I feel like this is getting a little ridiculous. Seventeen parts?
Start at Part One if you’ve just decided to join.
Aching loneliness. Crushing love.
I find it humorous that I have such detailed and clear memories of my life before children, and yet the days with newborn and infant Ronan are such a blur. I remember the day that we decided to cloth diaper, and invested almost two hundred dollars into Bum Genius all-in-ones. I was excited, and ELATED that Brock was on board. I remember the day that I panicked about making baby food, and then read (accidentally) about baby-led-weaning, and decided immediately that THAT sounded like what I wanted to do with my sweet Ronan. It sounded like something I could do. I remember how, one day while surfing around on the baby-center forums, I read a comment that contained the words “attachment parenting.”
Hmm, I thought. I didn’t know there was a word for this. I thought was just doing what I felt right.
That intense loneliness, however… it was without easing. I had a hard time leaving the house. I felt so alien, no matter where I went. I tried playgroups, and going to the mall play-area. I tried parks and baby gyms. I felt, always, like an outsider. A loner. I most definitely did not fit in with the other mothers, nor did I find myself welcomed.
I had many wonderful acquaintances, but no true close friends. I remember wishing DESPERATELY for a best friend – someone that was my closest person. Someone that understood what I was going through. Someone that was also parenting, and also struggling… that wasn’t Brock. He just didn’t get it. One afternoon, when Ronan was nearly 11 months old, I decided to take him to a park that I had found nearby. It was shaded, and there were lots of benches. There was also a fantastic toddler play area that seemed like it would be really great to crawl around and pull-up on: both phases that Ronan was acutely engaged in. The park was completely empty when we arrived… which was fine with me. I liked it better that way. I could interact with Ronan without having to do that awkward, sideways, confusing dance of, “Are we going to talk to each other or not?”
I tried with all of my being to NOT be a helicopter mom. Ronan was confident and capable. But honestly, I just wanted to be near him and experience what he was experiencing. So I was walking around a few feet behind him, following him as he went up and over obstacles and around corners. We were halfway across one of the wobbly bridges that these types of structures always seem to have, when I heard a bright and friendly, “Hi! My name’s Laura!”
I looked down over the side of the bridge, and shining up at us was a lovely woman with a giant smile and the most incredible twinkle in her eye. I was completely taken off guard; I thought that we were alone in the park, and I hadn’t heard anyone else arrive. I think I possibly stammered out a hello and shot off a grin, but I was also completely astounded by her incredible generosity and friendliness. It was NOT my previous experience with other moms.
“How old is your boy?” she asked me.
And there it began. I told her about Ronan, and followed her back to the bench where her little boy was sitting. She introduced me to Fox, a few months younger than Ronan, and we chatted the rest of the afternoon. It was so easy and light. I remember thinking, not at all facetiously, please be as weird as I am, please be as weird as I am. We hit it off right away, and I was suddenly hopeful that I might have actually made a friend. I tried to rein in my awkwardness and outwardness – I didn’t want to scare her off. But when it was time to go, we decided to exchange phone numbers, and I nonchalantly asked her where she lived – I didn’t want to look like a stalker. She chuckled and said, “Oh, I live in this strange Christmas themed neighborhood over by the mall.”
My mouth fell open and my heart leapt. “Are you serious?? You live there?? That’s where I live!”
It felt like kismet. We were destined to be friends. We lived just two streets apart.
Laura very quickly became one of my closest, truest friends and her light shone brightly in my darkness. The aching loneliness surrounding me eased considerably just simply knowing that she was nearby, even when we weren’t physically together. I am not entirely sure she is aware what a gift she gave me that afternoon, but I have rarely been more thankful for a human on the planet.
Since she was so close by, and a stay at home mother of her darling boy, and our children were so close in age, we ended up coming to an arrangement that benefitted both of us – I was paying someone to stay with Ronan on Monday mornings so I could sleep after my night shifts, and she was willing for it to be her! It wasn’t long before she was keeping Ronan on Monday mornings and the Wednesdays that I worked 10am to 11pm. The added benefit for me was that it ensured that we saw each other frequently, as we almost always spent the rest of Monday afternoon visiting.
Fox and Ronan grew up together, practically like brothers, and Laura and I grew closer and closer. She appeared to appreciate my weirdness in its entirety.
Things weren’t all sunshine and rainbows, however. Not long after I started my shift on the weekends at work, I started having problems with one of my coworkers. She was an older lady named Alice* who had been doing ultrasound since the dawn of time. That is an exaggeration, of course, but she always presented it that way. She was an incredibly knowledgeable tech, and there was so much that I could learn from her. I was excited for the opportunity. Whenever we worked on shift together, I always felt like we worked incredibly well, complimented each other, and I came home feeling great. That was… until Monday afternoon, when I would get a phone call from my manager outlining all of the things I had done wrong the past weekend, and all the complaints Alice had made about me.
I was devastated the first time. I didn’t understand why she would be so kind and complimentary to my face, telling me that I was doing a great job and that she enjoyed working with me – and then saying all opposite things to the lead tech. I wasn’t good with the patients, she said. My scanning was just barely acceptable, she said. I wasn’t doing my fair share of the work, she said. I was rude. I was told that she could just hardly tolerate me, and that I needed much more supervised work before I could be trusted as a solo tech.
The next shift I worked with her, I expected to be treated like crap… and again, she was entirely pleasant – smiling, encouraging, complimenting. Once again, I was confused. Was it perhaps my manager that had the problem with me? Maybe the complaints were not coming from Alice? I got home from work feeling satisfied and positive. We were fine. Working with Alice was going to be fine.
Monday afternoon, I received another phone call from my manager. Alice was really upset. I was lazy, and conniving. I expected to be able to pump at awful times. I would leave her alone with all of the patients, and go off for an hour. I ate lunch before she ate lunch. My reports were crap. I wish I was exaggerating, but this hardly scratches the surface of the issues that Alice brought against me, and quite honestly I’m surprised I wasn’t fired.
I cried on the phone with the lead tech. I told her it wasn’t true. I explained how confused I was because Alice and I seemed to really get along, and I had no idea where these accusations were coming from. I try REALLY hard. I’m a good person. I’m kind, and helpful, and my intention is ALWAYS to do the right thing. I know all of these things to be true. Why did it seem like she HATED me?
From that moment forward, every interaction I had with Alice was guarded, and I never let my guard down. I protected myself at work, and I behaved above reproach. The complaints still rolled in, and I was informed of them every time – but there was nothing I could do. They simply weren’t true. Eventually, my manager took note of the fact that every doctor, nurse and patient had nothing but positive things to say about me, and Alice seemed to be the only one who complained. I worked the opposite shift of her for nearly two years, and each weekend I felt like I was walking on eggshells… no, hot coals – trying to do everything I could to protect myself and make sure that I didn’t do anything that actually warranted complaint.
When Alice left to work at another hospital, I actually, physically celebrated.
To be continued…
*Not her real name.
Let’s go. Part Eighteen. Hit me.