Going Back to Work: Mary Ellen’s Story

My Position: Kindergarten teacher
Length of Time Off:  Nine months
Position Status: Full-time

When I first found out I was going to have a December baby, I was very excited because I knew that I would be taking the remainder of the year off and returning to work the following September.

As a teacher, I have the luxury of not working over the summer, so my maternity leave would last about nine months (from early December to early September).

I felt that it was a perfect time to be away from work.

I would get many, many months at home with my little man; I would get to see lots of his early and big milestones; I would get to establish a positive breastfeeding relationship; and I wouldn’t have to worry about the nerves that can come with handing your newborn bundle of joy over to a stranger at daycare.

Since I am a go-go-go type of person, I should have known that I would get restless being at home for so long. I am so lucky that Little Man was a “chill” baby – he slept in his crib and through the night very early on. He was a quick and easy breastfeeder. He didn’t cry unless something was really wrong.

How did I get so lucky? With such a calm little guy, I felt myself getting bored at home.

Since he was born in the winter, and we live in upstate New York, it was too cold and snowy to take walks and I was nervous taking him out of the house (not because of germs, but because I was worried he would cry in public and people would judge the new mama that couldn’t keep her baby happy – LAME!).

My excitement about being home some days turned to boredom and I longed for the busyness of my classroom and the adult conversation of the staff room.

Even though some days I wanted to, I didn’t return to work early, but returned in September as planned. But I was way more excited than I thought I would be!

Our daycare provider is a parent of some of my former students— I taught both of her children in my Kindergarten class— and I felt 1000% (yes, 1000) comfortable leaving him in her care everyday. It is an in-home daycare with between two and five other children each day. Some days, Little Man is only there with a four-year-old.

I know he gets all of the love and support he needs when he’s there.

Without a doubt, the biggest challenge of returning to work was how to handle nursing and feeding our little guy while being gone for eight to ten hours a day. He was nine months old when I returned to work, and I was still nursing at least five times a day so my hope was to nurse in the morning, pump at work twice and nurse when we got home and before bed.

Unfortunately, my body had other plans.

Just before returning to work, my body stopped responding to the pump. I tried buying all new pump parts thinking that might have been the issue, but it was not. I think my body knew it was in for a big change, and my little guy knew it too.

He stopped showing interest in nursing about the same time I could no longer pump. He’d eat for one to two minutes on each side and then stop.

I knew he wasn’t getting enough milk for a feeding, but he refused to eat longer.

I tried pumping at work for about a week, only getting one to two ounces each day, which I knew would not be enough for him. After a lot of thought, I decided to give up nursing and switch to formula. He loved it! My body knew it was time to stop because I wasn’t engorged a bit and it wasn’t painful at all.

If I were able to pump at work, I know my boss would have been wonderfully supportive about it. She had offered her office to me to use whenever needed, and our school nurse offered a spare filing room I could use.

In the end, it worked out fine. I think of how ridiculously crazy teaching kindergarten can be, especially in September, and how I would have missed my lunch and preps every day to pump. It would have been very lonely eating alone with my door closed and locked for the precious few minutes a day I had to plan and get lessons ready for my students.

My feelings about returning to work have not really changed as our little guy has gotten older. He is two now and I still love being a working mom. I know for a fact that this is, in part, due to our amazing daycare provider who showers our precious boy with so much love and kisses that it makes up for some of the hugs I can’t give him myself between 7:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.

I am currently expecting again – due in March!

While having a spring baby wasn’t the main reason we tried to get pregnant at the time we did, I would be lying if I said that I didn’t think about it at all.

We were so lucky that we got pregnant on the first month of trying.

I thought that having a March baby would “solve” a lot of the issues I had last time: it would shorten my maternity leave and we’d be able to go outside for walks in the spring instead of being cooped up inside with a newborn AND a busy toddler! I’m still slightly apprehensive (okay, very apprehensive) about my maternity leave this time around, but grateful for the length and the time of year.

Our Little Man will continue to go to daycare two times a week, for his sanity and for mine. He loves it there and I know he would miss his friends and our wonderful daycare provider if he were to not see them for six months.

Returning to work after maternity leave – whether it is six weeks or six months – is sure to be different for every mama and every little one. I surely didn’t expect to feel the way I did about wanting to return earlier. When I do return to work again this coming September, I’m sure it will bring new challenges!

Our newest little bundle will only be six months old and only time will tell how we’ll handle nursing and pumping at work.

Check out more Going Back to Work stories: Corey’s Story, Debbie’s StoryChristy’s Story, and Alex’s Story.

4 Responses to Going Back to Work: Mary Ellen’s Story

  1. Pingback: Going Back to Work: Debbie’s Story | Mama Say What?!

  2. Pingback: Going Back to Work: Corey’s Story | Mama Say What?!

  3. Pingback: Going Back to Work: Christy’s Story | Mama Say What?!

  4. Pingback: Going Back to Work: Alex's Story Mama Say What?!

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