What? Two posts in one day? Well, I’m feeling motivated and I have had a lot on my mind lately. This week I realized that I have been back at work for as long as I was out on maternity leave. I can’t believe how crazy fast that was! Slow down, time!
Fair warning…this is super honesty time. Realizing that I had been back at work for over four months already caused me to reflect on what my work life has been like post-baby. I’ll be honest, it has been way harder than I ever thought it would be. So much has changed. I look back to a year ago on how I viewed being a working mom, I thought it would be so easy, like getting another dog. I didn’t expect the emotional toll being away from my baby would be, I never thought I could miss another human being so much! And then I definitely didn’t realize how difficult keeping up with pumping breast milk at work would be. It doesn’t surprise me that so many mothers quit nursing their little ones when they go back to work. Even during my maternity leave I was kind of in denial about how stressful it would all be. I can’t imagine not making that sacrifice for my baby, though!
I still struggle with the transition of being a working mother every day, and the impact it has had on my career. I basically have an hour or so less time every day than I used to because I have to pump three times a day. And I am definitely not as career minded as I was before. If given the choice, I would go home early and spend time with my family any day. My priorities have changed, and its a struggle to come to terms with this! I did not anticipate that.
And then there was this. A couple months or so ago, it was announced that we (Pacific Fleet Band) would be going on a trip to be involved with Fleet Week in San Francisco during the first week of October. Every one was so excited, since we never get to travel anywhere besides the neighbor islands, and to an extent I was excited too. But I remembered how difficult of a time I had on my trip to Washington DC in May. And that was only three days! They were initially talking about being in San Francisco for ten days! I couldn’t help being super stressed about it. One, I had to build up my milk stash to last Oscar for that long. And two, I would have to deal with making sure I pumped at least every four hours for over a week. I was freaking out a little bit inside, honestly.
Well, you might be saying, isn’t there a Navy instruction or regulation that limits my traveling availability since I’m still nursing my baby? Well, yes there is. The official policy is that I don’t have to travel or go TAD/TDY for 12 months after baby is born. BUT, I kind of waived my right to those protections when I chose to have the Navy pay my way out to Washington, D.C. for the Navy Band audition. And I was warned and I agreed to it. Yup, I was at the mercy of my command, and there wasn’t much I could to about it.
In fact, I got so stressed out about the trip that it actually affected my milk supply. I was starting to have issues even keeping up with my baby’s daily milk intake, let alone building up a stash. I was increasingly worried that we would be forced to give him formula while I was gone, which in turn made me more stressed, which in turn decreased my supply even more. It was a vicious cycle. Oy.
Flash forward to this week. I was trying to be strong and willing to do what the band needed me to do, but I had expressed my concerns to a couple people just to make sure I would be good to go for the trip. Luckily, the leadership was also beginning to plan for my needs during the trip. What was making it even more tricky was the fact that we were going to be staying on a ship for that week, not a hotel. After a couple of days of back and forth discussions between me and senior leadership, the decision was finally made that I would stay home. I cannot tell you the sense of relief I felt at that moment when I was informed of this decision. It was like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders! In fact, I went upstairs to my pumping room and pumped more milk than I had the entire day within 10 minutes, haha! (Thats when I truly realized that my stress level had a direct impact on my milk supply)
It was not a decision that the leadership made lightly…we are taking a wind ensemble to Fleet Week, so I was very much needed. But the leadership made arrangements for a clarinet player to travel down from the Navy Band in Seattle (some of them were already coming down anyway) to take my place. I would still be needed for rehearsals, but I can deal with that!
I’ll be honest, I’m a little sad that I don’t get to go on the trip. And I’m sure I’ll feel a sense of envy of my coworkers while they’re away and I’m all alone at the band building. But any sadness that I’m feeling is overshadowed by the relief that came of not having to deal with everything that comes with being a nursing mom away from her baby.
I am incredibly thankful for the support that I have at work. I am so lucky! I read on the Internet about horror stories about the lack of support that some women get from their employers. But even with such great support, it doesn’t mean that being a working mom is easy. Some days are really hard. I have done my fair share of crying at work, especially on days where I don’t get much sleep, which has been more often than not lately. Heyoooo 8 month sleep regression!