Self-Care January

I am a person of lists. And goals. I love lists of goals. Even lists of lists of goals. So when my friend @thenewchrissy declared that she would be doing monthly challenges for 2019, I jumped on board. We share a lot of interests and values but I modified her a few of her challenges to fit my needs.

white and blue mountain birthday pinterest graphic (1)

A lot of folks start the year with Dry January. It makes sense considering the overindulgence of the holidays but I wanted to start the year off on a different foot. With only a few weeks left in my maternity leave, I wanted to focus on just enjoying it and relaxing as much as possible before it was back to the grind. Thus Self-Care January.

Self-care on maternity leave (especially at the end of one without pay) is not spa days or days alone in self-reflection or girls weekends. It is a 30 minute bath at the end of the day with a magazine. It is going to the grocery store alone and walking the aisles very slowly. It is choosing not to fold the laundry and painting my toenails instead. It is getting outside everyday.

Having a reminder that I needed to make time for myself was really helpful as I faced going back to work. The prospect of going back to work has, in my experience, been worse than the actual return but it’s still painful.

It’s hard to be present even in the parts of my job that I enjoy (which is the majority to be fair) when I’m aware of all the things I’m missing at home. Is he smiling right now? Is he cooing? Is he thinking about rolling over? (Yes, yes and not yet.) I race home to divide my time between two amazing, demanding children. One who wants cuddles and to be nursed. Another who wants to read books or tell me things like “I ride in Dada’s truck” (it’s not fascinating but it’s still cute). On my first week back of work, Haines was sent home from daycare with a fever and I was ecstatic to spend the following day with him. With Austin safely tucked away at my mom’s, we watched a movie, took walks and played hard. I loved it.

IMG_6968

Still at the end of the day, I was ready for a moment of me. I went to bed at 8. Best self-care decision ever.

February’s challenge is Snail Mail which I’m really looking forward to. I used to be an excellent pen pal but now I’m incredibly inconsistent. This month is going to be an opportunity to get back into one of my favorite activities.

IMG_6954

Advertisements

Back to Work

This week, after twelve quick weeks, I returned to work. In America, my friends congratulate me on being eligible and able to take advantage of the full twelve week leave. The men I know all say, “Wow, that’s a long time.” My friends in other countries think it is ridiculous that twelve weeks is considered ample time to recover and return to work. As someone who hasn’t slept a full night in months, I’m inclined to agree.

img_6910

I know there are so many benefits to being working parent. I drink my caffeine hot and enjoy adult conversations on a daily basis. I use my brain and solve problems that make me feel accomplished, even if just for the workday. I have a career, a boss, a field that I enjoy. Oh and the biggest advantage- dual income!

But I will never stop feeling that I am missing it. Not just missing out but truly missing “it.” Missing the best parts of the day with my boys. Missing them grow before my eyes. Missing everything. Our time together is mostly sleepy breakfasts, wrestling in and out of pajamas, perilous dinners (Will he throw a tantrum because we dared offer him food?), nursing in the wee hours, and reading a quick bed time book to one while the other protests, ready to be rocked to sleep. It is not nothing but it is also not enough. Would anything be?

img_6889

Even though I like most things about my job and my life, going back to work also makes me feel like I am running back into a hamster wheel. Thirteen hours of each day will be spent at full speed. Up at 6 so we can all get dressed, get fed, get out the door. Work hard to leave the office by 5 to get home, to get everyone fed, dressed, in bed around 7 before sweet tiredness turns into angry tears. Clean up, prep for tomorrow, take a shower in the hopes that there will be a few quiet, relaxing moments before nursing the baby again and lights out at ten.

There is no perfect balance. No parent doesn’t wish to be home, long to be at work, can’t wait for the kids to go to bed, and joyfully wake them up. Our situation will find its normal but for a few days at least I am giving myself the space to feel all the feelings as they are.

img_6909

There is something extra sad about going back to work this time knowing we will not be doing this again. We’ve decided our family feels just right as a foursome so there will be no more pregnancies, no more newborns, no more back to works. All of which is the right choice for us but it is hard not to feel wistful about the end of this chapter.

img_6917

Working Mom Blues: Daycare Jealousy

As Haines goes through phases I’ve found I do too. This past week he learned to wave, give high fives and fist bumps. We’re also working on doing “choo-choo” when we pretend we are a train running around the kitchen. This was all adorable until he practically leapt out of my arms to high five his teacher at daycare. I’m sure you can see where this is going.

When I first when I back to work, the build up to that first day was an emotional roller coaster. I cried for hours about other people raising our child and how we were terrible people and so on, even though I like my job and I had really struggled staying at home most days during maternity leave. We had never been able to get on a nap schedule (because you know, 12 weeks old!) and the lack of structure and unpredictable nature of baby life was hard for me to get a grip on. Still I grieved going back to work.

Once I got back to my job and realized I had placed my baby in very capable hands, I felt pretty good. I hate that Haines is at daycare for so long each day but he’s also really happy there. It makes things much easier. This past week was the first time I started to struggle with these feelings again.

IMG_4511

It’s a good problem to have. It’s good to have your child love their teacher so much you get a little jealous. She’s not some crazy person manipulating him into thinking she’s his mother like some Lifetime movie plot. She’s just good. She sings him songs, and teaches him to wave. It’s just when the teacher is the one who tells you what his favorite song is, your heart breaks a little. I didn’t know Haines could recognize Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, let alone request it (apparently there’s a hand gesture for this).

This week when she asked if she could feed him some of the foods the other kids are having at daycare I once again felt like she was telling me something I didn’t know about him. She was also taking away the one thing I contribute to his day- the food I make for him. It’s a minor thing. I like making his food but often the week feels like it gets away from me and sometimes it’s a pain. It will be easier when I have one less thing to bring for him.

IMG_4507

Pick-me-up flowers from a good husband

All the same every day this week I’ve felt heartache over our daycare situation. It’s the kind of thing I couldn’t imagine getting worked up over pre-baby life. I’m not quitting my job though. One, I don’t think we’re prepared for the financial changes we’d have to make and two, because I don’t think that’s who I am. Mentally, it would be very difficult for me to not have something of my own to go to each day.

I follow a lot of mom bloggers and Instagram accounts these days. I try not to get swept in by those who make parenting look picturesque and search out ones who honestly depict their lives. Stay at home, work at home, or work away from home- all of these are great and difficult. Each have their own challenges that sometimes don’t have a fix. You just have to get through.

IMG_4521

 

Pumping at Work (Otherwise Known as Crying Over Spilled Milk)

There’s nothing to make you feel more like a dramatic fool than crying over spilled milk, but when it’s breastmilk? Having recently spilled half a bottle of breastmilk at work, I say that’s legit.

There’s only two parts of Haines’ life that have stressful (except for that one time we went to the hospital): sleeping and eating. I felt strongly that I wanted to breastfeed so I’ve been lucky in that Haines latched on pretty well from the get go. Despite that we still spent the first couple days home in constant tears watching La Leche YouTube videos. The worst was being up in the middle of the night, the house dark around me save for the bathroom light shining into the hall, trying to get Haines to latch while everyone else slept. Babies are so tiny then and frail seeming. It was such an ordeal shifting him around my body into different positions until we could get settled. The first few weeks I was always hunched over, my breasts brought to his mouth, rather than the other way around. My shoulders lived up around my ears,  before my body finally unclenched.

IMG_2501

Almost five months later breastfeeding is certainly easier. I still don’t love it but it can be a nice reason to sit down and relax a few times a day. Pumping is not like this. It is not relaxing to grab my laptop twice a day at work (formerly three times a day) between meetings and set myself up in the health clinic. Once hooked up I force myself not to watch the milk drip into the bottles. I try not to count every ounce. If it’s not enough, should I make another trip to the health clinic? Do I have time to stay longer or do I have a meeting? Why is nothing coming out? Should I try to use the hand pump tonight once Haines goes to bed?

Haines turns five months on Sunday (Mother’s Day!) and has yet to have any formula. There’s a couple reasons for this:

  • I’ve super lucky and typically don’t have trouble producing milk.  I don’t believe there is any rhyme or reason to this.
  • I’m cheap. I really don’t want to have to buy formula. Just the idea of having to select a formula brings me anxiety, let alone the idea of paying for it. I have to travel without him in July so chances are he will have to be introduced at some point. I guess I’ll get over it.

IMG_2958

For those breastfeeding mamas preparing to go back to work there are several things you can do to make life easier. I would highly recommend the following:

  1. Start your stash. The breastfeeding class we went to before giving birth did not recommend a stash but I wish I had more of one. There’s no need to go crazy with it but once you’re ready to start integrating bottles, start pumping every day. On maternity leave I would feed Haines, wait 30 minutes or an hour and then pump. I find doing this early on in the day after the first feed is best. Night time is the only time we’d get a decent stretch without feeding so I’d be fuller in the morning. Well, or I’d be laying in a puddle of milk. This still happens. Don’t go crazy and safe guard your stash though! The stash is only worthwhile if you get to use it. Use it to have someone else feed your baby. Take a walk, go see a movie, take a nap and wave bye, bye baby!
  2.  Buy a hands free pumping bra. I’m a fan of this one. For some reason it didn’t occur to me that a bra like this would be necessary until a few days before I started work. Doesn’t everyone just hold their bottles to their breasts? No. They absolutely do not. This is pretty much the only way to work and pump. Actually it’s the only way to not hate pumping because you can be reading or flipping though Instagram.
  3. Definitely order your electric pump from your health insurance before it’s not covered under the ACA anymore. The electric pump makes life so much easier! I also recommend buying a hand pump. You can them for under $30, they fit easily into a large purse and are pretty easy to use. I bought the Philips Avent Manual Comfort Hand Pump. Whatever you do, buy it on Amazon. It’s way cheaper. I’ve found the hand pump is great for when I want to be away for the house for several hours but won’t be a place convenient for an electric pump (ex. coffee shop).
  4. When you prepare for pumping at work, keep in mind that this is a messy endeavor. In addition to your electric pump I recommend bringing:
    • 2 burp cloths- 1 to tuck into the bottom of your nursing bra to protect it and 1 for your lap. I just use cloth diapers as burp cloths.
    • Your hands free bra
    • A stash of disposable breast pads for when your pump time gets bumped back for a meeting
    • A wet bag– essential! Between pumps I keep my bottles in the bag and then place them in the fridge. This keeps me from having to wash them in between pumping. (*This is probably not at all recommended. I just think it’s a huge pain in the butt to wash them every time.) Either way it keeps the stuff that’s wet from getting milk on everything
    • A Nalgene- rather than taking storage bags or several bottles with me to work I pour my milk into a Nalgene. I cover it with a Freaker so that no one can see what inside when I keep it in our shared work fridge. Fun fact: your work fridge may be full of breast milk like mine.

 

IMG_3377IMG_3417

I must admit, I think because of breastfeeding I do end up with a lot more than my fair share of cuddles. I like that best of all.

 

Off to Work We Go!

dwarfs

I haven’t been able to blog these past few weeks. Trying to balance work and play… well, I thought I didn’t have enough free time before and I really didn’t know what I was talking about.

Admittedly, returning to work has been significantly easier than I expected. I spent the day before mostly in tears. Okay, I was also able to work in lunch with a friend that included a beer. You never know, it could have been my last chance to drink a beer in the daytime on a weekday. But then it was all tears.

I really don’t mind being back at work. My work is interesting. I feel challenged on a regular basis. In fact, coming back to work has relieved much of the brain fog that had taken over as well as the loneliness I felt at home during the day. I don’t feel guilty leaving Haines at daycare. We secured our daycare less than 4 weeks before I needed to be back at work and did so by calling every daycare that is licensed near our home. We were (and technically are) basically on every waitlist in town. Luckily the only daycare we got into has been great so far. With only 3 other babies in the room I feel like Haines gets a lot of attention. And now instead of wishing I was somewhere else when we’re together, I am present. In the evenings I work hard to make our time together quality time.

IMG_3061

All that being said, this is still a struggle and a work in progress. I have come back to work at incredibly busy time for both me and Tyler. And now every hour of the day has a purpose. We wake up needing to get right to business getting everything together for daycare and our work days. After working full days we take turns making dinner and spending time with the munchkin. As soon as he’s in bed I try to take time for myself for a bath or writing but since Haines isn’t actually sleeping through the night on a regular basis sometimes I go to bed almost immediately after. Every few days we walk the dog. But really only sometimes. Poor Clara.

IMG_3086

Haines isn’t the only one who struggles to make it to bed time!