Almost one year ago to the day I embarked on my second maternity leave. I had struggled through a difficult pregnancy, I was feeling apprehensive and excited at the same time about the soon to be newest member of our family. I was exhausted, I was nervous. I was so many things as I waited for my son’s arrival.
Fast forward one year, through many struggles, and today I feel many of the same emotions. My youngest started daycare today. I am exhausted, I’m nervous, I’m apprehensive, I’m excited. It’s funny how so much has changed and yet so little at the same time.
I want to write about the good times and hard times I’ve faced over the last year. As I write, I realize that one post will probably not be enough. The year has gone by in the blink of an eye and was filled with so many ups and downs. As the saying goes: The days were long, the year was so short.
Early and for most of the year, my biggest struggles have all been sleep related. Or, most specifically, lack of sleep related. When I think over the year, I can categorize all the hard times in periods when the baby was waking frequently or when I struggled to sleep between wake-ups. In some ways, my second baby slept better than my first. Early on, he was a fantastic sleeper. I think this lulled me into a false sense of security. The good nights were short lived. I hit a few very rocky periods around six weeks, four months and eight months. I remember them to be the worst, I was a walking zombie, I was not fun to be around, I struggled most moments with both my baby and my preschooler. Above all, the year will be categorized by fatigue, because my fatigue fueled everything else.
My struggle with fatigue extended to my inability to cope well with managing two young boys for many, many days. I remember crying lots, fearing that I was doing a terrible job, wondering if my oldest felt loved enough, wondering how I would ever manage both. I argued with my oldest, lost patience with him on countless occasions, generally felt like a schmuck because I was always so grouchy. As I found my way, I discovered little tricks that helped a bit. For example, we brought the sand box (sand is his passion) up onto our back deck. He spent hours playing in the sand, easily within my line of sight out the patio door while I nursed baby, folded laundry, prepared meals, did whatever countless menial tasks that filled my days. I felt relieved that he was content and that I wasn’t occupying his time with TV. It made up for the fact that I didn’t have the energy to get out and play outside for much of the summer. July was my worst month.
At the same time, I witnessed the blossoming of my their relationship with each other. From the moment my oldest met his younger brother I knew that part was going to be okay. He was clearly enchanted with his baby brother, he was always excited to see him. He hugged, him, kissed him, talked to him. I never had to worry about him resenting him. It magically just fell into place.
I took great joy over the year in just getting to know my youngest baby. We chose to keep the oldest in care three days a week. For us, this worked. For my boys, this worked. He was able to continue to play with his friends, stay busy when I couldn’t keep him busy, and keep on routine. It also ensured that I would have a place in care for both boys when I returned to work. On these days, I would walk endlessly with my little one. I can still feel the incredible sense of peace and joy I got from just walking for hours with him. While he slept all cozy, I’d listen to music, feel the sunshine on my face and enjoy an incredible comfort with my life. We travelled around together, shopped, met with friends, and enjoyed each other’s company. It’s that togetherness that I’ll miss most now with my return to work.
There were random weeks when everything just felt right. These were the moments when I felt like I was doing a reasonably good job of parenting. I would get out and enjoy doing things with my boys such as going to the park, to museums, out for lunch. Both would be in wonderful moods, easy to manage. I felt like I had conquered the world as I grew more comfortable going places with both. As the year went on, I grew more confident and joyful about my little family. We felt like a unit. It’s immensely satisfying to feel that kind of peace.
Today though, we move on. We start a new chapter. I’m sad, I can’t shake this crazy feeling that it is the end. It’s silly, because it’s really just the beginning of something new. I’m know that my baby’s life will be richer for all the new experiences he’s about to have. I know it will also be good to get back to reality, to find a routine that works for us.
I’d love to hear about your stories about going back to work. What did you do to make it easier? How did your children do? What would you change if you could go back and do it again?