Sunday, October 10, 2010
This time last year
We had just returned from a somewhat taxing trip to Sydney. My husband had been attending a conference and I tagged along, for a change of scene. Our six month old little 'un did NOT enjoy the flight there or back, though she coped admirably with her new environment (if somewhat distractedly due to having to share a room with Mummy and Daddy... which didn't make for the best sleep for any of us).
Upon our return, I discovered that my doctoral thesis had arrived in the mail with examiners reports, accompanied my an officious little note requesting an amended copy returned to the University within six weeks. After establishing that this deadline was arbitrary, I did what any self-respecting doctoral candidate does and went into complete denial and refused to look at my thesis or the reports again for a whole month.
In the meantime, I valiantly tried to cope with the realities that I would be returning to work soon and that our little 'un was getting too big to be swaddled. Our little 'un LOVED being swaddled and slept soundly through the night when securely wrapped. I wondered how to manage it now that the warm weather was approaching and also that few commercially bought swaddles were made for bubs of her length. I also feared that my Mum and Mother-in-law would not be able to swaddle her as snugly and as neatly as I could, and that this would impact severely on daytime naps.
We'd made brave forays into the brave world of solids. Actually, we'd started early as my breast milk supply was not so flash and her weight gain, although steady, was not as high as we'd all hoped. So, with a return to work imminent, breastfeeding would need to be reduced... and my mixed feelings about this surprised me.
In the meantime, I learned more about the work situation that I had left and the changes that occured while I was on maternity leave. It was NOT good news. I made several approaches to the woman who was to be my Manager (who just "happened" to be the best friend of the colleague/peer I worked most closely with and who had just "happened" to have been promoted in my absence) and she did what any self-respecting manager at the University seems intent on doing and ignored my emails for two months.
Over this time, more and more teeth appeared and our poor little sweetheart got her first cold. Gorgeous weather appeared and the studio beckoned and fabulous festival events were being held in Melbourne and I just wanted to crawl into a hole and disappear for a long, long time. I went to a party and a family friend gently enquired whether I was looking forward to returning to work to "use my brain again" and "enjoy adult conversations" and I found myself bemoaning the imminent end of a beautiful year, where I'd learnt so much about myself through the experience of motherhood, but also where I'd had an intellectual and artistic freedom that I'd never had the chance to enjoy before. I shared all my fears that my work environment would not be supportive of a new Mum returning to work, and he later commented to my Mum that he had never seen me look so anxious and sad.
Looking back, my impulse is to say that I was cheated of a glorious Spring. But I know that the truth is not so simple. My job situation ended up working out perfectly: I took a risk and left the secure ongoing position I was "supposed" to go back to and took up a short term contract doing work I love and with a team I adore. My little 'un and I navigated the realities of growth and separation as best we could, and we did a pretty good job of it. We shared some gorgeous moments, as a family.
In honour of that time, I am going to post a story that I wrote earlier this year for Handmade Writer that really encapsulates my headspace this time last year. [Apologies to friends who participated in the course with me, who have read it before!] I'm going to share it as a serial, throughout the week, as if this blog were my very own New Yorker column, ha!
I was a little mortified sharing it at the time and I'm sure I won't be super proud of it now, but what I can say with certainty is that it was real.