www.jennifergower.com

surviving on coffee and grace

My mornings, Monday through Friday, all begin the same at now.

Alarm at 6. Snooze once, then pray as I hear the sweet breathing of my baby, husband, and dog around me, “Please give me the strength to push through, the patience to teach, and the grace to be forgiving.”

I sneak out of the room by 6:15, wash up, get my coffee ready, and am pumping by 6:30. It is solitary, lonely, and tedious to pump, but most mornings Lily sneaks out of the bedroom and joins me on the couch. I welcome the company as I watch the news and remember that every day I pump is another day Amelia benefits. If my mother is visiting, I also have her company and am spoiled by her attentions. I am learning (though I don’t know that I ever forgot) that you are never to old to be taken care of by your mother, and no one ever takes care of you as well as your mother.

I’m done by 7:10 and quickly clean the equipment and move the pump into my work bag. I make breakfast and eat, move my lunch into my work bag, and double-check all my supplies are packed. Then I check again.

I change and am done getting ready by 7:30. Most mornings, if I’m lucky, Amelia is waking up by this point and I get a few precious moments with her when she is happy and smiling.

Once at work, I teach, grade, pump, teach, grade. It’s hard to be sad when I’m teaching, but when the students misbehave or quiet fills the room, all I can think about is what Amelia is doing. Has she rolled over yet? Is she saying her first word? Has she napped? Did I miss her laughing? Thinking of her helps me pump, but I’m finding that how my morning students act can affect how I pump as well. It terrifies me when I pump even a little less than my normal 5 ounces in the morning. Every session, three times a day, I have to pump at least 5 oz; otherwise, we have to dip into our emergency frozen stash and it might mean my supply is dropping.

That thought terrifies me. Even knowing that we have back-up formula, even knowing that we’ve made it 3 months breastfeeding, even knowing that fed is best, no matter how… I’m committed to breastfeeding. I feel this (self-created) pressure and know that I’ve placed some extra level of meaning on this connection that Amelia and I are maintaining. I am terrified of losing this with her, another thing that we can’t share anymore.

I can’t leave work when I originally planned to (I wanted to beat the buses out each day) because I have to pump before I leave; this delay costs me 30 minutes to an hour each afternoon.

I leave as soon as I can and hope the traffic is on my side. The moment I see my girl is the best part of the afternoon, but rarely now is it the cheerful and happy, babbling girl that I see. She is more tired, often fussier. She’s a morning girl, my darling daughter, and after 2pm she starts to lose some of her spunk. We begin the bedtime routine around 8, so I often only see her for 3 hours…so any time with her is better than none.

But I do miss the mornings with her when I could make her laugh. Our “conversations” could go for 30 minutes to almost an hour, but for the past to weeks, I rarely get to see this.

Sometimes, she gets a second wind before bed. After a feeding and a little nap, her eyes sometimes open and are bright, alert. Her smile can engulf her face, melting my heart, and she coos and babbles. I imagine she is telling me of her day, of all that she learned and did, and all the funny things her daddy said.

It might be getting a little better. Today was the start of week three and the first day where I didn’t cry at all. Thanksgiving break is right around the corner, and the knowledge that after four more days of work is nine days with Amelia (instead of just two) might be enough to keep the tears at bay.

This new routine breaks me a little every day. My family, my why, strengthens me every day. And, through a bit of luck and a lot of grace, I survive each day.

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