Project 52 – 24 – Back to Work After Baby’s Birth

It’s time for Project 52, Week 24!

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24 weeks ago, on my 52nd Birthday, I decided to start Project 52 — since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week this year, I’d reflect on one year of my life. This week, I’m posting about the year I was 24, June 1988 to June 1989.

One thing that’s struck me — when I was in college, it felt like I’d waited SO LONG to ever find a boyfriend. Now, reflecting on those years, my goodness, I was SO YOUNG when I got married and had a baby! That gives me hope. Though now it feels like I’m single SO LONG since my divorce. If I do remarry some day, I suspect the time single won’t seem so long at all. Better enjoy it while it lasts!

The year I was 24 was a very hard year. But I’m going to intersperse talking about that year with pictures of my adorable baby. There were definitely compensations.

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I did still have the summer off. Josh was born in March, and Biola paid me for the complete semester (though some came from California’s Disability payments). I hadn’t planned to teach in the summer anyway, and I think I’d had my pay stretched out over the whole year.

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That reminds me that 1988 was an election year. I’d been raised that the Christian way was to vote Republican. But living in downtown Los Angeles, and now feeling very poor was influencing my thinking. I remember listening to the presidential debates, and the Democrats made a lot of sense. I think that Family Medical Leave was already an issue (though it didn’t get put into place until Bill Clinton was elected). I’d been given good maternity leave, but I couldn’t imagine what we would have done if I hadn’t. And Steve had to take vacation time to be with me and the baby. (Last year my brother got paternity leave from Intel after the birth of his daughter. What a wonderful thing!)

I remember some time in those years, Focus on the Family put out one of those “Congressional Scorecards” that were distributed in church. They rated it against people who voted for Family Medical Leave, saying it would be bad for business. Excuse me? Should the organization be called “Focus on Business”?

On top of that, having lived in the inner city for a couple years gave me a lot more sympathy for illegal aliens. Amnesty had happened under Reagan, and our church had held Citizenship classes for that, besides our English classes. I also saw hard-working people, not freeloaders.

And I did not want to put my baby in daycare. We spent a long time thinking it through and decided that Steve would quit his job as a messenger/supply clerk at Canadian Imperial Bank, and I would keep my job teaching at Biola. That way, Steve could put more time into the Pacific Brass Quintet, anyway. After a couple months, he went back part-time. I was able to put all my classes on Monday/Wednesday/Friday, and Steve worked Tuesday/Thursday, so we didn’t have to use daycare.

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About that time, they started putting a Dependent Care Tax Credit into the tax code — but that didn’t help those of us who worked less between us to take care of our baby ourselves. (The Child Tax Credit didn’t start until Clinton was elected. I think Earned Income Credit got better then, too.)

I realize now that Biola’s pay for an Instructor with a Master’s degree was terrible. Our rent was $700 per month, which was a huge percentage of our income. And we got taxed on that the same as if we lived in a cheaper place. I’m pretty sure that’s when our debt started… which lasted our entire marriage. Sigh.

Anyway, I wondered how people who didn’t have a Master’s degree managed to make ends meet (not realizing I wasn’t really getting paid at a Master’s degree rate). And what if they had to put their child in daycare?

I actually hadn’t decided who I’d vote for by election day. But when the day came, I voted after work, and by the time I went to the polls, we already knew Bush had won the election. So I voted for Dukakis as a protest. That was my first time voting for a Democrat. But I don’t believe I ever voted Republican again.

That summer, we dedicated Josh to God at First Evangelical Free Church in Los Angeles, where we’d gotten married. Even though we moved out of the city, we continued to worship there and stayed with our wonderful small group — which now had a total of four babies.

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Also that summer, my headaches started up again. This was one thing that made it a hard year. I’d lost them the last half of my pregnancy. But that summer they came back worse than ever. That was when they stopped reliably going away at night, so it was when I had my first three-day headaches. The third day of a bad headache is when I start to feel desperate.

I had friends who would go to the Emergency Room for headaches, so I tried Urgent Care. I think it was the second time I did that that I was given Demerol and Vistaril. They told me to wait in the lobby ten minutes — and five minutes later, I almost fainted. They said my heart rate dropped dramatically. They worked over me for awhile and brought me back and told me never to take those drugs again. They sent me back to my car in a wheelchair, with my headache returning! So I rather lost faith in the Emergency Room for headaches.

But I did have an adorable baby at home!

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Josh was learning to crawl!

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In the fall, I went back to work. Here are a couple of pictures from the math and computer department picnic.

My sister Wendy must have been a Computer Science minor? I’m pretty sure she was an English major, but she was at the picnic.

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And even Dr. Wu held the baby!

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While I was on maternity leave, the professors had shifted around the classes I’d be teaching. I ended up with three classes I’d never taught before, one of which I’d never even taken. (Remember my Senior year when I felt bad for dropping a math class, Operations Research? That was the very class they now had me teaching.) The only class I’d taught before, College Algebra, had a new textbook, so I still had to prepare new notes. When I said something to Dr. Thurber, the department chair about this, he said, “Oh, you can do it.” Even I didn’t realize just how incredibly hard it would be.

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So I was working Monday/Wednesday/Friday, and Steve was working Tuesday/Thursday. The trouble was, I had to try to watch Josh and clean house while preparing for class (and learning the material ahead of the class) and grading papers. When Steve watched Josh, he just tried to watch Josh.

On top of that, I’d been brought up hoping I’d get to stay home with my babies some day. Steve had not been brought up hoping for that. He wrote up something later that I really liked, when he got tired of being called “Mr. Mom.” It was titled, “Just call me Dad.”

I always felt that the intensive time with Josh was wonderful for Steve as a Dad. The first time I left to go to work, Steve asked, “What do I do?” I told him he’d figure it out — and he did. From then on, we each had our own style, and Steve didn’t look to me to figure out what to do with his kids. We never called it “babysitting” when he was with his kids. I was always proud of him as a loving and involved father. And me getting out of the way and heading off to work helped that happen.

It was also, admittedly, very nice to get out of the house, guilt-free. My baby was with their Dad. Or mostly guilt-free. One day my friend Sue Danielson came back from a trip to Canada, where she’d visited Green Gables. I was the one who’d introduced her to the Anne books. She brought me back The Blue Castle, which wasn’t available in the United States at that time. I sat in my office at Biola all afternoon and finished the whole book. Steve wasn’t real happy with me when he found out I hadn’t actually been working.

I do remember it was a beautiful and vital piece of sanity restoration. I was extremely stressed out.

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And working full-time, but not at work every day, was hard for other people to understand. Someone at church said, “I heard you’re only working Monday/Wednesday/Friday,” and she asked me to take her English class on a Tuesday one week. Ridiculously, I agreed — one time. Another time, I did some babysitting for a friend on my “day off.” I learned that year that I needed to say NO to things like that. It was taking every spare minute to prepare for all those classes.

I’m sure there was also some postpartum depression going on. And those headaches. I don’t think I ever took sick leave for a headache — I don’t think I would have gotten paid. But at least I had every other day “off.” It didn’t make it easy to do the work at home, though.

But my baby was wonderful and learned to climb the stairs.

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That year was the one time I remember that, in a fight, I told Steve, “I hate you.” I did apologize. I did many many more times say, “I love you,” but eighteen years later, Steve informed me that three times in our marriage, I’d said those words. Sigh. That was the only time I remember doing it, and I also remember that I was an emotional wreck.

[I definitely wish I hadn’t ever said those words. But I don’t actually think it made a good excuse for having an affair.]

But the pictures mainly show happy times. Josh’s first Christmas was quite adorable. Steve was super busy leading up to Christmas with the Pacific Brass Quintet. They recorded another album for Nordstrom’s. If we hadn’t lived in California, he would have made a living wage. But if we hadn’t lived in California, there wouldn’t have been so many malls to perform in.

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Josh still had almost as much fun with the box things came in. This was the box for the London Fog raincoat Steve bought me at Nordstrom’s, which I still wear.

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This pony to ride on lasted our kids for years, too.

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After Christmas at home, we went to Phoenix. Here’s Josh with Aunt Stephanie.

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I thought it was really funny to check the size of our Carry-on Baggage.

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These are at Becky’s house for Jason’s second birthday in January:

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Here’s our small group! By now the Rauseos had moved to Maryland. We’ve got Art (wife RuthAnn taking the picture?), then Tom and Audrey (expecting Jonathan soon), then me, then Jeannette, and then Claudia and Fernando.

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I love this one of Josh with Gramp E.

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And more fun:

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And Kathe and Joe came to visit — with their dog!

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This one, we had fun with the heights:

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Around February, Josh learned to walk: (That was back in the days of walkers. Josh had enjoyed the walker since they were about six months old. This baby liked to stand!)

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And was always fun to hold:

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Josh was pretty obsessed with switches. We used to put the rocking chair and a barricade of sofa cushions at the foot of the steps, for safety. The chair itself was an attraction.

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When I needed to go to the bathroom, I’d move the cushion barricade and use the bathroom at the top of the stairs. When I’d come out, Josh would be halfway up the stairs. The compulsion to climb was irresistible. But one time, I came out to discover Josh had gone down the stairs and was frantically turning the stereo knobs. They jumped a foot high when I came down! I was very impressed that Josh had calculated I’d be busy for awhile! This picture was taken at a different time, when Josh used a toy to achieve the goal.

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And more of the switches compulsion:

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Based on the pictures, there were numerous trips to see Gram E. and Gramp E. Here’s at the Phoenix Zoo:

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Feeding the dog, Sonny:

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And this one shows just how much Josh and Gramp E. enjoyed one another:

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Darlene came to visit. I think she’d moved to the East Coast by then, rooming with Kathe’s Mom. When she first left, she told us it would only be for a year. Right, Dar!

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In this picture, I think I was babysitting Jason. I tried the, “Let’s pretend we’re sleeping!” game. It apparently didn’t work for long, alas!

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Sometime in there I started selling Discovery Toys. I was hoping to find a way to quit teaching! I ended up buying all the toys for Josh. Josh was very good at puzzles from an early age.

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And by June, Josh had started the cute trick of memorizing books and saying the last word on each page. The Tom and Pippo books were favorites.

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Sometime around the end of the year I was 24, my sister Wendy graduated from Biola. And I marched in the graduation with the professors, getting to wear my Master’s hood again. Here are all my sisters but the youngest, and Jason in front looking a little perplexed. It’s me, Becky, Wendy, Abby, and Marcy.

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Because we were having such a hard time, in 1989, Steve started researching other possibilities. He auditioned with a brass quintet in Seattle, a symphony orchestra in Ohio, and an Air Force Band in Virginia. Changes were coming….

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