COPING WITH THE END OF MATERNITY LEAVE

Happy New Year!

I hope you all enjoyed a joyous holiday season filled with family, friends, lots of laughter, good food, and too much wine.

Many people create goals or resolutions at the start of each year.  I’ve never really been one to get into making new year resolutions so unlike most bloggers, I don’t have any resolutions to share.  However, I do have dreams and aspirations for this little blog of mine [I’m still here too] and one of those ideas is to inspire others in any way that I can.  Whether it be through fashion, home décor, or sharing my experience as a new mama, I hope to connect with a community of like-minded creatives and spread a little more positivity throughout the world.  

One of my favorite topics to talk about as of late is how life has changed (for the better!) as a new mama.  One topic that has been on my heart for the last couple of weeks is maternity leave.  For those of you unfamiliar, I have been working for the past five years at a local non-profit that provides services to individuals with autism.  I oversee the marketing, which in non-profit language translates into all the traditional marketing, social media, graphic design, and public relations.  I love the work I do and the mission of the organization.

That being said, I also love being a mama!  I’m due to return to work next week and I’m completely devastated about having to leave my baby girl. In all honesty I’ve really been struggling with having to leave L (if anyone even asks me about my leave I tend to burst into tears).  Although I’ve been fortunate enough to have 12 full weeks off, I feel very strongly that the maternity leave in our country is completely unrealistic.  Leaving a newborn after just three months is far too early.   A baby changes SO fast and it’s so unfair that a mother (and father) must return to work so quickly and miss out on so many developmental changes.  I fully advocate for at least one year of maternity leave for all mothers in order to be able to care for and bond with their baby.

Unfortunately, we don’t have the option for me to be a stay at home mom at this stage in our life.  The past few weeks, and this week in particular, I’m having to really find ways to be at peace with going back to work.  I’m sure other new mamas have similar feelings about returning to work after spending so many precious moments with their babies, so I’ve compiled a few ways in which I’m coping in the hopes that other new mamas will find ways to feel a little more at peace about having to return to work.

Support System – Having a strong support system has been a game changer for me.  I am one that has always worn my feelings on my sleeve and it helps me so much to be able to talk about and voice my insecurities, worries, and fears.  I’m so blessed to have such an understanding, patient, and loving husband.  He is my rock and if it weren’t for him, I’d be a complete hot mess. [I rocked a Dad bod before being a dad, now I’m a real hunk]  It also helps that our families live in the same city as us and have been tremendously helpful these past few months.  A few family members will even be helping us out and watching L, and that makes a huge difference in putting my mind at ease!

Yoga – I’ve been practicing yoga for almost three years now.  I started yoga as a way to harness my anxiety and it has become a way of life.  The mind, body, and spiritual balance is just incredible and I’m grateful for each time I step onto my mat.  I was able to continue my practice into the third trimester of my pregnancy.  However, it did become increasingly difficult towards the end of pregnancy and it’s taken nine weeks postpartum to finally get back on the mat.  I’m making a point to do at least a twenty-minute practice each morning to help center myself and ease my anxiety of returning to work.   So far it’s helping and enabling me to think a little more clearly and positively. 

Something New – Now this may sound superficial, but one of the ways that is helping me to get back to work is knowing that I have a new outfit and new handbag for the first day.  I know this sounds so silly, but having something to look forward to on a day that I know is going to be insanely difficult actually helps spur some excitement.  I also printed out a bunch of pictures of L that I’m bringing to the office to hang up all around my desk.  It’s the little things that count here people.

Being Present Now – The last way in which I’m trying not to let my anxieties and worry get the best of me is by being present now.  With all the social media and distractions nowadays it’s increasingly difficult for people to be present in their own lives. I’m making a point to get off my phone and completely focus on her when she’s awake and ready to play or cuddle.  (She’s of course napping as I write this).  I’m committed to enjoying every.single.moment with my sweet L.   By being completely present, I can put my mind at ease that I’ve done everything humanely possible to make the best of this next week and enjoy all the baby cuddles, smiles, and giggles. 

I would love to hear suggestions from all you mamas (and dads!) about how you have transitioned back into work after being on maternity leave.  Hopefully some of the ways in which I am coping will inspire some of you and make the transition just a little bit easier.

As always, thanks for stopping by A Dash of Solt!

Slainte,

Shannon [and Rob too!]

p.s. These pictures were taken at Maumee Bay State Park – a local gem of Northwest Ohio with access to Erie Beach (one of my favorite places to take pictures and get my water fix!)

SHOP THE LOOK

J.CREW FACTORY JEANS | J.CREW FACTORY VEST | PINK PINEAPPLE SHOP POM POM HAT | TARGET STRIPED TURTLENECK | GAP GRAY SWEATER | HUNTER BOOTS | SCOTTISH SCARF (SCOTLAND)

LIFE WITH A NEWBORN

“A baby will make love stronger, days shorter, nights longer, bankroll smaller, home happier, clothes shabbier, the past forgotten, and the future worth living for.” – Anonymous

Words that were never more true. So many emotions have emerged these past few weeks as we have welcomed our sweet little bairn (Scottish word for baby for those that are not familiar – I’ve been watching too much Outlander) into this world.  We have experienced fatigue like we never have before.  We have felt immeasurable joy and pride in seeing mini versions of ourselves.  We have experienced anxiety and despair while trying to calm a screaming baby.  But most of all, we have felt love so great it brings us to tears.  

Obviously when you bring a new human into the world, many things change.  We have had to completely adapt to a new way of life (which we were anticipating, but it doesn’t make it any easier).  There are so many things we have learned over these past few weeks and we want to share our experience with others, in the hope it will bring other new parents some hope or comfort.  And hopefully this post will help anyone thinking about starting a family.

No Sleep.  – This one is obvious, but you really don’t understand what it means until it happens. It LITERALLY means NO SLEEP.  This has been by far the hardest adjustment for me. I’m an in bed by 9pm kind of girl who never pulled all-nighters and would beg my friends in college to leave the bars at midnight so I could go to bed.   I need at least nine hours of sleep to function.  Whelp, not anymore!  I’ve lost count of how many all-nighters we’ve pulled in the past seven weeks. 

The first week was by far the hardest.  No one tells you that babies aren’t born with a built in circadian rhythm (aka, they don’t know night from day and have to learn that).  That first week Miss L would not sleep at all at night, and definitely not in her bassinet.  The only place she would sleep was on mom and dad.  We would have to take 2-3 hour shifts holding her so the other could sleep.  It was really rough. 

But, everyone told us things would get easier, and it does.  Each week Miss L adds on a little more sleep in between feedings.  We are now up to 4.5 hours between feedings which means I can get more than an hour or two of sleep at a time.  YAY!

Breastfeeding is really hard! – This was as big a shocker to me as the lack of sleep.  I knew I always wanted to breastfeed, but I had no idea how hard of a job it would be.  The first few weeks you are feeding that baby every two hours and it takes 30-45 minutes for each feeding.  That gives a breastfeeding mom just over an hour to try and eat or take a shower or sleep or do just about anything.

Breastfeeding is also really painful at first.  Your breasts are not used to being used like that, so you are constantly sore and in pain.  Around week 4 I finally felt comfortable again and at week seven I actually enjoy feeding my sweet babe.  I’ve come to realize what a blessing this special time is with her and I love the bonding that happens between us.

(p.s.Breastfeeding makes you extremely thirsty! I recommend all mamas who are going to breastfeed to have a glass of water next to you at all times!)

Baby is just as scared as the parents. – Realizing that being born into this world was just as shocking for L as it was for us really helped to center us when she was upset.  Many people don’t realize that for a baby, this is a whole new world, filled with unfamiliar sounds, smells, and faces. It’s a shock to their system (remember they’ve been comfortably cocooned for nine months) and it takes them awhile to become adjusted.  The first couple of weeks when she would cry,I would always try and remember that she was just as scared as me and that definitely helped me to cope better and comfort her better.  My mom sent me this piece a day or two after she was born and I still cry so hard when I read it.  It’s so painfully beautiful, but it has helped SO much when trying to comfort L.  

Set a routine earlier than later. – Setting a routine for L is something we JUST started doing.  I am reading the book Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg and one of the ideas that has really stuck with me is putting baby on a flexible schedule as soon as possible.  Tracy calls it the EASY method – Eat, Activity, Sleep, You (time for Mom). Babies need to be taught what is expected of them and they like a structured schedule.  When I started implementing this idea about a week or two ago, I saw a huge change in how much more content baby (and mom!) have become.   That being said, I’m also a huge advocate for figuring out what works for you and your family.  There are so many books, ideas, and opinions coming at you from every direction and it’s really important to pause, listen to your baby, and implement things that work for your lifestyle.

Two products we have loved. – I thought it would be fun to share some of the baby items that we have come to love and use on a regular basis.  The first item I highly recommend is the Boppy pillow.  We have two of them (one for the nursery and one for downstairs).  We use our pillows every single day (hubby even naps with them!).  They make breastfeeding so much more comfortable, plus as baby grows you can use them to support their back when they begin to sit up on their own.

Another product we use daily is our rock n’ play seat/sleeper.  L LOVES this seat.  It has a vibrating function, as well as the ability to rock.  I’m convinced she gets some of her best sleep in this seat. Plus, it folds up super easy and so traveling with it is a breeze.

We could talk all day about our experience the past few weeks, but we don’t want this post to be too long.  Hopefully what we have shared will help other new parents or expecting parents.  At the end of the day, having a baby is the most challenging but the most rewarding thing you will ever do.  We can’t imagine life without our sweet L and cherish each day with her.  She is such a blessing and a gift and we are so excited to embark on this new adventure with her.

Slainte,

Shannon

p.s. You can shop my sweater by checking out this post and you can find the nursery details here