My maternity leave is over, I didn’t blog much during this past year. What a year it was!
People told me it would go by fast, it did go by way too fast. My little pumpkin is only two weeks away from being 1, she’s talking, she’s walking and she’s at daycare full time.
The end of mat leave and the start of working full time again has been wonderful, it has gone so much better than I thought it would. I’m not a weeping mess that I had foreseen and my guilty feelings of leaving her have not been as bad as I thought they would be. I’m enjoying being back to work and the early morning wake-up routine. Sophia loves being dropped off at her daycare, but also loves and sequels for me when I pick her up after work. I thought being attachment parents things would have been much much different.
I feel the success of the transition was in the preparation. I knew from her birth that I would be going back to work and I planned accordingly. First step was breastfeeding; my goal of two years and how am I going to manage this? Second step was childcare; what types did we prefer and how were we going to make this transition easier? Third step was sleeping; how were we going do what was best for us as a family and will work for when I go back to work? Fourth step (this is a big one); coming to the realization that I do not own who she is, but rather guide how the world she perceives is presented to her and help her discover, play and become herself.
The first step, breastfeeding. My husband and I researched different types of parenting styles and on every topic attachment parenting fit with how we wanted to raise her. With attachment parenting, on demand breastfeeding is a major part and is what I decided was best for her. This is also what is recommended as best practice for your babies growing needs. Breast is best. I thought that breastfeeding was going to be easy, that wasn’t the case.
For the first 4-5 months we struggled with thrush, and when I say struggled I really do mean struggled. I had vasospasum’s so bad and so painful I would just sit on my couch topless, white nippled and let them air. They bled and they cracked. We tried everything Dr. Jack Newman (a breastfeeding god) said, and still we struggled. I did the candida diet (no sugar, no dairy, no yeast, no gluten, no high sugar fruits) and still we struggled. It was clay that finally cleared up the thrush. Not putting it on my breasts, but eating it. Yes, I. ate. clay. It’s actually something I picked up from a Health Food Store. They explained that tribesmen would carry around balls of clay and eat them after meals to help keep their digestive tracks clean when traveling. Well, it worked. By month 6 breastfeeding was amazing and I’m so thankful I didn’t give up. It really helped that I have an amazing and talented Lactation Consultant mother, who at every turn was there to help me.
I also have a great friend, writer, dula, breastfeeding queen (I call her that), Teresa Pitman, who helped and still helps with great advice and knowledge.
With breastfeeding also comes breast-pumping, and I was blessed to have a fantastic pump (see a past journal post about choosing a pump). I knew that I would be going back to work, so after the last morning feeding I would pump for 5-15mins depending on how full I was. I have managed to bank a freezer full of milk for Sophia. This is what I will use as my milk production during the day goes down, for daycare. I will breastfeed her mornings, nights and weekends. That is how I managed to build up to this point of contentment. Now at work, I have no problem letting down to the pump and I pump at 10am, noon and 3pm. I place the milk in bags and in a private fridge. Then at night I take them home in my lunch bag with ice packs, transferring it straight to the freezer for daycare use the next day. Having planned out from the beginning of my goals and how I would achieve them, really kept me going and has payed off, allowing me to continue to give life to my precious baby girl.
Second step, childcare. The dreaded D word for many a mom’s on maternity leave. Its such a scarey word, even some of my mommy friends would cringe and state “I can’t even start to think about that yet.”
I knew I wanted Sophia to have a transition that was not traumatic for her, one that she would not cry, that she would enjoy. I thought long and hard about what that would take and patience is the biggest quality I knew I needed the caregiver we choose to have. My husband and I looked online and through other people and came up with a list of about 10-12 caregivers to interview. We choose private home-care as apposed to over populated daycare. When interviewing we went on multiple things, the home; is it clean (we weren’t too concerned with toys and such) but is there dust and grime everywhere? Is the person approachable and friendly? does the person smoke (yes, and I do have a side story on this)? how many children to they care for including their own children? how long have they been a childcare provider? do they have CPR and emergency first aid for infants/children? what was their employment history? can we do a criminal check and reference check? do you have backup for sick days? do you provide food and snacks? what are your feelings about discipline and problem resolution? what will your daily routine be like?
After many of these questions being answered, we went on our gut feelings. My husband and I tend to be a little bit on the impulsive side so we really wanted to take our time when searching for the perfect person. I was surprised at some of the ‘contenders’; we walked into one home and a pack of cigarettes was sitting on the side table and the house smelled of stale smoke, like she smoked at night with the window open. A big no for us. Another had what we think was a pit bull rescue dog, not that we think that breed is dangerous, it was that it was a huge dog and a rescue and they weren’t restricting access to the children (no idea what temperament that dog has or its history). A big no for us. Another was very strict about nap times and told us if our child didn’t nap at 1pm she would need to be quite. A big no for us. We did find two people that we like, but one more than all the others.
She was a mom who was apart of our mommy play-group and was staying home and starting a home childcare. I’d watched her child grow over the months at playgroup and I watched closely how she mothered her daughter (she doesn’t know that). What I saw was someone I fully trusted to care for my child. She was understanding and involved. She was laid back but structured. She has fun and engaged with her daughter and other children that came to her. You can tell she really loves watching over children. So, when she approached me at our playgroup and invited me to contact her out of the group to talk about childcare I was like “absolutely.”
We came up with a plan at 6months to work up to full time by 11months. We started slowly with a couple of play dates. Then did 1 hour a week, then 2, then a couple times a week, then 3 hours a couple times a week. Then part-time at the last week of her being 10months old, then at 11months we did part-time for a week, and full-time the next week and I started work that Friday.
Each time I watched Sophia, I watched everything like a hawk. At the beginning I would stay for a bit and chat and watch them all interact. I watched how the caregiver treated my baby girl and how she treated her daughter with mine. She balanced their needs and cared for them in a way that came so naturally to her. It is like she was born with these “mad care-giving skills”. Sophia loves her and is best friends with her daughter.
I feel that has been key, her daughter being only 2months older. So close they are like peas in a pod, and apparently have their own language. Because of all the prep and planning, I know that when I drop her off she’s happy, cared for and secure. This is the biggest relief coming back to work and the reason I don’t have the guilt feelings I thought I would have.
Third step, sleeping. This is the most controversial topic (besides breastfeeding without a cover and extended breastfeeding) that I have faced as a mother. My husband works permanent nights and just got this permanency a week before she was born, so he couldn’t take more than two days off. I had an emergency c-section and couldn’t lift her during the night for feedings. So, after my mother had gone home from helping me for two weeks. Sophia slept right beside me in my bed. I woke her up every 3 hours to feed and one 4 hour stint in the middle of the night. Babies shouldn’t go any longer than that without nursing until they are older. I also wanted to keep my milk flowing to help combat the thrush.
So, I nursed her in bed and set up a change-station beside the bed. To this day she is still in my bed. People comment with outrage, they make fun of me, they judge me that it is a bad thing and for some reason tell me how they suffered through the cry-out method and that I should too. But I tell you, right now my daughter has a cold and is up most of the night. If she wasn’t next to me, I wouldn’t be sleeping at all, having to get up out of bed and nurse her to sleep every hour? no. thank. you. Right now, I just nurse her and we both fall asleep.
I felt pressure at one point because everyone in my life was telling me to get her out of my bed, to try and put her in her crib. Even after all of the evidence and research I had telling me the crying-it-out method hurts the babies brains and can do serious damage and even though it felt so wrong in my gut, I tried it. It was my husband who came upstairs, I was crying in the kitchen and the baby was screaming in her playpen, and just put a hand on me and said “enough” and picked her up in her crib. Never again did I try it, nor will I. I tell people I will and I go on like I am trying to, but really I’m not and I don’t want to. It works for me and I get more sleep and feel rejuvenated when I wake up (with some coffee help). My husband agrees and supports me, as he usually isn’t home at night. When he is off or we go on vacation he admits it is nice to wake up to a smiling face exclaiming “dadda.” The time I am away from her during the day we get back during our sleep. This sleeping arrangement “sleep sharing” works and I feel is another key reason returning to work has been so positive.
[Side note: Please do not use this as reason to sleep with your baby. I never sleep with blankets over my waist, no extra pillows, there is a fan in the room and it is a brand new mattress. There are key ingredients to safely "sleep share" with your baby that you can find doing any Google search. The recommendation is that your baby be in your room seperate from your bed, in a breathable bassinet for 6 months.]
Fourth step, realizing I do not own who she is. I guide how the world she perceives is presented to her and help her discover, play and become herself. Its the first step of letting go, a process my mother tells me we as mothers spend a lifetime trying to accept.
In closing all of these steps have been key for me, but the biggest one is workplace. I love my job, I love what I do and I love who I work for. My boss and his boss are amazing. They organized a comfortable place for me to pump, have been delighted to see me everyday and generally cared that I was back. I realize not everyone enjoys what they do, so if you don’t then try and find something worth going to.
I’ve included a photo of my little wee Sophia, my baby girl.
I’m finished my lunch hour and back to work I go.