The following is guest post from Sarah Elkins about having her first baby. Sarah lives in Helena, Montana, and likes to teach people to find their stories, organize them, and share them across platforms. You can connect with her here.
When I was pregnant with our first son, we were living in Washington DC and my commute was an hour each way; I went through the process to get high level security clearance, including a polygraph, when I was five months along. I hadn't planned to get married and I had no intention to have children. All of that changed when I met Bob.
I can be impulsive… which is why I asked Bob to marry me after dating for eight months. When we had been married about three months and I watched him teaching his 6 year old niece to fish, I suggested that maybe we should have a baby after all. My husband was cautiously happy; after all, I had insisted I didn’t want children before that moment. And then we were pregnant. I had a plan to continue my career as a Peoplesoft consultant and gave my boss my due date as the beginning of my four weeks of maternity leave.
Photo Credit: Donnie Ray Jones via Flickr
Some of that background may explain my recurring dream throughout my last trimester:
I was pregnant with twins. When they were born, one was much, much larger and heavier than the other. The larger one was so big that when I was trying to hold both babies, I would drop the bigger one. When I dropped him, he would be fine, with no injuries. Sometimes he wouldn’t even cry. Each time, people around me would be horrified, with terrible, unforgiving expressions on their faces. Their looks told me I was an awful mother, a failure because I couldn't care for both of my babies at the same time.
It was such a vivid nightmare that I would wake in a sweat, crying into my pillow. It took me having the dream a few times each week for about three weeks before I was able to analyze it and stop the dream from returning.
I believe dreams are our subconscious way of dealing with potential experiences. Our subconscious mind is powerful, observing things our conscious minds simply can’t. The subconscious is almost prescient, based on what it observes, which is why it can offer up these dreams, to prepare us for our future.
When I finally interpreted my dream, it stopped. One of the babies was my job, my career, and the other was our living, breathing baby. I never figured out which one was the larger twin that I dropped in my dream. The dream was my fear that I couldn't be a great mom and still have a great career. I feared that I would fail in one aspect or another, there was no balance.
Photo credit: Larry Jacobsen via Flickr
My fear – dropping my baby – was that not only would I fail in one area of my life, which is terrifying to me, but that I would be judged for it by others around me. Once the dream was interpreted, I stopped having it. That doesn’t mean the fear disappeared; it means I became actively conscious of it and took steps to mitigate it. I hired a great nanny, was gifted a high-end breast pump by my mother, and set internal boundaries between work and family. All of those things helped relieve my fears, probably because my perceptions of motherhood and career were nothing like reality. How could they be?
This was my first baby; I had no idea what to expect.
When Jacob was five weeks old, I went back to work part-time, working on Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday each week. Because of my hour commute, I was away from home for just over 30 hours. I hired a wonderful nanny. The cost of the nanny and my student loan payments took up almost my entire paycheck. The first week I went to work after having Jacob I cried all the way to work all three days. My breasts painfully filled with milk and I’d have to go straight to the nursing mothers’ room to pump.
I told myself it would get better as I drove home to him each evening. It didn’t improve. I was still crying to work on the second and third weeks. By the fourth week, I returned home on Tuesday evening and with the baby demandingly latched on to nurse; I told my husband I was ready for something new. We needed to live in a place where one of us could stay home, at least for more hours each week. This arrangement simply wasn't working. That same week, Bob was offered a job in Montana. He accepted. Four weeks later, I found myself in a 24 foot moving truck with a 20-foot car trailer, a dog & cat in the car on the trailer, and the baby seat between us in the cab, on our way to our next adventure.
It was truly a huge surprise to me that having a baby would change my priorities so dramatically. I knew I would love him; I knew I would give him everything I could to keep him happy and healthy. My image of my future, at least my immediate future, changed at some point between my third trimester and when I went to work. I cannot pinpoint the change; it just happened.
Photo credit: Vanessa Pike Russell via Flickr
I could say I don’t regret our move and my decision to stay home part time to raise our children, but that wouldn’t be entirely accurate. It has been a struggle to come back to a career here in Montana. When the boys were little, I taught computer classes at the local college and started a business, going to homes and offices and teaching people how to more effectively use their own computers. When I was ready to return to a more regular workplace, I couldn’t get an interview. The first job I was offered was as a mid-level administrative assistant; my salary was half of what I was making a few years before in Washington DC. I knew I would take a step back; I didn’t realize it would be a decade backward.
What I do not regret is the time I’ve had to spend with our children. Living in a small town in Montana has been a unique experience with learning opportunities and adventures around every turn. Our children are confident in any environment, indoor or outdoor. They have had adventures in the mountains, on rivers and lakes, and in big cities all over the world; and they come back to a place where they can walk or ride their bikes by themselves all over town.
Would this be the right move for you? I couldn’t begin to tell someone else to do what I did. But if you are crying on your way to work after leaving your baby with a nanny or daycare, perhaps it’s time for you to consider your next adventure. Don’t wait. In ten minutes your baby will be 18. Trust me.
If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy:
A Dream I Didn't Know I Had by Sara Elkins
How My Mother Helped Me Launch My Writing Career by Susan Cain
I Dream Because My Mother Couldn't by Cali Yost
The Next Wave of Feminism by Elizabeth Keeler
In the Messiness of Life, What's Fair to Employers?
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