I’ve been back to work — full time, outside the home — for four weeks now, and my season has just eleven more.
Just eleven weeks left, including this one. The rest of this week and then ten more. Then two weeks of lounging and nesting, and then a baby who hopefully won’t come any earlier than she’s due. This countdown is my mantra on these long and demanding days.
Just eleven more weeks where we are two parents working 40 hours each, with just one day off together each week. Eleven more weeks of extremely swollen legs and feet from standing eight or nine hours per day. Eleven more weeks of quick dinners and dishes in the sink and piles of clean laundry in baskets.
This has been a rough transition for us as family, but a really, really good one.
I love my job. Being an Interpretive Ranger is a coalescence of so many of my skill-sets, and even though most days I feel like just an overdressed tour guide, it is lovely to work a job that is based on protecting a beautiful place while helping people experience it. On my better days, I feel like I have something valuable to teach. On my better days, I feel like I have lots of people who are eager to learn. Plus, it is always fun to wear a uniform and soak up a little bit of public respect.
Yesterday morning, when I got dressed in my freshly ironed uniform, I felt like I might tear the seam of my pants. I was hoping to hold out on wearing the somewhat unflattering NPS maternity gear until at least the official start of the third trimester (which is Friday), but I couldn’t quite make it all the way. As such, yesterday was my first day as an unmistakably Pregnant Ranger, and that’s how it will be for eleven more weeks.
The world is such a mess right now, and I am dismayed by the things that are happening. Because of this, I have been reluctant to share just how good things are going for me. But upon further reflection, this attitude has been backwards: to be in a time of great suffering and not acknowledge your own good fortune is not the right way to be.
Instead, I need to bestow many big fat thank yous: to the village of people who are coming together to help raise my daughter, to my husband who is picking up new forms of slack at every turn, to my daughter who is brave and curious and embracing all these changes, to my co-workers answering my endless questions and putting up my earnest desire to do a good job, to all my brilliant professors who taught me how to do research, to the taxpayers paying my salary, and to my boss for thinking I would be a good fit.
It’s just a low-level, seasonal ranger job. It’s really no big deal. After childcare costs, I have just about the exact same amount of money as I made writing from home. But I’m just so excited to have found something that suits me and makes me happy and feels worthwhile.
It is research and performance. It is talking with people about all kinds of things. It is memorizing facts. It is answering questions. It is reprimanding visitors who get too close to animals or hot springs. It is putting on a good public face.
Meanwhile . . .
The basketball of my belly grows larger by the day.
This Friday will mark 28 weeks of pregnancy. Lydia is thrilled about being a big sister. (She will be 3 and a half soon, btw.) New baby sister is moving and dancing inside me all day (and all night). We are gathering the supplies. We are steeling ourselves against the storm of sleeplessness and vigilance to come. Life barrels ahead while I busy myself with ironing my uniform and polishing my boots and memorizing my programs.
Life just keeps changing.
Just as I wrote my dissertation with an unborn Lydia along for the ride, I perform my ranger duties with the knowledge that I’ve got a passenger. I wonder so often just who she will be, how she’ll fit into this family, how she will help us to grow. One thing I can say for sure is that she will be loved.
Onward into another hot July day we stride.