Tales of A Working Mother: Baby Makes Three
At the mall recently I ran into a friend from college I hadn't seen in 15 years. I was with my family so I began introducing them -- First my husband, then my oldest daughter, my son and my new baby. By the time I got to the baby I recognized the puzzled look in her eyes, and her unspoken question, because I was thinking it myself:
"Who are all these people and how did they get here?"
In college I wasn't sure I wanted to have kids. Before I graduated I had already established myself as seriously pursuing a career in media. By the time I ran into this friend I had been working in the industry for 20 years, so my career commitment was still going strong. But along the way I became a mother - three times over - and a large part of who I am is now defined by being a mother of three.
There's something about having more than two children that makes people think you've gone over the edge. And once you have the third child you know it's true, you have gone over the edge - at least for the first few months.
When I first got pregnant with my last child the morning sickness came early and with a force that left me weak and shaking in bed. I was six weeks pregnant and driving to work when I realized I wasn't going to be able to make the five-minute drive without getting sick. I returned home in time to make it to the bathroom and, exhausted, sat down to call my boss. He asked about my cold and I told him it was much better but I had another problem -- I was pregnant and so sick I might not make it though this conversation without needing to excuse myself. I remember the silence that hung between the phone line as we both thought the same thing: "How did this happen?"
He finally spoke. "I thought you weren't having any more children."
"I wasn't," I replied. "But my body had a different idea."
After that conversation I decided to go public. It's a hard thing to hide when you're canceling appointments and social engagements to spend time in the bathroom. People I knew well and those I'd just met would boldly ask, "Did you plan this?" or, "Is this a surprise?"
I'd answer, "My husband always wanted to have another one," which was true, and in my mind putting it this way gave me some distance from the decision to have a third child. I was thankful I still had nine months to get used to the idea. I needed this time so I could immerse myself in the feeling of sheer terror at the thought of three children.
The pregnancy proved to be good practice for what came after the baby was born: times when my husband was out of town, the two older children were fighting like wrestlers in the WWF and the baby was screaming for milk or a diaper change or just to be held.
There are moments after a baby is born when you think in despair that things will never be the same. You will never be the person you were before. You will never be able to do all of the things you did before. And as you're saying this you're simultaneously thinking that of course things aren't the same and you don't want them to be. In fact, you might quit your job and stay at home because you're as besotted as you are bewildered by this small creature you created. Hormones wreak havoc with your thought processes as you become convinced there's no way to balance work and family. Each one appears to be an all or nothing proposition. Whether it's your first or your fifth baby, those early months can sap your energy and your ability to reason.
The difference between the first and any subsequent children is what you worry about. When you're embarking on motherhood all of the fear and anxiety is centered on the fateful day when you actually have to push that baby out. When you've already had a child, you know labor is hard, but it always has an end. The real work begins when you get home and mothering becomes your lifelong career.
I've learned that like a job you've mastered, there is a benefit to having several children. All of the mistakes you made the first time become experience the later children benefit from. I'm still often surprised that I'm a mother of three but I never regret it. My last child is letting me show my best work through her, and there's no better job satisfaction.