Survived The First Week Back At Work

I made it through the first week of work with no disasters. I didn’t forget any necessary supplies, even though remembering stuff is my number one weakness, and I didn’t spill milk anywhere. I picked Vale up from daycare on time both days, and billed over 8 hours during my work-from-home day.

I attended a deposition that started and ended at an awkward time for my pumping schedule; it was too early to pump before the deposition started, it ended before lunch break, but lasted long enough that 5 hours had passed before the last feeding. I didn’t want to pump in a bathroom, so I thought it’d be genius for me to pump while driving. It worked out OK, but taking into consideration the extra time involved in setting up in the car, and pulling over to put my milk in bags, it didn’t save very much time, and wasn’t worth the hassle. Hey, learning experience for the future.

I thought the lack of sleep would be the worst part of new motherhood. I was wrong. It’s definitely breastfeeding and all that it entails. To clarify, breastfeeding per se is not the issue. However, having to constantly think about feeding and pumping schedules, where I’ll be, whether I’ll be able to feed and/or pump, and how long (i.e. how much freedom I have) until the next pumping session or until my boobs feel like they are going to explode, and crafting my wardrobe, sleep, social calendar, and work obligations around pumping/feeding considerations makes me feel a bit enslaved by my body.

People asked me if I cried, and I have not, but Vale has been increasingly resistant to drinking from a bottle, such that she goes many more hours than usual without eating during the day. She starts getting irritable as soon as she so much as sees a bottle, and has been eating far less than she otherwise would. She doesn’t cry much or fuss, but seems to have resorted to napping and eating her hand in place of drinking milk, which is depressing and hearts my heart a little. I want to enjoy her presence when I pick her up at the end of the day, but all I can think about is feeding her as soon as possible.

Vale continues to be a mellow baby otherwise, and has been adaptable to our schedule. She sleeps around 10:30-11:00 p.m., so we have plenty of time to play with her when we get home (although, when she insists on cramming all her feedings in at night, there really is not much playing going on), and wakes up to eat when we need to get up for work. She’s a grouchy little moon at 6:30 a.m., which I can relate to, and we can be grouchy in bed together while she eats her first meal of the day.

Dirty Hippie

I had visions of being a carefree glam-hippie mom, clad in boho skirts, big sun glasses, with a happy, naked baby in tow, whisking about braless in the warm glow of the California sun.

It has not quite worked out that way.

I wake up every morning harried and confused, wishing I had 4 hands instead of 2, a kangaroo pouch – or alternatively, and more realistically, some kind of mom utility belt to avoid three trips up and down the stairs to transport this mish mash of stuff – bottles, glasses, phone, baby, receiving blankets, ice packs, and pump accessories.

I have not worn any boho skirts in a couple of weeks, though I own many, because it has been an extremely hot October, and my body is doing something weird post-pregnancy, possibly because of breastfeeding. I used to be cold constantly; I was the person who turned her space heater on in the middle of July once the air conditioning started running in the office. People would start sweating when they entered my office; my boss regularly referred to my work space as a sauna.

Now, I am constantly hot: I sweat in my sleep the first two weeks after Little V was born. I first noticed it in the hospital, and it rather took me by surprise, especially since there is always a nice flow of air conditioning in the hospital. Literally, this night sweating thing has never happened to me unless it was over 90 degrees or I was seriously ill. However, even after that horribleness has ceased, I continue to run hot. Last weekend, I actually sweat a little bit walking around in 80 degree weather. I’m Asian. I don’t usually sweat noticeably unless it’s 90 degrees or I’m exercising, and this new phenomenon irritates me to no end. I pray it is not permanent.

I don’t tow her anywhere for long as of yet, because she is a fatty little baby, gaining a bit more than the normal 1 ounce a day, and while I have decent arm and upper body strength, I get uncomfortable after holding her for just five minutes. I also have not mastered use of the ring sling, so that baby-wearing thing isn’t working out for me yet. As soon as the doctor clears me, I’ve got to get back on those pushups and ab roller exercises.

As for going braless, I’ve got that part down, but not quite in the way I imagined. I got sick of fussing around with clasps, pads, and straps. I also read that milk stains can be hard to get out, and I don’t want to ruin any of my nice clothes. I have thus resorted to wearing shitty ass tank tops I bought from Walmart for $4, without a bra. If I drip milk, so be it, as long as it’s not getting on furniture or the floor.  If I end up with some amount of milk on me after the 8-10 feeding sessions a day anyway, so what’s the point? No one is going to shower or rinse 8-10 times a day.

I’ve also got the naked baby part down, even though people think it’s weird. As I write this, I’m about to take her to Daddy’s soccer game wearing only a diaper. It will get cold, but she has a really nice hot pink fleece blanket. In this stage of our lives, neither of us like clothes, and I am convinced clothing on babies in warm weather is more for other people than it is for the baby.

To my credit, I have not entirely abandoned my boundaries, and begrudgingly put on a bra when going out to meet with people, or attend doctor’s appointments. I also have not degenerated to the point where I neglect showers, although that would be quite in line with the hippie theme. Do I get a gold star for this?

Not Much Time Left

My return to work date is less than 2 weeks away, and I’m not sure how that happened. Two months sounds like a lot, but indeed, it is not at all when it comes to transitioning to life with a baby. Even at this point, I have not reached a comfortable or familiar pattern. I am constantly torn between wanting to do nothing and everything. After being on two courses of antibiotics, I’m really trying to take it easy, but it’s hard to know how. The more I do, the more overwhelmed I become, but the less I do, the more anxious I become about not doing anything. 

I fluctuate inexplicably between wanting some time to myself without a baby attached to my body for hours a day, and literally not wanting to go downstairs to play piano because I don’t want to be too far from Little V. It makes no fucking sense. Sometimes I crave social interaction, but then the problems and timing associated with feeding, pumping, and changing make me never want to leave the house. Or the bed, for that matter.

Another difficult thing I’ve had to grapple with is how many fuckups there are because I simply know nothing and am completely unprepared. Every time we think we’ve figured something out, it stops working after a couple of days (which apparently is an expected phenomenon). Every time I think I’ve taken all reasonable measures in furtherance of a mess-free feeding or pumping session, some minor disaster occurs and I end up covered in milk, or with a new batch of laundry to do. Every time I make what I believe to be a productive effort to bathe her, trim her nails, or clean up, it seems the effort is undone within a day (crazy how quickly those razor sharp nails grow – they are not kind when she decides to give my nipple a squeeze).

I started elimination communication training with great zeal, but after a week or so, it’s feeling like too much effort for too little gain. I also wonder whether I’m training her or she’s training me. I’ve tried to pay attention to her cues before she goes pee and poo, and don’t feel I’ve made much progress. Apparently, we are both failing at training each other. I know it’s borderline ridiculous to have such expectations at 6 weeks anyway, but I read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother at an (in?)opportune time, which has inspired me, but also created a nagging voice in the back of my head telling me not to be lazy about being a parent, especially when I am not working. If I let things slide now, just how indolent will I be when I go back to work in 2 weeks?

As I finished the paragraph above, Little V gave some grunting cues indicating she wanted to poo. I figured I’d finish just the last two sentences, but in the 2 minutes it took me to do so, she had pooped and I missed the opportunity for potty training. Tiger mom would be tsking me.

Husband and I discussed working from home one day a week, but at 2 weeks out from my return to work date, I have not raised this with my boss yet. I’m going to have to bring this up within the next couple of days and I’m not real keen on having this conversation, mostly because I’m quite sure how to approach it. Instead, I’ve asked the office to throw me some work so I can get back into the swing of things, and prove by my actions that I’m fairly efficient and reliable when working from home.

The good part is I am indeed reliable and efficient. The bad part is then I don’t feel I am making the most of maternity leave. Rather than starting the day slowly, listening to some music, reading to Little V, blogging, and practicing a little elimination communication, I set up my laptop work station, put her in a rocker, and plow away at research and memos while peeking on her every once in a while. I’ve tried to type one-handed while feeding her, but that was excruciatingly inefficient.

I have no idea how I am going to return to work in a functional manner, given the current circumstances. I’m sure this is no news to veteran moms, but our morning routine is an unexpectedly time-consuming process alone. Feeding and pumping takes about an hour, and even though I can get myself ready in 15 minutes, I figure even if I skip breakfast, I still have to wake up at an ungodly hour to be able to take her to daycare and arrive at work on time. And I might add that when it comes to babies, she seems relatively easy: she sleeps through noise, she sleeps in long stretches at night, and she does not cry much.

I am constantly wondering how this will all work out logistically. I feel pained at the idea of sending her to daycare already, even though I have an ideal situation when it comes to daycare – she will be taken care of by family. Given my highly fortunate and favorable circumstances, I question how any other mother, perhaps with fussier babies, no family nearby, ever make it out alive.