Back to Work

This last week was one of the hardest, most exhausting weeks of my life. After 3 months of maternity leave and 5 extra snow days, I had to go back to work. I knew it was going to be hard, but it is impossible to describe just how hard it actually was. If you are a mom and have gone through this, you know what I mean!

I was so lucky to have 3 wonderful months off of work for maternity leave. Even though it wasn’t the best decision for us financially, I knew I would not regret that extra time with my new baby and that it would be completely worth it. I am also so lucky to have both of Kinsie’s grandmas, and her Aunt Megan, available and willing to watch Kinsie during the week while I’m at work. The fact that she was with the people who love her as much as Ryan and I do was very comforting, and I knew my girl was in good hands.

To say that I was a little emotional is a huge understatement. I was a mess! On Monday morning, after getting myself ready for work, feeding Kinsie and gathering all of her things to spend the day with Grandma Bev, I still had about 15 minutes left before we needed to go. During that time, I snuggled with my baby…and cried. A lot. Ever since she was born, I have spend almost every hour of the day with her, and now I was about to spend 9 hours away from her every day. I just couldn’t swallow that idea. Once we got to Bev’s, I snuggled with Kinsie a little more. And cried a little more. I knew she would have fun with her grandma, I just didn’t want to leave her. I finally got in my car and drove to school…and cried a little more. Call me over-emotional all you want, you probably wouldn’t understand unless you’re a mom! I was proud of myself for only crying 3 times that day!

Once I got to school, I freshened up my make up and was welcomed back with open arms by my staff. I work with all women, so most of them had been through it all before and knew how I was feeling. They comforted me with hugs, gave me advice on the best places in the school to pump, and encouraged me by telling me that it WILL get easier. And I knew they were right. Once the kids got there, we had a great day. They were really excited to have me back and we spent most of the day just talking and getting reacquainted. I stayed busy enough that I got through the day pretty well, with the help of Bev sending me pictures and updates of my girl. She was happy and having fun, so that helped me carry on.

Once 4:00pm struck, I couldn’t have left the building faster. I needed to see my baby. I needed to touch her and hold her. The 9 hour work day felt like a week and I couldn’t get back soon enough to be reunited with Kinsie. We spent the rest of the evening playing and snuggling, and before I knew it, it was time to go to bed and do the whole thing again.

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SONY DSC

The next day, I took Kinsie to my mom’s, where I cried when I dropped her off. Again. I’m pretty sure I cried each morning until Friday. I had another great school day and my mom sent me pictures throughout the day. I could tell Kinsie was having a blast, so again, that helped me get through the day. Each day did get a little better, and I stayed so busy that the days seemed to go pretty fast, but even so, I felt like I was away from Kinsie for SO long. I cannot even explain how much I missed her and craved to be holding her.

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Some of the pictures that were sent to me while I was at work. I am OBSESSED with the selfie of Kinsie and her “Yaya!”

After a very long, emotional week, I can officially say that I made it through my first week back. It was harder than I could have ever imagined, but I did it. There were times when I felt completely exhausted and overwhelmed and needed some encouragement from the people I love. Before going back, I felt like I finally hit my stride with taking care of Kinsie while I was at home every day. But working full-time while trying to take care of myself, the baby, the dogs, and the house all by myself is a completely different story. Ryan wished he could have been home to help me, but he just started one of the tougher classes he’ll have this year and needed to study. He spent a lot of time on the phone with me reminding me that we will get through this and it is making us stronger, and even though it was hard to see at the moment, I knew he was right. Kinsie and I both had somewhat of a rough transition into this new routine, and she was a little fussier and started waking up at 4 and 5 in the morning and would not calm down until I fed her (she had previously been sleeping through the night until 6:30a.m. for over a month until this week). Throughout the week I felt like I was barely keeping my head above water. But I did. I had to. I understand now why women don’t return to back at all after having kids, but that just isn’t an option for us at this point. I still love teaching, and I know that spending time away from Kinsie helps me appreciate every moment with her, and it will make me a better mother.

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This is how we spent most of the day together on Saturday.

Ryan and I are so unbelievably blessed to have such an amazing support system to help us with our current circumstances. I know that things won’t always be easy and we will have tougher weeks like this every once in a while, but we couldn’t get through any of it without the love, encouragement and prayers of our family and friends. And of course, I know God is carrying us through all of this. He has always helped me get through tough times before, so I know this time will be no different. One of my favorite quotes that I heard a few years ago says, “The deeper we are rooted in the unfailing love of God, the less we sway when the winds of life blow harshly.” This is spot on and it is a good reminder to trust in the Lord always. With His help, I know we can get through anything!

Babywise

I recently read a book that I wanted to share with any new moms or soon-to-be moms. It helped me in many ways, mainly with how to set a routine for Kinsie’s day and how to get her to sleep better. The book is called On Becoming Babywise by Gary Ezzo M.A. and Robert Bucknam M.D. This book is extremely thorough and gives medical and logical reasons why babies do what they do.

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Let me start with WHY I read the book. A little over a month ago, Kinsie got to the point where she wouldn’t just fall asleep anytime, anywhere like she did when she was a newborn. When she got to this point, she became a horrible napper. She would fight naps every single time and then wake up 20 minutes into the nap and wouldn’t go back to sleep. Then, because she didn’t sleep enough during the day, she was completely overtired at night when it was time to go to bed and it took literally hours of trying to calm her down enough to fall asleep. It was exhausting and very frustrating, not as much because I was bothered by her screaming, but because I knew she was in distress and I didn’t know what to do to help her. I did some research on Google (thank goodness for Google these days) and saw that a lot of people recommended this book, so I figured I’d try it out. I am very grateful I decided to, because it has helped us so much!

I also want to point out that reading this book has in no way made me an expert on parenting. I am very far from it! I have only been a parent for 3.5 months and I am still learning every single day. There are days where I have no idea what Kinsie needs. However, establishing the routine that the book recommends has made it much easier to meet her needs. She has become a happier baby and I am a less stressed mother. Here is what I found most helpful:

Babies should be a on feed-wake-sleep cycle. This is the most important thing that I read in the book! It keeps our day somewhat on a routine, so I usually know why Kinsie gets fussy at certain times and how to fix it. Based on your baby’s age will depend on how many “cycles” they have a day and how long those cycles are. Kinsie currently has about 6 cycles in a 24-hour time period, with 3 hour cycles. I worked VERY hard and stayed home for almost 2 solid weeks in order to establish this routine for her, but it was completely worth it. Now it happens naturally and I feel like I can go places and do things and still maintain her schedule. Obviously her routine is not completely fixed on times, but it is very similar every day. A typical cycle for her including feeding (which takes her about 30 minutes), then she is ready to play. After 1 to 1.5 hours of good playtime, she is ready for a nap. She then usually naps for around an hour, then when she wakes, she is ready to eat, and the cycle starts over.

  • Feed time: Every baby is different, but Kinsie eats about every 3 hours from when she STARTED to eat. The only difference is that between her last 2 feedings of the day, I feed her after only 2 hours. This helps her stay full longer throughout the night and gets her to bed at a decent time. Obviously if she gets hungry before 3 hours, I feed her. It is also very important to start your baby’s day around the same time each day (even on the weekends). This helps them stay on a similar schedule each day and helps them establish good nap routines.
  • Wake time: It is very important to have productive wake times with your baby. They need to be stimulated, but not over-stimulated. This is the most important learning time for them! For Kinsie, we always try to do several activities during this time and we have to mix it up because she gets bored after a while. Some of the activities the book suggests includes simply talking or singing to your baby, reading books, give them a bath, or take walks (even if its just around the house). It is also important for a baby to have their own “alone” time to explore the world on their own. This can include tummy time, sitting in the bumbo seat, swinging, playing on a playmat, or sitting in a bouncer. Kinsie LOVES to look at our aquarium, so we placed her swing next to it and she’ll watch it all the time! Find out what your baby enjoys and let them be content on their own for a little while.

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  • Sleep time: If your baby has a good, productive wake time, then they are more likely to have a good nap afterwards. First, do NOT keep your baby awake during the day hoping they will sleep more at night. It doesn’t work that way! Naps are essential for good nighttime sleep. When it comes to naps, watch for sleepy signals after playtime. I usually snuggle with Kinsie for a few minutes until she is calm and sleepy, but not completely asleep. Then I put her down in her crib and she usually goes to sleep within a few minutes. We used to rock her completely to sleep, then gently and slowly put her down and try to tiptoe away, but she would ALWAYS wake up and wouldn’t go back to sleep! We also had to cut out anything that might possibly overstimulate her such as TV, bright lights and loud sounds. We bought black out curtains to put in her room and they have helped tremendously! Now Kinsie takes about 4 naps a day, ranging from 40 minutes – 1.5 hours. She also usually goes right to sleep at night and stays asleep for 8-9 hours! She still wakes up here and there because she lost her pacifier, but she goes right back to sleep when we give it back to her. Now that her routine happens more naturally, we don’t have to be as strict about her nap times. She’ll even fall asleep in a loud restaurant now. The book also has an entire section on reasons a baby might not nap well and how to fix those problems. Very helpful!!

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Disclaimers: A few important things to note: don’t take anything in this book TOO seriously. I did that at first and got very frustrated because it said that babies are supposed to nap for 1.5-2 hours for each nap. That does NOT happen with Kinsie! I didn’t understand what I was doing wrong for a while, then realized that every baby is different, and my baby just doesn’t always nap that long, but as long as she wakes up happy and well-rested, then I’m happy! And like I said, babies are not clocks. They will need different things at different times and their schedule will be thrown off when they are sick, or if you are traveling, etc. and that is ok. It is not the end of the world if their routine gets thrown off every once in a while, it happens to Kinsie all the time. The important thing to remember is to be patient, and read your BABY and his/her signals rather than obsessing about the time and the schedule.

I would definitely recommend this book to a new parent or someone who will be a parent soon. Hopefully it helps some of you as much as it helped me!