June 14th, 2013 – My maternity leave is passing too quickly and I feel so many feelings. I’m happy to be home with my baby boy and Jason right now, but also incredibly sad that it has to end when I return to work. I’m feeling confident that Jason will be a wonderful father and I have complete trust in his ability to care for LB. I’m thankful that we don’t have to hire a stranger to raise our son, but also jealous that it can’t be me. I’m so grateful to have a good job with good benefits when so many others don’t, but I also feel trapped by my job because having it makes staying home with my son impossible. Each day I make a conscious effort to stay in the moment so I enjoy every single cuddle, every coo, every sweet smile. I tell myself that stocking up on these moments will somehow make the sting of leaving him a little less sharp. The truth is that even thinking about going back to work and being away from my baby boy is killing me and there is nothing I can do about it.
June 26th, 2013 – Five days. That’s how much longer I’ll be home with my son. I’ve been dreading the inevitable, but also trying to remain positive. I’ve always believed that a positive mental attitude can make even the worst situations seem a little better. At least I can ease into the transition because I’ll only be working part time for the first several weeks. Maybe it won’t be as difficult as I’m worried it will be. So many women do this. So many women. Is it this difficult for all of them? I can’t be the only one who feels like her heart is being broken and ripped out and stomped on. I just can’t be. I can’t be the only one who feels responsible to provide for her family, but also completely and utterly helpless that I have no option to stay home with my child. So why don’t we talk about it? Why don’t women talk about it? Maybe it’s just too painful. Maybe it’s just that we know it’s what has to be, and don’t want to complain.
July 1, 2013 – I’ll never forget this day as long as I live. It’s the day my heart broke into a million pieces. I’m overwhelmed with emotion and I have no outlet. I’ve just left a piece of myself at home with Jason, along with what I hope is enough breast milk to feed him until I return. With me is a cold, hard, and emotionless milk pumping machine made of plastic and metal…my daytime substitute for the bonding and closeness I feel when I nurse my baby. I’ll only be gone for six hours, and I know LB will be fine. I know I will be fine. So many women do this. But is fine good enough? I miss his sweet soft skin already. I miss the way he nuzzles to me when he feeds from my breast, and the serenity I feel with him in my arms. How in the hell am I going to do this? I never wanted to be a working mom, so how did I wind up here? It’s the worst kind of torture and the tears won’t stop falling.
July 16, 2013 – Pumping sucks, but it’s a necessary sacrifice if I want LB to continue nursing. And I do. Very much. If I can make it to his first birthday, I will call it my greatest accomplishment to date (apart from creating life, of course). All of the articles and advice on the subject of pumping suggest that staying calm and relaxed will help with let-down, and ultimately, milk supply. So far, things have been just okay. My employer has graciously provided a small room in which I can extract milk from my breasts. While I’m thankful to have this private place, it’s essentially a closet (about 6 feet by 6 feet) with fluorescent lighting, a small upholstered arm chair, a small faux wood table, high walls, tile floor, and a power outlet. I’ve actually become thankful that my pump is loud, because it does a decent job of drowning out the sound of flushing toilets in the men’s bathroom on the the other side of the wall. The light switch that controls the harsh overhead lighting is just outside the locked door, completely out of my reach while I’m sitting here half naked. It must be tempting for passersby to turn off the switch (even though I’m certain they don’t know what it’s for), because in the two weeks I’ve been back at work I’ve been left in the dark twice. If it wasn’t for the light my mobile phone provides, I would have been in complete darkness. As if it’s not challenging enough to stay relaxed and comfortable, now I need to fumble in the dark to disconnect myself while not spilling one drop of precious liquid. So I’ll say it again…pumping sucks.
August 5, 2013 – Today is my first day back to work full time. Now that I’ve calmed down a bit after sobbing uncontrollably for the last 40 minutes, I am resolved to the fact that this is my fate. I must accept this. I must focus on work and push all of the pain and desire to be home out of my mind. It’s the only way I’ll survive…the only way I’ll be able to function. I have to turn it off…disconnect from my feelings…at least for the next nine and a half hours.
August 26, 2013 – This is such bull shit! Being separated from my child for most of every week when he’s only four months old is nothing short of cruelty. I am so tired of crying. Mondays are always so damn hard. After two days of holding and snuggling and bonding, that bond feels like it’s being ripped from my soul when I drive away from home. Every. Single. Monday. The other days are difficult, but at least not quite as brutal as Mondays. So this is my life now? I’ve waited so long to become a mother and now I only get to see my son on weekends, and for a sum total of fifteen waking hours during the work week? Even though I took the full allowable maternity leave under FMLA of twelve weeks, it’s not even close to being enough. We should have moved to the UK or Denmark before having children. At least mothers there are able to stay with their babies for the first year of life.
September 18, 2013 – Stupid pump! After a few weeks of having problems with my supply (and trying to fix it), I realized my pump was broken. Broken! I’ve almost completely lost supply in my right breast now. I sure hope this new hospital grade rental pump can help get it back. I am not going to supplement with formula! Absolutely not! I’ll do everything in my power to prevent that from happening. I have to make it until LB is at least six months old.
November 2, 2013 – Even though I was able to provide 100% of LB’s calories until he was six months old, I’m still so disappointed in myself. After months of trying to keep my milk supply up, stressing about pump problems and flange fittings, we’ve started supplementing with formula. So far LB seems to be tolerating it okay, but I still feel like a monumental failure. I couldn’t do it, in spite of my best efforts. And now, I’m at risk for my supply dwindling even more because we’re supplementing. I still want to nurse him until his first birthday, but we’ll just have to see how it goes.
January 7, 2014 – My nursing days are over and I’m heart broken. I’ve been watching my supply dwindle these past couple of months, but I really thought I could stretch out night feedings a little longer. I’ve known other women who could do it, so what went wrong in my case? At this moment, I still have absolutely no idea. I didn’t anticipate what a profound loss it would be to stop nursing, just like I didn’t anticipate how wonderful nursing would be before I experienced it. At this point, Jason and I are not sure if we’ll have more children…so this might be it…forever. I just can’t bear the thought of never feeling that bond again. But there are worse things, right? Other people have it worse? Isn’t that what we tell ourselves when we’re trying to feel better about something painful? That it could be worse? The truth is, it never makes me feel better to think that way. It just makes me feel even more sadness. I mean, why would I take pleasure in knowing that someone else has it worse? To me, that’s just sadistic.
June 18, 2014 – I’m at least (somewhat) used to this life now. Going to work every day. Not seeing LB or Jason nearly enough, but making the most of the time we do have together. Still…when I hear about a fun trip to the park or a particularly cute thing that LB has learned to do…I still get jealous that I missed it. That I wasn’t there. I have to put in real effort not to allow resentment to set in. Not to allow my jealousy to damage my marriage. Jason works so darn hard. Too hard, sometimes. But still…he has the life that I want…and just the fact that I feel this way sometimes makes me feel like the worst kind of person. What is wrong with me?
January 5, 2015 – I’ve just had the most wonderful twelve days of the past year and a half, and it’s all come crashing to an end because I have to go back to work. The holidays were wonderful. At 20 months old, LB is communicating more now and my time off with him and Jason has been so fun. Love, laughter, play, and also some challenges. I got a taste of what it would be like to be home every day. I savored it, and thoroughly enjoyed it…but it left me wanting more. It reminded me just how much I want this. How much I want to be a stay at home mom. I feel like I’m back to square one. I’ve accepted nothing. I’m still yearning for change.
February 11, 2015 – Leaving for work has been brutal lately, and I’m back to crying more often again. I’m almost 32 weeks pregnant with LG, and that’s been wreaking havoc in LB’s world. He’s never been a particularly clingy child, always content to give me a hug and kiss and then wave at the window as I drive away in the morning. But lately he’s been much more attached to me, which I can only attribute to slight uncertainty about the arrival of his baby sister. So now, at least once per week, LB screams “MAMA! MAMA!” as I leave the house and I can see the intensity of his sadness in the picture window as I drive away. I can’t stand it. My boy needs me and I have to leave the snuggles and comforting to Jason. I’m encouraged that I’ll be home on maternity leave soon, but also remember just how short it will be. There must be a better way, and I’m going to find it.