Heading Back to Work

It’s been 13 weeks since I delivered WZW, which means it’s time for me to return to work.  Today is my last day of maternity leave, and the anxiety is building.

I do have flexibility with maternity leave with my job, and many of my colleagues have taken more time off postpartum.  I’m sure leave varies in different states, but here in California, we receive a minimum of 6 weeks postpartum after a vaginal delivery, 8 weeks after a Cesarean section.  Those who qualify can receive an additional 6 weeks of infant bonding (aka Paid Family Leave).  This can be taken concurrently or staggered anytime in the year after the baby is born (or after an adoption).  I decided to request 13 weeks off from my due date, so that in case I didn’t deliver until 41 weeks, I’d have at least 12 weeks off postpartum with the 6 + 6 weeks of leave as above.

Part of the reason I decided not to take more time off like some of my colleagues is that December tends to slow down.  With the holiday season, I think people get busy and are less likely to make appointments.  Also with the holiday days off, I have built-in days when the office is closed, and would only work if I’m assigned hospital duty.

I feel fortunate to be able to take this time off, since some of my patients don’t qualify for Paid Family Leave and have to return to work after just 6 or 8 weeks.  Between the breastfeeding/pumping and the babies waking up so frequently at night, that must be such a challenge.  Particularly without much help at home.  I definitely would have a hard time focusing at work.  And many workplaces, despite California law, are not supportive of or set up well for pumping breast milk, so many women stop when they return to work.

I’m also very lucky to have a husband who can take additional time off now that I’m going back to work.  He returned to work one month postpartum, but now started the second part of his paternity leave and will be off for a month and a half.  That makes the transition so much easier.

In fact, since he will be helping with nighttime duty, I will actually be getting more sleep.  Part of me is looking forward to that.  The months of baby care by day and frequent interruptions of sleep at night do take their toll.  Of course, my sleep still won’t be like it was pre-WZW.  Our Baby 411 book has a funny line, talking about how even when children get older, they still wake up for various reasons: The concept of “sleeping through the night” is only a fuzzy and abstract concept that exists for childless couples.

I like to think that even though I will miss WZW, I won’t get overly emotional.  One co-worker of mine said she used to cry at lunch in her office at first.  I’m hoping that knowing he’s in the best hands possible with my husband will be a huge relief.  Plus, I’m going to have necessary pumping sessions between patients- one in the morning and one in the afternoon.  The logistics of juggling the patients and dealing with the pumping might be a little tough, but at least it gives me time when I can take a look at pictures and videos my husband texts me.

I think what will be the hardest is missing WZW’s new developments.  They grow so fast and quickly develop new skills, so I will miss seeing many of those for the first time.

For now, he’s not on a regular schedule with sleep or feedings, so I’m realizing that the logistics of feeding him and pumping will be a challenge.  As much as I would like to breastfeed him before I leave for work, his timing may not match up.  And even though I’d love to sleep a full night, my breasts beg to differ and will need me to pump.  So I will have to figure all of this out and see what works.

Some of my colleagues completely check out during maternity leave.  My philosophy was that it’s not vacation.  Inevitably, during such a long hiatus, things change at work.  It’s impossible for me to keep up with it all, but I did try to at least check my work emails regularly to keep up with things.  There will still be some hiccups as I return and have to deal with new changes, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the initial days won’t be too busy and I can handle it ok.

We shall see!  Those who have been through it before me have said it is tough at first, but then it just becomes the new normal.

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