Half a Year

Working in academia means that the year has a distinct rhythm.  Last week the students moved into their dorms again, a fresh batch of misty-eyed parents unloaded minivans full of stuff and left their precious children to their own devices, and this week I got up in front of a classroom for the first time since last December, before my son was born.  As the start-of-school milestone passes yet again, it makes me think back on our journey, and how our quest for a living child has ticked against the start of classes during my time on the tenure track.

Three years ago we were just starting to realize that getting pregnant might not be easy for us.

Two years ago I was four and a half months pregnant and deliriously happy; I had no idea that on September 11 we’d find out that our daughter had died.

Last year I was four months pregnant and completely freaked out but hopeful.  The other faculty knew, but I waited to tell the students until it was obvious.  I was juggling an academic schedule with frequent prenatal visits and trying not to lose my mind as the anniversary of our daughter’s death approached.

This year I have a six-month-old bundle of snuggles and love.  He has ten fingers, ten toes, blue eyes and blond hair like his daddy, two teeth(!), and an intense desire to crawl.  He’s now been in full-time daycare for one week, and I miss my little sidekick, but he’s doing great.  He just started drinking from a sippy cup (after adamantly refusing a bottle his entire life), which means I have a little more freedom and my baby is a little more grown up.  We’ve survived his first two illnesses (the first a week-long epic fever followed by ear infection followed by full-body rash from antibiotics, the second a plague that swept our household and left me delirious with my first fever in a decade and left our poor little guy a drippy-nosed, coughing mess for a couple of weeks).  Completely disordered sleep suddenly seems to have resolved this week into once-a-night wakeups (knock on wood!).  He sits, he laughs, he explores his world.  Our baby is growing up.

And still, I teach.  I love being back in the classroom, talking about physics, prompting discussion, fielding my students’ intense questions about our place in the cosmos and how it all fits together.  My first class of freshman majors are graduating this year, and the amount of growing they’ve done since I first welcomed them into a college classroom is staggering.  In a seminar I’m teaching this fall (packed to capacity), during introductions the first day several students mentioned that they’re taking the class because I brought them into the field with my introductory course, and even though they ultimately chose majors in other subjects they wanted to keep taking classes in my subject because they loved my class so much.

Brown-nosers, the lot of them. 🙂

I’m in a very happy place now, but the start of the school year reminds me that it’s been a long time in the making.  Seeing the students arrive on campus also reminds me that my hopes for my son involve him leaving me to join a similar tree-lined, ivy-covered campus about 18 years from now.  As he started full-day daycare last week I sobbed to my husband, “Today it’s daycare, tomorrow it’s kindergarten, the next day it’ll be college and we’ll never see him again!”  Possibly an exaggeration, but the feeling of time passing is inescapable.  I love his emerging personality and his increasing independence, just as much as I love having my tiny baby to snuggle and hold and nurse while he lets me.


11 thoughts on “Half a Year

  1. My Perfect Breakdown

    I’m with you on the off to collage next year sentiment. I just cannot believe how quickly he is growing up!! In some ways I want time to slow down and in others I’m so excited to see him grow into a young man!
    I’ll be thinking of you tomorrow as you remember your little girl.
    Before I forget how did you get him to leave to use a sippy cup?? Our son seems to be desperate to use one but unable to figure it out.

    1. lyra211 Post author

      I wish I had good advice for you on the sippy cup front, but (1) my husband did it because if I’m anywhere around, my babe is like, “Wait, why would I take some second rate plastic thing over actual boob?”, and (2) my husband swears he did nothing but hand S the sippy cup, and then he just grabbed it by the handles and chugged. He tried it a couple of different times when I just went out to run an errand, but it seems that S has to be actually hungry to be willing to take the sippy cup. He was happy with it for all three feedings the past three days in daycare, though, so it seems like it’s going to stick. If it helps, the one that worked for us was the Nuk learner cup (5oz). I know other people who swear by it as well.

      Thanks for thinking of us tomorrow. It’ll always be a bittersweet day.

  2. jwhitworth7

    Love this post. I’ve been thinking about you as you return to work full time. How is he 6 months old?!?!! So happy that you are at such a good place but I understand how the time of year can trigger thoughts of years past. You’ve come so far and I’m so happy that you’re happy. I’ll be thinking of your family and your daughter tomorrow. You’re an awesome momma!!

    1. lyra211 Post author

      Thank you!!! I have no idea how he’s six months old. It just sort of happened! Really he’s sneaking up on 7 months already — less than two weeks away! My big little boy! Luke is even bigger, though… first birthday is right around the corner for you! 🙂

      It was surprising to me, but the transition from half-day daycare to full-day daycare was by far the hardest yet. Half-day daycare was awesome — just enough hours of work to get me excited about using my brain, but still got to spend most of the day with my little guy. Then, bam, full-day work, and I feel like I hardly see him during the week. Just an hour or two in the morning and about an hour and a half in the evening before bed. It’s not enough. It helps me to remember that my mom did exactly the same with me (I started daycare at 6 months) and it hasn’t hurt our relationship any. But I do miss my little boy when I’m at work, even though I also love my work and find it very fulfilling. There’s just no right choice when it comes to work and babies… even though I still think this is the right choice for us, I can’t help but wish that I could spend more time with him.

      1. jwhitworth7

        You are right there is no right choice and if this feels best for you guys then you’re doing the right thing! I Can imagine that the shift to full time was very hard. It sounds like he’s doing great though. And I know the time that you do have with him is so special. Yes Luke will be 8 months tomorrow!! Like MPB it makes me excited and sad all at the same time. I try to cherish each kiss and hug and nursing session. You’re right they will be off to kindergarten soon!

  3. xykademiqz

    Time does fly. Eldest is a high-school junior and can now drive. I look at him and ask “Who are you? I had a small baby, where did he go?” He rolls his eyes at me and smiles, and gives me a bear hug as he is now taller than me. Middle Boy is in 4th grade, I cannot believe he will almost hit middle school and puberty is around the corner — nooooo! Smurf, my baby, just started Kindergarten. He has a big-boy backpack that looks gigantic on him and makes him sway from side to side when he runs. They grow up so fast.

    1. lyra211 Post author

      I simply can’t imagine my baby turning into a driving high school junior — it just does not compute. It sounds like yours still has your sweet baby hidden somewhere inside, though. 🙂 If S will consent to give me bear hugs as a teenager, I’ll know I’ve done something right!

      Kindergarten! Wow! I hope Smurf is having a great time so far. I have two friends with kids who are starting kindergarten this year, and both little girls seemed to feel so grown up heading into that classroom for the first time. It seems like a big step towards independence, and I think the kids feel it too.

      And… I knew time flew before I had my baby, in the sense that I’d end the semester and feel like it had just started the day before. But time just sort of slid by without things changing too much, and it was often hard to remember if something happened one or two or three years ago. I find that having a kid in the house makes the time passing all the more jarring. I know what happened before S got his first tooth and what happened after it. I know what happened before he could roll over and what happened after. There are so many milestones with a baby around that it really marks the passing of time like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. I imagine with three there’s always some milestone happening for one or another of them — your own personal living calendars. 🙂

  4. andthewindscreamsmary

    So glad to hear all is well and your little man is doing good. You really seem to be at peace. And it’s so nice to read how happy you are to be back to work and it seems like teaching really is your passion! I wonder how it’s going to be when I go back to work after leave, and I hope that I will love to be back when it’s my turn.

    1. lyra211 Post author

      It is a peaceful time — hopefully it stays that way, because I’m really enjoying it. (I still have my moments of freak-out, though. Today I spent about 10 minutes googling the most common causes of mortality in children under 1. Haven’t done anything like that in a long time, but apparently my mind still goes there once in a while!)

      I very much hope that you are happy to be back at work once you get there. I think those first days at daycare are always hard, but then you realize that your baby is benefiting so much from the stimulating environment and the interactions with other kids, and you’re benefiting so much from the stimulating interactions with other adults, that it’s probably a good thing on balance. When my son was doing half-day daycare, sometimes I felt bad taking him home from daycare because our house seemed so boring in comparison! I do wish I could tip the balance of hours so that he’s with me more during the week. There’s no ideal situation.

      I’m so glad to read that everything is continuing to go well for you, and I can’t wait for news that your little one is in your arms at last. Here’s hoping for a consistently boring end of pregnancy for you!


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