At thirteen pounds even (60th percentile) and a whopping 24 inches long (75th percentile), my porkchop is outpacing my wildest expectations. I am amazed at the wonderful roundness of her: her big round eyes, plump apple cheeks, fuzzy round pumpkinhead, squishy thighs and delicious potbelly. The curve of her perfect lower lip describes the arc of a circle. And when she smiles — she smiles so much! at three months! — she illuminates the entire celestial sphere. Even in advertising materials for baby products, which are presumably staffed by the cutest model kids money could buy, I have never seen such a breathtakingly beautiful baby.
It doesn’t look like I’m going to be much of a stage mom though. On March 18, we learned, a spot had opened up for Genevieve at the Justice Department daycare, where Natalie has thrived since last summer. The clock was running down on my maternity leave. I had the good fortune of a week of remaining leave, and then two weeks of authorized telework, to figure out how I was going to choreograph the routine of getting two little girls downtown and my own self into the office in the morning. And then how we’d all shlep home and somehow eat dinner and then manage to stay awake until bedtime. And, in between, how I’d hack this day job that I was still getting paid to do.
Natalie started daycare at five months. Life was a lot less expensive then: next to a comparatively affordable condominium mortgage and two old cars requiring little maintenance, a single daycare payment was not such an onerous burden to shoulder. And my six months of maternity leave was an unqualified luxury, even though half of it was unpaid: all that time with my baby, and then time to myself, I treasured as something I knew I’d never have again.
Sure enough: that was it. I can’t afford unpaid leave now. That big house in the magical 20016 zipcode doesn’t pay for itself, nor do two kids in daycare (a bill roughly equivalent to my freshman-year tuition at Yale). And my stash of paid leave, never particularly large, had dwindled down to emergency-margin levels. Daycare had come through at exactly the right time. It was time to hand my beautiful, beautiful girl to someone else, swallow hard, and resume my place as a cog in the great machine.
Except that it wasn’t exactly the right time, my guts complained, twisting painfully as I took Genevieve to the babies room for an hour or two more each day. She’s so little. It’s too soon. Once you walk out that door and leave her here, you’ll come back and pick her up and she’ll be one year old. Then two. Then in kindergarten. You are hanging up her childhood here, which of course will be necessary eventually, but is it really necessary yet? Now? So soon? She’s barely three months old.
I cried. I didn’t think I’d cry; I thought I was made of sterner stuff, that I could man up and return to my regularly-scheduled breadwinning after a mere three months without so much as a sniffle. Eh. As it turns out, not so much.
The person who didn’t cry was Genevieve. She looked right into the eyes of her new caregiver, relaxed, and within five minutes had drifted off to sleep on her lap. I never had any doubts that Genevieve would be well cared-for at this daycare, which has been so great for Natalie, but seeing her fit neatly into her element made me feel a bit better. Still, it didn’t stop the choking-up, the stretching sensation as the silver thread between us was pulled taut. It had been tough enough to leave an older, more mature (although, to be fair, not larger) Natalie in good hands; leaving my almost-three-month-old jellybean, who wasn’t even sleeping through the night yet, smarted like actual physical pain.
But we’ve done it. I’m back on the clock as of tomorrow, teleworking, and then back in the office two weeks from today. It’s time to get myself on a pumping schedule. Time to take plenty of cell phone video and pictures to help me lactate in Eve’s absence. Time to get used to mixing up botbots every morning (as I cannot pump more than three ounces at a clip, even now, for love nor money) and loading both girls into my little old car and figuring out how to get through mornings in “new normal” mode. Because this is how it’s going to be.
And if not, there’s always Genevieve’s modeling career.