To new mom, me
As I stumble out of my first month of life as a working mother, I have some advice for the me of 30 days ago. When you go through something as traumatic, er um, beautiful as pregnancy and childbirth, you enter into a secret society of badasses. With this new membership, it’s easy to want to hand out advice. However, I know better than to assume I know anything about motherhood yet, so I’ll stick to just aiming these at myself so I can refer at a later date, should I get confused and do this all over again.
I should note I have the luxury of writing this in jest because I’m lucky enough to work for an employer that not only gives 4 month parental leave, but a 5th part-time transition month as you figure out the new normal of working and keeping a human alive. Unfortunately most are not afforded this opportunity, even though the benefits to mother, baby, company and society are clear. I also have an amazing partner in my husband and a supportive team at work who made it difficult to be sad about the end of maternity leave with all of the hugs, confetti at my desk and flowers.
Fake it ‘til you make it
Hey, you! It’s me (you). You, baby and husband survived the first month back at work. You really leaned into that shit. <insert hand-clapping emoji> Here are some of the tips that will get you through.
- Baggy shirts are your friend. This is a no-brainer, but invest in some forgiving shirts. As an old woman who offers seemingly pregnant you a seat on BART will remind, there’s a thin line between maternity clothes and said flowy shirts, so try to show some shape when you can. Equally, pull out your elastic band from the months when you were secretly pregnant last year (and making everyone question why you were suddenly on “cleanses” and not drinking), because buttons are not your friend. Have an extra set of clothes at work in case you get cocky and decide to button up your pants and they later pop off.
- Hack together anything that will help make you look human. Use the walk from BART as your workout. Embrace the wave dried milk/spit up gives your hair. To look alive, use the fancy Evian face spray you bought pre-labor thinking you’d use it during childbirth to keep cool (wtf?).
- For good measure, wear a statement piece of jewelry or bold red lip to take people’s eyes away from the hot mess.
- Embrace your life as a milk factory. Block off time on your calendar for pumping sessions. Invest in a hands-free bra so you can work at the same time. Buy extra parts to leave at your desk. There will come a time when you forget 1/2 of them and need to MacGyver items found around the office. Throw your parts in tupperware and keep them in the fridge instead of washing after each pump. Soak parts in soapy water at end of day in the tupperware, sanitize, use wipes as needed. Use full-length mirror in Mother’s Room to ensure you look at least as put together as when you entered. If forget and boob is left hanging out, hope you’re wearing statement piece mentioned in #4.
- Use apps like Baby Feed Timer to maintain baby’s schedule and Wonder Weeks to better understand why some days baby is psychotic. Use posted dinners and Pinterest to meal plan. Share Google Calendar with husband to block out planned girlfriend times.
- No matter how many times you Google, “how much caffeine/wine is permitted while breastfeeding”, the answers won’t change and will never be satisfactory.
- Good job picking a solid life partner who takes over on paternity leave when you go back to work. Baby will only bottle strike for a few hours on your first day back (which will help you feel missed), but other than that daddy and daughter time goes off without a hitch. So swimmingly in fact that he may need to reach back into his memory bank for this blessed time during years 13–17 when she hates us.
- Assume everything will not go according to plan. A 12-pound dictator is running things for the foreseeable future. Whatever time you think you need to wake up in the morning, give yourself an extra hour.
- The best part of the day, and reward for getting through a BART commute, is getting a big ‘ol baby hug when you walk through the door. Pour permitted amount of wine and repeat.
- Per #8, be flexible and understand that sometimes you just won’t have a good #10 to round out your post.