I've tossed the idea of this post around in my head since I returned to work last September after Lochlyn's birth. And I wasn't sure if it was appropriate blog fodder for this, a typically photography-leaning blog. BUT, then I remembered my audience and that several of my families and brides are blessed to be having babies this year and those Mamas will most likely be returning to work. So, here's how I tripped and stumbled my way back to my career after a wonderful maternity leave....
Lochlyn was born July 16th and I found myself counting out the 6 weeks the day after he was born. I'd be returning to teaching the second week of school and in my heart, that didn't sit well at all. I knew immediately, I'd be requesting the extra time to get him through his 8 week vaccinations and taking some Deduct Days (days without pay) to make it happen. That time was approved and I'm so thankful, because in that extra time, I was able to fly home to California so my Grandma, Mom and Aunt could meet Lochlyn. 5 days before I was to fly home, Grandma started hospice care and the urgency of the trip, the nature of it, entirely shifted for me. I was no longer fearful of flying on my own with a newborn-I just needed to get home. Flying with a newborn is for a whole other post, but I strapped him to my front and my one bag on my back and off we went.
Upon returning, the physically and emotionally grueling nature of the trip had me down with a fever and virus of some kind but I still wouldn't change my decision to go. That fever kept me home an extra day of maternity leave and I returned a day later than I anticipated. So, I started my routine back to work on a Thursday. I recommend starting mid-week (not returning on a Monday) so you can get back into the groove as gently as possible. I'm thankful I did this too, because there was some miscommunication about where I would be pumping so I had to punt the first day back. The room I was in was not going to work in the long run, so our building's custodian brainstormed the next morning and I landed in our school's concession stand! How to Be A Band Director 101: be best friends with your custodian. THEY KNOW EVERYTHING!
So a few bullet points (since I like lists) of things to consider while preparing to return:
-Communicate prior to your return where you will pump and what your schedule will be with your colleagues.
-Make that pumping schedule be every 3-4 hours. Lochlyn ate so often that I had pump times of 7:30am, 10:50am, 1:20pm, and 3:25pm. Around the 6 month mark, I dropped the 3:25pm pump when we started introducing people food.
-As a teacher, we have a bell schedule, but if you don't have periods of your day dictated to you, set alarms on your phone or computer to remind you to go pump. Otherwise, the "girls" (ahem) probably will.
Lastly, a list of things I have in my pump bag or on hand to make things run smoothly at work:
-pump (obviously. we got our's from the hospital when we delivered and covered by insurance. I have one from when Laidy was born and one from when Loch was born. It's great to have one at home and keep one at work!)
-a sign to tape on your door over the doorknob so no one unlocks and walks in on you!
-antibacterial-for hand use prior to pumping
-kleenex-my nose always runs when I pump, or I'm fending off allergies.
-travel size deodorant-the concession stand can get HOT with the popcorn machine, vending machine, and nacho cheese machine always running, so it's often like a sauna in there!
-spare pump parts-flanges and bottle lids especially
-cell phone-for a timer of roughly 20 minutes
-water bottle-you will never know thirst like the thirst of a nursing mama.
-chair with a back-20 mins 3-4 times a day can do a number on your shoulders and neck!
-table space-to lay things out-especially for lunch time!
-microwave-for a hot lunch!
-cleaning wipes for parts or disinfecting your table top before laying items out
-battery pack-in case your building ever loses power
-pump bra-if you want hands free while you eat lunch. I've found that this really helps reduce tension in my neck and shoulders.
-pitcher of water in fridge if a sink isn't nearby to refill water bottle
-plastic ware for lunch! There's nothing worse than hooking up to the machine, heating up lunch and realizing you have nothing with which to eat it!
-paper towels-to wipe any drops/spillage and wipe hands after applying cream
Before Laidy was born, friends would ask if I planned on nursing and I'd respond, "If all parts work. I'll do the best I can." Now having nursed two babies, I'd say that even when the parts are working as you'd like them to, the pressure to produce enough is always there and it will push you beyond what you thought was your best effort. Even having some extra stored up in our freezer, I felt the pressure to produce upwards of 18oz a day and it wasn't a good "Pump Day" if I didn't. I have pumped in a car in numerous parking lots, while driving, half way through wedding photography coverage, in two different storage closets at church, at work while study hall students are on the other side of the razor thin wall, in airports with a cover on, in between trips to the bathroom sick with the stomach flu, while in the bathroom sick with the stomach flu, by the light of the vending machine, by light of my cell phone flashlight so as not to wake my husband, and I have shamelessly asked our superintendent for a "pump room" in our middle school's renovation plans. (I later realized that I had referenced a function of my boobs to the head of our school district and was very much filled with embarrassment.)
As most moms will tell you, 'You just do what you gotta do.' and I would add that Motherhood has taught me how to make what you have work-improvisation to the extreme. Eating my lunch yogurt with a knife. Pumping one side at a time because I forgot to pack a second shield. It's not easy, nor is it fun, but I definitely couldn't have done it without support.
A few people stick out as my cheerleaders in this endeavor.
-Gerard-spousal support is critical. I've jokingly said that I'm in charge of input, he's in charge of output. Gerard has cooked a large majority of our meals while I'm feeding Loch and kept my water bottle full. So, he's in charge of MY input while I'm in charge of Loch's.
-My sister (pictured above)-has abundantly donated to our freezer stash when Loch decided to have growth spurts every other week and I couldn't keep up. We've used not even 1/4 of her deep freeze full of breast milk!! It definitely pays to be pregnant at the same time as a sibling who produces really (really) well!
-Our childcare providers. They are angels to our kids and have loved them through rough days, homesick days, congested days-"everything" days. I've never second guessed our decision to have Loch and Laidy where they are and they've truly been as happy as I when that first shipment of my sister's milk came in the mail!
-My "pump partner"-a fellow teacher and I have pumped together every morning before school and at lunch since she returned from her maternity leave in October. We've complained to each other, encouraged each other, swapped horror stories, sleep deprived stories and are watching our babies start to crawl at the same time. At first, I wondered what it'd be like to pump sitting next to somebody (the whole modesty thing, you know) but it's been so nice to not be an island and alone in that concession stand! Thank you, friend!!!
Hope this helps those getting ready to return to work after a baby and always feel free to send questions my way. If there's anything I can do so that you have a smooth transition back to work, let me know! :)