Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Second thoughts

So I am having serious doubts about the path I've set myself upon. It may just be the new momma hormones, or the sleep deprivation, or the fact that we're supposed to move in about 2 weeks and have nothing packed nor even movers hired.

But yeah, in all honesty, I'm really scared. I'm scared to move, to leave all my friends, to leave the life I know and understand for this entirely new thing I know nothing about, this new city, new community. And I'm scared that we'll never find someone to live with us, and we'll get up there and have to search frantically for another place to live whilst keeping our stuff in storage. Yucko.

But mostly I am finding myself desiring deeply not to leave Maggie. Like, ever. I know I will probably get bored one day and will want my own life again. But right now I can't imagine leaving her at all. Not even for the few hours a day I'd be in class.

She's a high-needs baby, and I feel like she needs me most of all. I want to be here for her. I know I shouldn't make any huge life-altering decisions in my present state, but don't you hear all the time about women who met their babies and that was it - they knew they were staying home from then on?

I'm not saying I'd never go get this degree, but I'm really questioning whether now is the time. Maybe I have jumped into way too much change at once. And really, would it be so awful to just give myself a break? To take a year to really love and enjoy my child?

And who knows, maybe I could get part time work here at a church or college ministry or something - I do have an MDiv after all, and it's not like I'm shabby in the experience or education departments. But I guess if I'm planning ways to work in LA, there's really not much difference between that and planning to go up to Berkeley for the work there.

I know a lot of people read this blog who are parents, and mommies who work, and some even mommies in that unique universe of academia, where you're not really gone 8 hours a day and maybe there is some way to have it all without feeling like you're compromising. I'm jealous of John, to get to stay with her all the time. But it's not like I'll be gone that much - that's what he keeps reminding me.

Anyway you people who've done this thing, please give me feedback. I need to hear from you.

She's so special. She needs a lot of extra care, but I think God gave me a gift in that she's about the smiliest newborn ever. I know that they say it's not "real" smiles, but what the hell does that even mean? She's smiling, for goodness sakes! And she does it a lot, and I think it's my special reward for the fact that she's also a screamer. I can live with the screaming and the crying because I get to have smiles already, and a lot of them.

I do love her. We got her a mirror and she's just looking in it - she loves to be set down, alone (she's not into being held all the time - tricky when you're trying to do attachment parenting) and just look in her mirror. She makes the funniest faces. I seriously am smitten with her. And she charms everybody who sees her in this state (but most people don't get to see it, because it's few and far between).

Anyway I might just be freaking out about all the changes and the upheaval in my life. But I mean, I kind of have a right to - it's really huge stuff that I've set before myself. And now I'm questioning whether I want to move forward. Part of me - a big part - just wants to hang back. Not never move forward, but just take some time to savor what's happening right before my eyes this moment.

And maybe in a few months I will be tired and bored and ready for school again. But maybe not - and why did I think I needed to jump right into this degree? Oh yeah, I did this because my ordination process fell through yet again. And I panicked and ran to academia because I felt safe there. And it was really great - I found a sexy topic, and I got into schools, and I met people who will be awesome mentors. I mean, the path is a good one. It's totally going to be great. But in all honesty, yeah, I'd rather just be a priest, and I wish that would have just worked out. This is all a huge distraction to take me away from my failure to get through ordination, my inability to convince my church to let me serve (in that capacity). All I really wanted was the priesthood, but I went with what I could get, which is great too, but not my first choice career. And at this point I'm just hoping one day I'll be able to get back on track for ordination, and I know that moving to another diocese is probably a wise idea to help that along.

But now the calling to parenthood is even stronger, and I fantasize about staying home with my baby, and maybe continuing to help out with liturgies like I've been doing at church (freelance liturgist for hire?), and not having to move so far away (but obviously still out of this apartment!), and keeping close to my friends and support system...

Oh, I have to go help the baby, she's freaking out. Anyway comment, pray, help me however you can. Should I give up? Or will it not be giving up but choosing the best path for myself and my child? Everything about Berkeley always felt so right, and it all came together just perfectly, just as I prayed it would. And yet. And yet. This little person has changed everything. She's stolen my heart away from any ambition I ever had for myself. OK I have to get her now.


Wormwood's Doxy said...

I would say that your major change of heart is both normal---and a function of hormones and sleep deprivation. (I nursed both of mine until they were 2.5 years, and neither slept through the night until they were 4. So I KNOW sleep deprivation! ;-)

The best advice I can give you is this: the happiest mothers I know are the ones who keep a life for themselves outside of motherhood. And happy mothers make happy kids.

That doesn't mean, of course, that you have to go to school, or to work, etc. There are lots of ways to maintain your own identity---but I would think long and hard about giving up something that you worked so hard to get, and were truly excited about, pre-baby. I suspect that excitement will return, sooner rather than later...

I'm glad I kept doing what I loved, even when parts of me felt very guilty about it---I think that remembering to tend to my own needs made (and makes) me a much better mother.


Anonymous said...

Stay home mama! She needs you and you need her and that's all there is to it.

Please, keep your identity, which, as of the moment she was born, is mother. Drink it in, with no distractions. Do it well, and have no guilt at all.

The degree can wait, and over time, you'll come to know motherhood as it should be known, intimately. You, your husband, and your child will benefit.

Contrary to the other commenter, I know no woman who is happy trying to juggle a thing outside of home at this stage in the baby's life. They all feel guilty and confused and separated from their baby and house and home, because it's not freakin' natural to give your baby to someone else to raise, and your heart knows it.

Follow your heart.

Stasi said...

Thank you for this comment. I should point out that I won't be giving the baby to a stranger, because my husband is going to stay home full-time with her at least for the first 6 months, and then we'll alternate off who's with her at any time - so she'll never be "raised" by a stranger. Plus, I won't be going back to school until she's 3 months old, and even then, I will be gone maximum 3-6 hours a couple days a week. And since I'll be at school, John can bring her to me between classes and events, and so forth.

So it's not quite like a person returning to work full-time. Not to say I won't consider carefully what you've said, but just so you know we are doing a lot to make sure the baby is with her parents. And I do feel that attaching her to her daddy is just as important as to me, though I know that's a point that is debated (some say Mommy is most important).

Wormwood's Doxy said...

I'll offer one last bit of unsolicited advice and then I'll shut up.

Parenting causes the most primal responses of "If you aren't doing it like I do it, you're doing it wrong!" And, of course, the subliminal message is that, if you "do it wrong," your child will be wrecked for life...

(Thank God that isn't true! There is grace and mercy for parents too, as children tend to have short memories and forgiving hearts...)

The "Mommy Wars" (stay at home v. work outside, breastfeed v. bottle, circumcise v. don't circumcise, attachment parenting v. "let 'em cry it out") tend to be the favorite sport of new moms (especially first-timers). But they are unwinnable. You'll save yourself a lot of grief if you opt out from the start.

Handle with Care has already told you that your only identity now is mother, and that there is only one way to BE a good mother, and that's to do nothing but be with your baby.

That may be the case for her--and it may be that way for you as well--but it isn't the case for all of us. Some of us weren't cut out to be full-time, stay-at-home moms---and a huge swath of the female population doesn't even have that as an economic option.

Wouldn't it be better if we tried to offer realistic support for women who, by choice or circumstances, have other roles in their lives besides motherhood? After all, our ultimate goal as parents is to put ourselves out of a job by raising children who are independent and self-sufficient. That's one reason I think it's important to have something outside your kids--so you don't forget who you are when your job is done.

As I said before, happy moms make happy kids. So do what makes you happy---your daughter is going to be loved and cared for, no matter what...and what more could a baby ask for?

Good luck, and may God bless all three of you today and always.


Ann said...

This is the toughest of times. I've always said that you could induce psychosis in anyone by keeping them up for 48 hours, taking out a couple pints of blood, and then waking them up every 90 minutes after that for the next month. And that's not even getting into pain, and colic, and hormones, and all those other good things.

Does this really have to be an all or nothing decision? Would Berkley let you defer for a year? I was in law school part-time (3 evenings a week) when my first colicky baby was born. It felt very bizarre to move between such different worlds, but ultimately I was glad for those brief spans of adult conversation.
But that didn't also require me to move to another town and leave all my support systems behind.

Colicky babies do get better. They really do. But I remember how impossibly long four months seemed to me the first time someone told me that was how long it would take. And then when it turned out to be longer than that (though only, as it turned out, a week longer) it felt like I didn't know how I could possibly go on. I remember thinking what a mistake it was to have this child, and how sad that I was soon going to be divorced, etc (for the record, my 39th anniversary is coming up). Breathe deeply. Sleep any chance you possibly can. Hang in there.