As of this moment, I have 55 hours of maternity leave left. I return to work Monday night.
Sometimes, when I'm not sure where the time went, I look at my little girl and realize how much she's grown. Then I know exactly how I spent it -- the way I was supposed to, caring for her.
I thought I'd be more of a puddle by now, but surprisingly, I feel ready. Well, as ready as I can be, anyway. When I thought about work two months ago, my heart started beating up in my throat as I struggled not to let tears spill over and run down my cheeks.
I'm not completely sure what's changed, perhaps just my hormone levels, but I have a suspicion it has something to do with my outlook. Whenever I feel overwhelmed at the thought of leaving her, realizing that I won't be around for her nightly bath and tucking her into bed, I take a few deep breaths and concentrate on all of the positives.
The biggest plus is that I'm not leaving her in the arms of a stranger. I'm sure many working moms would love to be able to say that. With Jerry and I both on odd shifts, someone will always be home to care for her. I won't have to worry about needing extra time to pack a bag and drop her off at daycare, wondering what type of attention she'll be getting and whether or not she'll get sick.
That alone allows me to relax my shoulders a little. Sure, we'll both be extremely sleep-deprived, but I'm hoping to be able to accustom Allison to a routine afternoon nap so Jerry and I can pass out, as well.
Then there are all the other pluses like the fact that she's on a schedule now and has taken to bottle feeding without struggle. Not to mention I'll be getting out of the house on a regular basis and interacting with adults. My mind will certainly welcome taking a break from the alphabet song in exchange for more complex tasks.
I guess my only real concern is continuing to breastfeed. I worry whether I'll be able to pump enough at the office to sustain my milk supply. It seems like we've finally hit a rhythm, and now all of it is being upended again.
I guess it's a small hurtle if I really analyze it. Sure, I'll have to worry about what I'm wearing and if it's conducive to pumping, leaking all over my clothes, taking scheduled breaks, wondering if someone will walk in on me, and even hoping a coworker doesn't mistake my breastmilk for creamer in the office fridge.
Then there's the physical aspect of it. Sometimes I wonder if I'll be able to relax enough to foster my milk to flow. I've become pretty successful at pumping, but only when I'm completely engorged. Taking the initiative every three to four hours on my own when I'm away from Allison is a completely different responsibility. I have to hope I can pump enough to feed her for the next day.
But then I take a deep breath and realize it won't be the end of the world if I can't manage to continue breastfeeding. I feel an immense sense of accomplishment for being able to do it for this long. Plus, I have all of the supplies I need, a supportive workplace and a backup stock of milk in the freezer if I happen to have an off day.
I know the first week is going to be tough, but we'll get through it the same way we get through everything in this house -- by working together.
Besides, I already have a photo of Alli printed out and waiting in my purse to put on my desk. Frankly, that's more important for my first day back than air.
Well, that and knowing our phones are working.