I knew this day would come. It was only a matter of time. It was when, not if. I knew that I would have my day of reckoning and I would have to face my worst fear. That day arrived recently, later than I thought it would, but still earlier than I would have liked.
See, Rex had a virus thingy that Kept. Coming. Back. bringing with it a pesky low grade fever that did not appear to bother him in the slightest but bothered day care because sick babies don’t belong at day care. It was never a scary illness, it was the Virus du Jour making its rounds of all the kids and he managed to catch it.
It was this illness that brought me face to face with my greatest fear: staying home with Rex all day. By myself. The panic that I felt welling up inside me that Thursday night when I took his temperature, watching that damn thermometer go up like Chris Farley’s blood pressure rating, was similar to the feeling when I realized that I had hit a bicyclist with my car back in law school. It was the panic that I felt when I realized that our first baby had died. In other words, it was gut-wrenching, breath-sucking panic. It made my teeth hurt.
How is it possible that I have never spent an entire day at home with my baby by myself? Well, even during maternity leave, I had someone there at least part of the time, either my mom or my mother in law or my wonderful friend. And then, and now, he is in day care. And, Mr. X is home on the weekends, so poof, all seven days of the week accounted for.
The day for me to face the fear had come. And, all I could see stretching before me was the endless day of me holding a constant one-sided conversation with Rex or worse, listening to him cry before succumbing to a nap and then waiting on pins and needles for him to wake up. What if he should get it in his head to be cranky? There would be no one there I could say, can you just let me have 5 minutes? And for that matter, what would I do with him all day? When we first brought him home, I kept asking myself this question. What does one do with a newborn all day? The obvious answer now is feed him, change him and get him to sleep by whatever means necessary. But, at the time, I was clueless.
Even now, it’s not the most intuitive thing for me to be at home with him. He’s on a schedule now for feeding and napping, but during the other time, I look at him quizzically and ask, what should we do? And he looks right back at me and drools. He’s as clueless as I am. We end up in a cycle of playyard, jumperoo, throne, quilt on the floor with toys, (me) reading books to him while he tries to eat the books, going outside, taking a walk, etc., etc. It makes me exhausted just thinking about it.
In the end, though I managed. Frankly, I managed pretty darn well. Mr. X came home at lunch to relieve me for a little bit so I could go out and get us lunch. Rex decided that naps were the new black and took two ginormous ones, one in the morning and one the afternoon. And, I wasn’t exhausted at the end as I had thought I would be. I was tired, to be sure, but not physically and emotionally drained as I had felt on prior occasions when I was the sole caretaker for more than a few hours.
I know now that some of my panic was in the not knowing: not knowing if I would be able to do it, not knowing when it was going to happen. Just the sheer act of doing it and getting through it relatively unscathed has given me a great deal of confidence. It has also reinforced what I’ve suspected for a long time: I am not cut out for being a stay at home mom. Oh, do I salute you ladies who do it and do it well, day in and day out. Give me a contract to review or a nasty letter to respond to any day.
Even though we had a good day together when he was home with me, the time that we have when he comes home from day care is that much more special. I kiss his big cheeks within an inch of his life and he squeals in delight. We’ve both had a good day, then.