Last week was my first week going back to work since having Naiya and it was so surreal. As excited as I was to actually get dressed, find my professional self again and have adult conversations that didn’t involve poop and spit-up, leaving Naiya was undoubtably hard. Since Naiya and I had not been apart since she was born for more than a few hours at a time, saying goodbye to her for the whole day cold turkey felt like such a big step! I was mostly nervous because she still hadn’t learned how to take a bottle and I wasn’t sure if she would be able to eat the entire day without me there to nurse her (cue the new mom guilt and tears!).
Prepping For The First Day Back:
As I prepared to go back to work, I found myself getting especially sad whenever I was nursing Naiya. I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that we would never have this span of time together again where my only concerns were feeding her, rocking her to sleep, dressing her, bringing her to doctor’s appointments etc. Now I’d be stepping out of our little family bubble to go back into the real world and I’d have to handle all of Naiya’s needs–on top of commuting three hours a day to work and everything in between. It all felt so overwhelming!
The Morning Of:
The great news is that when I actually got up and ready for work, I was surprised that I was able to jump back into my old routine. Sure, I had to nurse Naiya all night (she’s currently cluster-feeding every 2-3 hours!) and twice before leaving for the day but other than that, it was just a normal morning. The hardest part was actually saying goodbye to Naiya and walking out the door but that was to be expected.
On my drive to work, I caught a glimpse of myself in the rearview mirror and realized I sort of felt like my pre-baby self again. I had traded my yoga pants for a work-appropriate outfit, my hair was actually sort of done, there was no spit-up running down my shoulder and for a minute, I felt like I could take on the world.
The First Work Day:
Upon walking into work, I was excited to see my coworkers, to sit in meetings again and to start to work on new projects. I realized how hungry I was to use the creative side of my brain again. I could see a light at the end of the overwhelmed new mom tunnel and can only hope that I will continue to find my new normal soon.
Making it through the first day back to work felt like such an accomplishment. I was especially proud that I figured out when to pump (that in itself felt like a win!). In the end, Naiya wasn’t able to drink out of her bottle while I was at work but our patient Nanny was able to feed her a bit through a dropper. This is a problem we are continuing to work on and I can only hope we get it under control soon (fingers crossed!).
New Mamas And Mamas-To-Be:
Maternity Leave Advice
Don’t make big plans for your maternity leave. If you’ve been career-focused throughout your adult life and this is your first “break” since you can remember, you’ll probably want to plan as much as you can.
The truth is, though, once you have your baby, you will realize that maternity leave is not even close to a break. In fact, as rewarding as it was for me, it was one of the toughest periods of my life at the same time. There was so much I wanted to do that I simply never had time for because each day was spent trying to figure out how to nurse (more about that here), changing diapers and taking care of Naiya 24/7.
Raising a baby is absolutely a full time job and then some and I’ve never felt this exhausted in my entire life. I honestly don’t know how people juggle more than one baby at a time! Moms (and dads) are absolute warriors.
During the first three months of your baby’s life, take every day as it comes, enjoy snuggling him or her and hopefully find time to sleep. The time flies by so quickly and it’s okay to take a pause. I wish I could have given myself this advice whenever I felt like I wasn’t doing enough so please take it and run with it!
Going Back To Work Advice:
I’m completely new at this but here are some initial tricks I’ve been using to help get me through:
Be gentle with yourself and know that this is one of the hardest things you will ever have to do. If you have to cry, cry! Don’t hold it in.
Reach out to other moms who have been through this and gain comfort in the fact that they’ve already made it through this transition (and you can too!).
Print out a bunch of your favorite photos of your baby and keep them close with you–especially during your first week back. This helped me a lot. I’d look at the photos while I pumped and found that they were really comforting. There’s always Facetime too if you need to see your baby during the day!
Set boundaries for yourself. If you are going to be pumping at work, make sure to block out your schedule at the times in which you will need to do so. This has already been hard for me because I am such a perfectionist with projects and I don’t like to take breaks but I’m realizing I have to for the sake of Naiya. Be upfront and honest about what you need in order to make this transition work for you and your family. Not all employers will be able to accommodate but it can never hurt to ask.
Wear something you feel especially confident in. It’s not always easy to feel your best after having a baby. Order that new blazer you’ve been eyeing or a new pair of pants that fit comfortably. You don’t have to break the bank to buy something new but treat yourself! You’ll feel so much better during the day that it will hopefully zoom by and you’ll be home with your baby (back in yoga pants and spit-up again) before you know it. Take the time to feel good about yourself in the interim.
Stay organized. It’s important to lay out all of your pumping equipment, snacks, etc. the night before work so that you can run out the door and have everything you need in the morning. Mornings in our house are already proving to be a bit crazy because we’re running around trying to get Naiya ready. Knowing that I have everything set for work ahead of time is a lifesaver.
Photography: Azusa Takano