My days used to begin when the alarm went off. My to do list revolved around tasks in an office, volunteer organizations, social obligations. Sometime after my daughter was born, I realized days didn't start at 6am. Twenty-four hours held ups and downs that came so fast my head really felt like it was spinning. I used to be a person who could accomplish anything I wanted in a day. Some days, I am pulling the covers up at night, feeling like nothing was accomplished besides the feeding and care of me and this tiny person. I love being a mom. I have dreamed of it my whole life! My own mother is amazing, and for more years than I can remember preached the blessing of the opportunity to stay and home and be the primary caregiver to your children.
I planned to return to work in my office after three months of maternity leave. We picked a great daycare. We had a plan! And then, my daughter was born. On paper, Eleanor is a special needs child. She has a cleft lip and palate. My outstanding OBGYN didn't see it on the ultrasound, and it was a surprise upon delivery. Her gender was a surprise too. I said it was to help me learn to adjust to the unexpected. I was surprised that we had our beautiful little girl! Her cleft was just an extra surprise-like an initiation into motherhood. Her doctors smiled politely as I explained I would be returning to my job. I refuse to say I stopped working when I began staying at home. Being a Mom is the hardest job I have ever had! So after three weeks in a NICU we went home. My husband returned to work, and after some time my own amazing Mom went home too. I would sit in my daughters nursery after an early morning feeding and soak in the quiet. Tears would stream down my face as I looked at this gorgeous person. The love I felt took my breath away. Yet I was tired. Tired is such an inadequate word to describe the bone weakening ache you feel when the tiny person cries at 3am!
If I have to pick the biggest struggle of motherhood for me, it is the reality that no two days are the same. Change is the only constant in my world. I am a person who thrives on predictability. Eleanor is an amazing child, but as soon as we find a routine--a new one is upon us! So as I have been writing, I have been trying to think of how to describe our day...
Between 5-6am: I wake up for the first time. I am exclusively pumping breastmilk for Eleanor. Because of her cleft, she is bottle fed. But I am committed to providing her breastmilk. So my aching breasts wake me up. But I don't want to wake my husband up. He has to go to work and think, and talk to grownups all day. But some days, I am lucky--I wake up when he does and start pumping immediately.
6:30ish: I spend 25 minutes pumping, reading facebook, email and thinking about the day ahead. I am always thankful that Eleanor has slept well. She is a great sleeper and has been sleeping at least six hours straight for a couple of months. I'm fortunate, I know! Yet I always have a moment of fantasy of a day where no one needs me. I can pull the covers back up, sleep until I wake again.
7am: Eleanor is waking up. I can see her on the video monitor. I can't wait to see her smiling face. I prepare her bottle, head to her nursery to greet her sweet face!
8-9am: Ok, my daughter is fed and my husband fed the dogs. Great! I can make a cup of coffee and my oatmeal--I read it helps milk production! More days than not, I think of how lucky I am that we are not racing out the door to daycare and the office. I wonder how I would ever get my act together to make it happen. I turn on Spotify as I clean up the breakfast stuff and I sing (badly, offkey) to Eleanor. She likes showtunes and country!
10:30am: Ok, morning nap! Since her four month checkup, she has been naping in her crib per her pediatricians instructions. I feel guilty because she used to nap in her swing in the living room. But he insists this helps with good sleep habits. The guilt is because with her in her swing, I feel more free to race around the house accomplishing tasks. I recently told a friend I make a mental list of what I want to accomplish that day. The top priority comes first, because you never know how far the day will get off track as it goes on. I try to get in a workout while she sleeps. Oh, and pump milk again. Did I mention my love hate relationship with my pump?
12-2pm: My daughter is up again and ready for some lunch. She is a finicky eater. Her team of doctors explained that eating is always going to be hard for her, especially until her palate repair. Cleft kids don't eat for recreation. It is hard work, and even with a special bottle and device adhered to the top of her mouth it is hard. She also has reflux--annoying for any kid, but when Eleanor spits up it comes out her nose too. She cries and is scared. I hate that anything is hard for her! Each meal, I hope it will be easy and she will be content. When she isn't, she screams, arches her back and kicks her legs. I have had such low moments during these feedings. I feel like I fail her. I pray to God for strength to stay patient and have endurance to keep going. But as any parent will tell you--it isn't really about us. It is about our kids. We would do anything to make life easier for them.
2pm: Afternoon nap! Ok, time for some lunch for me. I eat leftovers or some crackers and cheese, ham salad, whatever is close to the front of my fridge. I pump again. I figure it is time to get dinner going. I love to cook, and most weeks still make a menu on Sundays. I do the weekly shopping and love the predictability of knowing what dinner will be. I may not have much routine to cling to, but at least I know we are having baked pasta for dinner! I get a load of laundry in the washer. My husband says I am too hard on myself--that I have so much on my plate. But I am a perfectionist. I used to glow with great reviews at work! I view the running of my home in the same fashion.
4pm: My daughter is up from her nap. Now is when the day gets dicey. The dogs are barking. Eleanor is fusing. I am freaking out if I haven't gotten the last of the laundry folded. On rough days, I jump in the shower. Forget the workout I wanted to get in. I cleanish pair of yoga pants, new nursing tank and deodorant after my shower is the only attempt at cleanliness for me.
6pm: My husband returns from the outside world. I am so excited to see him! I want to tell him about our day, and hear about his grownup work. I love that I am home with my daughter, but I miss the critical thinking!
7:30ish: These days, bedtime is happening for Eleanor. I love that no matter what has happened, this is a fairly constant in our lives. We have a book, prayer and song we do each night. She seems to take comfort in this, and it certainly is a comfort for me. I wonder if I will ever let go of my desire for routine. I have already changed so much as a person in the four short months I have been a mother. Maybe that will go away with time too. Or maybe it won't!
The rest of the evening is dinner, some converstation with my husband and maybe a show off dvr. I love the quiet of my house. I wait up to pump one more time, hoping that I can find the right balance of enough sleep, without being awakened too early the next morning. Most days I am at peace. I know that I won't get to do today over. My daughter was the smallest she will ever be today. I can't believe how the days and weeks fly by! Preschool will be here before I can blink. In a few short years I will miss theses tiny cycles of feed, pump, sleep, repeat. This is the hardest job I have ever had, and yet the very very best. Tears come so easily, but as often as they are from frustration or exhaustion they are from joy and gratitude.