Not too long ago I returned to work after twelve weeks of maternity leave. It’s funny, but prior to going on leave, whenever someone asked how much time I had off from work, I would always say “three months” with a big grin. Three long, luxurious months (a quarter of a year, if you will). Plenty of time to bond with my little squish and oh the projects that would finally get done! (play laugh track here). Life seemed rosy with expectancy. At some point along this crazy mama saga however, my perspective changed and the answer to that question became a still-grateful-but-nevertheless-subdued “twelve weeks.” You see, twelve weeks turned out to be one week short of three full months. I know because we’ve been taking those monthly birthday pics of Hiccup every month to the day since he was born (you know the ones with the little stickers that say 1 Month, 2 Months, etc), and we weren’t due to snap the three month pic until the week after I was back in the office.
Twelve weeks is still a lot and it’s more than many women receive so this is not a complaint; but what I would have given to have had just one more week! One more week of snuggling. One more week of not caring how many times I had to get up in the night, because we didn’t have to do anything but nap-nurse and watch Netflix the next day. One more week of friends bringing over their babies (and tacos) and of not having to care that I hadn’t showered in… a while. One more week of not worrying how my husband, the Professor, who is wonderful but who had zero baby experience going into this (and by experience I mean any exposure whatsoever), was going to do being the primary caregiver for our infant son part of the week. One more week to bottle train, which I selfishly put off until the last minute causing our last few days at home together to be filled with tears (ours and the baby’s) and some angry yelling (again, both ours and the baby’s). Hiccup did end up taking the bottle my first day back, by the way (with me out of sight and out of smell). So scratch that last part (those last few days of hell were a small price to pay for all the awesome bonding time we had leading up to that point). One more week of not having to pump outside of the privacy of my home. In short, my first day back came way too fast. I didn’t feel like we were ready.
Feeling ready for something when a baby is involved I’m learning is a luxury though (like taking twelve weeks off from work with pay). Getting out the door in the morning continues to be really difficult and not just emotionally. It is physically difficult to get out the door, because being a working mom who’s trying to continue breastfeeding means taking so much stuff with me to the office that it looks like I’m headed to the airport. Seriously, it takes exactly five bags worth of stuff for me to be away all day. There’s my purse (which these days could double as an overnight bag), work laptop, lunch bag (gotta save money where we can), breast pump (stylishly camouflaged to look like another purse), and a cooler in which to store my expressed milk (it has a bottle key hanging on the outside because it was actually designed to hold a twelve pack of beer – it’s my little private joke with myself).
All this being said, it has been good to be back these last few weeks. Thankfully, I have coworkers who over the years have become friends (friends who have the good grace not to ask what’s in the cooler and who didn’t underestimate the positive impact of finding flowers and a giant cinnamon roll waiting for me on my desk upon return). I have a job that helps provide for my family, the opportunity to sometimes work from home, and a husband, who despite being blindsided by how much havoc one tiny human can wreak, is still totally willing and even excited to take on this frightening thing called parenthood with me.
I think it’s going to be okay.