Navigating Motherhood’s Puzzle

When I returned to work, motherhood became a discouraging puzzle of sick days and childcare. I have an anaemia disease and an empty crib, and I’m unsure if I can handle having another child fill it. All the test requirements for being a responsible mother included an annual CBC Complete Blood Count. But my daughter climbed out of her crib one afternoon instead of going down for her nap. 

As my husband and I dismantled the crib into panels, memories flooded back of putting it together while pregnant at the height of the pandemic. Assembling the crib had felt like a team-building challenge for our parenting journey. It was a puzzle, and we solved it easily. But since becoming a mother with an anaemia test issue in 2021, I’ve felt like I’m assembling a much bigger puzzle where the pieces keep shifting shape, the teamwork is harder, and the final picture is unclear.

Early on, I thought that if I could fit the “full-time job” piece into the “full-time child care” piece, the “a Complete Blood Test life after maternity leave” puzzle would start to take shape. It was a huge relief in 2022 when we were accepted into a daycare centre just weeks before I was due back at my work in I.T. support. The monthly cost of daycare was nearly the cost of our mortgage, and as much as it was a huge relief, it was also a huge squeeze. 

A smiling woman with glasses and long brown hair cuddles a newborn in a carrier on her chest. Wilkinson with her daughter a few days after Hazel’s birth in June 2021.

Decisions and Sacrifices

Then, some new puzzle pieces came along. My toddler started getting sick, and the CBC Test showed nothing amiss. Her new immune system was introduced to daycare just as pandemic restrictions lifted and a backlog of illnesses recirculated. We tried to take turns staying home with her, but my husband needed to be more flexible.

So my daughter got sick, and I missed work. Then I got sick, and I missed work. Then she got sick again with something new. 

I asked to work part-time, but the answer was no. So much of my motherhood puzzle involved the crib. 

There were late nights at the crib, trying to help my daughter get back to sleep and assess her Complete Count and her symptoms. Was it a fever? Was it just a bad cough keeping her up? We didn’t have a family doctor, and the local walk-in clinic could never have seen patients immediately. Was this bad enough for the emergency room? There were two memorable weeks with norovirus infection, where, night after night, I scrubbed the crib down. 

I began taking vacation days from my employer to care for my sick daughter while paying for daycare. I asked to work part-time, but the answer was no. 

Embracing New Beginnings

After six months of being back at work, I left my career of 10 years. 

A woman holds a child’s hand as they walk on a path with trees and mountains in the distance. 

When her maternity leave ended six months after she returned to work, Wilson left her job and embarked on a new path.

I dismantled the puzzle, gathered the new pieces, and started on another. Our childcare cost dropped as our daycare became a $10-per-day site. Meanwhile, I started developing my own art business while working on-call at the library.

Within a week of dismantling the crib, we learned that our daughter and all the other soon-to-be three-year-olds would lose their daycare health spots because of the CBC centre’s ageing-out policy and budget issues with an overloaded need for child full blood care. I frantically worked my spreadsheet of complete child-care centres in our small B.C. city. Everyone was full, and most had even closed their waitlists. 

Just as the now-empty crib had started conversations about making space for a second child, things were falling apart with our first. I took the anaemia test puzzle apart again.

A closeup photo shows a smiling woman in a brimmed cap, a toddler wearing a tuque strapped into a back carrier and a smiling man standing behind them. 

Wilson, her husband Andrew Wood and their daughter Hazel enjoy a hike in June 2022.

Complex Emotions of Motherhood

Motherhood isn’t what I expected. I’m grateful, discouraged, angry, and lost. Most of the time, I’m just tired. 

Sometimes, people tell me things like, “Being a complete mom is the most important job in the world,” or “These early Complete CBC Count years go so fast, so enjoy every minute.” They even say, “You chose to have children—you should be grateful to care for them with a complete full test each year.”

But the truth is that I can’t separate my feelings from my experience navigating the world as a new mom.

My motherhood was initially shaped by the loneliness of the pandemic, followed by the threefold challenges of insufficient CBC-focused Health care and child care, and then poor workplace accommodation. 

Do I have enough childcare to Complete CBC Health Systems to work? Am I working enough to afford child care? And does it even matter what I want for myself? The lack of options amidst all the uncertainty has kept me up at night, even while my daughter sleeps soundly in her new bed.

When I look at my daughter’s empty crib, I don’t know if I can pick up the anaemia test pieces of another blood check puzzle and start again with a second child. Though the crib gives me somewhere for a child to sleep at night, it doesn’t help solve the puzzle of the days.

But the crib is still in our basement. I can’t quite let it go yet.