My maternity leave is over, so here I am — back to work. This is my third baby, so I am somewhat of a veteran of this particularly “fun” transition … and yet somehow, I still forgot how hard it is.
I forgot just how much it feels like a swift punch to the gut — the kind that briefly sucks all the air from your body and leaves you reeling and scared — to hand my tiny baby over to someone else and return to the way things were. To my commute, my desk, my regular old routine of meetings and deals and office minutia.
The only thing that’s helped get me through (besides knowing that I did this and survived two other times) has been my best friend, reminding me over and over again that I am a good mom who’s doing a good job, and that she’s there for me if I need a shoulder to cry on.
But not everyone out there has someone whispering in their ear all the things they so desperately need to hear. Not everyone gets the shoulder to cry on, no questions asked.
So if that’s you right now — if you’re in the midst of this tricky, emotional, anxiety-inducing thing called going back to work after having a baby — I’m here to be that voice for you. I’m here to tell you: You’re a good mom and you’re doing a good job.
Maybe it was really hard for you to find a nanny or day care you could really, truly trust. Maybe, when you finally did, you cried the whole first day — in your car on the way to work, hidden in your cubicle, crouched in the bathroom stall. Believe me, I feel you.
Maybe you’re secretly a little relieved to have some time to yourself again; to speak with other adults about adult matters and sip a cup of coffee in peace with no child needing anything from you for a few blissful hours. It’s okay — I totally get that feeling too, and I empathize.
Maybe you’re sneaking off every few hours to pump, which can feel alien and uncomfortable and embarrassing in an office setting. (I know my own coworkers can hear me pump, and it makes me crazily self-conscious.) Or maybe you decided not to pump, and are nursing in the mornings and the evenings; or maybe you exclusively used formula from Day 1. Whatever the case, you’re making it work, no matter what. And you get a major Gold Star for all of that.
Maybe you are finding it hard to get your brain back into “work mode,” and you feel a little foggy and removed from what’s going on with your office. Man, am I right there with you. The good news is, I vaguely remember that all this gets better. (Really, I promise I do.) I hope that happens for both of us soon.
Or maybe you’re feeling exhilarated and refreshed and totally psyched to be using your brain again for something other than feeding schedules, diaper changes, and repeated renditions of the “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” Live in that feeling for as long as you can; go ahead and revel in it. I was there once, too, when my firstborn was a baby, and it’s a beautiful feeling.
Maybe the logistics of coordinating things with your baby’s caregiver feels totally overwhelming. Or maybe you’re breezing through the end-of-day download on how much the baby ate and how many diapers were wet. Either way, I’ve been there, done that — and I’m going through it all again now. I feel you.
Maybe you’re surviving on four hours of broken sleep a night. Don’t kid yourself, that is HARD. But I promise you, it gets better. I promise this part won’t go on forever. And I am probably awake at the same time as you at night, so the next time you’re rocking your baby back to sleep, blearly-eyed and perhaps feeling defeated, please know you are not alone.
Maybe you’re a little jealous of your friends who don’t have to head back to work and get to stay at home with their kids. Maybe you’re relieved to be back at your job, but just finding the transition rough. Maybe some days, it’s a bit of both, which is certainly the case for me.
Whatever the case, I do know one thing for sure: You love that baby like crazy. I bet you smell her head while you cradle her in your arms, and I bet you admire her perfect little round tummy when you change her clothes. I bet when she smiles that big goofy grin at you, your heart leaps and aches simultaneously. When she sleeps, I bet you check on her now and then, just to admire the beauty of her breathing. I bet you constantly marvel at this amazing little person you created.
Remember: You’re a good mom. You’re doing a great job. And I send you my love.