Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Mom Job: Year One

I first applied to be a mom in September of 2015. My own mother had passed away a few months before, I'd left my full-time job, my husband and I had bought our first home and with all the movement, there was nothing to truly ground me. It was the perfect setup for baby-making. Except it wasn't. 

Initially, I received notice that I was a strong contender for the gig, but a month later I learned I wasn't (read: miscarriage).

Once my heart healed, I started applying again. And again. For a long time. For a year. Apparently, I just wasn't the right fit and I didn't know if I ever would be. I wondered if I'd made a mistake even applying to begin with. And just when I was about to give up, move on and focus my energy on a different career, I got the call (read: positive pregnancy test). 

My head hunter (read: OBGYN) confirmed a baby had in fact hired me and was living in my uterus. I was shocked. I was nervous. And I prayed it enjoyed my uterus enough to stay put. 

I did a decent job making the baby comfortable and when I learned she was a girl, I did my best to prepare our home for her arrival. I'm assuming I did so well she couldn't wait to experience things firsthand, so she decided she'd had enough of my uterus after only 7.5 months. She made me lie in a hospital bed for a week before choosing the exact moment she wanted to exit me and enter the world, April 26th, 2017 at 7:23am. I didn't take it personally.  

I was immediately aware of the immensity of this new situation. Sure, I'd spoken to plenty of people in the business of parenting and asked a million questions in hopes of preparing me for this part of the job. I knew my life would change forever, that I would have close to zero vacation or personal time, and even sick days wouldn't be an option. I knew I'd lose sleep. I knew I'd be stuck wearing my maternity clothes longer than I would like. I knew it would be all about her. And yet, I still wasn't prepared. For what it's worth, I don't think any class, book, or stranger in Target who saw your belly and decided to give you an impromptu lecture on breastfeeding, could truly prepare you. But, that's ok. Because none of these babies, bosses, both - are the same. So you get used to yours and you learn. 

The baby left it up to us (upon her arrival, my husband became my business partner) to give her a name, so we chose Emmerson Glo. We wanted to give her a name with options. She could use the strong, solid, full version, or she could go with simple and cute, calling herself Emmy. Glo was short for Gloria, my mother's name, a woman who I felt had somehow placed a bit of her own strength and tenacity into this new little being. As we began calling her by her name, Emmerson would look us over and appeared impressed, or at the very least, satisfied. 

Over the next three months, life sped by in a whirlwind of diaper changes, pumping, feeding, crying (both me and Emmerson), laughing, screaming (again, me and Emmerson) and sleeping (more Emmerson, than me). I wasn't convinced I was doing a great job at being a mom. To be honest, I was pretty sure I wasn't even pulling a satisfactory grade (there was more than one sobbing into a pillow episode). It was hard. Hard in ways I didn't realize it would be. Gone was the life I led where I could shower whenever I wanted, for as long as I wanted. Now, alone for most of the day while my husband went to his other job, my life was filled with one tedious, arduous moment after another. Some women are made for this kind of job, a selfless job that never ends, that goes on for every second of the day. I don't think I was born one of those women. I wasn't experiencing postpartum depression, I just wasn't built for this. But there were glimpses of a different life that would make themselves known from time to time. There were moments when Emmerson would fall asleep, curled up against my chest and her soft breathing would lull me into a state of blissful meditation. There were moments when she'd raise her eyebrow and make a face I thought I could only see on an adult, and it would make me laugh out loud. And then there were moments when she started to see me, started to follow me with her eyes and I finally felt like she cared about me the way I cared about her. She wanted to know that I was around. Being a mother wasn't a job I ever planned to quit, and it was these moments that helped me power on. 

By month four, I was starting to feel more confident that maybe I wasn't absolutely terrible at this job. I had chosen not to return to my previous career full-time, for now, because I wanted Emmerson's childhood to be different than mine. My mother had done her best at being present in my childhood, but being my mother wasn't the only job she had. She worked for the government and it took up a lot of her time, much like my job working as a television field producer would if I returned to work. And I give the women who do both a ton of props, it's a lot to handle and a lot of emotions to juggle. Still, not going back wasn't an easy decision to make. Some may think, who wouldn't want to avoid returning to an office and just stay home with their baby? But me, I loved my career. It could be hard as hell and nerve-wracking at times, but I loved it. I loved interviewing people from all walks of life, from soccer moms to A-list celebs. I loved traveling around the country to meet people and tell their stories. To go from that to being alone with an infant eleven hours of the day, and the only "talking" I participated in consisted of me using a ridiculous baby voice with someone who didn't talk back, was not an easy transition. But, the minute Emmerson chose me to be her mom, I knew she was my priority, and I'd figure out the rest one day at a time. 

I think my promotion came during Emmerson's sixth month. I went from being baby slave to baby sidekick. We started to get out of the house a lot more because I understood her better, her moods and the feeding and sleeping schedule she'd come to have. She started laughing, a lot. She thought I was hilarious, I'm not, but she's a baby, she doesn't know any better. She, on the other hand, started showing signs of a personality, and in doing so, showed signs of becoming her own person. An awesome little person. It dawned on me then that things I had been terrified of, like not knowing how to teach a baby anything, were actually things that just happened. I don't remember when she figured out how to help me put her shirts on, but she did and it's not something I taught her how to do. I don't know how she figured out how to use a sippy cup, or how she understood me when I told her she had to tilt her head back a bit to get the most out of the cup. But, she did. And I don't know how she came to love me the way she does, or what I've done to deserve the way she does, but she does. And that changed a lot. 

A year into this job, and it is a job (the most challenging I've ever had), I look back at all the photos, the videos, the social media posts and I see so much good, so many amazing moments that I've been so lucky to have with this little girl. And yes, all of the moments haven't been reflected in those things. The tough ones, the stressful ones, the ones I thought I'd never recover from (like the time she got a stomach bug and wouldn't stop vomiting and I thought my heart would literally break because I love this child so much I can't stand to see her in pain), there may not be a photo documenting them, but they happened, and to tell this story without telling them would be like not telling the story at all. Because it is all the moments combined, good and challenging, that have made me the mom I am, and Emmerson the super smart, crazy, cool, funny, curious, personable, lovable, sweet, and beautiful little girl that she is. And I know now that she was the only one ever meant to be my baby boss, and I will always be grateful to her for hiring me and making me her mom.