When I got pregnant with James Michael, I had always planned on taking three months maternity leave and returning to work because, after all, I’ve always been able to “do it all” and adding a baby into life’s mix would just be one more component to harmoniously weave in, right?
While I was pregnant, I saved up a month’s worth of paid vacation (on top of the short-term disability benefit offered by my employer) to go toward my maternity leave, and also planned to max out my dependent care account so that I wouldn’t get taxed on much of the money I would spend on daycare.
I had everything worked out on paper and in my head a couple months before my due date. It was one more thing I could mark off my to-do list.
And yet, on Dec. 30, 2011, into the world enters James Michael. My world was turned upside down as my heart spilled over with intense feelings of love and protection for this little baby.
Week by week, as I was learning how to be a new mom, time slipped away and those three months of leave that seemed like they would be an eternity quickly passed, leaving me feeling unfulfilled and desperate for more time with my baby. It’s so hard to accurately describe, but it’s like this painful tugging at your heart that steals away your breath and leaves you feeling helpless.
That’s what they don’t tell you about becoming a mom.
I questioned returning to work at all, questioned the daycare I had chosen, questioned my effectiveness at being a good mom if my time was split with working, questioned if pumping at work would work for us, questioned how I could go from spending every minute with my child to leaving him for 10 hours.
It was hard, and many other supportive moms told me that it would be hard, but to hang in there, because it does get better. I’m not sure if “better” is the right word, but it became predictable. I focused on making the most of the short time I spent with James Michael on weeknights, and savored every minute on weekends when he was with me all the time.
Thinking ahead to my maternity leave with baby #2 brings back a flood a memories from my leave with James Michael. Good memories and hard memories. I’m not sure I can do it again. I’m not sure I can leave my new baby so soon.
Thankfully, this time I’ve got more options to choose from, so these next several months will be spent figuring out what I want to do and what I can do after this new arrival. I don’t have all the answers quite yet, but I do know that, once again, I will make the choice that is the best one for my little family.