Category Archives: Working mom

Maternity Leave (or training for my new job)

It was never a question of if I would return to work after having a baby – it was a fact. Like many working mothers before me, I would return to work. I would take the U.S. standard of 12 weeks postpartum before jumping back into my day job and resuming the new normal of life as a family of three (well, four if you count the dog). Before going out on leave, 12 weeks sounded like forever. Looking back, it went by in the blink of an eye (and it’s not nearly enough time… but that’s something I can tackle in another post).

Maternity leave was tough – after 10 months fraught with physical changes, crazy hormones, emotional challenges and more – she was finally here. And it’s different for everyone, but I had kind of a rough time postpartum. Between our breastfeeding challenges, PUPPP, and taking care of a newborn, I felt a little bit crazy. Add to all of those things normal, every day necessities like eating a meal, taking a shower, or finding time to pay bills and I felt mentally maxed out. It was easy to think, “Nursing will get better once she can hold her head up,” or “When I’m not itching myself until I bleed I will enjoy the weather more,” but I promised myself I wouldn’t wish it all away because all those people who’ve said, “It goes by fast,” when they talk about their children growing up are right. Time moves differently when you’re a parent, quicker than you can ever imagine and in a way you don’t understand until you actually are a parent.

Going from having a pretty normal everyday routine – work, gym, family time – to having a completely open and unpredictable schedule was jarring. There were times when I literally did not know if it was day or night. Some days I stayed in bed with the baby nursing for what seemed like the entire day, only to climb in to “sleep” at night which was more like a series of catnaps with hour-long nursing sessions in between. It was a total haze but looking back, it was the routine things that helped anchor me when I was feeling really turned around. Brushing my teeth twice a day reminded me that there was a morning and night, eating regular meals reminded me that yes, my body needed nutrition and paying bills reminded me what day of the month it was.

I think It was the latter that stressed me out the most – my leave was comprised of short-term disability, paid time off, and unpaid leave – meaning that my usual income took a decent hit over those three months. I planned as much as I could, and had plenty to bridge the gap between paychecks, but I constantly worried, “What if?” Looking back, I wish I would have started to plan even sooner. So soon-to-be mamas take heed and plan as much as you can! Here’s a link to some good tips about preparing financially for maternity leave.

But by far the biggest challenge about maternity leave was its inevitable end – I felt like the minute our daughter was born, the countdown to my return was on. Throughout my leave I vacillated back and forth between wanting to spend every waking minute of every single day with our daughter and really missing, and craving, the challenge that comes with pursuing a career and getting some mileage out of my degrees. There were days when I said to my husband, “I could never stay home full-time. That’s just not me.” There were other days when I simply couldn’t imagine dropping her off at daycare and returning to work, days I thought I would chain myself to the bassinet and refuse to budge.

It feels like as soon as leave began, it was over. My first day back at work came and went and I’ve been back for about two months that have completely flown by. I jumped right back in and picked up projects, started new ones, and caught up on what I’d missed. I’m still adjusting, for sure, but now I look forward to my days at work. On top of giving me an outlet to channel my professional energy, being back at work also allows me to eat at least one meal a day with both hands, put on grown-up clothes on a regular basis, and shower much more frequently. And let’s be honest here – at this point, those are all pretty major accomplishments.

I dutifully go to work now with new goals on top of my general career aspirations. Working means I can provide my daughter with the best and most amazing opportunities that i can. Whether it’s swim lessons or music class or traveling or saving for college – she’s my new motivation to work hard every single day.

Every minute I’m not working is devoted to our family – fun-filled weekends and evenings, special snuggle time in the mornings before the day gets going. We laugh, walk, play, go for walks and more. Of course we miss each other a lot during the day, but it makes the time we do spend together that much more precious. Quality over quantity never rang more true. In a way, maternity leave was never something with a set end – it was really just training for my new full-time gig: being a mom.

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Turns out… getting sick when you’re pregnant is awful.

Ahh, the b word… bronchitis. Apparently, not something you want to get when you’re pregnant. It was the day after my baby shower (which was an awesome day – post on that coming soon!) and I started to get a headache as I was sorting through our teeny, tiny baby presents. I chalked it up to fatigue, stopped what I was doing, and climbed into bed. What followed was a fitful night of fever complete with shivering, shaking chills and inexplicable hot spells. The covers were on. Then they were off. I opened the window, closed the window, opened the window and turned on the fan. Heat went on, heat went off. When the sun started to come up, I was a delirious and sweaty pregnant person. Preeeeeeeetty gross.

In the back of my head, I knew this wasn’t an emergency or I would have gone to the ER. Something stopped me from overreacting, but I still needed some guidance and my doctor wasn’t open yet. So, I did what I always tell my pregnant friends not to do: I googled my symptoms. The internet is a whole new world of insane for pregnant women who are sick. I immediately felt myself losing touch with the reasonable person I was just a few minutes prior (that whole “I don’t need to go to the ER” thing) and started thinking things like, “This is it. You’ve gotten some rare form of the flu and have one day left to live.” Of course, my husband was away for a couple of days and that left me to talk to the dog about my newfound anxiety – he’s usually a captive audience, but he just wanted to go back to sleep since I kept him up all night with my feverish activities.

As soon as I could, with my flu fears fueling my crazy mind, I got in to see the doctor. I started going on about how I didn’t want to take any flu meds, and if it was the flu what did it mean for the baby, and what could we do and… he stopped me. He seemed much less concerned than I was about my symptoms (as in, I was convinced I was dying thanks to internet message boards and he knew that this was not the case). He gave me a flu test (which confirmed that I was flu-free), listened to my chest, and rightfully predicted that I was coming down with bronchitis. I left with instructions to rest, hydrate, and call him in a couple of days to update him on how I was feeling.

The next day, right on cue, I began wheezing, coughing, and embarked on almost two weeks of bronchitis hell. Being pregnant complicated matters – making recovery longer, more difficult, and everything in general way more uncomfortable (like coughing when a little person is smushing both your chest and your bladder, at the same time). I proceeded to create what I can only call a nest out of pillows, blankets, and books. I was surrounded by Gatorade bottles, ice packs, Tylenol, Popsicle wrappers, and spent most days watching terrible daytime television. I stayed that way for way too long – seriously, the weather went from the last dregs of winter to the first signs of spring during my convalescence. When I finally felt good enough to emerge, I disinfected everything I had touched for the previous two weeks and slowly, but surely, became a contributing member of society once again.

The silver lining in the entire situation was also what made me a little completely stir-crazy: I had to clear my schedule and “do nothing” for almost two weeks. Even well into the third trimester, I had been thriving on my busy schedule but being sick forced me to cancel everything and settle in for some true rest. I really couldn’t tell you the last time I did that!

Given all the resting I was doing, plus the sleepless nights spent wheezing and coughing, I had a lot of down time to think and reflect. In the home stretch of being pregnant, and on the brink of a major life change, I decided I was grateful for the down time, even if I was feeling really gross.

Soon enough, we’ll be welcoming the baby into our lives – learning a whole new way of balancing out priorities, responsibilities, and obligations. So, for the next few weeks I’m just going to soak it all in. Instead of over-scheduling myself and squeezing those last few activities in before baby, I’m just going to relax, take lots of deep breaths, and enjoy the calm before succumbing to the insanity of having a newborn.

I’ll let you know how that goes 😉

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