Everything gets better.
My first month of maternity leave was a blur: I was exhausted and blissful and terrified. The second month of maternity leave began with a hurricane and ended with the realization that I’m just a few weeks, maternity leave would end. I spent much of my third month preparing myself to go back to work. I began pumping like a crazy woman and got 150 ounces of milk frozen.
My first day back, I cried twice before 9am, once during pumping, and then again after work when I realized I had to pump before leaving because oh-my-goodness-engorgement.
I survived the first week, and went into the second week ready.
Except I wasn’t. I cried more than the first week, hated all the moments, and couldn’t figure out what had gone wrong. I barely survived, and only because everyone else held me together.
I called a friend on my way home one day, depressed and unsure that I could make my way back, when she said something brilliant.
“You spend all this time preparing for the first day and the first week back. But you didn’t prepare to keep going back; this is how life is going to be for the next few months. You didn’t prepare for that.”
She was right.
It took me another day of working for this to settle in my mind. It took a conversation with the husband, a reminder from my mother, an off-hand comment from a friend at work…and then I realized something.
Yes, returning to work is hard. But no, this is not impossible (obviously). Yes, I was dealing with lots of emotion, but my life was (is) blessed and the support I had was never ending. Moreover, lots of people were dealing with lots of things, not just me. Me focusing on the problems and misery would just leave me in misery.
I had to let things go, the small details that my mind latches on to and instead focus on the big picture. My why.
Do you know your why? Why you can sleep 3 (or zero) hours, why you travel over an hour each day to be talked back to or down to by tiny humans who can’t even multiply?
Here’s my why:
I want my family to be safe, to feel loved, and to be comfortable. I want my daughter to not have to choose between science camp or swimming with dolphins. I want our lives to be filled with experiences, vacations, and events that we talk about for years to come.
So I decided to see each day with this why coloring my view. Instead of thinking I only slept three hours, I would focus on being grateful I slept at least three hours. (Grateful happens after coffee, though – I need to be awake first.)
The rest of my week was so much better because of it. I like to think that I was kinder to those around me, a better wife, mother, and friend.
Knowing the why is important. It’s what made my parents such good parents, and I hope I can do as they did.