On Returning to Work at a Job that Doth Not Make My Soul Sing

First day back at work after mat leave. It was… I’m not very into my job right now. The fact that I only spent about 2 waking hours with my kid: one getting him up and on the bus, and one putting him to bed makes it suck more.

In many ways, I have a pretty sweet gig. Three years ago, I would have killed someone for the job I have now. It makes me feel insane to not be happy there. But some things about the work environment are not my cup of tea. I am learning things about my work style! I like to know who I report to and what I am working on! I like to work on projects that sometimes get finished! That’s old fashioned and boring, I guess. Not very creative new economy.

So I’m all fraught about things as usual. The husband is an excellent listener, and tells me I should try and make a change. What I really want is to work part time. Man would I ever love to work three days a week. But my employer doesn’t really do part time, so I’m going to focus on trying to find a full time gig that makes me happier. So far – two applications, no prospects. I’ll keep on.

In the short term, the next two months are going to suck donkey balls. Work will be its usual self. Plus I have a million St. Patty’s gigs this year, which again I should be grateful for, but they are going to take up way too much of my limited home/family time.

The conclusion that husband and I came to is that I should hang in there through this hump and get a sense of what else is out there for me work-wise. Basically, for Lent I am going to give up fun time with my kid and just do everything I have to do for work and gigs. Then after Easter, it will be time to reevaluate. Maybe I need to quit my band. Or maybe I need to do… something about my job. I don’t know what. Just quit? That seems insane. Apply for other stuff? Make a bigger change that I can’t even wrap my head around?

Anyways. It’s Mardi Gras. I celebrated by going back to work.

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A portrait of 8 months

Baby J turned 8 months old (or 2/3 of a year!) this week, and this is my favourite age so far.

He is freakishly mobile for his age. While that means he can, and does, get into all kinds of trouble, it also makes him such a happy baby to be able to explore. With basic kidproofing of our main living areas in place, he can entertain himself for minutes at a time. No more indignant squawking when you put him down. Now he follows his adults and the cat around from room to room at a great clip, his palms smacking on the wood floor.

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Just in the last 2 weeks or so, he has started really eating the food he is offered, instead of just playing with it. It’s still a really minor source of nutrition, but it gives me faith that I will not be doomed to a life of eternal pumping once I’m back at work.

What else? He babbles, laughs, and claps, and loves buttons, ties, going routside and being picked up. (Dislikes: going to sleep, waking up alone, diaper changes, having his face washed, not being allowed to eat library books, manicures, pedicures, and the vacuum cleaner.)

So, yay for a fun, expressive little person. I know this stage will be so fleeting like the others before it, so I am trying to make the most of it, and take lots of pictures too.

For the record

Before Baby J was born, I thought the year of (Canadian) maternity leave might get old fast. To the outside observer, staying at home with a baby looks like a lot of work, or at least a lot of doing mundane things in isolation. I expected to miss work and related life.

But, at 7.5 months into this endeavour, let the record show that I am really grateful to have this time. It is a relief that my one priority is the care and nutrurance of this little person. I try to clean and make dinner too, and keep in touch with friends, but my main job is child care, and there aren’t serious conflicts for that time or head space.

So tonight, even though between J’s bedtime and mine, he had 5 wakeups(!) I am not getting further behind on homework or some such by spending all my time shushing the snotty, teething baby. It’s nice and relaxed, and I’m a little afraid of the shitstorm that going back to work is going to bring early next year. Yiiii.

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Baby J himself is a fascinating little person these days, super mobile, curious, and fearless, so long as he’s not alone. Yesterday morning, he actually crawled down off the mattress where we sleep (hitherto a fortress with invisible moat) and he came to find me brushing my teeth in the bathroom. I was pretty surprised to see him travel smacking around the corner! (Mobile, yes. Quiet and sneaky, no.)

I guess this post is fashionably late but appropriate for Thanksgiving. I’m super grateful for the charge of this fascinating little person, and the life circumstances that make our current time together possible.

5 months!

So! I have a 5-month-old! And not a lot of computer time! Funny how that goes.

In the last month or two, Baby J has been turning into such a little person instead of a grub. He wants things and grabs them (and then chews the crap out of them). He has one little sharp jaggedy tooth poking through his bottom gums. And, in just the last few days, he has vastly improved his powers of locomotion, to the point where he can slowly and painfully wiggle his way over to whatever he is after. He is driven to practice this locomotion at every opportunity, including while trying to fall asleep, and again immediately upon waking. This last bit has made night wakings a bit more of a pain, but it is balanced out by the miraculous fact that, in the last week or two, J sleeps unswaddled. I was really starting to think I’d one day be swaddling a 7-year-old, but once his movements became coordinated enough that he could roll around in the swaddle, he simultaneously outgrew the need for it. Yay!

Oh, one more baby ability/obsession (for babies are obsessed with everything they do): consonants. One generic consonant. He flaps his mouth wide open and closed like a fish while yelling Bababababa! BA! It’s cute, except when it’s apparent that I am being sternly critiqued. BA!

That, above, is a lot of changes. Who is this kid?! Mostly he’s a lot of fun. OF COURSE I get frustrated being alone with him most of the time (and it’s mutual), and OF COURSE I feel guilty all the time for not being an awesome enough parent, and I do wish there were more awesome parents and baby friends nearby in our lives so we could have more of a little community and see OTHER people more often, but hopefully that stuff will come.

I am enjoying maternity leave a lot more than I expected. The last few years, I was so focused on grad school and on working that it’s a breath of fresh air to have some time. We go slowly and take walks with no need to dress up or impress anybody. I have a simultaneously terrible and wonderful habit of staying up super late after baby and husband are in bed to play music, sew or whatever in the attic, which makes me tired but is good for sanity. I can’t even imagine what going back to work will be like, but time will tell.

Meanwhile, J has learned to take naps that don’t necessarily involve me lying next to him the whole time, but they are by no means long. Which is to say, he’s up!

On the Virtues of Printed Photo Albums

Oh HAI. I forgot about this blog for awhile. Actually, I didn’t forget. I just wasn’t allowed to write here until I finished sending all the thank you cards for new baby gifts, and that just happened last week. Yes, the baby is 4 months old. Shaddup.

The thought of trying to summarize the last 2.5 months of rapidly evolving baby gives me a headache, so instead, here’s what I’m mentally chewing on right now: photo albums. (Well, that and WordPress’ new dashboard layout which is frankly making me stabby.)

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A photo of me as a baby from an aunt’s family album. Nice haircut there, older cousin! My parents never kept albums when I was little, but I’m so grateful to have a few old family photos like this from other relatives.

I want us to have real physical photo albums of J’s childhood. A million cell phone pictures are nice and all, but I have zero faith those are going to be accessible for the kid when he is grown up. A print book you have to save in a fire, but otherwise should be around regardless of electrical or computing systems, file formats, or whatever. Since getting access to my first digital camera in about 2004, there is zero printed photographic evidence of our lives, and that needs to change.

So I’m trying to be catch up on family photo albums. I still need to make a wedding one, which will be verrry short. We have a honeymoon one already. Now I’m getting started on a book for J’s first year. This is all incredibly time-consuming, but hopefully once a process is in place (i.e. photo editing and book layout programs are set up on my computer so I can work on layout incrementally as photos get taken) it should be manageable. Even short little books would be way better then nothing.

And now: diaper laundry and pumping! Life around here continues to be glamourous.

Rejoining Society

We have a fuckton of houseguests for the next little while. Some friends are coming tomorrow, then Z’s entire family is going to stay for a few days.

Z’s family are lovely, but we don’t have room for them all to sleep comfortably, or all sit in the living room at once, oh my god. Plus, some of them get up at the crack of dawn. Fortunately, they are the sort of people who don’t mind eating delivery pizza. But still, it will be a busy few days.

Then Z is going back to work on Monday. Damn I’m going to miss having him home with me.

So, I guess this marks the end of our babymoon. The first week  home with Z and J was absolutely necessary for my sanity and physical recovery from birth. Then, after that, we have had a few visitors, but mostly hermited together for 2 more weeks. It’s been lovely.

In preparation for rejoining society as J’s primary caregiver for the remainder of my generous 1-year Canadian maternity leave, I have recently acquired some key tools:

  • A SLING to put the baby in so I can carry him while doing household chores and running short errands. He had his first bus ride on Tuesday in the Moby wrap. It’s much easier than wrangling a stroller, at least while he’s tiny and doesn’t mind sleeping in a carrier.
  • A NURSING BRA that mostly fits. My boobs are taking over the world, and they even laugh at the nursing bra I bought when 38 weeks pregnant. Looking socially acceptable in a bra and shirts is still not quite comfortable (the boobs will get used to this feeding the baby business at some point soon?) but I think I’m going to at least be able to pull off wearing shirts the whole time Z’s family is here.  Here’s hoping, because one of the people coming to stay with us is a teenaged foster boy who I barely know.
  • TWO PAIR OF PANTS that mostly fit. Hallelujah! This afternoon, our last before the houseguests descend and then Z goes back to work, I left my boys with a bottle of pumped milk and took the bus to the nearest part of town where there are stores that sell pants. I currently weigh 13 pounds more than pre-pregnancy, but 13 pounds cannot possibly account for the degree to which my old pants don’t fit. I think my hips have changed shape forever. So, I got two pairs of jeans for $20 at the thrift store. It will do wonders for my self esteem to stop wearing threadbare too-short maternity jeans all the time.
Now baby and I need to cultivate a social life for weekday afternoons so I don’t slowly lose my mind. My goal is to arrange visits with all the other new moms I know from childbirth class and elsewhere, as well as with the few awesome friends who are stay-at-home parents of older kids. I have pants, a bra, and a baby carrier. We can do it!

On Breastfeeding

I was lucky to have a book on breastfeeding on loan from the midwives when J happened to be born, and it was awfully handy as a reference during those first few difficult days. My midwives are very well informed on lactation, and the hospital where J was born is “baby friendly”, meaning all the nurses have basic training on feeding babies.

It took till the fourth day after J’s birth for my milk to really come in, and he was pretty dehydrated and down 9.5% of his body weight at that time. He ate pretty much continuously for about 36 hours, and was obviously getting more and more dehydrated, as his wet diapers were increasingly pitiful. I was pretty much convinced he wasn’t getting anything at all and was pretty worried. Z thought I was insane. J finally spat up some colostrum which made me very happy; if he spat something up that meant he was eating something! And then my milk showed up and everything got so much better – immediately, and over the next days.

If we hadn’t had such great information and caregivers, the first few days would have been much harder.  Even though my milk showed up a little later than average, I think our experience was about as stressful as average, because J was a pretty skilled and enthusiastic eater from day 1 and lots of babies aren’t. Thank goodness my kid loves to eat.

J asleep in his favourite spot in the whole world - draped over my boob and using it as a pillow.

We still have ongoing challenges of supply and demand, which I might get into another day (stay tuned for a fascinating potential post about green poop and sleeping on towels) but things are so much better. J is thriving, and I benefit from the inspiration of friends with older babies who breastfeed them effortlessly, often while multitasking. One day, I hope to be able to feed J in the carrier while also doing laundry. But for now, I’m getting to watch a lot of TV, and J is getting nice and plump, and my boobs don’t hurt (much anymore) so all is well.

So come all ye pregnant ladies: take out a book on breastfeeding from the library, read some stuff online, or talk to someone about their experience.  There was about 10 minutes about breastfeeding in my prenatal class, which is not nearly enough. Also, get a spill-proof cup with a built-in straw so you can drink water with one or no hands while nursing a little tiny baby. And maybe some trail mix which you can eat with one or no hands…

That part where you first learn to feed the baby is really hard! Then it gets easier.