This Week in Guilt
January 06, 2006
So week two. My first almost-full week, minus Monday, which means next week could suck progressively more.
I hate it. I hate it hate it hate it.
Noah loves it.
So there you go.
I have a conversation with a mother in Noah's room about the fabulousity of the Dr. Brown's bottles as we carefully label our children's food with colored tape and a Sharpie.
The other mother is labeling a dizzying array of bottles, fruit and cereal for her nine-month-old and casually mentions that she never tried the wide-necked Dr. Brown's because her daughter was never breastfed. I look down at my standard, non-wide-necked bottles and quietly mumble that Noah is breastfed, but still never liked the wide-necks, and then realize that I sound like a total asshole.
I write BREASTMILK on two of Noah's bottles -- bottles that required four days' worth of pumping to fill -- and I write FORMULA on the last one and shove it in the back of the fridge. Asshole.
As I leave, I see Noah's eyes widen as he scans the room, looking for me. I make a choked-up, gasping noise that startles a staff member walking by, and she asks me if I'm okay. I affirm that I am and quickly walk away. I make it all the way back to the car before I start crying.
Every working mother at work stops by to offer encouragement and promises that it will get easier.
When I go back at noon to nurse him, he's settled in and barely notices that it's ME, MAMA, THE ONE THEY CUT YOU OUT OF AND WHO STILL CANNOT POOP RIGHT BECAUSE OF IT until my shirt is open and hello! Boobs!
But he keeps pulling away because he wants to turn around and see what the other babies are doing. He's fascinated by them, particularly the two older babies who can sit up and crawl. One of the teachers notices him watching the room and sings out his name, and he squeals with delight.
They play music to the infants all day long -- lullabies and sing-along songs and classical music. I realize how many Simpsons episodes have probably already embedded themselves in Noah's subconscious and feel a twinge of guilt.
When I pick him up in the evening, his teachers have written notes on his schedule to tell me how much they love him already. Jason isn't nearly as touched as I am, because "You know they're probably told to do that for the all new parents. So you won't freak out and withdraw in a week and not give them all your money."
Yeah, I know. But I quietly paste the schedule into Noah's baby book when Jason isn't looking.
I notice that there are a lot of dads who do the morning drop-off. They look only slightly less pained than the mothers.
There's a notice posted that the center has a confirmed case of the chicken pox.
I've never had the chicken pox, but can't get vaccinated until I stop breastfeeding. I put three bottles of formula in the fridge because I only managed to pump two measly ounces the day before.
I'm really tired.
An older woman at work welcomes me back and asks to see photos of Noah. She asks me about childcare, and I only get as far as, "He's at a daycare center right down the..." before she scrunches up her face and makes a sad little "Oh!" sound.
When I drive over at lunch, there's a woman panhandling at an intersection. She's holding a sign that reads HOMELESS MOTHER OF THREE CHILDREN PLEASE HELP GOD BLESS YOU. I'm sure it's a scam -- other days there's a guy here with a different sign who claims to be a Vietnam veteran -- so I keep my window up and my eyes straight ahead. I feel really shitty by the time the light turns green.
His teachers are feeding two babies their cereal when I arrive. I quietly nurse him in the corner and try to ignore the baby who is howling in his crib to be picked up. The teachers call to him and sing and hurriedly feed the older ones before they go get him.
Part of me is horrified at the thought of Noah being left to cry all those agonizing minutes, and part of me remembers how that very morning I let him cry while I packed up his bottles and extra clothes while Jason hurriedly walked the dog. And then how he cried again when I put him down while I looked for my keys in the couch cushions.
At home that evening, Noah cries. A lot. I worry he's getting sick until I, going on sleep-deprived auto-pilot, call him "Handsome Boy." It's his teacher's nickname for him. He immediately smiles and laughs.
This is easy! Dropping him off is great! Look how happy he is! God. Why is he so happy? Why doesn't he scream like he does at home? Why did he cry all night last night and refuse to nurse? Why won't he stop smiling at his teacher? Why does he like these women better than me?
The center announces that it also has a confirmed case of pink eye.
I'm really, really tired.
Noah nurses distractedly at lunch again, and I'm getting the distinct feeling that the lunchtime visits are definitely more for my benefit than his. The more bottles he takes, the less patience he has for breastfeeding, and what's worse -- the chubbier he gets.
I always assumed Noah was just one of those long, skinny babies. One week in daycare and big fat bottles of formula, and he's getting a double chin and fat rolls on his thighs.
"My GOD," I tell Jason on the phone, my voice quivering, "I've been STARVING him for 12 WEEKS. What kind of STUPID PERSON am I?"
Jason says it's probably just a growth spurt, but my hatred of my stupid, non-producing boobs burns once again.
When I arrive to take Noah home, one teacher has gone home and an aide is helping out until the room gets down to three babies. (Maryland law states that the ratio must be one teacher for every three infants.) She has Noah on a Boppy pillow and is singing to him. He's transfixed and smiling.
I pick him up and realize his diaper leaked and his clothes are wet.
His teacher is horrified. She chastises the aide for not noticing. She assures me that she just changed him less than a half hour before. She pulls out his chart to show me, that yes, he had been changed recently. She snaps at the aide again.
I suddenly realize she thinks I'm angry.
I laugh and assure her that this is Noah's favorite trick, and that I can't count the number of times I changed him, only to replace his entire outfit (or better still, his outfit AND mine) 15 minutes later. Diapers leak, and my boy pees a lot.
She doesn't seem convinced and apologizes again. Then tells me that Noah drank all the bottles I brought that morning and was acting hungry and fussy but they didn't have anything for him. Could I bring in an extra bottle tomorrow in case it happens again?
And now it's my turn to be horrified. I apologize. I stammer. I go on and on about how I don't know how many bottles he needs since I nurse him at home. I tell them about the can of powdered formula in his cubby, but learn that the center meant a can of the pre-mixed formula, because of the rules about using tap water in the babies' bottles or something, and oh my GOD, I DIDN'T SEND IN ENOUGH FOOD FOR MY BABY, WHAT KIND OF MOTHER DOES THAT.
So we stand there for awhile, each frantically trying to explain a situation that didn't really need explaining, when Noah suddenly pees again. It arches up and in between us and we both yelp and jump out of the way.
And he laughs, and we laugh, because we both just want the very best for this hilarious little person.
When I get home, I realize that we conceived Noah exactly one year ago tonight. Holy shit. When I remind Jason of this, we spend a few moment in awed silence, gazing at Noah and thinking about the million other ways our story could have ended, and how ridiculously, insanely blessed we are.
Noah is asleep in his carseat when I arrive in the morning. His teacher unhooks him and gently lays him in his crib. I put bottles of formula in the fridge -- more bottles than he could possibly drink in a day -- and go over to say goodbye. He opens his eyes and gives me a lazy smile.
And I fucking lose it.
I stand over his crib and sob. His teacher is alarmed and tentatively puts an arm around me. She tells me that he is happy here and that they take special care of him. That they do everything they can to give him a mother's love.
I don't know how to tell her that's not it at all, and I cry harder.
The homeless woman with three kids is back at the intersection today. I roll down my window and give her a dollar.
Then I remember the $10 I paid earlier for the massage program my company offers every Friday and I feel like shit again.
Noah is asleep today at lunch. I wake him up anyway and push him to nurse. He eats a little, but decides he'd rather watch his teachers as they sit on the floor with the other babies and sing song after song. Reluctantly, I let him join the circle and creep out the door.
I'm so bone-tired I fall asleep within the first five minutes of my massage appointment. It's the best $10 I've ever spent.
I think my milk is drying up. I don't think Noah cares. The center has a confirmed case of strep throat. I use my shiny new office door lock and try in vain to pump a few ounces, staring at Noah's picture and suddenly creeping myself out by imagining a guy hunched over a photo of a naked woman with the same intense concentration for the task at hand.
It's not getting any easier.
I drove to the center tonight, exhausted and feeling just generally kind of weepy and shitty. I'm afraid of crying in front of his teachers again for some reason. I'm just so tired.
When I arrive, the aide tonight is a young girl with Down's Syndrome. The teacher introduces her as a early education student from the local community college who is here for training. I smile too broadly and speak too chirpily -- clearly trying to communicate that I think this is great! I don't have a problem with this at all! I am not judging!
I pack Noah up and she talks to him and tells me how many ounces of formula he drank and how many times she burped him. She's very sweet and well-spoken and coaxes smiles from Noah as I buckle him into his hated, hated carseat.
And now we're home. Hanging out, listening to a CD of lullabies and waiting for Daddy to get home.
I wish I had a nice happy ending for this post. I wish I could tell you that I feel blessed and fulfilled and am a better mother for using daycare and I was able to pump 10 ounces at work today and blah blah blaaaaaaaaaaah. I'm too tired for any epiphanies or insight or heart-tugging treacle.
Right now I'm home with my beautiful, charming and happy little boy on my lap, and he's drooling on my arm and yanking on my hair. I think he just pooped.
I'm so very, very happy right now.