This is my life now.
And I don’t know exactly how to be ok with it yet, and I think that is expected.
Since going back to work yesterday, my days now consist of getting up at 5am, feeding my baby girl, leaving by 6am and taking on a job for a full 8 hours that isn’t the easiest. During that time, I pump twice just to keep my supply up, attempt to get in enough water and food intake for the day while juggling to do all my work, and then managing a quick feed on my lunch break because my daughter still won’t take her bottle.
My good friend told me something yesterday that stuck in my head. She said,
“Welcome the stress. Welcome the anxiety. Welcome it all.”
And I think I get it. Don’t resist it. Don’t get mad that it’s there. Just accept it all. Welcome its presence in your life at this time.
Day one was very hard. I wish there was another word I could describe it as but my brain feels much too limited right now to use any large vocabulary.
I cried. A lot. I cried myself to sleep the night before. I cried on the commute to work. I cried in the bathroom stall. I cried as pumped. I cried at lunch. I cried again when I got home. I didn’t think I had so many tears in me. No wonder I felt so dehydrated.
As soon as I got to work, I felt a complete uneasiness. Everything felt foreign, even though I have worked there for nearly 15 years. I felt like I didn’t belong. I still do. Like its just something temporary and all is going to go back to normal very soon, meaning I get to go back home and be with my daughter.
My coworkers welcomed me back. Some looked genuinely happy to see me, while others it seemed like they were saying hello out of courtesy. I felt like I couldn’t concentrate on anyone though. I was so disconnected. At one point, a coworker was saying hi to me and asking how my daughter was and I completely looked past her like I didn’t even hear what she said. I quickly apologized and said she’s fine, but I just wanted to run away.
And then the actual work. For a second I completely blanked and couldn’t remember what to do, what to say. I felt completely incompetent. I just wanted to quit on the spot and say “I give up! I can’t do this. Bye.”
And they gave me so much work for my first day, which I thought was a bit unfair, but some things also couldn’t be controlled, like the volume of incoming calls from customers. It was Monday after all.
I was going crazy. I didn’t even eat or drink anything until well past 8:30am, almost three hours after waking. My blood sugar was so low. I was shaking. I was anxious. I was parched. Time was moving so fast I felt like I blinked and another hour would pass.
9:30 rolled around and I knew I had to stop what I was doing and pump. I could not risk losing my supply. My daughter’s pediatrician warned me that mother’s usually lose their supply when they return to work due to the high levels of stress. I am determined not to let that happen.
I ran to the lactation room. It was locked. Someone was in there. I waited and waited. Decided I would try again in 5 minutes. Still in there. I tried again in 10 minutes. Still in there. I couldn’t wait any longer. I ran to the bathroom and ended up pumping in the stall. It was terrible. Unsanitary. I cried again. I felt hot. I wanted to run away once more.
I ran back to my desk. I didn’t want to get in trouble for being gone for so long. I had so much to do. Voicemails. Messages. Work piling up. How could this be only day one?
Then it popped in my head, “oh I have a baby at home.” I felt so guilty. I was so busy that I didn’t even have time to text my husband to ask how she was doing. I quickly texted.
“Did you feed her at 8?”
“I tried, but she wouldn’t eat.”
“Did you try again?”
“I tried again at 9:30 but she still wouldn’t eat.”
It was 10:45am. The last time she ate was at 5am! I was freaking out. I knew this would happen. She had been refusing the bottle this whole time and I just figured, well if she’s hungry she will eventually eat, hopefully. She didn’t.
My husband said she had been crying all morning, non stop. And sleeping whenever she wasn’t crying. She was getting lethargic. She needed to eat. I felt even more guilty. I couldn’t do anything. I felt like I was letting her down. I’m supposed to be there. I am her life source. I’m supposed to feed her and I can’t because I have to do this stupid job to make stupid money so that we could live while my daughter is suffering and needs her mother.
I know my husband was doing the best he could, but I don’t think anything can replace a mother. A child needs their mother.
I told him he had to bring her here. I had to feed her. I didn’t want her to get dehydrated. So he brought her at my lunch hour. I didn’t eat lunch and instead she fed the entire time. I just cried and kept kissing her head and hands, telling her over and over again how sorry I am. I didn’t leave her on purpose.
Time was up so soon. I had to go back and somehow finish my day. I felt angry. I felt like I wanted to yell at anyone in my path. I’m sure my coworkers sensed it. Although whenever someone asked me how I was, I couldn’t help but lie and say I was fine. I wasn’t fine. I was dying inside. I wanted to scream. I wanted to scream at them for telling me “oh, it’ll be ok.” No it’s not ok.
I somehow managed to make it through to my second break at 230pm. I pumped again. Called my husband.
“Did you feed her?”
“Yes, I tried, but she wouldn’t eat. She just cries and sleeps.”
I didn’t know what to say. I only hoped time would go faster so I could get home and feed my baby. My poor baby.
Time eventually caught up with my wishes and I got home at 4:10pm. I dropped everything and held her. She gave me the most tired smile. She looked almost lifeless. I could tell that she had been crying a very long time. But she was happy to see me. She actually hugged me. She clamped her arms around my neck when I picked her up.
I immediately sat down and fed her. She ate with a fury. Normally she eats so distracted. Stop and go. But no, today she ate furiously. Gulping it down like her life depended on it. It did. I felt so happy that I could feed her. But I couldn’t stop crying.
The guilt weighed me down. I kept apologizing that she had to go through that today. All I wanted was to hold her and not let go for the rest of the night. She fell asleep again almost immediately after she ate. But this time, with a milk drunk smile. I felt relieved. She was happy and fed. And mama was home.
That night I held her hand as she slept next to me in our bed. I didn’t let go. I watched her sleep for a good while and prayed over and over again for God to do something. I prayed for him to help us get through this rough transition.
She cluster fed all night. I didn’t mind. And I wasn’t tired. It’s amazing how you find the energy when it is coming from a place of love.
It was now Day 2 and I was terrified of a repeat of yesterday. I didn’t cry as much, but I definitely still feel angry, emotional, depressed.
I tried my hardest to turn the feelings into gratitude instead. Listing reasons why I felt grateful.
At least my husband is watching her and she is not in some daycare.
At least I have a good paying job that will support us and provide the things we need.
At least I got to spend 4 months with her.
At least I get to see her during my lunch hour.
The workload lessened a bit today so I didn’t feel as stressed and the memory of doing my job came back to me so I was back in the groove of it, feeling confidence once more. But just because I was doing my job and getting through the day, didn’t mean I was ok.
I’m still not ok.
My daughter still cried a ton today. She still didn’t eat for a majority of the day. And she went to bed an hour earlier than she normally would because she was so tired. I only got to see her for 2 hours today.
Two hours is not enough time.
Do you hear me? TWO HOURS out of TWENTY FOUR is not enough time to see my daughter grow.
And during those two hours I barely was able to do one of the many things I want to do with her.
I couldn’t play with her because she wanted to eat. I couldn’t read her a story because she wanted to sleep. I couldn’t take her for a walk because it was already night. I couldn’t do any of the things we used to do together.
But at least I got to hold her. At least I got to kiss her. At least I got to feed her.
I am grateful for that.
Will it get better? I don’t know. Actually, I do. And no, it won’t.
It will never get easier leaving my daughter. It will never be acceptable that I only get to spend a few hours with her each day.
But this is my life now.
And I’m going to keep welcoming it.
And I’m going to keep fighting to find a way to make it ok again.
Mama with Grace