It was just about three years ago this month when I was 4 months pregnant and finishing up the school year as an elementary librarian. It had actually taken me a long while to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was forever a student. Graduating with my B.A. in English, I immediately applied to graduate programs and eventually earned an M.A. in English – Literature. During that time, I did realize that library science was probably the field for me, since I loved books and reading. So, back to school it was, for an M.L.S. and K-12 Library Science teaching certification. I got my first job, serving two elementary libraries. I moved on to a single school and also started working toward a Doctorate in Educational Leadership. (Yep, still a student, even as a teacher.) I had actually just finished up two doctoral courses in the weeks before Jack was born! So, basically, from my first day of Kindergarten, back in 1982, until July of 2010, I was either in school as a student or as an educator or both. Twenty eight years in education! During all that time, it never occurred to me that I would ever leave this field or ever be a stay-at-home mom.
|August 10, 2010 10:12pm- The Beginning of NICU 101|
The moment Jack was born, I was thrown into a whole new world. A world out of my control and one in which I would quickly be “schooled.” I was definitely being educated and, at first, not by choice. For no one chooses this type of education. After the first few days of post c-section and traumatic premature birth haze, my new “course” in NICU 101 (and 102 and 103 and …) began and I was a model student. I took notes, asked questions, and did my research. I could distinguish between A’s & B’s and RSV. I started getting questions about my “medical background” and “Was I a nurse?” No, I didn’t have a medical background. Nor was I a nurse. But I knew that my current subject matter, Jack, would be the most important thing I ever studied. During this time, I used my 12-week FMLA leave and extended that even longer, until the end of the school year.
When Jack came home from the NICU, my education continued. This time, it was “Life After NICU” or “Prematurity: What They Don’t Prepare You For.” I learned everything I could about the impact of prematurity on Jack’s lungs, his brain, his development…everything. I heard sad stories and hopeful stories. I learned about Post Traumatic Feeding Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder. I educated myself on Pediatric Low-Flow Regulators for Oxygen Concentrators and programming Zevex EnteraLite Infinity Enteral Feeding Pumps. I discovered Vestibular Stimulation and “preemie teeth.” I learned to weigh in kilograms, rather than pounds. All of these things, I needed to know, if I wanted to be the best mother I could to Jack. In that first year, I became a student of Jack and of prematurity. We definitely spent a lot of time at home…and I earned that stay-at-home-mom status!
|My teacher at the beginning of our 3rd year together (August 10, 2012).|
Because of Jack’s extra needs, I was given an extended unpaid leave of absence from my job for a 2nd year. Not many employers will do so and I’m forever grateful to my school district for holding my position. I’d like to think they did so for two reasons: I was a valued employee and my district embraces family-centered ideals. Yet, I was still a student of Jack and of prematurity, finally learning how to be more of a momma than a nurse. It was near his 2nd birthday that I had to make the difficult decision to resign from my well-paying, great benefits career for which I had worked so hard. But I also knew that my more recent “mama” education still needed to be developed and, more importantly, put to use. Jack’s development was at a critical stage and I knew that I needed to work with him on his therapy “homework.” I was anxious to talk with my supervisors about my decision, but I received both enthusiastic and supportive responses. And I knew that the decision wasn’t really a decision. Really, the only option for me…for Jack…for was to continue to be with him.
|All packed up after resigning (July 2012).|
Forever a student, I always think of years in the “school calendar” sense, from August to June. (July is just a bonus month). As Jack approaches three, I have no regrets about leaving my job as a librarian. For this past “school year,” I have become completely entrenched in the teachings of a toddler. From train tracks and digging in the dirt to playdoh and pee-pee potty. This past year, when I was no longer on leave from my job, I finally felt like my time with Jack wasn’t just temporary or that my career wasn’t just on hold. My career had actually just transformed. Actually, just the location has changed. For I’ve always been and still am…Student…Teacher. And, now, I’ll always be…Mother.
|What an education this little boy has given to me. Nearing the end of year 3...I've almost earned tenure!|