A year ago, I went back to work after my (final) maternity leave. E was 9 weeks old. I was tired, stressed, and SO ANGRY. I (obviously) didn’t want to go back so soon, or (at the time) at all. No matter how much self-talk I did, I didn’t want to drop my little guy off at daycare every day. Going back was harder with each kid and with E it felt like complete torture. It sucked that I only got 6 weeks off (with 60% of my pay — I took the extra 3 weeks as vacation), in fact it sucks that the US doesn’t have a maternity option. The only reason I had 6 weeks off is because recovering from childbirth is considered a disability. I’m pretty sure hardest thing I’ve ever had to do is go back to work when I (and the baby) wasn’t physically and mentally prepared.
Fake it till you make it.
My days were pretty much a blur. I can’t tell you many details except that I hated pumping, I had absolutely zero schedule, and I didn’t know how I was going to fit anything (running, reading, friend time, husband time, etc) into my life again. I was OK with that though. E was sweet, snuggly, and worth it. I preferred to spend most of my free time with him in my arms and I think he would do anything to be in my arms.
Who can resist this??
I was also very, very anxious. I couldn’t define what I was feeling as postpartum depression (though, I don’t doubt I was experiencing it to some small degree), but my postpartum anxiety was fierce, lifesucking, and out of control at times. Looking back, I was in a far deeper hole than I imagined. I never thought I was going do anything to harm anyone, but I constantly thought about all of the horrible things that could happen to everyone that I know. Do you know how stressful that is?
Over time, things have gotten so much better. For starters, handling all three kids — with very, very different personalities — has gotten easier. Going into all of this, I didn’t realize that L at age 4 was going to be SO dramatic and hard to deal with (although, it was easier than when L was born and B was almost 3). At the same time, I also didn’t realize how amazing B would be with his little brother — so obviously these things balanced themselves out. I think over time the kids have realized that E is here to stay and he’s quite the little charmer. You want things? You go through E.
A year later things are… the way they are supposed to be. We (kinda) have a routine. I can get to work before 8:30. I’m no longer pumping. I feel like me again. I’m no longer angry. I’m still tired, but mostly because E is still waking up a few times a night (I’m still breastfeeding, so I guess I don’t mind). I don’t have to squeeze workouts in and when I do work out, I don’t feel guilty that I might be needed or missing something.
As for work – I’m enjoying it again. You know, as much as you can enjoy work. I like getting to my office every day and I like the work I am doing. I’m busy, I feel productive, I’m constantly learning – and when I see my coworkers I’m no longer putting on a happy face. I’m genuinely happy. I’m reminded that this is WHY I’m a working mom… I truly do love what I do — and the people I work with too!
Birthday lunch with some of my favorite people. I’m pretty lucky!
I’m still anxious, but it’s lessened immensely. It hits at weird times and I can now attribute it to being overtired or being overwhelmed. I still worry about things I cannot control – but if I take deep breathes and focus on the things I CAN control, it helps. But, for the record… I’ll probably have to live on Xanax when I hit menopause.
It’s amazing to me how much can change in a year. I can’t really pinpoint when these things all clicked, it wasn’t all at once and there was no real “a ha moment” — it’s just when reflecting that I’ve realized how different things are, in a good way! While a baby’s first year is the most amazing, sweetest, and snuggly year imaginable it’s also just plain hard. I’m not going to pretend subsequent years aren’t hard – in fact they are harder, just in different ways and they are FAR less hormonal.
I especially look forward to this next year with Evan. I like to think of it as the year of wonder – when kids are aware of their surrounding, are starting to communicate, and just think everything is AMAZING. I do think each year of childhood contains a little bit of this wonder – but this year between 1 and 2 is the most innocent and gratifying. It reminds you to consider the little things, to enjoy the simple moments, and to be silly — because when it comes down to it, that’s what life is all about.
So for all of you mamas — whether you’re raising baby #1 or #10 – just remember, this too shall pass. Sometimes you just need a little reminder (or a glass of wine) that things will get back to “normal.” I also caution that if you are feeling completely out of it. See a Dr., find a therapist, or talk to your friends. There’s no shame in admitting that things aren’t perfect or that you don’t feel right. I SHOULD have been more proactive, I think I suffered a lot longer than I should have because I didn’t realize it was abnormal. It’s OKAY to ask for help — and also know, you are NEVER EVER alone.
So basically, things are better and sometimes great, but I still live by my mantra… Parenting is hard, yo.