Lorelei's First Day

Charlotte's first day of school, about 3 years ago.

Lorelei's first day of school, about 3 days ago.

Lorelei started school on Friday.

I had been looking forward to this day for quite some time, anxious to get my girls at the same place during the day and to finally fall into a real routine.

I switched around my compressed Friday off from work, moving it to Thursday and staying home (but not working!) with Lorelei for one last day. As I put together her school things, I got a little sad.

And as I started preparing bottles of breast milk, I got positively antsy. For the most part, I've dodged working-mommy guilt with Lorelei so far, probably because her grandmas--who absolutely adore this child--took such good care of her when I returned to work. Sure, I missed Lorelei during the day--it's a big adjustment to go from being around your baby 24/7 to a far more rigid, baby-less existence during the day. Of course, that irritating, time-consuming activity of pumping milk at work can always be counted on to remind you that you are, fundamentally, a mommy.

Rationally, I know that Lorelei's teachers are super sweet, loving, and incredibly capable, but that doesn't mean it's easy to leave her. Before her first day, we had joked and laughed with the staff, who explained that the first-timers always, ALWAYS leave in tears on the first day. Oh yes, I had been that mom. On my way out, after leaving Charlotte, I blinked away tears as I passed sweet school staff who gently, one after the other, asked if I was okay. I smiled, nodded, and once in the parking lot, burst into dainty sobs.

Really, bawling in the day care parking lot is a working mom rite of passage.

But now? Oh, those inexperienced, first-time mommies, I smugly thought, totally confident in my ability to leave Lorelei with nary a tear.

But, well, like I said, there were the bottles. For the life of me, I couldn't determine portion sizes. With the grandmas, I just left all the milk in the fridge, with instructions to let Lorelei drink it as she wanted and to give her formula if they ran out. Breast milk, due to its purity (could I have possibly picked a more pretentiously pro-breastfeeding word there? I think not), allows one to be quite loosey goosey on the number of hours it can sit out and so on. Lorelei is often a snacker, so it's not unusual for her to be offered the same 5-ounce bottle over the course of 2 or 3 or even 4 hours. I wouldn't do that with formula (though I doubt doing so would be tragic), but there are those who say the baby's bacteria in her mouth can taint the unused portion of milk. Predictably, no scientific evidence supports this, so we offer a bottle of that hard-won milk until its freaking GONE.

However, I realized that I didn't know if the school had a policy on what to do with unused milk. (This was never an issue with Charlotte--she'd eat entire bottles, always. Besides, due to her huge feeding needs, she had two bottles of formula per day, then eventually three.) I absolutely hated the idea of any breast milk getting wasted. Unless you're a pumping mama, you just don't know how much time, effort, hassle, and sometimes discomfort goes into generating milk for your baby to eat in your absence. And when we run short, we use formula. (Yes, there are pouches of frozen milk in every crevice of our freezer, but defrosting takes time, plus we usually just need an ounce or two of formula or whatever to top off our girl, not an entire feeding's worth.) I'm very, very pro-formula, but damn it, if I spent all that time and effort making milk, I WANT EVERY DROP CONSUMED.

So, this bottle indecisiveness led to me remembering how hard transitioning back to work was with Charlotte, how much I missed her, how guilty I felt. All those past icky feelings seeped into what was left of the clear-thinking part of my mommy brain.

Despite Lorelei being almost 4 months old (Charlotte was 11 weeks!), I suddenly didn't feel ready. Leaving her in the baby room was the first step to her growing up, moving up from class to class, just like Charlotte. Lorelei's babyness no longer felt happily lazy and slow moving; it now felt fleeting and too damn short.

With Charlotte, whenever I mourned her growing out of a phase, I always comforted myself with the extreme likelihood that I'd get to experience it again, with my next baby. Well, Lorelei is most likely my last baby. When she's done gurgling and cooing, that's it. Over.

So, of course, like 99% of working mommies, I questioned my choice to work outside the home. I use the word "choice" grudgingly, as me working has the three main hard-to-ignore upsides of (1) maintaining traction in a career, (2) income (most of which funds school tuition, or course), and (3) funding and thus allowing Charlotte and eventually Lorelei to reap the benefits of a good preschool (I'm of the camp who thinks the school environment is fantastic for toddlers and that infants and very young toddlers just don't know the difference). So, for the billionth time, I toyed with the idea of staying home, devoting my days to my progeny. Could I be creative enough to entertain Charlotte? Would Lorelei give me enough time to properly teach Charlotte? Would we be social enough to ensure our kiddos didn't end up weird? Would I ever wear make-up again? Would my house always be a wreck? Good lord, could I live without housecleaners? Or, well, would I just turn on the Disney Channel and sort of let everything slide?

I'd like to think that if staying home was my job, per se, I'd tackle things like, oh I don't know, LEARNING with more effort than I do on Saturdays.

So, all this ran through my mind as I soaked up a quiet, blessedly non-chaotic day with my Lorelei, aside from fretting about bottles.

And, of course, I actually showed up at school on Friday.

(With Lorelei.)

I left, knowing she was in wonderful hands.

And I cried in the parking lot anyway.


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