This is the face of my son at 6am this morning.  After a few days of illness and a crazy few weeks of travel and family issues things have settled down but I fear that Z may have moved into the four month wakeful.  Last night he woke up to nurse every three hours and then decided that the morning was to begin at 6.  Before his illness Z would head to bed at 8pm and wake up no earlier than 7am.  In the midst of the night he would give us a solid 6-8 hour stretch and nurse just 1-2 times overnight.  The last two nights of 4+ nighttime nursing sessions is kicking my butt. I am SO not a morning person. Ugh…

Which brings me to my topic…  Starting as you mean to go on…  While the frequent night wakings are hard, KK and I have been very consistent about how we handle nighttime sleep.  Z isn’t old enough for sleep training in my book, but we did start a bedtime ritual and enforce some bedtime rules early.  For our family that means that bedtime is between 7pm and 8pm every night, no exceptions.  We follow a ritual of putting on an overnight diaper, having a baby massage, putting on jammies, nursing (if needed), getting swaddled and then rocking to sleep every night faithfully.  In the middle of the night we will nurse if he is hungry, but we make no eye contact, and will not engage any other waking behavior.  He’s still a little guy, but it seems like Z is learning to settle himself back into sleep and respects the ritual.  In this we have succeeded.

Where I am not succeeding is in my work life balance.  It was my intention that I would be a good parent and a good employee, but I feel like I can’t get a break at either.  In my life as mom my anxiety disorder left a stamp on the first few months of Z’s life that I’m just not proud of.  Now that he is older I find that spending days with him is much easier for me.  I understand his sleep schedule.  He doesn’t cry so much. We seem to like each other pretty well.  While all of this is easily attributable to the shifts that occur in the first four months of development, the anxiety I experienced in Z’s early life meant that my life was lived in a state of constant panic, never knowing when the gun would go off.  I don’t think I really loved Z until he was 2 months old, and sometimes I still dread spending an entire day alone with him.  To admit these things brings me such shame.  I worked so very hard for this child.  He is so clearly wonderful, a cheery, funny little guy. He sleeps like a champ.  He nurses well.  He even entertains himself when I make my morning coffee.  I am a lucky mom so my own complaints, even when they are only ever internal, cut me deeply.

My work has always defined me.  I like it that way.  Chaplaincy in Higher Education is not a job for me, it’s a vocation, a passion, the thing I do even when it doesn’t pay.  On my free time I read books that feed into my work, I contemplate PhD programs that would enhance my knowledge base, I debate my career trajectory, and I work on bringing cutting edge thought to my position.  I love love love what I do.  It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t be able to continue to do my job as well after having a child as I did before.  In fact, when maternity leave was at its worst I started counting down the days until I could return to my work, knowing that would ground me.  But I did not start as I mean to go on….  From the first day of my return Z’s sleep schedule, his night wakings, his illnesses, and KK’s response to all of this has kept me from being the stellar employee I once was.  I go into meetings with a fuzzy mind.  I rush from place to place to my office to pump and back again, never having time to think as I walk.  Keeping up with evening and weekend responsibilities just isn’t possible.  When I make a ridiculous comment in a meeting or offer mediocre pastoral care to a student because I am half asleep I try to pep myself up with a resolve to improve.  But even with all of the internal pep talks – “It won’t be like this forever.  He’s just an infant.  Cut yourself some slack – of course you cannot stay on campus tonight you are his food source!” -I feel like I am falling down on every front.  It sucks.

I don’t really have anywhere to go with this.  I think that my hope is to start the next academic year as I mean to go on and hope for the best.  In the mean time this article in the Atlantic Monthly really hit a nerve for me when I re-read it last week.  I think that in my first reading I convinced myself that everything would be better when I was no longer pregnant.  Maybe some women can’t have it all, but I can make it work.  Heck, there are two moms in my family.  Two moms must be better than one…   Why Women Still Can’t Have It All by Anne-Marie Slaughter


On a more positive note.  I leave you with a photo of my son’s hand holding my thumb while I rocked him down for a nap this weekend.  We were visiting KK’s family because her father was hospitalized last week.  He is much better and Z proved to be a traveling ace, sleeping and napping well in a foreign environment.  I think we were really there so that Z could cheer up his grandma each morning!