Returning to Work Soon After Giving Birth

Returning to work soon after the birth of your baby may be one of the hardest things you will ever have to do. Many women end up going back to work much sooner than they had anticipated simply because they have a boss or co-workers who are calling them constantly with questions, causing the new mom to feel torn between work and the new baby.

From my own experience, my baby was born on Tuesday morning, we came home on Thursday afternoon, and Friday morning my boss called asking "When will you be back to work?" Apparently he had been present in body only the many times we discussed maternity leave. In any case after several calls like that, I found myself handing over my newborn to a woman who, in truth, I barely knew, and heading to work, two weeks postpartum, sobbing at least half of the way. We knew I would return to work-our economic circumstances did not make being a stay-at-home mom even a remote possibility. We just didn't know it would be so soon.

Guilt and Anxiety

I remember feeling intense guilt as I walked away from my baby. Sure I had checked out the caretaker's references and talked to mothers whose children had been with her, yet in our uncertain world, really, how much do we know about anybody? I was beset by anxiety-had I packed everything in the diaper bag my tiny squalling baby would need for an entire day? The anxiety spilled over into the work realm as I grew near. Would I even remember how to do my job (that I had been doing for nearly a decade!) I felt like nothing more than a quivering lump of emotions as I walked in the door.

Acknowledge the Feelings

I would like to say that it all fell right into place, but in truth, it took a while to learn how to split myself between the worlds of motherhood and work. Like most mothers I was severely sleep deprived, but trying my best to appear perfectly "normal" at work. Looking back, I believe it would have been much easier for me-and probably for thousands of other mothers who must return to work soon after giving birth-to acknowledge the feelings that are flooding through your mind and body and be as honest as possible with those around you about how you feel. Don't repeatedly smile and say you are "fine" when you haven't slept in what seems like weeks. Further, learn to say "no," when appropriate--as I should have said to my own boss!

Ask for Help

Don't try to be supermom/superwoman/super wife and super worker all rolled into one package. Ask for help and accept any help offered with gratitude. Check your list, and reassure yourself that every detail of your baby's care has been properly worked out and that you have done everything humanly possible to ensure your baby's wellbeing. Your baby will never know-or care-that you were the "perfect" mother, but he or she will know how very much he is loved.

Plan Your Weekends

When you are at work, really be at work, but when it is 5:00 on Friday, do your best to forget that you work anywhere. Plan weekends that are fun and relaxing with your spouse and your baby. Plan evenings which include the baby, and take this time to bond as a family. Cherish this uninterrupted time together. Try not to worry about whether the house is clean, and focus on the baby and on your spouse. If you have a family member you trust implicitly to babysit, once the baby is down for the night, have a date with your spouse. Taking the time to stay connected with your loved ones can make it much easier to return to work when Monday rolls around.

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