. “I know we’ll be busy, and tired a lot, but please!”

I was so freakin’ adorable. It’s like I want to reach back through time and pinch my own cheeks.

As it happens, Joe and I will have about four hours on our own this Saturday – because we bought tickets to the upcoming Detroit live recording of Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” several months ago – and previous to that, I gave Joe tickets (as a Valentine’s gift) to a Monday (not an ideal night), March 7 Big Bad Voodoo Daddy concert. So we missed April entirely, and to be frank, we hardly even noticed.

This isn’t because Joe and I wouldn’t like more nights out together, of course. (And contrary to the stereotype, I’m happy to report that when we do get the chance to spend time alone together, our conversation isn’t generally focused on Lily – partly because my partner happens to be a chatty Cathy with a ludicrously broad range of interests that are fun to discuss.) But when scrambling to make arrangements for a night out, so very, very much has to fall into place exactly right. And that’s just something I didn’t fully grasp before I had a child of my own. Continue reading

When did my escape become another chore?

In the first months of this year, I found myself covering a lot of evening events for work, doing a little travel, and struggling to work doctor’s appointments and tests (because of the pregnancy) into already full-to-bursting days.

How I’ve been feeling lately

Because of all this, I got out of the habit of going to Monday night rehearsals for the local community band I’ve played in these past few years, wanting to make sure I spent as many evenings with Lily as I could. 

“No big deal,” I thought. “I’ll start going to rehearsals again when things get back to normal.”

When my evening schedule lightened, the band was in final preparations for two concerts, so that didn’t really seem like the right time to go back, either. I thus continued with my hiatus, telling myself that I’d simply give myself a couple of more weeks off.

Finally, a couple of weeks ago, I had a light reviewing week, and the band’s concerts had just happened.

Yet when the moment arrived for me to leave our house for rehearsal, I didn’t go.

I felt kind of guilty, and more than a bit lame, questioning why I could no longer work up the gumption to go to what had previously been an important regular escape for me.

For I’ve played trombone since I was 11, and in many ways, this ridiculous little hobby has been a boon to me. So many of my longtime friends, as well as my husband, came into my life as a direct result of my playing this bulky, awkward instrument. Plus, I’ve always enjoyed playing in groups and making music, even if it’s at a less-than-professional level.

I’d played in the local community band for a year or two before getting pregnant with Lily, attending rehearsals and playing concerts until shortly before her arrival. (I wondered then, as I do while pregnant again now, what the trombone sounds like from the inside of my body. It must be bizarre – but really, what wouldn’t be bizarre while packed into someone’s stomach?)

As I remember it, I returned to the band at about the time my maternity leave ended. In that moment, I often felt harried and overwhelmed by my new motherhood, and the adjustment back to work presented its own challenges. So playing in the band was a small gesture toward turning back toward the familiar, and the person I’d always thought of myself as being.

For those two hours every Monday night, this worked almost exactly as I had hoped. Joe had encouraged me to claim that time for myself, and I slowly began to feel like myself again – or, at least, like something other than a constantly exhausted milk machine. Which was progress. Continue reading