Using pathfinder, I created a "compound shape" (either by just clicking "unite" or using option+click "unite" in the pathfinder panel). Is there a way to "uncombine" this shape later or on a copy of it?
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From the Pathfinder panel menu you can select Release Compound Shape which will "uncombine" your shapes back to their original state.
You can also select Expand Compound Shape to flatten the result to a single shape.