As I sit here nursing

Dear sisters,

You probably all know this already, but wow, do I love maternity leave. It is so wonderful to have so much free time. Of course there are demands on my time but still, I have the freedom to order my days how I want, which is such a gift after years of working full time. Over the past few years I have changed jobs so much that I didn’t really get time off, and when I took it, I never took more than a week at a time. I guess I had time off between jobs but that was all consumed by the stress of moving. Now? I have 12 glorious weeks, with no move or new job or major trip planned, just a lovely newborn to care for! 8 weeks are gone already though, so I only have 4 left. I wanted to share a little of how this time has been going, and my thoughts on keeping my life feeling good and balanced once I return to full time work.

It has been great being on leave over the holidays. I did not have to squeeze in holiday shopping and baking after work or on weekends. I made lots of yummy treats this year and actually handed out goodie bags to friends, something I haven’t done in ages. I’d like to keep that Christmas tradition going. Feeding people is one of my love languages, I think. I made peppermint bark, rich rolled sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies, gingerbread and coconut macaroons this year. This was all thanks to my sweet baby who takes long naps, bless her!

This year's gingerbread cookies. I confess to being a control freak and frosting them all myself.
This year’s gingerbread cookies. I confess to being a control freak and frosting them all myself.

My days have been spent mostly at home, with a few outings here and there. I help Miriam get ready for school in the morning and then spend the morning nursing and holding Eve before her long afternoon nap. I have the nursing routine down pat now–I settle in the black chair with a burp cloth, my water bottle and my iPhone. She nurses and I do all the internet things. Sometimes I remind myself to put down my phone and just gaze at her lovely face, so focused on eating. I feel her smooth perfect skin and watch her little hands waving and grabbing at my shirt. She is usually a good eater but has fussy moments when she cries or the milk comes too fast or she needs to burp in the middle of a feeding. I am enjoying having a relatively uncomplicated breast feeding relationship this time around. With Miriam things did not go so smoothly, though that was mostly the first three months. I am so thankful to be able to breast feed and I am again amazed by how my body works so well to feed my baby. When she is done, she flops on my shoulder and falls asleep, full of warm milk, and I confess I sometimes smell her breath, just because it smells so sweet. This baby, she makes me so sappy.

My smiling snowflake baby
My smiling snowflake baby

I have enjoyed having time at home with my husband, although he is working from home so he stays pretty busy. Still, we get to have breakfast and lunch together, and chat on and off all day, and exclaim over new cute things the baby is doing. It helps me to know what a normal workday looks like for him. He will be watching Eve a few days a week when I return to work which is so wonderful.

Maternity leave has also given me so much time with Miriam. In a way I’m most grateful for this, because she and I have not always had the easiest time getting along. I am here when she gets off the bus and I get to spend entire days with her when school is on break. We have become so much closer, I think, because of all this good time spent together. Eve’s arrival has knit together our little family in such a wonderful way. I feel like it somehow centered us, if that makes sense. We have a new little person that we’re all in love with, and that makes us more in love with each other.

She and I went to see the Nutcracker together. This is her dancing in front of the Christmas tree after the show.
She and I went to see the Nutcracker together. This is her dancing in front of the Christmas tree after the show.

I am also making my peace with our funny little house as I am spending so much time in it. This house has its drawbacks but it has become home for us over the past year and a half. Instead of focusing on all the things I don’t like about it, I find myself more grateful for the basics that we do have here. I also enjoy having more time to keep up with all the cleaning and laundry that a family of 4 requires. That sounds crazy–I actually like having more time to clean?–but it’s true. When I work I have to squeeze all the cleaning in on evenings and weekends, when I want to be having fun. Now I can make the beds in the mornings, do laundry all day, do the dishes twice a day if needed, and keep things picked up regularly. It makes me happy to do these things.

Our little house this winter, with the wreath that Janna made us hanging from the flagpole holder!
Our little house this winter, with the wreath that Janna made us hanging from the flagpole holder!

All this leads me to musing on how I can keep these good things going once I go back to work and I spend 40 hours every week away from home, my family, my baby. I am worrying that I will be overwhelmed again, and grumpy, and that all my time at home will be spent cleaning and fretting about always being behind on something. I want to make time to continue doing what I love and I want to not be grumpy with my family. So I have a few ideas. I’m going to try to nurse Eve on my lunch breaks, thanks to daycare arrangements with my friend Heidi. I would love to take Eve to work with me one day a week, if that is approved. I want to keep reminding myself that cleaning and laundry are not as important as loving and being present for my family. I might make a schedule of cleaning/household stuff to keep me sane, and to help make it seem manageable instead of overwhelming. I want to keep baking and sharing food I made with people, because that makes me happy too. Maternity leave has helped me remember that there is always time to do what you love. Sure, I may wish that I only worked part time, but that’s not the job I have right now, and it will be okay. All shall be well. I have a good support system. I have a strong family. My postpartum recovery has been wonderful, and physically I feel ready to go when it’s time.

I can’t resist adding a few words here about my wish for increased maternity leave and support for working mothers. I am grateful for the 12 weeks of leave I got, but it could be so much better. This article was a breath of fresh air recently. Google is definitely a progressive company with deep pockets, so they can be on the forefront of such things. I am pondering ways that I can advocate for this on a national level, and I’m not sure where to start. I also enjoyed reading this article and thinking about ways we can support mothers here. It’s tempting to wring my hands and say, why can’t we have nice things here?, but that’s not helpful in the long run.

I’m off to hold my baby and spend some time with Miriam before the bedtime routine starts. Much love to you, sisters. I am thankful for this space we share together, and the opportunity to share our thoughts with each other.

Love,

Rachel

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4 thoughts on “As I sit here nursing

  1. Are your rich rolled sugar cookies ICING COOKIES?

    Your maternity leave/family of 4 togetherness sounds great! It *is* nice to clean the house (when I would get a break from grad school work, I would indulge in… going to the grocery store and cleaning.)

    I’ve been working on the creating a schedule during break to make going back to work stay sane, too. A website I found said to make a list of research goals and personal goals for the semester, so that you prioritize both your (own) work and yourself. Definitely, having semesters and breaks makes that easier to do (even if I’m never fully off-duty nights/weekends/breaks…) but, even this supposedly “flexible” job is really bad about supporting mothers: http://chronicle.com/article/The-Baby-Penalty/140813/ and https://chroniclevitae.com/news/570-the-no-baby-penalty . I’m glad you had a little time to just enjoy and love the smiley baby photos!

    1. Karen, maybe they are the same cookies? Is your mom’s recipe from the Joy of Cooking? These are crisp and buttery, not too sweet.
      There really is no ideal job to have as a mom, I think…each one has its pros and cons. Thanks for those links. Here’s to all of us just muddling along doing the best we can!

  2. I am so glad you are savoring these moments. Keep sniffing that lovely baby!
    And that smiling photo? It’s just making me grin & grin. AND it’s funny how much it reminds me of Krestia!
    It gives me chills to read how you write that Eve balances your family, especially as I sit pondering how a fourth being will fit into our current trio. It affirms my belief that babies are otherworld magic. And such a blessing.
    Love to each of you.

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