My last day of maternity leave

Well, this is it. Today I can say, I am going to work tomorrow. Wow. That really sucks to say. 😦

I was going to write this post throughout the day. Do little paragraphs about what I was doing. But the day is already over and I didn’t write anything. My last day with my daughter is done. Tomorrow morning I will officially be a working mom.

I know I might seem melodramatic with all of this woe-is-me, returning to work = armageddon, but really, this feels like a very big, life altering transition for me. I feel like when I was TTC I was waiting (and waiting, and waiting) to get pregnant. And when I was pregnant I was waiting to have my baby. And when I was on maternity leave I was waiting to go back to work. And now I’m going back to work and this is it. This is the end of the road. There are no more transition periods, I have arrived at my destination. When I start back at work I will be officially starting my new life. My new life as a working mother.

And being a working mother seems so much more complicated than being a stay at home mom. (I don’t know if I get to call myself that, as I was only home on maternity leave, but after almost six months at home, it felt like I was for a bit). I was already floundering quite a bit wearing all the hats required of me when I stayed home with Isa. At home I was a mother to my daughter, a partner to my spouse, a daughter to my parents, a friend to my friends, and a graduate student to my program. Now I have to add three more very time consuming roles to my life. Now I am all of those things but I’m also a teacher to my students, an employee to my principal and an employer to my SIL (who is taking care of Isa). The only hat I will soon be able to let go of is that of graduate student, and while that is a very heavy hat indeed, one that fell into my eyes and hurt my head, the three new hats I need to accommodate feel like that will quickly take the place, and then some, of my burdensome graduate school hat.

Okay, this hat metaphor is tired but I hope I made my point. I just feel overwhelmed by how many people will be depending on me and how screwed I (they) would be if I (shock! horror!) were sick or just generally not up to all that responsibility. I feel like my the lives of so many people are riding on my shoulders and that is an incredible amount of pressure. I mean, I’m just one woman – how can I possibly juggle all these roles and responsibilities? It’s nerve wracking.

Today my daughter seemed out of sorts. She didn’t chat as much, didn’t laugh as easily. By the end of the day she was a wreck. I wonder if she knows, if she can sense my reluctance. I wonder if she’s feeling as ambivalent about this change as I am, even though there is no way she could know of it’s imminent inevitability. My poor baby girl. I know this is going to be hard on her. But I also know it will be harder on me.

I’m in the middle of three loads of laundry. I’m stripping my cloth diapers. I wrote Isa’s schedule down and then I wrote another one for when the first one isn’t applicable. I posted a page for where all the cloth diapers and their trimmings go above the changing table. I went to Old Na.vy and stocked up on 6-12 month long sleeved onsies and warm pants for my little girl. My mom is bringing my lunch to school tomorrow (thanks mom!) and I have my bag packed, with shiny new supplies fresh from Office.Depot. My pump is already in my room, ready for a session tonight and then ready for its first real day on the job. I proof-read my entire 65 page paper and feel confident about turning the rough draft in today. I guess I’m as ready as I’ll ever be to start my new life tomorrow. My new life as a working mom. I don’t really have much choice about whether I get to take the path of the working mom or the stay at home mom, so I hope I don’t mind this path too much. I guess I’ll never know until I take my first step…

And besides, it’s still the path of a mother, and that is all I’ve ever wanted to be. I need to keep reminding myself of how lucky I am to have this be such a difficult day. I truly am blessed to be walking down any path through motherhood, and I am forever grateful.

 

This is really hard

I guess I can follow up a thankful post with a woe is me post, right? That’s not horrible form is it? The reality is, I don’t have much else in me right now. (Funnily enough, I just got a comment where someone mentioned laughing at the fact that my Thankful Post was following a Grumpiness Post. Following and followed by I guess… 😉

I also don’t have much time, so this should be brief, very, very brief. (But it’s not)

I just need to acknowledge the intensity of this horrible, horrible week. Because I feel like this might be the hardest week of my life, at least the hardest that doesn’t involve a tragic loss. I know those are harder and I am so thankful that I’m not enduring some kind of heartwrenching loss, but really, I feel like barring some horrible tragedy, this week could not get much worse.

There are three things going on this week that would make it incredibly hard, in and of themselves. I could manage any of them on their own, but together they have wrought a perfect storm. A perfect shit storm,

The first thing is this graduate school project, from this moment on referred to as the Behemoth. The Behemoth really is, well, a behemoth. The bastard is already 40 pages in 10 font, 1.5 spacing. It will probably pass 60 pages by a significant amount. It involves over 72 prompts, the majority of which are vague, poorly worded and confusing. My professor is basically unreachable and never responds to my emails. Working on this inspires an anger and frustrating that I have never felt before. It’s the most difficult thing I’ve been asked to do, professionally, and also the least understandable. It’s incredibly difficult and is requiring 5+ hours a day to finish on time. I feel like every day I retreat a bit further from the front lines and in the end I’ll have fallen back so far, I will have lost all tactical advantage and my cause will be, quite literally, hopeless. Unfortunately, I’ve already messed up quite substantially on three other, smaller assignments, so I have no cushion to fall back on for this one. If I get a subpar grade I will not pass this class.

As if that weren’t enough, I’m also preparing (or should be) for my return to work in five days. Both emotionally and practically, this is a harrowing task. Emotionally there isn’t so much I can actively do, but it’s definitely making it hard to do other things. I’m constantly feeling sad, depressed and despondent. I’m crying at the drop of a hat (or a spontaneous smile from my daughter). Spending the last week at home with my daughter doing all this other shit is really, really, tearing me apart at my very core. On the practical side I have done NOT ONE THING to prepare for my return to work. I have not decided on lesson plans for the first week, let alone made handouts or copies to implement those lesson plans. This year I have five different preps which means I need to think of five separate activities for each day next week. That is 15 different 50 minute activities. I haven’t even scratched the surface of this task yet. Plus, my room has been “lived in” by a stranger for the past trimester and if it looks anything like I did when I visited last month, I have a lot of organizing to do. While I’m just starting the year, my students have been there, evidently suffering, for the past three months and they will be bouncing off the walls when I return. It’s a difficult situation even when I have time to prepare for it, but I literally do not have that time at all. I have my mother watching my daughter most of tomorrow, so I can go to my room and get ready (the kids have tomorrow off) but I now see I’ll have to spend many hours of that tackling the Behemoth so I truly don’t know how I will get anything done. When I think about going back to work I get mini panic attacks; my chest gets tight and I feel bile rising in my throat, threatening to choke me. It’s a horrible feeling and leaves me exhausted in it’s wake.

Finally, I’m sick and caring for a five month old, while trying not to pass on my scourge while still showering her with affection. This cold I have is brutal and I can’t take anything for it because I’m breastfeeding. My husband got it and has taken two days of off work, and is spending them lounging on the couch. I can’t take any days off and I have to power through without much needed rest. It’s difficult.

Today I went to my last City College Mom and Me class. I teared up during the singing section. I teared up when it came my turn to talk. I couldn’t say proper goodbyes because I was already crying.

I cried most of the way home, talking to my mother.

But then I took a nap, nestled warmly with my daughter in my bed. Those naps, the two of us together, side by side, keeping each other warm, have been my favorite thing these past months. It was nice to share one more with her. And I feel rested and recharged. Ready. Ready to finish this post (that I started at 6:30am this morning). Ready to tackle at least three more prompts in the Behemoth. Ready to wake up tomorrow and tentatively turn the key to my classroom, thus making my return to work a reality.

Ah, what a difference a nap makes.

Maybe I can do this after all…

BUENAS NOTICIAS – I ordered a hot apple cider and it’s warming me up inside. The temperature dropped significantly today, it finally feels like winter – just in time for the holidays.

I’m overwhelmingly effed

Sorry for the woe is me post, but this is where I am right now.

I found out not only did I gravely misinterpret my current grad school project, but I did two of the observations wrong. The form my fellow student sent me was TOTALLY wrong and the one I was supposed to use is (shockingly!) considerably longer and more involved. So now, not only am I redoing the work I turned in last week, but I’m also starting from scratch on the work from the two previous weeks.

F*** ME!

So now I’ve been relegated to the cafe, for pretty much the whole day. I get a whole two hours with my daughter. And sadly I won’t be able to write the awesome Confessional Fridays post I’ve been cooking up in my mind all week.

I’m so upset about so many things.

I’m frustrated I’m stuck in a cafe.

I’m angry I’m doing work.

I’m heartbroken I’m not with my daughter.

I’m annoyed that this music is never going to stop.

I’m disappointed I’m not going to the Academy of Science with my MIL and SIL and daughter, as planned.

I’m despondent that I’m missing the most important tail gate of the year tomorrow. It’s Big Game for christ’s sake!

I’m depressed I’ll be spending most of my last week at home away from my baby girl.

I’m irritated I’ll be spending both Thursday and Friday morning away from my family, doing work.

I’m so infuriated at my grad school professor for making the requirements so unclear.

I’m terrified that I won’t be even the slightest bit ready to return to work in ten days.

I’m feeling disgruntled that I can’t write my Confessional Friday post.

I’m feeling guilty that I’m writing this post instead of my report (or my Confessional Friday post).

And with that, I’d better go. Wish me luck people. I’m going to need it.

BUENAS NOTICIAS – Isa took a 2 hour nap with no crying today. I never thought it could happen, but it has.

Thoughtful Thursdays: Drowning

I have two little placards that hang above my desk (over a Lucha Libre poster, but that is another story). One says, Breathe… The other says, Don’t believe everything you think. Both are important messages for me right now.

Last night I had an online grad school class. I forgot about it, and “showed up” 30 minutes late. We were reviewing (literally reading over in their entirety) the rough drafts of the first part of this big project we’re working on. The second student had hers posted and they were reviewing it. The teacher was going through section by section and giving her notes. It took me about five seconds to realize I had misinterpreted the assignment and had a significant amount of work to do to rectify the situation. (I also realized it was going to be no fun when I had to post my own rough draft). This misinterpretation also extended to the portion that is due this coming Sunday, which meant I needed to find way more time to work on the next part than I originally thought. All of this equals me having a lot more work to do, which also equals me not seeing Isa very much in my last week at home.

And this just breaks me heart. Breaks it. Into a million pieces.

A broken heart so easily distracts a tired, disengaged brain. Hence my writing this post instead of using valuable napping hours (yes, I said it, napping hours!) to work.

I keep thinking, I can’t do this. I can’t possibly finish this in time. I can’t redo what I’ve done, and do everything else coming up in just the little scraps of the day here and there. I can’t find enough people to watch Isa. I can’t plan for FIVE DIFFERENT PREPS for the week after Thanksgiving (and the week after that, and the week after that). I can’t plan to start my school year, undoing a semester with a shitty sub. I can’t be ready to go back to work at all. I can’t stop thinking of my daughter when all I want to do is soak up these last days with her. I CAN’T DO IT.

Then I go back to the placards. Don’t believe everything you think.

And the ever important, Breathe…

The reality is, I can do it, and I will. I know I’ve had more time at home with my daughter than most working moms. I know I’m VERY lucky for what I’ve had. I know this.

But I still want more. I’m greedy. I want to be with her every day, always. It hurst my heart to think of all the hours in the next week I’ll have to say goodbye and not be with her. Especially when the following week I won’t even get to say goodbye. And I’ll only have two hours with her each day when I get home. It’s so hard.

You know what my therapist would say right now, Sometimes life sucks. Sometimes it’s really hard. There’s nothing you can do about it except get it done.

So I guess that’s what I’ll do, get it done. But I’ll be kicking, and screaming, and sulking and crying the whole time.

BUENAS NOTICIAS – I was told I finally got cleared for my raise! I’m getting a $6,000 raise this year, due to my grad school (and some other) credits. Needless to say, with my time off and child care, we REALLY need that money right now.

So called liquid gold (and the lengths we go for it)

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Happy Halloween!

I did absolutely nothing to celebrate Halloween this year so I guess that is all I’ll be doing to celebrate it here. I did take Isa to get her photo taken in her peacock costume and I will post that as soon as I can buy a digital copy of it.

I realized that I since my thrush episode(s) I have not written much about breastfeeding on my blog. I think that is because breastfeeding is no longer an all-consuming part of my life. We’ve finally fallen into a routine (every three hours) that works for us and while I’m a little concerned that Isa is not getting enough to eat in the six (really it’s 5.5 because the last feeding is so close to the penultimate feeding that she can’t be getting 5 ounces) daily feedings, I’m trying not to let PTSD from the lactation consultant get to me and am assuming that my baby girl, who seems happy and looks healthy, is doing fine.

So for right now our breastfeeding situation is working pretty well and I have to say, now that she isn’t eating every other hour, my nipples hardly even hurt anymore. But, sadly, I return to work in four weeks and because I plan on continuing to breastfeed my daughter while at work (at least for a little while), I need to get a stock pile ready before my return.

For this reason, and because my daughter sleeps for ten hours straight now, I’ve started to pump nightly, before bed. Let me just say, I don’t love pumping. It’s a lot of work before, during and after, and the ritual adds about 30 minutes to my bedtime routine. That is 30 minutes I’d rather spend doing pretty much anything else besides pumping.

I know the medical establishment would have me believe that breast milk is the BEST thing I can give my baby (though there is very little actual research that truly proves this) and that by NOT pumping for her at work I’m condemning her to a less successful life on pretty much all fronts. I don’t really believe that. I’m a firm proponent of the mother’s happiness = baby’s happiness philosophy and that the benefits of breastfeeding should not be held, unwaivering and untouchable, over the well-being of the mother who is giving constantly and continually of herself (her body, her time and her limited resources) to make breastfeeding possible.

Right now, pumping at night is merely annoying. I have to take out the pump (as our kitchen is too small to leave it out all day), attach the power supply and tubing, take off my shirt, put on the make-shift pumping bra (that I fashioned myself with scissors and two x’s drawn on the nipples of an old workout bra), take out all the valve pieces and put them together (which is a puzzle in and of itself), connect the valves to the pumps and press the button. Then I have to achieve let down, and if I don’t do that pretty quickly, I know it will elude me unless I stop the pump, give my nipples a chance to sensitize again, and start all over.

Next I actually do the pumping. As my nipples stretch a good inch and a half and the monotonous drone of the motor whispers to me mysteriously, insignificant amounts of milk drip slowly into two bottles, slowly, eventually pooling into 2-3 ounce quantities. In my bovine-like state, I can do little of any substance (but, some would cry, pumping is substance enough!). Sometimes I read a magazine or the latest book I’ve been carting, dog eared, around my house, but it’s difficult to concentrate when (I swear) the whir of the pump motor is communicating with me subconsciously.

Finally, when I’ve massage every last drop out of both breasts and they hang, flacid, from the weight of the full bottles, I turn off the machine and unhook the tubing only to turn it on again (ah the whirring will drive me batty), to combat the small droplets of condensation taking up shop in the plastic tubes.

While the pump sucks furtively, slowly drying the tubes, I transfer the liquid gold into disposable bags complete with date and amount scrawled in Sharpie, before depositing them carefully into the freezer. There my pumping efforts will remain until the stockpile is needed to supplement what I pump at work or is thawed in cases of emergency.

The clean-up is, of course, the worst part. I have to do any dishes in the sink and wipe it down before cleaning out all the tiny pump pieces and placing them carefully on the drying rack. If I don’t wash the pump parts that night they won’t be dry by the following session… and, as the pump instructions chide, wet pump parts are a definite no-no. Despite being bone tired and knowing Mi.Vida is waiting in bed, I have to wash all those little parts before I can turn in for the night.

As for my pumping plans at work, I’m still very much on the fence about committing to pumping. I will definitely pump until the Winter Break, which is only a three weeks commitment and will bring Isa past the 6 month mark. If I’m totally miserable after that, I’ll just ween Isa in the New Year. If it’s not so bad, I’ll keep doing it and reassess at the February Break and then at Spring Break and so on. I don’t want to have any hard and fast deadline I feel obligated to meet. I have very little time, and NO flexibility, to pump at work and doing so will keep me isolated from my friends and colleagues, which are first and foremost the reason I love my job. Going back will already be so difficult, confining myself in my room during my only breaks will make it even worse; I truly worry I will need support from my peers when I return from work and I will be unable to receive that if I’m cooped up in my classroom with only my pump to comfort me. So I’m not letting pumping at work stress me out.

The good news is with all the pumping I’m doing now, I’ll have quite a bit of breast milk stored up. And if I do decide to stop pumping at work I might be able to stretch out my stock pile to cover about a month of breastfeeding while not pumping to keep up my supply.

Of course, myriad things could happen, like I might not have time to pump and my supply will gradually decline. Or Isa might decide she loves the bottle and won’t have anything to do with the breast. If either of these things happen, I’m going to let nature take it’s course and not fight against the inevitable. I’ve been pretty lucky with breastfeeding thus far and want to end the experience happily, and not angrily, or regretfully.

Until that time, I’m trying to take in every minute I have breastfeeding my baby. I know these moments with her are limited and I want to enjoy them while I can. For the next four months I will consider every feeding to be a gift, one that I treasure and never take for granted.

BUENAS NOTICIAS – Isa met her aunt this weekend, the aunt who will be her nanny in a short month. Of course they loved each other and while it was bitter sweet to see them get along so famously, I was very happy knowing that my SIL will be with her every day while I’m away.

Thoughtful Thursdays: Dreading it

Today I found out that my cousin has left her job (as a teacher) to stay home with her daughter. I have to admit, I’m feeling pretty jealous. I wish I could stay home with Isa. Knowing that my cousin will be home all year with her daughter makes me realize how much I’ll be missing while I’m away.

I oscillate dramatically in my feelings about returning to work. For the first three months I cried almost every time I thought about it. I was sure it was the worst thing I’d ever have to endure; I felt desperately sad, and many times angry, when I thought about going back.

At around 4 months the days started feeling longer and more monotonous. I was beginning to wonder if it might be okay to go back to work, if I might actually appreciate being out in the world again, returning to spend three or four hours of intense time with my daughter. While I knew that the best case scenario would be a part time position of some kind, I hoped that I would not loathe being back at work full time. There were even moments I was eager to return to work. Of course these moments occurred over a month before my return, but I hoped that excitement would linger as my start date crept closer.

But as the month of my return to work looms large I’m starting to panic once again. I can’t believe how much I’m going to miss. I can’t accept that someone else will spend more of her waking hours with her than I will. I can’t stand that my daughter might actually want to be with her aunt than with me. It’s just too much, it’s just too overwhelming, it’s just too disappointing.

The thing is I don’t have a choice. I have to go back to work. I have to work full time so I can pass most of my check right along to my child care provider and use the little bit that’s left to help pay the rent (and the insurance and the other bills and everything else). I have to leave my daughter every morning and drive 30 minutes to work and then I have to engage middle school students who’d rather be anywhere else, and then I have to grade papers and attend meetings before finally braving traffic all the while wondering what my beautiful daughter is doing without me. All the while asking myself how many times has she smiled today? How many giggles have escaped her lips? How many firsts took place in my absence? How many milestones did my sister-in-law hide from me so I’ll think, when I see them, that they’re happening for the first time? How much of her precious little life passed me by today?

My friend told me that life is hard and there are difficulties we just have to endure. I guess, in the end, that is what it comes down to. This is a difficulty I have to endure. I’m not going to like it, in fact, I’m going to loathe it, but that is beside the point. I’m going to have to live with it and maybe even try to make the best of it. What do I preach on Mindful Mondays? About impermanence and acceptance… I guess I’m going to have to give those a try even when returning to work tears me up inside.

BUENAS NOTICIAS – I kind of let “Buenas Noticias” (Good News) fall by the wayside but I want to pick it back up again. And today I have very good news to share. A good friend of mine at work, whose been trying to have a baby for over eight years, was matched for an adoption today. Her little baby boy is six months old and waiting for her in Korea. They should be able to bring him home in four to six months but they are hoping to do so sooner. I’m SOOOOO happy for her and her husband. They will be such amazing parents. I can’t wait to meet their beautiful baby boy.

Mindful Mondays: The Breath

In many Buddhist traditions, meditation is an important part of practice. Meditation is a time when you attempt to live in the present moment. There are many ways to do this, but many people choose to focus on the breath. The breath is a very powerful companion – it is always present and yet constantly overlooked. When we need assistance in returning to the present moment we can rely on the breath. Just notice the breath going in, going out. When thoughts take center stage, just acknowledge them and let them float away. Don’t get discouraged if you continue to be distracted, thoughts will always make their way into your head space, you just have to acknowledge them and let them go, over and over. Every time you realize you are thinking and return to the breath, you’re practicing mindfulness.

Today, stuck in traffic with a screaming four month old, I returned to my breath. Over and over again I brought my attention away from the speedometer (15 miles an hour?! Seriously!), bypassing my daughter’s incessant screaming (It’s okay Isa Bear! We’re almost there (blatant lie)! Why don’t you sleep until then?) to settle gently on my breath. Myriad thoughts took hold of my attention and sometimes carried my away completely, but every time returned to the breath I felt the tension melt from my shoulders as I became more at peace with the present moment.

When was the last time you returned to the breath?