My youngest just started kindergarten. I mean – MY YOUNGEST JUST STARTED KINDERGARTEN!! While moms (better moms) around the globe sent their youngest off to school, then sat at home and cried into their coffee, I gleefully skipped all the way home from the bus stop. Yes, I love her. Yes, of course I miss her during the day. But not only was she beyond ready to start school, I was ready for her to start school.
I have three kids – my oldest is 11, then nine, and my youngest is five. I married a bit late – and honestly wasn’t entirely sure that kids were for me. I liked kids well enough, but commitment and I can be a bit contentious, and there’s no bigger commitment on this glorious planet than becoming a parent, so I was hesitant.
I had also completely committed to my career. I was on the fast track: MBA by age 28, named to “Top 40 under 40” by the local business journal, high profile job – I was killing it. I had my sights set on a certain path, and once I was focused on something, I was highly unskilled at seeing any other possible path. I remain this way to this day. Working on it.
But, I met the man of my dreams, and he was so dreamy I couldn’t imagine not having his children. I mean, they’d be gorgeous. And smart. And tall. And athletic. New path! Like a retriever chasing a ball, I became solely focused on becoming a mother.
Like any other challenge in my life, I prepared. I did everything right. And then I had three consecutive miscarriages, each more devastating than the last. I could feel my dream of motherhood slipping away from me, and I was furious that this was something I couldn’t “succeed” at. Every other accomplishment in my life had been achieved by seeking the answers and putting in the work, and that equation didn’t pan out in this scenario. I was, for the first time in my life, NOT in control of a situation in my life.
Through the wonders of science and western medicine, the wonderful doctors finally figured out what was happening. It took about three years, but I had an answer. My next pregnancy was a success, resulting in our firstborn, a son. He was, and is, awe-inspiring to me. His very existence. I remember looking at him in the hospital, right after he was born, unable to comprehend that he was actually here, because for so long it seemed as though it might never happen. Honestly, I still look at him and think this. What a miracle.
I went back to my job when he was 12 weeks old. “Look at me! Killing it! New baby, back to my job as a VP – I can DO this.” And I did. My husband and I balanced two high-demand jobs with full-time daycare and we made it work. Time to have another baby.
Anyway, life – as it does – threw me a curve ball. A doozy. Less than two years after our son arrived, our daughter was born. In stark contrast to our very healthy son, it was immediately, apparent that our daughter was different. She struggled to breathe. She was puffy. Her APGAR scores weren’t great. The doctors and nurses looked concerned, and gave me nervous smiles. I hate nervous smiles.
We quickly learned that life with our daughter was not going to be the same relatively easy one we’d experienced with our son. She came home from the hospital on oxygen, and would not be free of it for two years. She was fed through a g-tube, surgically implanted in her stomach. She had open heart surgery as an infant. Those are simply the highlights: in between all of those things were what seemed like a million doctor’s appointments, specialists and medical equipment requirements.
It became clear that it was in her best interest to have me leave my job and become her full-time caregiver. We really didn’t have much of a choice and I’m grateful that we were able to make it work on only my husband’s income. I told my job I would not be returning, and I was in such a state of stress at the time, that I don’t think I fully understood the magnitude of how my life had just changed. The path I had been on was suddenly closed, and the detour was a route I wasn’t sure I knew how to navigate. Or even wanted to. Being a stay-at-home mom simply hadn’t been on my radar.
But, like any curveball, you adjust your stance and take a swing. I threw myself into being her caregiver. I impressed doctors with my knowledge of her medical issues, and nurses with how quickly I learned to use her medical equipment. I slayed it. I was so busy being a nurse and a mom that I hardly had time to think about how dramatically my life had changed.
Eventually, thankfully, our daughter’s health levelled out a bit. She came off oxygen. She learned to eat. At almost three, she started walking. Even with a yearlong deployment by my husband, we were doing okay.
The nanosecond, and I do mean nanosecond, I thought to myself “Phew! That was rough. But we’re good!”, I found out I was pregnant with our third child. Boom shakalaka. Though miserably sick through most of the pregnancy, I was nervously anticipating a healthy child. I love infancy: it’s my favorite stage, and I really didn’t get to enjoy it with our daughter. So, we were thrilled when our second daughter was born healthy. I marveled at how easily she did everything: she ate, she gained weight, she met her milestones on time or early – it was incredible. I soaked it all up.
I got to enjoy her infancy, and her toddlerhood, and her preschool adorableness. Then, seemingly five minutes after she was born, she was starting kindergarten. It actually did not occur to me until possibly the week before school started, just how much time I’d have during the day. I’m a bit slow on the uptake sometimes. But then it was here: she started school and I found myself with a lot more time during the day than I was used to.
So now I’m here: at another juncture in my life. However, the more junctures there are, the more I realize they are supposed to be there. And that a new path doesn’t mean it’s a forever path, just a “this is where you are right now” path. So the right now me needs to figure out how to balance newfound time, creative energy and the changing needs of three growing kids. And it’s all good. I will keep reminding myself that it’s all good. That I don’t, in fact, need to panic with change. That my youngest going to kindergarten is great for her, it’s good for me, and it’s all good, y’all. All good.