Family, Travel, Work

Highs and Lows

I could wait to get back from San Francisco. It’d been a long three days, and as the plane touched down in Portland, I started tapping my feet and upping the antsy-ness. At three days and two nights, it wasn’t the longest I’ve been away from Thomas, but it was close.

I jumped off the plane and bolted through the airport, swerving around meandering passengers. I love the new arrival area at PDX … you walk through glass doors into a bright, wide-open space filled with expectant parents, grandparents, friends and, if you’re lucky, your kiddo.

He didn’t see me at first. He was sipping on a pouch, and walking around the Starbucks tables. As he made a right turn, we locked eyes, and he went into what can best be described as a 20-month-old panic. “ALL DONE ALL DONE!” he yelled, trying to stuff the cap back on the pouch. “MAMA!”

I dropped my suitcase and walked quickly to him (running in airports always feels dangerous to me). Mere seconds later I had the sweetest reward for a week of hard work … a sweaty hug, a little drool, and a sticky hand patting my back as he said, “mama, mama, hug?” I was home, and literally nothing could be better.

Nothing, that is, until you fast forward 90 minutes. Everyone is hungry. Everyone is tired. And maybe, just maybe, we’ve spent a few too many hours at Joann’s buying stuff for the forthcoming merchandise in the shop. It is at these times that genius usually strikes, and tonight it did. My husband and I decided tonight was the night to take Thomas to his first round at Shari’s.

We snuggled into the booth with two menus and a kid’s drawing pack, and Thomas immediately set the coloring the paper. And then the menu. And then the table. It’s during these moments that the flashbacks occur, where you remember every time you’ve glared at another parent who should “just control their kid.” When the waitress took our drink order, I turned my head for two seconds. When I turned back, the window was colored in stripes of green.

“Don’t worry about it,” she said. “We have stuff that will take that right off.”

But I can’t help but worry about it. This is a learning moment, and a moment to control. I turned to Thomas, and gently said, “we don’t color on windows … if you don’t color on the paper, we are done with it for tonight,” and redirected him to the paper. Task complete, until mere seconds later, he picked up the crayon again and splashed more color across the window.

I picked him up swiftly, and swung him over my lap so he’d be on the other side of me and away from the offending window. In doing so, my child, who I swear grew at least three inches in the three days I was gone, sent my water glass flying with his kick. The entire restaurant went silent, except for Thomas who was yelling, “mine!” as he thrashed in the booth. Jake said, “do you want me to handle it?” My look could’ve killed.

In that moment, I truthfully hated myself. All I had done was pine for my kid for three days, and not two hours after we saw each other, I already wanted to go back to San Francisco, my quiet hotel room, and my newspaper before bedtime. My internal monologue was ugly. “I’m a failure. I’m impatient. I’m failing him. He’s a kid and I can’t keep my cool to make this a learning lesson. I’ve embarrassed everyone.” And so on and so forth.

It was MILES from what I expected my evening to be. Landing in Portland, I fantasized about this evening being full of sweet moments. I pictured us happily “frowing rocks,” hanging with the dog, and snuggling up to “be book.” That fantasy, however, was not to be.

My hormones, my anxiety, my depression, they all spin stories for me about what should and shouldn’t be for myself, for my life, for my family. I constantly have to recenter and remind myself that one transgression doesn’t set a whole day’s (or even a whole hour’s) path, and yes, we can bounce back. It feels impossible and scary in that moment to forgive myself, but taking a deep breath is often enough to help at least get me started.

That’s what I did tonight. I told Jake I needed a second to settle. I hugged my child. Within seconds, he was happily eating croutons and talking in garbled sentences. We ate dinner, watched our neighbor leaf blow his yard, read a few books, chased the dog … it was a good night after all.


Working Mom Speech

My former company designated a weekly winner of a cup. It is passed from employee to employee, usually with a speech to explain the addition of a trinket to the cup AND to recognize the incoming winner.

This was my speech (and added trinket) from March 2nd, 2018.

Marlene Sanders was the first woman to report from Vietnam during the war. She also had a son. When asked for advice, on how to manage it all from a younger journalist, she said this.

“Never apologize for working. You love what you do, and loving what you do is a great gift to your child.”

Even though I am lucky enough to have my child through some extraordinary scientific means, I still wasn’t sure motherhood was for me. And honestly, my professional life and how he would affect it scared me the most. I pride myself on helping. The business. People who don’t have as loud of a voice. Connecting dots. How much of where I found value would I be compromising because of this little human who I didn’t even know yet?

These considerations contributed to significant postpartum anxiety and depression. In fact, this time exactly a year ago, I had three weeks left in maternity leave, and the thought of that was causing near daily panic attacks.

With a good doctor, some better medicine, and lots of talking, I got through those first several months. And, after a few more, I was finally able to internalize the advice given by Sanders. I am here today because I wanted my child to see a good example of taking care of yourself, both in and outside of the workplace.

So this is what I am adding to the cup. The working mom. As a reminder to myself and all the other PARENTS here that we are not defined by being a parent, but in reality, it is one of the many pieces that makes us up and makes us better people. AND as a reminder that while we have come so far, we still have a long way to go in terms of women‘s rights when it comes to caring for herself and her child postpartum.

In that vein, I want to give the cup to someone who, I feel, holds dear to all the values we focus on here. While I have seen him embrace all of them on a near daily basis in my short tenure, there is one that, given the story I have just told, sticks in my mind above all. This story, I believe, demonstrates his incredible empathy.

We were in San Diego, after a long day on-site with a customer. As most of you know I do, I was pumping to feed my kiddo throughout the day. I started the day pumping in a bathroom at the Westin. My lunch break had me pumping in a car. And finally, as usually happens, I ran into a few troubles at with TSA because of the liquids I had with me.

It took almost 30 minutes, but I finally got it all sorted out with the TSA agent about the laws with regards to transporting breastmilk.

This coworker stood there with me even though I let him know it was going to take a long time (which it did), asking questions, and seeking understanding. He didn’t shy away because it’s breastmilk. He didn’t turn his head. He was empathetic. And human. And a little angry on behalf of not just me, but of all the moms who have to deal with a lack of education, enablement, and resources. And for that, and for the steadfastness and all the other values he embraces, I pass the cup to him.

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Returning to the Road

In the winter of 2011, I was going through a difficult time in my life. That year, I decided to treat myself and travel from DC, where I’d recently moved, to Oregon, for Christmas.

I was lucky enough to go to graduate school in Oregon, and it had always felt like home more than any other place I’d lived. December of 2011 was no different, and when the plane landed, I was reminded of why I was drawn to the state. Temperate climate (much better than back in DC, where the temperatures were frigid!), un-ending greenery, the ever-present misty rain, and the smell of pine drew me in, and helped begin my healing process. Running the trails near my best friend’s house helped to rebuild my confidence in myself, while introducing me to my favorite running weather of all time: 55F and misty.

It was fitting, then, that after a months-long break during my pregnancy, I returned to the road today for a mile-long run. It’s a day I’ve literally dreamed about; thankfully my active pregnancy mind allowed me to experience athleticism in my sleep! That being said, I wasn’t sure how it would go, as I am, somewhat, pushing the limits of my body. At five weeks, five days postpartum, my OB would probably prefer I wait a little bit longer to “push myself,” as she stated. But when I woke up, today felt right, and I decide to see how it would feel to hit the pavement.

Without even needing to share, the dog knew today was the day. There was an energy about her as soon as I woke up. And when I pulled out my running shoes for the first time since last year? I thought her chocolate lab head would explode. I decided to “run lucky,” and pulled on my favorite outfit to accompany me. Leaving Thomas in the capable hands of our doula, Kiwi and I hit the road.

It wasn’t my fastest run certainly, but wow. It reminded me of the runs I did in December of 2011. The temperature was perfect, hovering in the mid 50s, and a light misty rain accompanied us for our mile. The dog spared me any bathroom stops, and I got to enjoy almost 12 minutes of bliss. This time, the perfect run accompanied a different kind of healing.

The birth of Thomas forty days ago was the best day of my life. I welcomed into the world a beautiful son, whom I hope to raise to understand passion, curiosity, and self-worth. Part of raising a child in this way requires setting a good example, and today I am proud of the memory I made which I hope to someday share with him.

(Cross-posted from Stetsonday.)