Twinfant Tuesday: Going Back to Work After Maternity Leave (Part II)

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Why 11 Weeks Was Enough

For our family, 11 weeks post-partum for a return to my job worked out rather well. Please don’t take this to mean that I support the US’s shamefully short maternity leave policies. I simply mean that for us, 11 weeks was okay. I think every mother needs to decide for herself and her baby what the right amount of time together is before returning to work.

My daughters took to the breast amazingly easily after their NICU days of gavage- and bottle-feeding. We made the switch right away, no transition plan needed. Since M was home nearly a week before J, I was able to establish a breastfeeding and pumping routine with her. She fed for 45 minutes every 3 hours, and I pumped for 20 minutes after each breastfeeding session. (I didn’t figure out the magic of pumping on one side while breastfeeding on the other until later in our breastfeeding journey.) Twice a day, M got high-calorie formula fortified with Poly-Vi-Sol while I pumped. The pumped milk was delivered to the NICU once a day, my wonderful father-in-law driving me and M to the hospital and waiting with the baby in the car as I limped in to briefly hold J. My husband had been shipped off to California by the army when the girls were 10 days old.

When J came home, she fit right into M and my feeding routine. I never could get simultaneous feeding figured out, so the babies would each feed for 45 minutes every 3 hours.

That’s right. During the 8 weeks of maternity leave between the babies leaving the hospital and my return to my job, I spent 12 hours every day breastfeeding.

This is what breastfeeding 12 hours a day looks like.

Much as I wanted to make breastfeeding work, returning to work gave me back my sense of self. I felt valued for more than just my milk-production ability. Had I not had my work successes and co-workers to validate me, I don’t know that I could have survived J’s nursing strike, her complete refusal to breastfeed at age 5 months.

It felt so good to be back at work. A multi-year project completed days after I came back to work, and while all my friends were burned out and exhausted, I was chipper and exhausted, ready to get back to something I knew I was good at. It wasn’t that I was at bad at mothering newborns−I’m 100% baby person−but I really enjoyed the concrete validation that I was doing things right. That validation doesn’t come until years down the road for parents, if ever.

Then there was lunch. Every day at work gave me an entire hour during which nothing was expected of me. I could eat. I could nap. I could take a walk, or wash my face or brush my teeth without guilt. I could give friends my undivided attention. Lunch was a glorious extraordinary gift that I had taken for granted for years.

Maternity leave was a very lonely time for me. My husband was away for army training much of the time and my in-laws could only take a few weeks off work to travel from Washington State to Texas. My friend Sara and I spent as much time together with our 3 newborns as we could, since her husband was away with mine, but we lived 40 miles apart, so daily hanging out wasn’t reasonable. I hadn’t yet made other mommy friends. People did come to visit, but I lived 30 miles from work and the majority of my friends just couldn’t make the trek. I am an intense extrovert. I talked to the babies all day long, but they weren’t the most insightful of conversational partners.

Since my daughters have been in daycare since they were so young, they’ve never known anything else. Yes, we had a bout of separation anxiety when they were 17 months old, but I’ve never dealt with the sort of trauma at being separated from my girls that I’ve seen with other parents. Returning to work as early as I did taught me to trust others to care for my children

It also helped foster a more egalitarian separation of duties with my husband than we might have had otherwise. We shared the responsibilities of diapering and bathing our babies. During the 3 months Daddy was home in the girls’ first year, between California training and Iraq deployment, my then-husband took on all housework and cooking so that I could focus on breastfeeding. He even took half the nighttime feedings, since we both had jobs to get to in the morning. He mastered latching the babies onto my breast without waking me and quickly figured out how to determine when each baby had emptied one breast and was ready for the second. Within the first week after I returned to work, I was able to sleep through my husband’s rolling me over to switch breasts, and I got more than 90 minutes of sleep at a time for the first time since M came from the hospital.

SadiawithBabes

Did you look forward to returning to work? Did you feel guilty?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the single mother of 8-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, but now also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

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Sadia

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 10-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. They live in the Austin, TX suburbs, where Sadia works full time in information technology. She contributes to a number of parenting websites and magazines and also runs The Mommy Blogging Guide, where she answers mommy bloggers' technical questions.

21 thoughts on “Twinfant Tuesday: Going Back to Work After Maternity Leave (Part II)”

  1. For some reason, I wasn’t able to enjoy returning to work. I only wanted to be home with my daughter and was jealous that my husband got to spend more time with her. Since I’ve been home for the past 6 months and after reading this, I think I will be able to have a different attitude when it comes time for me to return to work. It seems like you’ve been able to incorporate me time into your work schedule and having a great partner to help support you at home.

    1. Being a working mom with older children is quite a bit different, I think. And yes, having some “me” time made a world of difference!

  2. I went back to work after 12 weeks with my oldest and I hated it. I was a teacher and there were 10 days left to the school year. I resigned my position after 8 days at work and I know it was the right decision for my family. Working at home part time gives me the best of both worlds now.

    1. I’m glad you were able to find the right choice for your family… and I’m sorry it took going back to work and hating it to get there. :(

  3. I do enjoy some of the benefits of being back at work. Going to the toilet on my own is definitely a bonus but I miss my kids. Sadly my employers have about as much respect for my lunch break as my kids do so it’s usually spent dropping crumbs on my keyboard trying to get stuff done! For me 2yrs of mat leave wasn’t enough! I really admire you for making it work with your girls though. #twinklytuesdays
    Morna recently posted Grown up holidays….with the kidsMy Profile

  4. Thank you for this post!!! I have 4 weeks left of a 12 week maternity leave w baby #3. I always have a hard time going back (though I do like my job and love the people I work with). I really needed to read this positive perspective on returning to work at this stage right now!!!

  5. Agree that we have to do what is right for our family. I went back to work part time when Sam was 10 months, I found it very hard to be honest but am 2 years in now and like the balance we have. #twinklytuesdays xx

  6. I went back to work after 6 months and my husband stayed at home. I earned the most so I was always going back. We just got on with it and considered ourselves very lucky to be able to have one of us at home. Seems to have worked okay!

    You’ve got to do what’s right for your family and ignore everyone else! #twinklytuesday

  7. Wow, what a skill your husband has; latching your twins without waking you up. I think I’ll have to get my hubby working on this next time round. It’s sounds really good.

    I enjoyed maternity leave and won’t have been happy not to return. I appreciate how lonely it can be though, but I wanted that space for a lot of Mat Leave, so it worked for me.

    We all have different needs and we’ve got to make motherhood work for us. To have a full hour of lunch without being needed sounds really good :-) #TwinklyTuesday
    Adventures of a Novice Mum recently posted Breastfeeding and I Linky IntroMy Profile

  8. Wow that seems unbelievable that you managed to breastfeed while asleep, and from BOTH breasts??! I am a SAHM, never wanted it any other way and love it, but everyone is different and has to do things their own way. #twinklytuesday
    Carolyn recently posted Silent SundayMy Profile

  9. Wow breastfeeding two! I take my gat off to you, that is an amazing achievement! I hated going back to work and I had 10 months of maternity leave! Ive been back for 4 months now after having my 2nd child and I still would rather be home with them. I do appreciate what you say about the benefits on you as an individual though.
    Mrs Puddleducky recently posted My Weekly Happy List: Week 18My Profile

  10. 12 hours a day of feeding??!! I just can’t even anticipate that – Zach was bad enough for me, every blimmin 2 hours! I love that you learnt to sleep through your husband getting the babies to latch on, that is incredible! It definitely seems that going back to work was the right thing for you. I work full time and whilst I do like working and having my own time, I wish I could do it a bit less. A 3 day week would be perfect for me but we just can’t afford it right now. I hate being away from Zach so much but I live with it! Thanks so much for being such a fab co-host of #TwinklyTuesday lovely!
    Lisa (mummascribbles) recently posted ***GIVEAWAY*** Whimsy Wood book 7 – Posie Pixie & The PancakesMy Profile

  11. I think it’s brilliant that you managed to go back to work and enjoy it after what sounds like an intensive and exhausting maternity leave! Everyone should do what works for them and makes them happy as a happy mum = happy family. I’m really enjoying being back at work 4 days a week as I totally agree it helps you to feel ‘normal’ again but I did love the luxury of 9 months of maternity leave.
    West Essex Mums recently posted Review: Gruffalo Trail, Thorndon Country Park BrentwoodMy Profile

  12. It’s a different experience for everyone I think. I’m a SAH mom and really enjoy it most of the time. I’m much happier since starting my blog because it’s a creative outlet for me. It’s hard to spend all day at home with kids and nothing for yourself. #TwinklyTuesday
    Becky, Cuddle Fairy recently posted Twitter Guide for WebsitesMy Profile

  13. I was supposed to go back to work when the girls were 6 months, but then my tornado touched down and I ended up moving in with my parents for a year before going back to work. With everything the girls and I went through that year it was almost impossible to imagine going back to work but once I did I was glad I was forced to do it. I love my job. You’re so right about the validation piece- it makes a huge difference. It’s also the reason I blog. Every blog comment, “like”, or pageview is validation that I am doing something right.
    Elizabeth recently posted Teacher Tuesday: top 5 silly songs to sing with kidsMy Profile

  14. Love this series! I’m just reaching the point now where I think I want to return to work for a break!
    I really admire Americans for dealing with the very short maternity leave time they have with their babies and having to pump at work (pumping at home is bad enough). Well done for your awesome 12 hour/day breastfeeding! *takes off hat to you*
    Doctomum recently posted How Not To Be a D**k In a LiftMy Profile

  15. Yes! Once again I am nodding along and saying yes yes yes! I get the lunch break thing. I get the lonely maternity leave thing (hubby is a long haul truck driver away weeks at a time). But the validation aspect of work was the biggest thing that resonated in this post! A massive thing for me too. I’m externally motivated, highly ego’d extrovert and work was my pedestal on which to return. It’s a huge part of who I am – I’ve always been like that and I think I will be. I returned to work at 8 months with my firstborn and 7 months with my second. I could have easily gone back after 2. I stayed connected and did some work from home. My friends thought I was crazy so it’s nice to hear that there are others out in the world that feel the same! Thanks for this post today – it was just what I needed to hear :)
    Nardia recently posted I saw the signMy Profile

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