Posted by Kim K.
My first child was due on Sept. 16, 2003. He arrived, instead, on Aug. 20, 2003. While four weeks in a child’s life doesn’t really make all the difference, it did when Zachary was born four weeks early. Although he was 6 pounds, 4 ounces, he struggled with his breathing and the doctors and nurses took him out of our room about 12 hours after he was born and entered him into the NICU. The NICU, renamed Baby Prison (BP for short), was where we spent the first three weeks of his life. He was on a ventilator for five days (he had a pneumothorax)and he couldn’t feed from me or a bottle because of the ventilator so milk went down a tube through his nose into his tummy. Baby Prison. I saw women leave with their babies every day. It was horrible. Depressing. We had to scrub in to see him and wear gowns. It’s a blur and it’s also crystal clear.
In those three weeks not only did I struggle with the fact that I couldn’t hold my first born for the first five days, I couldn’t stop thinking about every week in the NICU for Zachary was one less of a week of maternity leave for me. Every week went by and it went from 13, 12, 11 and then finally I got him home. Maternity leave started and then before I knew it on Dec. 1, I was back at work sitting at a meeting as if nothing ever happened. Except for the fact that I had a baby and everything had changed.
I was so upset.
From that point on working became something that I did. I did it for my family. For the insurance. For the money. And, it’s what I have done for the entire time that I’ve had kids. While I found it to present challenges not being home with my two children when they were babies, I have found it to become increasingly more challenging as they have gotten older. My 4-year-old calls me multiple times a day. Every morning she asks me if it’s a “Mommy Day?” My older one calls me after school with questions and stories and issues. He wants to talk to me. He wants to share with me. There are play dates, after-school activities, in-school obligations. Add in a 37-mile commute each way.
Lately all I can think about is how I feel like I am in the NICU and their days of being little in this very moment are peeling away week by week by week. Zachary is entering second grade in the fall and my baby who we call “Little” is now 4. Where did the time go? And, how did I get here?
Last week I resigned from my job. A flexible job. A good job. Surrounded by people who I love. But, it’s still a job. A vigorous job that’s demanding and very deadline oriented. People need things from me all the time. I take things seriously, so when I am with my kids I am thinking about work and clients and deadlines and when I am at work I am thinking about my kids and play dates and school stuff.
The best current example that I can give is when I was off on a Thursday taking my kids to the zoo during their spring break. It was a vacation day, but there was online inventory that was available only on that day for a client so I was at the zoo e-mailing clients, feeding my kids lunch, e-mailing clients. And, I had a moment where I thought to myself, I can’t keep doing this. I have to stop.
So, I am taking a break. I am walking away. From the insurance, from the income, from the friends who are like family so that I can go to the zoo. And, look at the animals. And, pause for a few minutes.