We've all survived my first three weeks back to work. I've just been dipping my toes in a couple days at a time, and everything is mostly OK. Hard, but OK. I know I'm not the only mother on the planet to go through this, although sometimes, it strangely feels like it. I'm not sure why.
I step back and see how much I have let my career define me over the past 6 or 7 years. That is neither a good thing, nor is it a bad thing. It just is - your work, your passions, your day to day, become a part of who you are. But now the definition of myself has broadened and stretched wider, and growing into that feels so uncomfortable, still - like a house that's too big with not enough furniture. I'm not sure where to sit or where to put my drink, so I just kind of float aimlessly from room to room, looking for a place to settle.
I still feel like I'm holding my breath, waiting for something big to shift.
Lately I've been scouring my photo archives in preparation for a big website update that is taking forever to complete. There are so many thousands of images that I haven't looked at in years. A month in Ireland. Our journey to Seattle. Camping in a yurt. Weddings that I shot, gorgeous weddings, that remind me that I really can be a photographer. (I forget this, all too easily.) And strangely, the photos that seem the farthest away and the longest ago were the ones that were taken just a little over 4 months ago on the day that my son was born.
I opened the images and gasped. I don't know how my husband, amidst all that chaos and fear in that blinding bright operating room, managed to snap those few precious photos. I am so grateful to have them. That boy, so pink and new and strong and screaming. My face, so puffy and swollen from the bags of fluid that they pumped through my dehydrated body. My eyes, practically dead from three hard days of labor and no sleep, but yet so alive. He was so very tiny. I don't remember. In my mind, he has always been 4 months old and I don't know how I could forget those brutal early days, but they are just eraser smudges now. Biology does a fine job of giving you amnesia.
I dig back a few months further, and find photographs of my growing belly. Oh god, was that really me? Smiling? Beaming? So happy and so clueless, beautiful with anticipation. I miss that so much it stings.
The photos remind me of how much I have changed.
There are so many ways to paint yourself.
-Drink more water.
-Eat more vegetables.
-Sleep better (HA HA HA HA.)
At the very least, I need to exhale.