Preparing to Go Back To Work: Fear, Guilt, and Excitement

As I’m writing this, I have a week and a half until I go back to work.  Week and a half.  I remember thinking back in July that 3 months seemed like an eternity.  How could it have flown by so quickly?  I also think back to the first few weeks with a newborn.  I would have gladly gone back to work then.  Taking care of a newborn is tough when you’re a task driven person.  I like to check things off my to do list–the newborn to do list consists of feeding, changing diapers, and hoping you’re doing everything right.  Then it starts all over again.  It’s hard to feel productive when you’re checking the same items off the list over and over, you know?

 

But I got past those first few weeks and now…now the thought of going back to work is scary.  Scary as in I’m going to miss my baby…a lot.  He’s just starting to become aware of the world.  I can actually see him learning and changing every day.  It’s going to be so hard to miss (or feel like I’m missing) all of these changes.  I know every working mom out there can relate–I’m not the first mom to feel like this–and I won’t be the last.

 

Then comes the guilt.  Another emotion I know every mom (working out of the house or not) can relate to as well.  I feel guilty thinking maybe he’ll wonder where I am every day (I have no idea if babies have this capacity for thought or not).  I feel guilty thinking maybe he’ll miss me as much as I miss him.  I also feel guilty because as scary as it will be to leave him–I’m looking forward to going back to my job.  I love my job–I just don’t love the thought of not being with him.

 

So I’m going to cherish this last week and a half.  I’m not going to worry about whether or not I’m holding him too long and that’s going to form a bad habit.  I’m not going to worry about leaving the house a mess so I can spend all my time with him.  I’m not going to worry about anything but this precious time.

Listen to your Gut…and Throw Out the “Plan”/My Labor Story

Let me tell you something…when they say every pregnancy is different…they mean it! Throughout my pregnancy, I spent a lot of time scrutinizing every pregnancy symptom I had, every ache, craving, lack of craving, you name it–and comparing it with other mamas I knew. I’d ask them questions like “Did you ever have this pain?”, “What did a Braxton Hicks contraction feel like for you?”, “Did your OBGYN give you super vague answers too when you asked her these questions?”  Turns out, most women  I talked to hadn’t felt that particular pain I might be having that day, had a completely different Braxton Hicks experience, and, yes, their OBGYN did give them super vague answers to symptom questions.  Apparently one woman’s labor symptom is another random Tuesday in someone else’s pregnancy.  That’s maddening for someone like me who wants to know what’s going on at all times.  And be able to plan for whatever is going on.  At all times.

Being the planner I am, I had a sense of calm when my doctor told me she was going to induce me on August 22. It helped that we had a “plan” in place.  My naive self thought this was exactly how it was going to go down…check into the hospital Monday night, chill out for a while, have a baby the next day.  Don’t judge me…I now know all about what happens to “best laid plans” and such!

I had been feeling crampy for weeks. There’s no other way to describe it–they felt like dull menstrual cramps.  Every time I consulted Dr. Google, he would tell me I should contact my healthcare provider immediately as this was not normal.  However, you go on mommy message boards and find out that it actually is pretty normal.  So I consulted my actual doctor, and, once again, she gave pretty vague answers and would just send me over for an ultrasound (I totally didn’t mind getting more pictures of little baby bear).  She did send me to the ER a week before I actually went into labor and again, they had a super vague explanation for the cramps.  I was told maybe I would just be crampy from here on out. What? Excuse me, that’s your professional medical diagnosis? Moving on…

On August 11, I started having more cramps around 1 am.  I got up, went to work (gave 2 presentations to incoming college students, thank you very much) and spent all day with an overall weird feeling.  It’s hard to describe the weirdness…crampy, tired, lack of appetite. Just…weird.  The cramps came and went but nothing consistent.  I called my doctor and the nurse told me at this point I either was or wasn’t in labor.  Later that afternoon, I had a long conversation with a coworker about her birth experience.  She said she had just felt like she was going to have her baby the next day and then she did.  Something about her story stuck with me but you know…we were going to be induced (like I planned) so there was NO WAY I was in labor.

Later at home, I still didn’t have an appetite and I noticed the cramps were getting stronger, though there was still no consistent pattern.  I even downloaded a contraction counter app just to see—I really wasn’t sure if these were contractions because, come on, first timer here!  They didn’t feel like the Braxton Hicks I’d had (where everything gets really tight), they just hurt like the worst period cramps you’ve ever had–and multiplied by 100. The app actually told me I must be doing something wrong because the timing was all over the place (super rude). Around 11 pm, I noticed them getting closer together (I’d given up on that judgemental app at this point) and by midnight, I’d told my husband to hop in the car–we were getting this checked out!

We got to the OB ER and they put me on a monitor and checked for dilation–I was at 4.5 cm.  I was so worried they would send us home (again, first timer!) and was so relieved when the doctor said they were going to keep me.  When I say relieved, I mean relieved that I would soon have pain medication but super terrified that  I would be doing that whole labor thing very soon…a week and half sooner than I had “planned.”  Again, best laid plans, right?

That whole morning is actually a blur and went much faster in my mind than in reality.  Got to a labor and delivery room about 3:30 am, epidural happened around 4:30 am, families were called at 5 am, and my water broke around 7:30 am.  The epidural is magical, y’all.  Magical. I’m not one for needles but I’m really opposed to pain.  Pain sucks.  I get a little teary over a paper cut.  So, no, natural childbirth was not in my “plan.” Contractions (what I now understood were contractions) hurt. A lot.  Everyone loves to tell you a good epidural horror story (why would you do that to a pregnant lady??) but I’m here to tell you–mine was magical.

We spent the next few hours chatting with family, getting a little sleep, and preparing for the little guy who was sabotaging my plan going to make his appearance.  Fast forward to about 11:15 am…show time!  We didn’t attend a birthing class–and it still amazes me that you can give birth to a child with very little direction.  The whole experience was nothing like I expected.  On tv and in movies, everything is so dramatic. Everyone in the room always seems so tense and giving each other super concerned looks. Honestly, my doctor didn’t even come in until I had already been pushing for about 5 minutes (welcome to the party, Doc).  She and the nurses in the room were so relaxed–which really helped me feel semi-relaxed about the experience (and my magical epidural helped too).  No one exchanged super concerned looks so I felt better about the whole situation. 15 minutes after I started pushing–there he was.  This screaming, tiny, little perfect human being. I can’t even describe the absolute joy I felt when they put him on my chest.  I totally forgave him for changing the date on the calendar without consulting me first!

So the moral of this story is–listen to your gut and go with the flow, mama!  Your little one is coming when he’s coming. If you’re feeling like something doesn’t feel right, don’t let anyone tell you that you’re just “crampy”.  And don’t let any app tell you that you’re doing something wrong!

New Mama Status

I’ll be honest…I wasn’t sure I wanted kids.  They’re loud, germy, frustrating, and they take up a lot-I mean a LOT of time.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to give up the freedom to pick up and go on a spontaneous weekend trip whenever I wanted to.  How many times did I actually go on a spontaneous weekend trip you ask? Zero.  Not once. Did I ever want my career to take a backseat to kids? My job has always been #1.  I’ve actually referred to it as my “baby” before. Not to mention the state of the world we live in–did I want to bring kids into this mess?

Then came 2016.  Matt and I had been married for 8 years and it had been a rough year to say the least.  Family illnesses, moving, my own personal health scare–all made for a good time to re-evaluate life.  On December 19, 2016, I realized I DID want kids–I had no idea that super faint second line meant I was pregnant (of course I would have if I had just read the instructions on the box!). I just realized that I really wanted it to mean I was pregnant!

I honestly had a really wonderful pregnancy (in my super limited experience). I actually enjoyed being pregnant.  And when Graham James decided to come a week and a half before our induction date, I actually missed being pregnant. That is, when I wasn’t overjoyed with the tiny little bundle that decided to make an unexpected appearance.

Graham is 8 weeks now and I won’t lie–there have been some really tough, hard days.  Really hard days.  I’ve thought about all those doubts I originally had about having children and wondered it I was on to something.  But mostly…I think about how lucky I am and how he’s the best thing that ever happened to me.  I’ll be going back to work in less than 3 weeks.  I’m looking forward to getting back to the “me” I’m used to.  Focused on my career and finding fulfillment in working hard.  But now I have something else (someone else) to focus on as well. Even though I have no idea what I’m doing (I’m pretty sure baby boy knows it too)–I’m enjoying my new mama status and I’m looking forward to finding balance as a full time working mama!