Careers Working With Children

She told me years later she decided her destiny was to follow in her own mother’s footsteps and be the devoted wife of a successful man. That may have been her path, but my mother was determined nothing would hold back her daughters. Though she stayed home to care for us, our mother made damn sure we had every opportunity to lead independent, productive lives. My sister and I knew it was up to us to get the college degrees and have the careers our mother was denied. Being mothers ourselves? We never discussed it.

The lessons I learned from my own family and the world around me was that mothering was inconvenient at best, an unrelenting burden at worst. Joy and deep meaning weren’t part of the experience. If I was going to have children at all, they were going to have to fit into my carefully laid career plans. So when I became pregnant with William, I expected to have a fast, easy pregnancy, take the requisite six weeks of maternity leave, and rush back to work to continue my determined climb up the corporate ladder.

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After that first miscarriage scare, I decided “rest and a reduction of stress” meant pulling back to fifty hours from the sixty I’d been putting in. Sure, I had an hour commute from our home in Menlo Park to the company’s offices in San Francisco, but at least I was sitting. The bumper-to-bumper traffic couldn’t be too stressful, could it?

When I was thirty-two weeks pregnant with our son, my water broke and I went into preterm labor. That trusty pregnancy bible, What to Expect When You ’re Expecting, told me my baby was almost four pounds, the size of a jicama, and about nineteen inches long. His digestive tract was developed and his skin was becoming opaque, hiding the veins and arteries beneath. He had nails and some peach fuzz that would eventually be his hair. Most babies born at this phase survive, although their quality of life is in question. William could be born blind and intellectually challenged. He would likely suffer learning differences and be required to enroll in special needs classes. What lay ahead threatened to be more challenging than anything I had ever experienced, certainly more challenging than all the work I had put in to building my career.

Somehow the doctors proved themselves to be miracle workers and managed to stop the labor. With no amniotic fluid to protect my yet-to-be-born baby, I was forced to lie on my back in the hospital, tethered to an IV praying I would stay pregnant for as long as possible. William wasn’t due for eight weeks, but because the amniotic sac had been ruptured, I was at major risk for infection. If that happened, the doctors would be forced to induce labor. So the waiting game began.

Bill spent his days working and his nights at my bedside. My mother and friends came to give him a break, even though he hated to leave. It was a grueling schedule for my husband and a tedious one for me, but we would have happily continued our vigil. However, it wasn’t meant to be. Two weeks later infection set in and the doctors were forced to bring our premature son into the world.

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