When I think about past events, there are a few that stand out as landmarks and all others are placed around them. The births of my children are big landmarks; each one came with a new set of experiences and taught me so much.
Before my first child was born, I envisioned a 40-week pregnancy followed by a seamless maternity leave. I planned to train my replacement, wrap up my work, and go pop out a baby after an eight-hour workday. When I discussed my plans with my employer, he sensed my naivete: “You know, having a baby is not like having a cold.” No, I didn’t know.
After my first was born – at 34 weeks amidst severe preeclampsia – I realized that having kids was not as easy as my mother had made it look. My perfectly envisioned maternity leave was not perfect at all: instead of training my replacement, I disappeared into the hospital one day and did not come out for awhile. I experienced love at first sight when my baby was born, then discovered the heartbreak of leaving him every night in the NICU once I was discharged. I experienced the joy of finally bringing him home, then the sleeplessness of having a tiny and constantly hungry newborn. Returning to work was harder than I thought and keeping my eyes open during the day was only part of the challenge.
Before my second child was born, I experienced three miscarriages. Upon the final miscarriage, I sold the baby crib. It seemed silly to store a baby crib in our tiny apartment for a baby that it seemed we would never have. A month after I sold it, we got pregnant again – and this time it stuck. She was born at 34 weeks; after five weeks in the NICU, we brought her home to a friend’s donated crib.
Before my third child was born, I babysat my friend’s daughter. My oldest was now in school, so my daughter loved having a companion during the day and I loved working from home. We played, visited parks and museums, and enjoyed girl time! When I got pregnant, I planned to stop babysitting much earlier than 40 weeks because my first two had come early. Nevertheless, no amount of planning prepared me for my water breaking at 28 weeks followed by a month in the hospital before he was born at 32 weeks. I experienced weeks of mind-numbing boredom followed by a quick birth and then seven weeks of shuttling breastmilk back and forth from the NICU, caring for my two other kids, and infrequently sleeping.
Now I am in the “after my third child” phase and I am not sure what landmark will come next, but I am making memories in the meantime.