People, what we’re shown in tabloids and magazines is BS. The latest new moms look flawless 2 to 4 weeks after giving birth. They are svelte and styling, from celebrities like Eva Mendes and Erin McNaught to business powerhouses like Ivanka Trump and Marissa Mayer. These women look sassy and stride confidently so soon, postpartum. I don’t know how they do it, but most likely, its not alone.
I’m shocked that anyone looks completely fabulous and does everything just like before, a few weeks out of the gate. I have the dream situation for any new mother who has to work. Both my husband and I work remotely. We can keep our daughter, Squeaky Box ,SB for short, with us at home instead of finding day care,or hiring help. Despite our ideal setup, working isn’t all that easy. For example, my husband cannot multitask. Either he works, or he plays with SB. Though studies show that women are better multitaskers than men, I take one look to my baby and my brain turns into goo, thanks to prolactin and oxytocin! These are powerful hormones that make breastfeeding possible, but they also give my brain a cookie every time I look at my baby. My brain thinks, “it’s what baby wants when baby wants it.” So, between feeding, changing and ogling my baby, I’ve got to retrain my brain for the work that came so easily before.
I love work as much as any work-a-holic does. Up until my 2nd trimester, I happily worked 2 jobs: my full-time day job, and then as sous chef/front-of-house at our farm-to-table restaurant on nights and weekends. Though I left the restaurant business shortly after I became pregnant, I happily worked 10+ hour days, until the night my water broke.
As a woman who never really thought of having children, I was heartened by the tabloid stories and pictures of celebrities and business powerhouses. I liked these images of motherhood – looking perfect 2 or 3 weeks after delivery. A baby wasn’t slowing these power house women down!
When I found out I was pregnant, I waited a day to tell my husband. I had to get over the “oh shit, what do I do now,” moment. When I told him, he was thrilled at our new adventure together.
Fast forward one year from that day, and Squeaky is 4 months old. I understand why so many people thought I was insane when I said I would have a baby and carry on as I did before. I did not believe them before SB. Every night, I spend time to mapping out my work – a practice I haven’t needed to do since the start of my professional career over 10 yrs ago.
My company offered me 12 weeks maternity leave. I took 7 weeks, then returned to full duties. Truth be told, I was chomping at the bit to get back in the saddle. While on leave, I would check my email obsessively. I would call in and contribute as much as I could. However once back, it was strange. It was like my brain didn’t work. It was hard to find the right words. I used to have lists of people, facts and and conversations, at quick recall in my head. Now I have to write everything down or I can’t remember a thing. Though I believe in face to face interactions, I started turning off my video during conference calls. Instead of my usual professional demeanor, I now look like a new breastfeeding mom – pulled shirt, cloth sling carrier or molting hair pulled back messily by a headband – something is always askew.
In conclusion, I am not a sleek, back to work business woman. I work twice as hard to get tasks done while learning to navigate my new brain. I love it that Squeaky Box listens to my voice and smiles as I interview people and talk to my colleagues. She sits at her toy desk with little books or naps in her cloth sling. I hope she gets joy from being part of my day as I do with her being part of mine. If I sent her out to daycare or hired other help to come and watch her, I could get more done and look better doing it. But then, I know I would feel guilty that I was missing something.