Finding My Work Life Balance

photo 1-1It’s been a week since I’ve gone back to work.  I have to say again, I love, love, love my job.  I feel incredibly blessed to finally have found my calling and that it is a job that works so well for my family.  I am blessed in that I look forward to going to work, look forward to meeting my patients of the day, happy to see my co-workers, love that I learn something new each and every day on the job.  I am blessed that my job has a very flexible schedule and amazing benefits that has saved my family so much money over the past year with all of our hospitalizations, both mine and the Little Mister M.  Not to mention all the VIP treatment we’ve gotten because I’m a nurse.  While most moms are sad in the weeks leading up to their return to work, I was actually giddy with anticipation.  It may have been the torturous months on bed-rest that did me in, but I was excited.  I wanted to dive right into my first birth…

And then I crashed and burned… I wasn’t prepared for the complete fish out of water feeling I had.  It had been almost 5 months since I had last worked in a delivery.  Combined with the sick to the stomach exhaustion from breastfeeding my 8 week old around the clock, I felt like such a fool.  Like I had completely kidded myself that I could do EVERYTHING.  I could work full-time, continue to breastfeed until Chubbamunks is at least 2 years old and be there for both my kids in every way.

My first day back on the floor was filled equally with lots of hugs, congratulations and huh?! moments.  I loved seeing everyone again and catching up.  I was invigorated going into my first patient’s room and introducing myself and going about the very familiar routine of nursing care… then the anxiety set in.  I couldn’t remember all of the charting that needed to be done, policies had changed, what was the correct protocol I asked?  I felt slow in my reactions.  My clinical wit was taking a nap somewhere because while I was present with my physical body, mentally I was exhausted.  My co-workers were all too kind and gave me all sorts of consolation.  It’s your first day back… You’ve been gone for so long.  Many things have changed.  But I couldn’t help beating myself up for it not being as easy as riding a bike. I wanted to be a rock star again…  and I wasn’t. I thought it would all come back to me, but 5 months is a really long time to be off the floor.

photo 4-1I was thrilled that the love of my job made pumping that much easier. I remember the agonizing hours I use to spend in the bathroom (yes, pumping in the bathroom — yuk!) unable to produce a single ounce of milk because I was so stressed out.  I remember crying at night for fear of being unable to feed my baby because I needed to go back to work — the double guilt.  I love my job now and all they do to support breastfeeding moms.  I wasn’t sure about how it was going to be and to be honest I didn’t make plans to figure it out until right before my return to work.  I just figured it would all work it itself out.   My colleagues were all super supportive, I can’t even tell you how many times they ask me if I needed coverage so I could pump… how many times they actually reminded me it’s time to pump.  They all knew how much of a lactavist I am.  I love bonding with my pumping buddies who vocera me (think “beam me up Scotty” device) when it’s time to head up to the two amazing rooms they have set up for us.  I love going there with a smile and pumping 12 ounces each time with such ease because I was happy.  Pumping was easy.  Counting my lucky stars because this was such a contrasting experience from my past.

I was lucky my first day was followed by a day off, my birthday.  At the same time it was almost a tease because it was a special day.  I woke up to my children running with such excitement to greet me right as I walked out of my bedroom door.  I was so filled with love.  It was such a great way to start the day.  All day long I heard… Happy Birthday Mommy! I love you Mommy!  Then came my 2 (shifts) in a row… where I left for work before the kids were even awake and came home to sleeping children.  I can’t even describe the level of sadness I felt not having them run to greet me at the door and hearing their joyful chatter.  I even missed all the stall tactics my kids would employ to delay bed time.  Combined with exhaustion from a full days work, I was emotionally beaten until I found a little love note in my bed.  While it didn’t make up for the warmth of their hugs and kisses, it made me smile to know they were thinking of me while I was at work.

photo 2-1photo 3-1On my 2nd round of 2 in a row, I was completely shot.  My drive home was a haze, I was falling asleep at the dinner table. At 3 am I woke up in a panic, engorged and looking for the baby.  According to my quick panic induced calculations the baby hadn’t eaten in over 7 hours!!!  My husband was fast asleep (as usual, he wouldn’t wake up for anything) next to me.  I turned on the lights in the room.  The bassinet was empty, the crib was empty.  I threw back my covers to make sure I didn’t, in a sleep deprived daze, put the baby in bed with me.  All the lights were out in the house, as I ran out of our bedroom flipping on all the lights.  I checked the mamaroo in the living room, the Stokke bassinet… I flipped on the lights to the playroom and the baby was no where to be found.  I barged into my mother in laws bedroom and breathed a huge sigh of relief when I saw her sleeping with the baby.  Then the anger set in, I quickly grabbed Chubbamunks and asked when he last fed and was told she fed him 2 bottles already because she saw I was exhausted.  Still angry, I took a couple deep breaths and went upstairs…plopped myself on my bed and started to cry.  I knew she was trying to help but I felt so much worse because I missed 2 feedings.  The two feedings I so looked forward to as my only time with Chubbamunks  on my work days.  I felt so torn.  Not enough time with my older two and definitely not enough time with Chubbamunks.  Although I’m sure I’m in no danger of a diminishing milk supply, being rational while sleep deprived wasn’t happening.  I was hyperventilating, not to mention she was sleeping with the baby in her bed with her and her bazillion blankets. My head wanted to explode… and then I fell asleep with Chubbamunks on my chest…

So I struggle to find the right work life balance.  While I’m at work, I’m so happy to be at work and at the same time, when I’m home I can’t stop hugging and kissing my children.  Despite the exhaustion of working a full 12 hour shift, it makes me happy to do the night feedings with the baby.  The husband says I’m on the fast-track to being burnt out, little does he know, I’m already there. I could definitely do without the sick to the stomach exhaustion nausea in the mornings but I feel happy and fulfilled.  And today… is the start of my 4 day off stretch… so guess who’s a happy mama?!  ME!