Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Adulting after Baby

As I mentioned in my pumping post, I feel completely unqualified to give advice on motherhood, because I've been doing it for just a few months.  But I'm more than willing to share what I've been going through as I've transitioned back to work, navigated motherhood, and more!  #adulting #momlife

I put down a deposit at a daycare center near our apartment when I was 15 weeks pregnant; I hadn't even told my boss yet!  Where we live, if you don't act quickly, you get waitlisted and sometimes have to move from one center to another.  Ever the planner, I scheduled multiple daycare tours the same day that I had an OB/GYN appointment in the middle of the day, and I took a day off work so I wouldn't feel rushed or guilty about stepping away.

What did I look for in a daycare?  Honestly, I just went with my gut, and I only toured places where my coworkers have enrolled their own kids.  Most spots in our area are priced similarly.  I looked for happy babies, cleanliness, convenience to our home, and overall feeling.  I instantly fell in love with our daycare; I actually got a little teary-eyed in one of the infant rooms because it looked so sweet, and that's the same room Kenny is in today!

Nannies, family, and a stay-at-home parent are all options for childcare when one parent works.  But since we're a dual-working household with no family in-state, daycare or a nanny were our options.  I am so pleased with our daycare, as I can see that Kenny is cared for, stimulated, and learning... in just a few weeks we could see his development in positive ways!

Need more toys...

We don't live near family, so having them around for childcare is not an option.  There are apps and websites you can subscribe to in order to find a babysitter, but for me it was super easy... word of mouth!  My coworker gave me the contact info for FOUR of her babysitters, and I was able to look them up on Facebook because they were her friends there.  Having a bona fide recommendation and being able to put a face to a name really helped.  I wanted to attend my DAR meeting on an evening that Dan was at a work event, so I hired a babysitter for three hours.  She was wonderful, and she had no issues getting Kenny down to sleep.  If she had questions, she texted me.

While we've only used a babysitter once so far, just knowing it's an option gives us a feeling of independence and levity.  It costs a pretty penny, but sometimes it's worth calling for help!

Travel without Baby
I went on my first overnight trip for work, and it was smooth sailing!  I gave Dan a couple of weeks advance notice, so he could adjust his work schedule to handle both daycare dropoff and pickup.  Kenny was great, and they seemed to enjoy some quality bonding time!  Dan even sent a photo of them twinning in matching shirts.  I FaceTimed with them before Kenny's bedtime, and Dan made sure to send me plenty of pictures.  Our daycare also sends photos throughout the day, so honestly I didn't go more than a couple of hours without seeing or hearing my sweet baby.

While I was away, I didn't fret or cry... I let myself be me.  I saw old friends, took a hot shower, watched HGTV, and slept like a baby in a king-sized hotel bed.  I took my time getting ready and walked around.  Recharging my batteries like that was perfect, and when I got home, my happy guys were there to greet me.

Picture sent during my work overnight trip

Road Trip with Baby
We had a smooth first road trip with Kenny, 4.5 hours each way.  We chose to depart around Kenny's bedtime, putting him in PJs and feeding him before we hit the road.  He slept the entire way, even when we stopped once for a bathroom break, then slept the rest of the night once we arrived.  My parents already had a pack 'n' play at their house ready for him.  They also had toys and an activity mat (we'd received a second one as a gift) ready to go.  Mom has also picked up items at garage sales, like storage drawers for toys and a booster, so we have less to haul!

On both drives, one of us sat in the backseat in case Kenny woke up.  We had toys and other things ready for him, and on the return trip (which was in the daytime) we also had a bottle prepped so we could feed him while he was buckled in his seat.  We chose to leave when we saw Kenny getting sleepy after eating, and it worked; he woke up about 45 minutes from home.  So we stopped and fed him, and I kept him entertained.  It was smooth sailing, though I know it might be different once he is older and awake more!

Waking up to see Mommy

I'm working on friendship.  I don't get to go to all of the happy hours and things I used to!  Mostly, text messages have been the best.  I tell my friends, leave me a message and I promise I'll text back, even if it's at 4am.  And that has sustained me thus far.  I do see my friends at work and DAR events, and even on maternity leave I'd tote Kenny along and meet for lunches.  I just can't do things at the drop of a hat anymore, and I've had to come to accept that.

I think that Dan and I talk more now than ever, because sharing childcare responsibilities requires it!  I love that I don't have to ask him to do things.  If I'm playing with Kenny, he'll wash bottles for the next day.  If he's taking out the trash, he always checks the diaper pail.  We don't really have assignments for who does what, but it works... we ask one another what needs to get done, what Kenny needs for daycare the next day, whether his laundry needs done.  And since Kenny goes to sleep around 7-8pm, we can usually manage to stay awake at least an hour to talk to one another about our day or just stare at our adorable baby.

We try to do little things for one another.  Dan made sure my first Mother's Day was sweet.  And when I had a business lunch near Dan's work, I popped in and sat with him while he ate his lunch.  It was like 10 minutes, but it was 1-on-1 time and a nice surprise for him.

We also take advantage of our monthly visits with my parents, either when they come to us or when we go to them!  They always push us out the door for a date night, which is usually a nice sit-down dinner and a drink.  We've managed to have a date night once a month ever since Kenny was born, and it's something we intend to continue!  I used to worry about our marital happiness when it came to having a baby, because honestly children aren't always great for marriage (read the statistics!).  But we're really happy right now, and that makes it all easier.

This photo is unrelated to my content.  It's extraneous.

The thing that has helped the most in our daily routine?  Our daycare opens at 6:30am, which is about the time that Dan leaves home for work.  Initially I hesitated to have Dan drop Kenny off, because if I did it, Kenny would have an extra 60-90 minutes at home with me before my commute.  But then I realized, if Dan drops Kenny off, I have time in the morning to make myself breakfast, clean the house, get ready, even work out (once I get back on that horse).  My coworker, mother of four boys, told me, "Don't feel guilty about not getting that extra hour with him; all he was going to do was sit in a bouncer watching you get ready in the morning!"  And she's right.  Guilt absolved!

By having Dan drop Kenny off, and me picking him up, it not only allows us both a chance to interact with his daycare providers, but a chance for me to take care of myself and our home so there isn't as much to do in the evening.  I don't feel like a hot mess at work, and I have more energy for Kenny when I get him at the end of the day, because I've already done dishes, vacuumed, or whatever.  I can also really take my time getting Kenny ready in the morning while Dan gets ready, because I'm relaxed in my pajamas and focused solely on him.

I honestly didn't have very much trouble taking Kenny to daycare, leaving him with a sitter, even going away for an overnight.  I didn't cry, but I did miss him.  The hardest part about going back to work was getting used to staring at a computer screen all day and feeling tired after using my brain all day!  I felt like I got a personal boost once I had help with Kenny's childcare, because suddenly I had more freedom to grab lunch, go shopping, run errands, cook, clean, etc. in my spare moments.  It also makes me feel more motivated to do things with him on the weekends.  I do think it helped that I put Kenny in daycare on a Monday, but started work on that Thursday.  It gave me a few days to pick him up early if I wanted/get prepared for work.  It also meant I only had to survive two days in the office before a weekend break.  I highly recommend it!

Final Thoughts
My sister called me the other day, simply to tell me she was proud of me for the mother I've become.  I think she really expected me to be full-on obsessive and rigid as a parent, because I've always been such a planned and calculated person.  But she said she can tell Kenny is thriving, and that we're doing well with him.  It felt like the best thing I could have heard at that moment in time.  I know that babies can internalize how we are feeling, and even sense when we enter the room.  And I want positive energy only for Kenny, because he's going to battle sickness, teething, growth spurts, and more.  Adulting is hard, and parenting makes it harder.  But we're finding our groove and keeping on!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Back to Work: Pumping after Maternity Leave

I have been back to work (with Kenny in daycare) for nearly a month now, which is hard to believe!  Since I've had a few people ask me about pumping as a working mother, I figured it merited a blog post.  Caveat: I'm a first-time Mom who feels completely unqualified to offer advice to anyone on motherhood, but I am willing to share what has worked for me!

I'm very much of the attitude that a fed, healthy baby is the most important thing, so I keep formula samples that we get in the mail just in case.  We used two bottles' worth while I was hospitalized for preeclampsia, but other than that Kenny has been exclusively breastfed.  My original goal was nursing for three months, with a hopeful goal of six months.

Before Kenny was born, I ordered a free breastpump via my health insurance.  I chose the Spectra S2, a closed system pump, based on reviews and recommendations.  During maternity leave, I would mostly use a silicone hand pump on my nightstand to relieve engorgement.  Any milk that I saved, we'd use in an occasional bottle for Kenny when we were out and about.  We figured it was good practice for him.  As work began to approach, I would try to do a morning and evening pumping session to build up a stash for daycare ahead of going back to work.

My pumps, my pumps my pumps my pumps... check it out

Before I went back to work, my Mom and I helped Kenny "rehearse" for daycare by bottle feeding during the day for four days.  This accomplished two goals: training him to accept the bottle repeatedly and determining how much he eats.  The tough part of nursing on demand means you aren't on a consistent schedule or counting ounces like they do at daycare.  But we were able to estimate what I needed to pump and have in each bottle based on those few days!

Now that I've been back at work for a few weeks, I'm averaging 3-4 pumping sessions during the work day.  Sometimes my first session is at home before I leave.  I find I really need to maximize that first session, because my supply is best in the morning.

I also bought a barely used Spectra S1 rechargeable pump via Facebook Marketplace, because keeping one pump at work and one at home for home/travel minimizes the amount of stuff I have to haul on my commute.  Since Spectras are closed system, I feel confident that there isn't a risk of contamination after sterilizing the parts, but you should be careful when purchasing used pumps.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Checking In

You guys, there's so much I could write, but we all know I've sucked at keeping up this blog for the past few months as I've been throwing myself headfirst into motherhood and getting back to my corporate gig.  Yikes, it's been a while...  this space used to be my escape and release in a way, a creative outlet.  Now, I don't get here as often because it's usually easier to wax philosophical on Instagram while I'm pumping...

I love my tiny human.  Kenny is a good baby, and we're in a blissful period where we're sleeping a bit more and enjoying lots of smiles and giggles.  It seems like every time we get something figured out, it changes; babies are 100% a moving target!  But it's fulfilling, and it sort of feels like he's been with us forever.

I've definitely had to say no to more things...  after-work fun, local influencer events, blog opportunities, etc.  I'm exhausted each and every day!  But I did manage to page at our DAR state conference by having Mom stay at the hotel with the baby.  We've also survived a few weeks of daycare, an evening with a non-family babysitter, an overnight work trip away, a week of solo parenting, and a road trip.  Whew!  That's a lot for a little guy who's only been out here breathing oxygen for a few months.  So I think that what's happening in non-essential stuff is eliminated from the calendar, and the stuff I really want and prioritize is making the cut.  That's not a bad place to be.

I'm also "graduating" from regular therapy!  I started using Talkspace over a year ago, because I was stressed out and struggling.  Dan and I were having conflicts about trying to conceive (it can put a lot of strain on a marriage!), I was overweight and overeating, I was navigating work and personal relationships, and I needed an objective ear that wasn't my friends.  Having a therapist in my phone to text or video chat with helped so much.  I went from a monthly video chat and 5x weekly texts to just texts, then to a few times a week, then to once a week texts.  Now, I don't feel like I need the sessions anymore, and my therapist supports me stepping back until I know I need help again.  I made sure I had support from that point, through pregnancy nerves, to those initial baby blues, to my transition back to work, and I couldn't be prouder or happier that I feel so much better now than I have in so long!

I've made sure to do some things for myself since Kenny was born.  I'm still active in the DAR, which I love!  I've gone to Happy Hours (just not 2-3 a week like the old days).  I've gone to Target after the baby is asleep to walk around.  I've worked on my scrapbooks and photo books.  And now I'm taking some time to reconnect with this blog, as I've got a bunch of stuff on my mind that people might find useful or interesting to read!

I have a few posts I'm thinking through, including my latest Stitch Fix recap, my experience going back to work (and pumping!), favorite baby things, and Kenny's 100 Days party/my first Mother's Day!  Hopefully I'll get around to those now that I'm tackling my to-do list to an extent.  But the desire to write has to be > the desire to sleep, and I have to have showered.  Because sometimes you just have to go into survival mode, and put yourself back together when you can.

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