In one breath I can say, “Eight weeks isn’t enough time!” and “Oh my goodness I was so ready to come back.”
I returned to work exactly 56 days after giving birth to my newest joy and blessing and the little creature that ensures I get no more than three hours of sleep every day — Owen Michael. I loved my time home with Owen and older son Miles when he wasn’t at school.
Those eight weeks were an amazing opportunity to bond with my new son and also to help Miles adjust to a different home dynamic. It was also a chance to see a whole lot more of my husband and to get our money’s worth from our Netflix account (I’d be embarrassed to tell you how many television series I consumed during those sleepless, long nights.)
I had all these grand plans of the things I’d accomplish over maternity leave both in the way of tasks that had been put off and Pinterest-worthy activities we’d do as a family.
Wah-wah. (That’s the game show “you didn’t get it right” sound effect.)
Not much got accomplished beyond snuggling. I am nursing Owen so those first few weeks it felt like I didn’t really move much from the little nest I’d created for myself. I was grateful to have Michael there to refill my beverage and bring me snacks when I was tethered down by a baby who was hungry, needed comfort or had fallen asleep and looked too darn comfortable to move.
Miles was always able to find his spot on my lap too so I would still be able to snuggle him while nursing Owen. Those quiet moments with both of my babies snuggled peacefully and closely to my chest were magical. That’s when I said — eight weeks isn’t enough time! I can’t go back to work. How can I leave this tiny baby and little boy who need their mama? How will I be able to focus on my work when all I can think of is Owen’s pursed little lips and shiny eyes? It’s not enough time!
And in a lot of ways it wasn’t.
But, there were also days or moments when I was hunkered down in that little nursing nest when it didn’t feel like a cozy, comfortable retreat to snuggle and nourish my baby. Instead it felt like a prison. I wanted out of the house. I wanted to shower on a daily basis. I wanted to not have a baby attached to me 24/7. I wanted to be able to eat a meal while it was still hot. I wanted to be able to sleep more than the hour here or there between nursing, pumping and laundry. I missed my work and my co-workers.
Those are the moments when I would scream (in my own head of course), “I’m ready to go back!”
And of course when my maternity leave finally started to wind down I was feeling less and less ready. A lot of that stemmed from guilt — I was leaving my tiny, helpless baby in the care of someone other than me, really for the first time. Anxiety peaked the night before as I ran over the list of “how-tos” with my husband — who I know is more than capable. I’m lucky he is able to be the caregiver.
An additional factor is that just days after I return I’ll be taking over as the features editor as my editor, Linda Negro, and fellow reporter Roger McBain are both retiring. While out on maternity leave I interviewed candidates to find a replacement for Roger and I thought about (and if I’m honest fretted a little) about how things would work. So in addition to some guilt with my return, I’m facing a little doubt and fears of inadequacy.
The day finally arrived; I came to work. I just cried a little in the parking lot. I have an amazing group of friends and co-workers who surprised me with treats and gifts to distract from the stress of the day, and I kept busy and accomplished a lot. And while things were going well at the office, poor little Owen (and his daddy) were struggling at home. Owen refused to take a bottle. He’d taken about three up to that point so he was far from an expert but at least he knew what he was doing. But he flat out refused. He was hungry. Hungry babies scream.
So much of that first day Michael had a screaming, starving baby, and I worried from work. That night, Owen nursed for about four hours.
Day 2 I got a desperate text message from Michael: “This is not working. The longer I try the more upset he gets and the more frustrated I get. It’s not doing anybody any good. You might need to come home and feed him. I can’t do anything for him.”
That message broke my heart for both Owen and Michael. I hated the notion that my husband felt helpless to soothe and comfort our son, and I was devastated that my son was hungry and couldn’t stop crying.
My first instinct was to run home and nurse him. But I knew it wasn’t the solution. So we waited it out.
I called the pediatrician, the hospital’s lactation services, my mom and my friends. They all agreed that he would eat when he was hungry enough and that it was worse for us than him.
By 4 p.m. Michael texted a picture of a smiling, happy baby.
“I think we have a breakthrough — empty bottle, happy baby!”
Happy and relieved mommy too!
So, is eight weeks enough? For this mom it might have been. I’m so happy to be back especially with the challenges and changes ahead. I’m not going to lie though, it certainly doesn’t come without sacrifice. But, I’m treasuring my time outside of home grateful that I’m able to support my family and my sanity.