I can still remember the butterflies and anxiety I felt the first morning back to work after my 12 week maternity leave. Looking back, it really was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. From the time my son was one week old until about five months, he was an extremely fussy, colic, and difficult baby. Like, really fussy. Unless you have had a high maintenance and colic baby yourself, words really don’t do it justice. He cried in his swing. He cried in his bouncy seat. He cried on the floor. He cried if he wasn’t being held right. It wasn’t his fault though, the poor little guy had horrible reflux, puking more than 20 times per day among other things. That’s a post for a different day, but trust me we tried everything. Chiropractic care, dr appts, reflux medicine, stomach and esophagus tests (which all came back normal), cutting out dairy for my breastmilk, trying different formulas, burping more, elevating his crib etc etc etc etc. Long story short, he needed to grow out of it (still waiting on that day, but at least he’s not fussy from it anymore).
As you can imagine, I hated leaving him because I was the only one who could keep his crying to a minimum. I knew when he was tired and I could get him to sleep the fastest. I knew when he was hungry and when he needed burped and I knew every cry he had and what each meant. We spent so much time together. Aside from 5-6 times that I left him for a few hours over the course of those 12 weeks, we were together. And not just together, but literally touching. He couldn’t be put down without crying. I wore him in my solly wrap (that thing was my saving grace) or he slept on my chest all day long. I didn’t shower or brush my teeth until 4pm every day when my husband got home from work. The only thing I ate was granola bars and quick meals that could be ate on the go. The little down time I did get with him not crying I used to pump (and even then he had to cry it out for 15 minutes while I did that). It was exhausting and to be honest I lost myself a little bit during those weeks. There was no bringing him on coffee dates with my other mommy friends because he hated his car seat and cried. It was winter time so there was no going for walks outside. I was stuck but I couldn’t bring myself to leave him because the mom guilt was too much. I felt bad leaving him with anyone because I knew how exhausting it was and I didn’t want them to have to go through it, and I felt bad leaving Finn because I knew I was pretty much the only one who could keep him semi happy. I knew I desperately needed a break but the thought of leaving him gave me so much anxiety. That being said, you can imagine how I felt knowing I’d be leaving him for 9 hours a day, every day. The thought of that made me physically sick to my stomach.
I cried a little bit the day before I went back to work, but it didn’t hit me until that morning. I got myself ready and went to his cradle and could not bring myself to get him out and put him in the car seat. I couldn’t do it. I stood there and watched him sleep and sobbed. My husband had to do it for me. Okay, he’s in the car seat. Step one is done. Now I need to drop him off to my mom. When I got to my moms and handed him off to her he was all smiles. I have never seen him look cuter in my entire life. Dammit why did he have to be so cute? I cried the entire 35 minute drive to work. Every song on the radio that had absolutely nothing to do with babies or maternity leave reminded me of Finn and I couldn’t keep it together. The makeup I had put on just an hour prior was completely wiped off.
I was able to hold it together at work and it helped seeing some of my favorite coworkers but you KNOW I drove 130 mph on my way home at the end of the day. When I got home I lost it again. Seeing Finn’s cute little chubby face made me realize how much I really did miss him and the mom guilt hit me like a freight train. On the table sat 12 roses from Finn (aka from my sweet husband) with a note that read “a rose for each of our amazing week’s together mom”. AS IF I WASN’T EMOTIONAL ENOUGH ALREADY.
With each day back to work though, I cried a little less. By the 3rd day I was able to leave him without a 20 minute drawn out goodbye and without shedding a tear. Each day I learned that he would always be waiting on me when I got home. And I learned that our time away from each other was good for the both of us. Finn was able to eventually let other people soothe him. I was able to feel human again by getting dressed every day (before 4pm!) while using my brain at work and having adult conversations again and getting out of the house. As hard as that first week back was for me, it was absolutely necessary. I found myself again.
Maybe not every going back to work story is as dramatic as mine (lol) but to all the mamas out there of fussy babies I KNOW YOU FEEL ME. I truly don’t think it would have been quite as hard to leave him if he was a good baby who I knew would just play and sleep with my mom all day. A few things I learned throughout the whole process:
- If you can go back to work mid / end of the week – do it! I went back on a Monday and it was the longest week of my life. It would have really helped the transition if I could have eased my way into it with just 1 or 2 days first.
- Ditch the mom guilt! Accept that you are a hardworking mama who should be proud that you can juggle being a mom and working full time. You are doing this for your child to give him or her the life they deserve. You should feel proud not guilty.
- Write down all of the pros of going back to work. For me, it was getting in a routine again, forcing myself to get ready every day (to an extent – messy bun and minimal makeup for the win), allowing myself time to miss my baby and make the evenings that much better, giving my baby the skills he needed to let other people other than mom soothe him, seeing my coworkers again (nothing better than your work bff!), and bringing in an additional income for my family.
- Be easy on yourself. It will be one of the hardest things you do whether you go back after 4, 6, 8, or 10 weeks. Allow yourself to be emotional and talk through everything you’re feeling. Your husband may think you are absolutely psychotic and question whether he married a complete lunatic, but you can’t hold all that in.
- Know you are not alone. If you can’t relate to anything else I said, at the minimum just know you are not alone. Millions of badass and hardworking mamas are going through this. Exact. Same. Thing. You got this!