Maternity Leave

Sixteen weeks...that's how long I was able to stay home with my baby girl.  Sixteen weeks.  Almost four months.  31% of a full year.  That's so long!  So much time!  And yet, it seemed so short. Where did the time go?  I wish I could say that I spent sixteen weeks at home soaking up the soft skin and sweet smells of my new daughter, cuddling on the couch, playing, and watching daytime television.  The truth is, besides a couple shows on the DIY network (it's the only channel I've learned with our new cable service), I have no idea what comes on during daytime TV.  My girl and I?  We were on the go!

Over these sixteen weeks, we took four 9-hour road trips to and from Florida and slept 8 nights in our beach house.  Katie rocked her first two airplane rides, to and from Indiana to visit her grandparents and great-grandfather.  We had two professional photoshoots and countless amateur ones.  Aside from her first week home and one Sunday at the beach, we attended church every week.  On maternity leave, we had countless visitors and hosted friends and family for meals.  We took walks, worked in the shop, unpacked boxes, and continued working in our home.  We spent afternoons at Mimi's house, working on the embroidery machine and napping.  And we shopped!  Oh, how we shopped!  I started her early with her first shopping adventure happening at just a week old when we picked out new living room furniture.  We shopped in outdoor outlet malls, regular malls, stand-alone stores.  We shopped for clothes, furniture, fabric, hardware, tools, and everything in between!

I don't take lightly how lucky I am to have had so much time to spend with her.  And to have a perfectly healthy girl that I could do all these things with!  I thank God daily for that.  Sometimes I wonder if He gave me a relatively easy baby because He knew I had no intentions of slowing down.  I am so, so blessed.

And have I ever told you how wonderful my husband is?  He really is the best husband and a terrific daddy.  I love watching him love on his children.  He works harder than anyone I know - all day at work and then all night at home.  He does everything he can to advance in his career.  He comes home and prepares dinner and helps maintain the house.  He is hands-on with everything for the kids, from changing diapers and feeding bottles to attending basketball games and music recitals.  And because he is so wonderful, he gave me the ultimate gift when Katie was born: getting to decide for myself if I wanted to go back to work or stay at home full time with her.  He was willing to take on all our financial burdens himself so that I could spend my days with my baby.  What a blessing to have that option!

It was an incredibly hard decision.  There were times when I felt like I was choosing between two babies.  There is, of course, my literal baby whom I love so much it hurts sometimes.  How could I possibly say goodbye to her precious face everyday?  But then there was my career.  There are so many things about my job that make it like a baby to me too.  I have worked hard for over seven years to get to where I am, and there are so many parts of my everyday work that I take ownership of and am not quite ready to let go of.  Plus, I love the people I work with and the mission we work for.

I went back and forth so much in my head that I almost wished Doc would just make the decision for me.  It's not always great to have options!  How could I decide?  Would I lose my contacts and skills if I stopped working for a while?  Was I a bad mom if I didn't stay at home?  As much as I would love to play with my daughter all day long, would I really take the time and do the things I needed to every day to teach her?  How would she socialize?  But then again, did I want to only see her for a few hours each night after work?

After some negotiations, the perfect situation has been worked out: part time work.  I hope that I'm not jinxing myself by writing this here since I technically have not signed on the dotted line yet, but all signs are pointing to me being able to work just three days a week.  That gives me four days at home with my girl - the perfect solution.  I get to keep my career but spend time with my little girl too.  This makes one happy mama.

As for Katie, we found the perfect solution for her too.  A sweet woman who lives just around the corner from us will be keeping her on the days that I work.  This woman only keeps babies until they're one year old, so it's a temporary solution, but a really good one for now.  There is one other boy there now; he's about a month or so older than Katie.  We had a couple trial runs with the babysitter this past week and both days went really well.  Katie was happy and well cared for, and that makes me happy (even if I did spend most of the first day in tears).

But that doesn't mean I'm not nervous about tomorrow!  Tomorrow, life starts full speed ahead again.  No more sleeping in.  Our clothes have been ironed and laid out.  Her diaper bag and my laptop bag are both packed.  The alarm clock is set.  We will once again be girls on the go, only tomorrow we go in different directions.  Wish us luck, we may need it!