You may have cried. A lot. You may have agonized. You may have thought that you would never be one of those women who did any of those things. But the fact is that leaving your newborn baby is hard, and going back to work is even harder.
I had expected that leaving the kids at daycare would be hard. It was. But I hadn't expected to feel so lonely in the early afternoons, a time when I would usually be nursing my newborn or playing with my toddler. But I survived and you can too.
A picture is worth a thousand words
When I returned to work after an almost-four month maternity leave, I was shocked by my coworkers ultra-warm reception. They were shocked that I hadn't brought pictures that first day. Why not? I was so focused on enjoying my last moments of home time with my kids that I just forgot.
What to do: One week before returning to work, you should gather your photos and choose one or two to take to work. Go to a local store and find a pretty frame to house the photo(s) in and put it in your back to work bag. That way it's already there and you cannot forget the way I did. And better yet, when you start to miss your baby, they are right there looking at you.
I was very uncertain about pumping at work and very uncomfortable about asking anyone about it. For the first two months, I had a good thing going: our offices had been located in a different part of the building until last September. When I returned from maternity leave, I used one of the spare offices as my private pumping room. Unfortunately, that was nixed when construction crews blockaded the area and began demoing the walls.
I called HR and was told to use our medical center's exam room (you know, where sick people go to lay down!). Fortunately, my recently returned pumping coworker also shared my dilemma and secured us a clean and private new location.
What to do: Ask HR about a pumping room. Do not accept any suggestions that the couch in the ladies room might be ideal. A clean private room or office with a chair and electrical outlet is necessary.
Acclimating to hours
My coworker was lucky to come back to a light schedule. Me? Not so much. My coworkers and I were in the middle of a crunch time and I couldn't just start off light. The hardest part was putting in the long hours in the office and at home, where my breastfed daughter still gets up a few times a night.
What to do: the best solution I found was teaching my daughter the sidelying breastfeeding position. I had been sitting up to feed each time, but found myself unable to stay awake -- which seemed pretty unsafe. In the sidelying, I don't have to worry about her rolling off the pillow and I can continue to rest.
Speak your problem
When something goes wrong -- like forgetting your pump or missing your child -- never be afraid to say so. Admitting that there is an issue can help bosses and coworkers understand a little better . . . And maybe even lead them to help.
What to do: Just say whatever is on your mind.
More info for moms:
Take charge of your family's finances with the Mom in Charge series!
Life after having baby: Is returning to work for you?
Breastfeeding and returning to work or school
Mother's guilt: When you want to return to work