In the last week of my maternity leave, I was on a New York City subway with MJ securely fastened in his second hand baby Bjorn. I had a quick errand to run and I decided to bring him along with me. I was wearing old maternity black pants (pulled up so high, I could have used it as a bra), a nursing black tank top (with one snap unhooked and a big spit up stain down the front), a black cardigan (also with spit up on it), no make-up, bags under my eyes and my hair in a very half-hearted disheveled bun. My son, although adorable, was dead asleep, snoring, his mouth gaping open and drool coming out of the corner.
Sitting across from me on the train was another woman who was carrying her baby in an intricate origami-like cloth that was no doubt made from the silk of more than a million wild spiders. Her outfit was impeccable, her make-up was flawless, her hair was in a well carefully put together braid and she was even wearing heels. Her daughter had a huge bright pink bow in her hair and an even bigger smile on her face. They both flirted with all the passengers on the subway and I could clearly tell was dazzling even the most hardened New Yorkers with their sheer fabulousnesses. If this had been a “Cutest Mommy and Baby Contest on the F Train”, we definitely would have lost. C’est la vie…
This little snapshot on the subway basically describes the majority of my maternity leave. MJ and I hanging out together, bonding, trying to balance it all and not doing pretty much anything as perfectly as we would have liked. Ultimately though, we got to our destination and we had our own kind of fun (even if we weren’t the most attractive looking that particular day).
Also, thanks to breastfeeding, the personalities of my boobs emerged while I was on leave. My left one is always full, cooperative and ready to go. My right is a little bitch who is often difficult and temperamental. Since MJ started out in the NICU, they gave him a pacifier early on, then started him with a bottle and THEN, let me breast feed (which is opposite of how the recommend) so he is very much nipple confused. He does show mild interest in my breasts but only to be topped off or for a quick snack. When he really wants to eat, he clearly prefers the bottle. I know this because whenever I attempt to breastfeed when he’s starving, he gives me a look like, “Lady… put your breast away. I’m in no mood to work that hard.” If and when I push the issue, he actually starts to cry and the prospect of my chest. I should mention that I had an ex-boyfriend do something similar in college (still not sure why) but when it’s your son who gets upset at having to deal with your boobs, it’s really not a good feeling. So, the pump has become a constant companion these days.
And speaking of pumping, I’d like to share a quick anecdote with you: My mother-in-law visited recently and while I was in the middle of pumping (which is both private and desperately unattractive), my mother-in-law came into my bedroom without knocking and began talking to me about what she was planning to wear that day. To her credit, she did thank me near the end of the conversation for giving her such a beautiful grandchild but this was a moment I would have preferred while NOT expressing milk from my tits.
As for MJ in general, he’s excellent. He’s a very smiley baby and I adore that one of his favorite things to do is to listen to me talk. True – he’s a captive audience but I swear – he seems genuinely interested. We’ll do a repertoire of the bouncy seat, the swing, laying in the crib and watching the mobile but usually by the afternoon, the only thing that entertains him is sitting with me and having me talk to him about one thing or another. He’ll sit and look at me riveted as I talk about even the most boring subjects. Two weeks ago, I was doing my laundry and turned the matching of socks into a romantic comedy about two cotton socks finding each other and falling in love. He stared at me as if I were brilliant story teller. If only I could get his father to do this…
Overall, the three months I had off went quickly and in retrospect, there is still so much I wish I could have done better but it goes quick, it’s intense and let’s face it, I’ve never had a baby before so what the hell did I know? When I think back to my “two week waits” after all of my in vitro’s, I think the third one was the first time I actually handled it the way I wanted to. The first two times, I either stayed home too much that I drove myself crazy or I didn’t stay home enough that I consequently made everyone around me crazy. I supposed this means that I have to take maternity leave three times in order to finally “get it right”. Due to my fertility issues though, that’s not going to happen. Well, unless they let me take it three times for one kid. Oh yeah. My oh-so-understanding boss would love that.
Even with the best advice though, none of it prepares you for the first few months. The only thing I would say is plan on doing NOTHING but being with your baby, accept that your home will remain messy for quite some time, nap whenever you get a chance, email everyone and tell them that if they don’t hear from you, not to take it personally (you would not believe the amount of phone calls, texts, emails I received, all well-intentioned but asking me why they haven’t heard from me) and enjoy the little moments. The thing to know is that like most things in life, motherhood is on the job training.
Today marks my second week back at work and it’s not as bad as I thought. Well, let me amend that: Working in and of itself isn’t that bad. My job however is entirely another matter. On my first day back, my boss and I had a meeting where he basically asked me if I felt I was still able to handle my job now that I have a newborn at home. His point was that he needs someone with flexibility and now that I have to be home by a certain time (and frankly, WANT to be home by a certain time), I wasn’t as flexible. The whole tone of the conversation was like, “I hear you have a uterus and something came out of it. Can you still function as a rational, productive human?” I resisted the urge to tell him, “I’ve had a baby. Not a head trauma.”
Since this conversation, I’m working as I always did and although he treats me like I’m radioactive, I feel confident he’ll get over it. The irony is that going through fertility treatments and working was WAY harder than being a new mom and working. Of course I miss my son and wish I had the financial option to stay home, but we hired a wonderful nanny that I trust (I must tell you how I met her in an upcoming post) and in the end, I don’t have a choice. I have to be here working as I can’t afford not to be. When I was going through fertility treatments however, my body was enduring injections, hormone mood swings and I was often depressed or running to a doctor’s appointment to get follicle counts. I got my job done and done well, but it was a personal struggle for me. Really… my boss doesn’t seem to get that he’s actually getting the best version of me now that I’m a mom as opposed to when I was trying to become a mom. Any which way, he and I have GOT to get past this and work together successfully. We have just had way too many conversations about my womb in the past year. Enough is enough.
Not that long ago, I was laying in bed with MJ. I was holding him, looking at him and we were smiling at each other. I realized that in the same spot I was hanging out with my sweet baby, I had often cried or spent entire weekends sulking over not being able to get pregnant. It means more than I could ever possibly put into words that I’m able to exorcise those negativity memories and replace them with happy, positive ones that include my son. The fact that I have to go back to work, or that I often have spit up on my clothes, or that my mother-in-law likes to chat with me while I’m in compromising positions, or that my right breast is on strike, or that my boss is a anxious about my “new mom status” really means nothing at the end of the day. It’s easy to keep the stupid stuff in perspective when you have a little bald guy at home who finds your stories about socks fascinating.
Lastly, I had mentioned something I’ve been working on called the, “Infertility Sponsor Program” in my last post. I was going to talk about it this week but since it has been a while since I wrote a “What The Hell Is Jay Doing Now” post, I thought I’d put it off for another week. So, please check back as I could use your help and feedback!