I walked into the apartment, looking somewhat relieved, yet nervous about Rudy’s reaction. “I quit my job, today,” I told him. He looked at me, not sure what to think. He looked at my tired expression and then at my swollen belly. “Why?” he asked. I knew I had made the right decision for me, for our future yet, I knew it wasn’t fair to Rudy that I hadn’t consulted him about leaving a job that brought in money to help pay the bills. I wrapped my hands under my pregnant belly, six months of baby inside me. “Well, I drive by the university everyday on my way to work and everyday I tell myself that someday I will return to school to finish what I had started long ago.” Rudy approached me, put his hands on my shoulders, and said that it was okay. “We will manage. We will figure it out.”
My first semester as a transfer student was somewhat difficult. Not only did I have to renew my mindset to student but I was preoccupied with the fact that I would soon become a mother for the first time. I was uncomfortable physically, and mentally I felt overwhelmed. Tired, sure, but more than that I was determined to walk a steady line. I completed the semester with all my work turned in, finals finished. The following morning, my baby daughter was born.
Six weeks. That was the amount of time that Elizabeth and I had bonded, with no distractions. Well, as it always happens, time runs out. In mid-February, semester number two began. So then did a whole new challenge. How were we going to do it all? Rudy was working the graveyard shift (as in 11pm to 7am), so he was constantly trying to adapt to some kind of sleep pattern. A new baby added a new dimension: Will we ever sleep? While he worked through the night, I was at home caring for Elizabeth, waking up every few hours to feed and change her. Then, just before the sun rose, I began gathering my school things while getting dressed. Plus, I needed to do another breastfeeding session, swaddle Liz in fresh linen (cotton diapers, delivered to the house) and soothe her, gently rocking her while we waited for Rudy to return home. Then, he’d take over while I went to morning classes.
He looked exhausted as he walked through the front door, but he reached for Liz, held her close, and began babbling quietly as I rushed out the door.
Upon my return, several hours later, I would quietly enter the apartment only to find Rudy lounging on the couch. His feet splayed out in front of him, his head tilted forward, chin against her head, and his arms tightly, yet gently, wrapped around our wee child. I didn’t want to interrupt Rudy’s much needed nap but I knew it was best to get him into the bedroom, close the door, and let him sleep for as many hours as he could manage. Not easy, though, when the bedroom window faced the kindergarten playground of the neighboring elementary school. I then spent the day caring for Miss Lizzy, doing the best I knew how. When she would fall asleep, I would gather my homework and study. As late evening approached, after Rudy had eaten something, anything, he would kiss us goodbye, and then the cycle would begin again.
After two and a half years of adjusting to our “situation“, the I just wish I could sleep! situation, Rudy tiredly took pictures of me with a cap and gown on, Elizabeth in my arms, smiling at the camera.
I knew I still had an additional year of schooling to complete, in a credential program somewhere, anywhere, before I could teach solo in a classroom. Unfortunately though, I needed to return to the work force, full-time. Sleep deprived or not, I was confident that eventually I would return to school. “I will,” I told myself.
And I did. I eventually enrolled in a credential program, taking evening classes so I could continue to work during the day. And by this time, our second child, Roberto, was three years old, the same age Liz was when I earned my Bachelors Degree. The day I left for my first day at work, as a certified school teacher, was the same day Roberto began kindergarten.
Here it is, twenty years later and I reflect on those days and wonder how I did it. How we did it, Rudy and I. Well, I’ve determined that we just did because, honestly, we had to. We tried (very hard) not to reflect on the downside, but rather on how to make the most of our situation, or probably more accurately, we just plowed through it, hoping for the best. Those obstacles seriously molded the way we continue to approach life. With perseverance. Whether we sleep or not.