Sunday, July 28, 2013

From Flip Flops to Heels

So, the time has come.  I have ventured back to work.  Though initially I was a little peeved about how things worked out with daycare, having to start paying for it a month earlier than we wanted to to guarantee our slot, I now think maybe it was kind of for the best.  It allowed Allie and I to transition into it gradually, and I never really had to go through that awful first day that so many people talk about where you drop the baby off, leave for an entire day, and just cry.  It really has been baby steps for us, leaving her only a few hours at a time at first and slowly building the time up to a full day.  I've really had the chance to get used to the idea.

Allie at daycare for "water day", chillin in the kiddie pool.

I also have an awesome boss that allowed me to take all this time off and then also agreed to let me start back at work part time for two weeks before going back full time.  I did a bunch of half days where I dropped her off at daycare in the morning, then picked her up at lunchtime and still got to spend the afternoon with her, which was really great.  

I think it helped that we're now at five and a half months and that I did get to have so much maternity leave to spend with Allie.  I have loved every second of being with her and know I am SO LUCKY that I had the chance to have all this time with her, because most working moms don't get this much maternity leave.  It's been so awesome to have this extended time to bond with Allie, watch her grow, play and cuddle every day, and just enjoy the time together.  At the same time, I like the idea of her socializing with other babies and people at daycare.  I think she's been particularly dependent on me, since Greg is away so much, and I want her to be comfortable with other care givers, so I think daycare can be good for her. I'll admit it again too- I always saw myself going back to work.  While I AM torn about it, and know there is a part of me that would love to be with her all day every day, there is another part of me that wants to work to keep that part of my life going.  I like the work I do, the people I work with, and work has always been a pretty big part of my identity, so at this point I don't want to completely give that up and I it feels okay that I am back at work at this point.  I really can't imagine going back much sooner though, so I'm glad I got to be out this long.

In case you are wondering, my work doesn't give me any free paid maternity leave- I used a combo of my own sick leave, annual leave, and FMLA (unpaid), which basically meant I got paid every two weeks while out but it was about half of what a normal paycheck for me looks like and I used a lot of sick and annual leave.  Using leave was actually fine with me, because I had accrued a ton of leave in my years of working and wanted to use it for this very purpose.  I've always kind of hoarded my leave, thinking I might use it for maternity leave some day.  I was also lucky that the lack of pay for the days I took unpaid leave also wasn't an issue because Greg makes a ton more than he used to under the new airline contract he just got (excellent timing).

Breastfeeding/pumping is going well so far.  My Ameda pump (which I got free through insurance), came with a handle black travel bag, and I just pack it up with my parts and bottles every day.  I have only done a couple full days so far, but on those days I pumped for times, twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon, and got about 15 oz total.  I also pump at home before bed at night, so between the work sessions and the night one, I usually get enough for the next day for daycare.  If for some reason I don't, I dip into my freezer stash, which is huge (pretty much a whole shelf in our freezer).  I've been leaving four 4 oz. Dr. Brown bottles for a full day of daycare, and actually, that's more than enough.  Allie usually only ends up eating three of the four at daycare.  I think it's because when I have her and breastfeed, she eats close to every two hours, but doesn't usually eat 4 oz- probably more like 3 oz or less since it's more frequent.  At daycare they go a little longer, like three hours, between feedings and then she eats more.  It's good because that ensures that she finishes the bottle and that they don't have to keep trying to get her to eat.  It is sort of annoying that she usually doesn't eat one bottle, but it's good to have more than enough than not enough.  I don't want to waste it, so what I've been doing is usually getting home and feeding her the extra bottle, and then breastfeeding her a couple hours later before she goes bed, because I can usually only get two feedings in from the time we get home to before she goes to bed.

As for how pumping at work is logistically?  I am lucky to have a private office, a mini fridge, and a microwave, plus a kitchen with a sink down the hall, which make it all fairly easy.  When I'm ready to pump, I just close my door (it is locked from the outside), and pump.  It takes me about 10 minutes and I'm getting good at actually working while pumping.  What I've been doing is pumping one time, then putting each assembled flange/bottle in a ziplock bag in my fridge.  Then I reconnect them to the pump again for the second session.  After that one, I disconnect the bottles, put caps on them, and store them, then take the flanges and parts down the hall to the kitchen to wash them (I keep some Seventh Generation soap there).  Then I put them in a Medela steam bag with 2 oz water, carry them back to the office and microwave them to sterilize them.  I do the same thing for the afternoon sessions.  I also bring a cooler bag with an ice pack to transport the pumped milk home in.  At home I have a dishwasher and a big Babies R Us bottle/part sterilizer, so I use one or the other on Allie's bottles and my other pump parts.  I feel like I'm getting used to it.  I have eight 4 oz bottles, and a bunch more of the pump bottles, and an extra set of flanges and parts, so I just kind of keep rotating through everything.  Breastfeeding is much easier than dealing with the pump and bottles, but I'm glad that pumping seems to be going well so far so that I can continue to give Allie breast milk.  When I'm not working, I pretty much avoid pumping and bottles as much as I can.

I'm getting used to wearing heels again for the first time in a long time.  I was so swollen at the end of pregnancy, I wasn't wearing heels much the last couple months and have barely worn heels at all since having Allie.  My normal mom wardrobe has been t-shirts and shorts with flip flops for the past couple months (and jeans and t-shirts before it got hot).  I actually sought out some shorter pants so that I can wear flats to work more, because I have gotten so used to not wearing heels!  Another consideration is breast pump-friendly attire.  I have a couple cute dresses that zip up the back, and haven't worn them to work yet, because I feel like it's going to be a huge pain to unzip and take them half off to pump.  I gravitate towards "mom friendly" or well pump-friendly outfits now :)

Work is going pretty good.  I literally had 700 emails in my inbox when I got back, but luckily a lot were stuff from months ago advising of outages that already happened, old news letters, and events that have already passed, so I was able to weed through a delete a lot.  I have an awesome back up person and she did a great job of keeping things up to date so the first few days weren't too terribly overwhelming.  However, as I've been back longer and people have figured out I am back, the flood gates have sort of opened, and I am definitely pretty busy.  My boss has also mentioned some projects he's been waiting on til I got back, so I know I have some big stuff coming up.  On one hand it feels like I never left, but on the other, it's weird to be back after so long.  There's new faces of new people that have come in since I have been out and changes to some of our systems that I'm getting used to.  For the most part, it's the same old thing though, and I've been pleasantly surprised that I haven't forgotten how to do my job and can jump back in.

I will say that just as I suspected, there are not enough hours in the day with Allie on the days that I work.  I get a little time with her in the morning when we're getting ready, but usually not more than about an hour from when she's awake til we leave.  When I pick her up after work, she usually smiles when I walk in and as soon as I get her home and out of the car seat, the clock is ticking and I'm cuddling and playing with her for the two to three short hours I have with her before she goes to bed.  BUT, the good news is that I appreciate that time all the more.  It used to be that after a long day with her I would sometimes be watching the clock waiting for her bedtime because it had been such a long day.  Now I feel like I watch the clock because I only have a certain amount of time with her and I don't want it to end.  I can tell I am holding her a snuggling her longer and soaking the seconds I can spend with her.  Those hours of the day that I do get to spend with her are so special.

Could you die?  That lower lip!

I think being a working mother is working for us so far.  As a mother, I don't know that you're ever completely satisfied one way or the other- at home or at work, but this feels right to me for now.  I'm getting used to our new normal, and I think Allie is too.


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