If my reasoning skills were running on all cylinders, I wonder what conclusion I would come to about my first week back at work. Successful? A complete disaster? Somewhere in between?
The truth is, I'm purely functioning on adrenaline, so I know I'm not quite able to take an accurate analytical look at my life. There are certain moments that stand out from the rest, though.
As much as it pained me to leave Allison that first day, it was nice to get out of the house and converse with adults. One of my coworkers made me a "Hello My Name Is" tag as a joke, but it ironically came in handy when a reporter who had been hired while I was gone asked who "the new girl" was.
Part of me was surprised how quickly everything came back, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't struggle at first to remember where certain files were stored or which computer commands did what. I likened it to riding a bike -- you never forget, but you'll probably fall off a few times if it's been awhile.
Much to my relief, pumping turned out to be a non-issue. All that stressing and worrying for nothing. Frankly, I could slap myself. I guess it's true that mentally concentrating on what could go wrong is almost always worse than how things actually end up. I am more than capable of pumping enough to feed Alli the next day. And now I'm reminded of my neurosis every time I open the freezer and see the heaping supply of frozen breast milk I stored away over the last month. Sometimes you just have to relax and trust that you won't let yourself down.
On the other hand, the worst part of the first day was a call from Jerry. I remember looking at the clock when the phone rang, seeing 9:15 p.m. and saying aloud, "That's a good sign!"
I immediately detected a furious cry on the other end as Jer said, "I didn't call to worry you, but I just wondered if you had any suggestions. She gulped down the bottle and I can't get her to relax."
We had broken routine. A cardinal sin as far as babies are concerned.
My heart broke listening to her. She needed me and I was miles away sitting at a desk under fluorescent lights. I felt like a complete failure. I somehow managed to hold back my tears and prevent my arms from methodically grabbing my car keys. If I had followed my initial instinct, I would've run out of the building without taking the time to grab my purse and coat.
It wasn't a lack of trust in Jerry, it was more a physical gut reaction. My baby was upset and I needed to comfort her. Instead, I offered a few words of advice and made Jer promise to call me back when things settled down. It was agony waiting, but she eventually fell asleep and, from what I understand, each night has gotten a little easier.
The same could be said for me at work. By the end of the week, I felt much more confident.
But, secretly, somewhere deep inside, I have a small voice that's asking, "Do you really have what it takes?"
The doubt tends to creep in at 4 a.m. when I'm sitting in the rocking chair in the nursery feeding Alli, a wedge of light cascading in from the hallway. I worry that instead of doing everything well, I'll fail miserably at both. I won't have enough to give to my daughter or my job. I'll always be wishing I could do more. Be there more. Have more to offer.
It's merely a thought, but more than enough to creep into my psyche and fester if I don't stop it.
Fortunately, I remembered a magazine advertisement I saw recently. It was an extreme close up of a baby's face, and anything pertaining to infants stops me in my tracks these days, so I read the fine print. It was for an auto company. I don't remember which one, but the idea behind the ad was that the reason their engineers are so good is because they have families. And they design their cars knowing what precious cargo goes into them.
I think the same can be said for almost all fields. Doctors with children know what it's like when they're sick. Teachers with children know how important their education is. Police officers with children know who they're protecting.
And journalists with children? Just one step closer to understanding the human condition we strive to capture and report on every day.