One thing about having is baby is that labor… is definitely labor. Delivering my child was probably one of the most painful experiences of my life – and I was lucky, with no complications. But after she was born I swore – immediately – that I was never doing it okay. No way, no thanks, not for me. I had my perfect, beautiful little baby and that was enough for me.
Or that’s what I thought.
Because now, when she’s a year and a half, I’m having… second thoughts. Wasn’t she worth every second of it? (Yes, absolutely.) And was it really as bad as I remember? (Also yes. But I’ve managed to block that out.) Would it be the worst thing if I had to do it again? Maybe I even… want to do it again? These thoughts keep running through my head and though I may not be a medical professional I think I have enough to diagnose this condition. It’s official.
It’s baby fever.
Thankfully, this condition is treatable. But the symptoms didn’t come out of nowhere. A lovely young woman at my work is expecting, as well as a close friend, and I know others who are trying. In addition to that, it just seems like babies are everywhere. Anywhere I turn they’re right there, with their cute, tiny clothes and their big, gummy smiles and their sweet baby smell. I would be perfectly happy with only one child – and honestly, for a number of reasons, that’s been my plan – but more and more lately I keep thinking how nice it would be if she had a sibling, and if I had another little bundle to snuggle and care for. I know, I know – this is temporary, it’ll pass, and it’s really only because I know several people who are pregnant now. But the feeling is pretty strong, and I will admit I’ve been browsing blogs and looking at lists of baby necessities and maybe wistfully going through the tiny newborn clothes my own daughter wore.
Does anyone else have “baby fever” right now? Any way to combat it? Let me know in the comments! In the meantime, I’ll go back to my browsing. If I can’t have a new baby (and we definitely can’t right now!) I can at least coo over other parents’!
There’s a meme I’ve seen online sometimes, talking mainly about young adults (and honestly, probably millenials), talking about things we never learned as children that we have to deal with now. One of the things that stood out to me that I found relatable was “Never learning how to make your own doctor’s appointments.”
That sounds silly, I’m sure, but when I was in my early twenties (as opposed to me now, much wiser, in my late twenties, ha) I had no idea what to do! How did insurance work? How do I know if doctors are taking new patients? Were there forms? Who did I even talk to? I solved all these problems and more by simply not going to the doctor unless I absolutely had to, and even then only going to a walk-in clinic. I’ll be honest, it was stressful for me! I’m lucky that I’m healthy with no chronic medical issues I need to worry about, but I can only imagine that for many others the stress is multiplied many times over.
As with so many other things, though… That changed completely once I had a baby.
I had to throw myself headfirst into learning how to do a lot of things. As soon as I got pregnant, I made that first pre-natal appointment. And I had no idea what I was doing. I talked to a few people to see which doctor they recommended, and then I searched online for the number to the clinic and called. I wasn’t sure if I had the right number, I had no idea what I was doing – and this sounds silly, but I remember making that call very clearly, so nervous I felt a roiling nausea in the pit of my stomach. But I did it. And now I really love our pediatrician and I know just what to do if my daughter gets sick (also, the advent of online portals is amazing).
It’s a cliche because it’s true – what won’t we do for our kids? Things that I wouldn’t – or couldn’t, sometimes – do for myself I suddenly find I can do now that I’m a parent. And don’t get me wrong, it’s still hard to do those things. Really, really hard sometimes. But though I couldn’t always conquer my anxiety for myself, it became an inevitability for my daughter. There was never a thought of “what if I can’t?” when it came to doing something I needed to for her. I just knew I’d find a way.
I think it’s really important to be open about my struggles with anxiety. It’s something that a lot of people struggle with, actually, and though it can be easy to push down your own difficulties when you’re a mom, it’s important to take time for yourself, and it’s okay to admit a moment of weakness. We all have them! I know I probably have more than my fair share. So take a minute today and think about what you’ve done for your kids, and be proud of yourself for that. You have more strength than you think! And hopefully, one day, we can use that strength to do things for ourselves, too.
I love getting to see new places, and when we travel I usually enjoy myself. (At least for a good portion of the trip.) But there’s so much that goes into travelling: making the preparations, packing, getting to the airport, flying, navigating through your destination… And for someone like me who struggles with anxiety? Sometimes even a trip that I’m anticipating can turn into a nightmare. I like being at home, in my familiar surroundings, with my cats and my bed. Do I sometimes wish I had the opportunity to see more of the world? Honestly, yes, but then I remember the feeling of having a panic attack in an airport and I wrap myself in my blanket and settle back onto my couch.
However, sometimes there are times when you have to travel. We, for instance, had to fly to Boston recently to go to a family funeral. My husband, who had already been struggling through a difficult time, didn’t want to go alone, so I took off work to go with him, and I just wasn’t ready to leave the baby overnight (much less several nights). So. We were going to be flying with an almost one year old. I was so worried everyone on the plan would hate us.
So you don’t have to worry like I did, though, here are a few easy tips to help make flying with baby a little easier!
1. You Don’t Have to Make Excuses
I made the experience way more stressful for myself than necessary simply because I was so worried about how R would behave. I always like to be considerate, and I could only imagine how awful I might make the flight for others if she had a meltdown! Yes, being considerate is a good impulse, but there was nothing I could do. We were taking her on the flight. It was happening. You don’t need to feel bad because you want to take a trip with your child, or because you have to take a trip with your child. Try to enjoy it as much as you can and handle any problems as they come.
2. Bring Things to Entertain
For my carry-on, I brought a diaper bag. I had a few of her favorite toys in the exterior pockets, a stuffed animal, and cookies. She ended up only wanting to take the iPad that I was using (no surprise there!), but I was glad I brought her little rice cookies because when she started getting fussy – and hungry – that settled her until I could feed her. It can be especially difficult when you have a baby like mine who doesn’t like sitting still or being held when it doesn’t suit her. R wanted to get down and explore! But redirecting her attention and focusing on her (instead of my book, which I’ll be honest I was looking forward to reading) helped keep her entertained.
3. Don’t Overpack
When you grab a few things to keep baby entertained, remember that you don’t need every toy! It can be tempting to prepare for every eventuality, but try to only take what you’ll absolutely need – your baby’s favorite toy or stuffed animal, for instance, or maybe a snuggly blanket you know can calm her down. If possible, don’t bring the things you can afford to buy while on your trip. We only brought a few diapers for airport changes, knowing we would be able to get diapers and wipes when we got there. Not having as much stuff to haul around can make things a lot easier!
And, extra tip: if you can, a rolling suitcase can be a lifesaver! I brought a duffel that I had to sling over my shoulder and carrying that while carrying a baby was really hard, especially in a crowded airport trying to get through security.
4. Board First or Last
If possible, start the flight off on the best foot possible. Usually, airlines will let families with small children board on the first group, and this really helped us get settled. We were able to get our seats, put our carry-ons up, and grab a toy before a lot of people were in the aisle waiting, which really helped keep things from getting too stressful! If you can’t board first, then boarding last is also a good option!
5. Don’t Forget a Carseat if You Need It
In retrospect, this seems so obvious, but we almost had a disaster on our hands! If you’re going to be travelling by car once you get to your destination, bring a car seat! You can check it just like a piece of luggage. I was a little worried it might get damaged, but ours was fine. I didn’t see this on any of the travel lists I browsed before leaving, so I wanted to make sure I passed this along!
Any other tips to share?
It can be very stressful flying with a baby, but it doesn’t have to be a bad experience! Try to be prepared and calm, and pay attention to your baby’s mood cues. Once we got in the air, I lowered the screen on the window and fed ours until she fell asleep. The flight wasn’t too long, but not having to fight with her to stay in her seat – which was what happened on the way home – made things a lot easier to handle! We had a good trip, and I hope that your first trip with your little one goes well, too! Feel free to share your experiences or any tips you have!
I like to be prepared. I like to make plans and look ahead and be as ready as possible for the future. This is how I approach everything in my life, and motherhood was no different. I read book after book about pregnancy, never limiting myself to a single perspective. I did research about pregnancy, childbirth, those first weeks with a newborn – and, as a librarian, I’m very good at research. I even skimmed through books for new fathers, just in case my husband had questions.
I watched video after video all about what to pack in your hospital bag. This, I quickly realized, wading through search results, was an entire genre. Everyone had advice, and it was necessary, first of all, to pack a bag, because what if you forgot something? What if there was something you needed? At the hospital, where I planned to have my baby, it wouldn’t be comfortable or feel like home. Shouldn’t I bring a few amenities? Wouldn’t that lessen the stress of something so momentous and unfamiliar and frightening?
I bought the necessities ahead of time – car seat, stroller, bassinet, a few bottles, a few cute outfits – and even had a few non-essentials from my baby shower ready to go. I was ready with a birth plan, and I knew what I wanted if things had to change. I felt confident – and scared, naturally, I had never had a baby before, but I was reasonably sure that I’d done everything in my power to prepare.
And then my daughter came, and predictably, it was like nothing I could have expected.
A little more than two weeks before my due date, I stopped feeling much movement. My baby had never moved a great deal, but to feel so much stillness after getting used to the occasional kick and flip was scary. I went in to the doctor for a stress test, and of course everything was fine, I’d worried over nothing – she was doing excellent the doctor told me – but at least my mind was at ease. I continued on my schedule as normal. The baby was fine, I was fine, I had two weeks left. I could make it.
I had to work a few days after the stress test – it was a Saturday, so it was a short day at work, but I felt fine and overall it was a good day. I felt so good, in fact, that I went with my husband to put some things in a storage unit early that evening. We didn’t have much room in our apartment, and all the things for the baby had made the space uncomfortably cramped. I wasn’t allowed to lift, of course, so I was mostly there for moral support, and to handle a few smaller, lighter boxes. We’d gotten most of our things out of the trunk of the car when suddenly I felt something strange. There was an odd feeling in the pit of my stomach, and then my water broke.
I didn’t understand what happened at first. To be honest I was mortified, because after nine months with no problems I’d thought I might finally be having problems controlling my bladder. So I didn’t say anything and tried to ignore it. At the back of my mind, though, I think I knew. As we were driving home I felt something again and mentioned it to my husband. He was worried, but while I allowed the possibility that maybe it was my water breaking, I think at that point I was officially in denial. Two weeks isn’t really that early, but still it felt early. And after all my preparations, surely my baby would wait until she was supposed to be here, right?
Of course not. Nothing works out quite that easily.
A friend was having a birthday party the next day, and we were hosting and making her a cake. I was relegated to the easiest tasks, so I just sat at the kitchen table watching as my husband baked. (He’s great. Seriously, the man knows his way around a kitchen.) And I started feeling cramps that I told myself – in a complete disregard for, you know, reality – that they definitely weren’t contractions. It was totally manageable, though, so I thought I’d wait it out. Whether that meant until the feeling passed or until I had to go to the hospital I guess I didn’t really think about.
I had been feeling contractions off and on all night, and they were getting worse. Finally at around 2 AM that night, I had to admit that this baby was coming. It had gotten so bad I could hardly walk during the contractions – which I was willing to admit they were – so I told my husband we had to go to the ER. My doctor was the on-call doctor that night, which was a bit of a lucky coincidence. But that’s where my luck ran out. I was 2 cm dilated and I hoped that things would go quickly. I was ready. Or, I thought I was ready.
I had planned to have a natural birth (if they would have let me, I would have fought off the IV, too), but after several long hours – very long hours – the nurses said they were going to give me pitocin to help speed things up – which I absolutely did not want, but when they said “prevent having to have a c-section” well, I agreed. And I’d heard horror stories about labor with pitocin so I sucked it up and asked for an epidural. I really, really wish I hadn’t, because it didn’t work! I felt everything anyway! There was some numbness on one side, but it didn’t last long. Just some nice, natural pain.
It took until four the next afternoon – more than 12 hours after going to the hospital – for my baby to come. I had no idea what I was doing, and it took four hours of – really inefficient, I’ll be honest – pushing. They had to use vacuum extraction to help, though once she started coming that little girl came right out.
When she was born, I cried.
I had never felt so much, been so overwhelmed. And it took me a little while to feel it, but I was happy, too. Of course I was. They handed her to me and I was crying and laughing and I couldn’t believe I had something so perfect in my arms.
In pregnancy preparation literature and blogs and just material in general, you hear a lot about how labor and birth are what our human bodies are designed for. I was built capable of having a baby. But it really does seem like a miracle when it happens. And it was worth it. Every second.
(Of course, I immediately swore I would never have another baby, so don’t think the pain left no effects on me. My stance on that has significantly softened since then, and I think I would like another baby one day. But I sure never, ever wanted to go through labor again right after it happened!)
My birth story, while special to me, isn’t really all that unique. But there’s something that compels us, isn’t there, to share our stories. I think it’s because it’s such an overwhelming experience. I think we want to share, to have a community that understands what we went through. I think, really, we can’t help talking about it. It’s almost like being admitted to a special club. Even if you don’t have a traditional birth story, becoming a mother is a life changing experience no matter how it happens to you.
Feel free to leave a comment or link to your story! I’d love to hear it.
Everyone’s journey towards motherhood is different. I always knew I wanted to be a mom, but I had imagined at the same time I’d have a job. I admired all the women who did both, and I wanted to be able to raise my kids while being personally fulfilled at some exciting career. Well, I finished my master’s degree in library science and got a job as a librarian, and then last year I finally had my beautiful little girl. So I’m doing both as best I can.
But it’s so much harder than I ever imagined.
Here are the 5 top things I wish I’d known before going back to work after the birth of my baby.
5. You Have No Free Time
So one piece of advice – usually unsolicited, let’s be honest – that every new mom receives is that “You’ll have no time!” I heard it, I read it, I tried to prepare for it. And yes, once the baby came, that was true. But in the beginning… I didn’t really want free time. In those first, magical days – even weeks – when I was healing at home and getting to know my beautiful little scrunchy cry machine, I didn’t really care that she took up so much of my time. I let a few chores go, I caught up on TV during nursing sessions, and I slept whenever I could. We even got a schedule worked out eventually. It became my new normal.
And then I had to go back to work, and everything got thrown off. I felt like I could no longer put off the chores that had been piling up, but I had so little time before or after work. I had to choose between doing those chores, or spending time with my baby. The time we had together when I was nursing her became more precious, but it was also harder because I couldn’t choose the time. I was nursing on demand, and while she was generally hungry at the same time, it was hard because I’d have to start and stop whatever I needed to do on her internal schedule, not when it was convenient for me. And where I’d let myself go with the flow when I was on leave, having so little time now outside of work made everything feel rushed and stressful. And I had absolutely no time at all to myself.
So when you go back to work, don’t beat yourself up if you get less housework done than before. You will have no time. It’s okay. You will learn to make do. I learned to really, really appreciate my lunch breaks while I’m at work.
4. Adjustment Can Take Awhile, and Your Priorities Change
Going back to work really took some getting used to. I took as much time off for maternity leave as I could, though to ease the transition I ended up going back part time at first. That definitely made things a bit easier for me, but it was still difficult. I had to adjust my sleep schedule and get back to getting up at the same time everyday. Knowing you’re going back to work and working on trying to set a schedule can help – if you’re able to do it! – but it can still be a rough adjustment at first. A lot of things changed while I was gone, and I had a lot to get used to when I came back. I felt a little out of my depth and I had to really focus to get comfortable with everything again.
It was also harder to keep my mind on work. Being away from the baby, especially at first, made my instincts go just a little haywire and I would worry way more than I should. Was she okay? What if she needed me?! Luckily, my husband was working nights and my mother was helping us out, so I knew my girl was in good hands. It was still nerve wracking, though! If you get worried, too, just try to keep calm. If you have a babysitter or family watching your baby, you can always call or text to check in. And if you’re using a daycare or childcare center, many now have cameras you can watch online!
I also found that – because I had so little time – I didn’t care about the things I used to. No more meal prepping for lunches (though in retrospect, maybe I should have made time for this!), and more days than not I didn’t have time for make up. Some days I had to find time just to get my face scrubbed clean!
3. Pumping Breastmilk is HARD
I’d taken classes on successful breastfeeding while I was still pregnant, and though I was prepared to struggle some and knew there would be a learning curve, it was much more stressful than I had anticipated. Like much, much harder. To be totally honest, I hated it at first. It was so hard, and frustrating, and I felt like I wasn’t doing anything right and it took forever for my milk to come in. I kept at it and it finally got easier, but the beginning was pretty brutal.
And having to pump is even worse.
This won’t apply to you if you’re formula feeding (and while I definitely advocate for breastfeeding, fed is best! No judgement here), but for any breast feeding mommas who are going back to work… If you want to keep giving your baby breast milk, you’re going to have to pump. And it’s awful. First, know your rights. Employers have to provide a private place for you to express milk. I was very lucky, and I had no problems with this and my workplace was really kind and understanding, but I know that’s not everybody’s experience. You’ll need a good breast pump, which your insurance often can provide. My biggest problem was replacing parts and finding time and a place to clean it. They sell cleaning wipes if you don’t have access to a sink at work, or you can bring two sets of parts for pumping more than once and then clean them at home.
I never got as much milk pumping as I did nursing, because my body just didn’t always respond well to it. I made an album of my phone of pictures of my baby which I always look at, and to help with a letdown you can try listening to sounds of your baby laughing or crying, or try the sound of water.
To put it bluntly: it sucks. It’s no fun. But just remember why you’re doing it – for the baby! – that I found that helps a lot.
2. Sometimes, It Feels Good to Get Away
Taking care of a baby is difficult. It can be easier if you have a lot of help, but for some moms that’s just not in the cards. And if you have a baby who has special needs, or who’s sick, or even just is a fussy sleeper or has colic, that difficulty can be compounded. Even if you’re like me, and you have an easy baby and a supportive partner – seriously, my husband has been downright amazing – there are times when you’ll feel worn down. When despite how much you love your child, and despite doing the best you can, there will be times when you just need a break. And when you leave to go to work, sometimes it can feel like a break. You’ll have a quiet moment on your commute to take a breath, enjoy the quiet, and feel a sense of relief.
And then the guilt sets in.
On those days when I just wanted a break, when I was glad to get away to work for awhile, I felt horrible, like I was an awful mother. I felt so guilty, like I was running away, even though I was only headed to work. A place I was obligated to go! This guilt is not at all unusual – but it is totally unnecessary. We’re going to work to do the best for our kids, to help support them, and if it’s enjoyable and personally fulfilling, that’s even better. But it can be hard to quiet that guilt, especially when one of the perks of your job seems to be that – for at least a little while – it’s away from your baby. First, I want to remind anyone feeling this way that it’s totally okay to need a break. It’s okay to want a break. And if you’re feeling stressed out and worn down after a hard night and going to work feels like a break? That’s okay. Find some relief. Listen to your favorite podcast on the way to work, or if you can treat yourself to lunch on your lunch break.
It’s important to ask for help if you need it, and it’s okay to feel overwhelmed. If you need a break, ask for one. It doesn’t make you a bad parent, it just means you’re human!
1. Sometimes It’s Not What You Want After All
This isn’t something that I ever thought I’d say, but I wish I didn’t have to work. I was ready to go back, and I have a job I love, but every day I hate leaving and sometimes it gets harder and harder to force myself to go. I’m really passionate about my field, and I’m sure when my daughter is older I’ll want to work. But right now I don’t. And that is the last thing I ever expected.
Sometimes things change. If you thought you wanted to be a stay at home mom, you might find you miss working. You might find you have to go back to work. Or maybe like me, you thought you wanted to work and it turns out you miss your baby so much you can’t stand it. I remind myself that it’ll get easier, and I focus on the parts of my job that I enjoy. Most importantly, at least for me, I enjoy as much time with my baby as I can while I’m home. I try to soak up every giggle or smile, and I don’t take the time I have for granted.
What about other working moms?
How was your experience going back to work? Any tips or tricks to make it easier? Were you glad to go back to work, or did you – like me – have a really hard time? Let me know!
I’ve had a lot of dreams and career aspirations throughout my life. When I was very young, despite having no idea what the job actually entailed, I wanted to be an engineer like my father. For a brief period around first or second grade I wanted to be a car mechanic simply because I saw so few women doing that job. And then I wanted to be a rocket scientist – to that end, I even went to Space Camp. I wanted to be a teacher. I wanted, pretty desperately, to be a writer (and yes, I still want that). I wanted to be, and in fact successfully became, a librarian.
But through all of that, through every new interest and dream, there’s been something that has persisted in the background. I’ve also always wanted to be a mother. I remember being only seventeen, and still in high school which seems unbelievable now, and knowing with a bone-deep surety that I wanted to be a mother. I’m not sure why or how I knew this: I don’t have a big family and I only ever babysat once or twice so I’d never really been around young kids. I liked kids, but as it is I’m a pretty awkward person around grown-ups (yes, even still) and I didn’t really feel any more comfortable around kids.
But I knew. I wanted to be a mother. I was going to go after my career aspirations whole-heartedly and pursue all my other ambitions as well, but in the end the thing that mattered to me the most was having a family.
That dream finally came true for me, and honestly? I’m as happy as I thought I would be. I’m one of those lucky, lucky people who got exactly what she wanted and was content with it. Whatever else happens in my life, I feel like this – my beautiful daughter – is enough.
I realized pretty quickly after she was born that having a baby was the easy part. (And by no means is that “easy”!) Now I had to raise the baby! She was going to grow and change and become her own person – and that was an exhilarating, amazing thought, but it’s also terrifying! There’s so much advice out there for new mothers, and some of it – a lot of it, even – is genuinely helpful. But there’s also so much advice that doesn’t apply. So much that wasn’t relevant to me. And even advice that positioned the way it described as the “right” way, or the only way.
That’s why my philosophy, and the philosophy of this blog is: D.I.Y Motherhood. Or, motherhood that you figure out for yourself! I want to share my experiences and help other moms navigate this scary, exciting time, but I also want to advocate for moms who may not have a traditional experience. Everyone is different. Working moms, or stay-at-home moms. Moms with a supportive partner, or single moms. Moms with one child, or moms with several. Moms who knew they wanted babies, or moms for whom this journey may be unexpected and frightening.
D.I.Y. Motherhood means dealing with parenthood on your own terms. We’re all different, with countless sets of unique circumstances, and there’s not really advice out there that’s “one size fits all.” I want to encourage moms – and new parents, not just moms, though that is the focus – to find what works best for them. Because even though raising our kids is now a huge part of our lives, we’re more than just “mom.” We need to remember to take time for ourselves, to focus on our identities outside of parenthood. Build the motherhood that works best for you!
Personally, I work full time. I have a very supportive husband and right now only one child. As I said, the one thing I wanted more than anything else was the privilege of raising a child. But that doesn’t define me. As much as I love my daughter, I’ve found that the role of “mom” is one that’s harder to slip into. Where do I draw the line? How do I navigate a changing identity and stay who I am?
Welcome to my journey, everyone. I hope to share this with you, and maybe I can offer some advice to those who need it, and learn a few things myself.