When I was pregnant with my first child Kate, (she is almost 6 years old now), my plan was to always go back to work after she was born. Although I’ve been a photographer for nearly 11 years, for the first 5 years of my photography career, I only photographed clients on the weekends (and sometimes during the week depending on if there was still light out when I got out of my office job). During the week I was a glorified secretary (my official title was Office Manager), and I was working at a dead-end job at a Graphics/Computer Engineering Company in Boca Raton, with nowhere up to go. I had many jobs exactly like this one over a decade leading up to this one. It was the kind of job you have to pay your bills, and live pay check to pay check, but it was in no way a career. On top of it, I had the worst boss. A total sexist individual with absolutely the worst “bedside manner” — who paid no attention to his employees being human beings who needed to be treated with respect and positive reinforcement in order for our team to be strong — so they had a high turnover rate. So I was his assistant and the office secretary in this office. I did my job very well, but I was absolutely miserable. Almost everyday I left work either crying or angry. But it did pay the bills and I was grateful to have a job.
When I was in my 3rd trimester my boss tasked me to find a temporary hire to fill in for me during my maternity leave. I found an excellent employee who I trained to fill in for me, and I worked every single day up until the day I was induced.
In my last week of work my boss proposed an offer to me that really caught me off guard for several reasons:
He told me if I came back to work within the first few weeks of the first months following my birth, he’d give me a bonus of $3,000.
If I came back during the second month, he’d give me a bonus of $2,000.
If I came back within the last 4 weeks of my 3rd month, he’d give me a bonus of $1,000.
These were his incentives to get me back to work immediately.
He used his wife as example and role model for me with how she was back on her feet at work within just a couple of weeks of giving birth to her first child.
This offer really conflicted me. On the one hand, we could really use this money. My salary was laughable, and my husband had just started a new job not too long ago, so this money could really help to pay off our student loan debt, pay for the basic necessities of having a baby since we were doing this for the first time, and many more bills and living expenses.
But on the other hand, I was conflicted about accepting this offer. From what I had heard about giving birth, a woman doesn’t even stop bleeding until 6 weeks post partum. I wondered how I could possibly go back to work while my uterus and body was still recovering from giving birth? I also wondered how I would ever be able to leave my tiny baby with someone at home, forget about her while I was at work for 8 hours (plus commute time). I wondered how it would work with milk production. I was so conflicted and so confused about what to do.
But shortly after, I was being induced, and most of these questions were solved for me.
The Reality of Motherhood for Me
I had a c-section and the recovery was a nightmare.
It was like being hit by a truck. For the first week, I needed help from my husband to get out of bed to pee. The walk from bed to the bathroom took 15 minutes. For a few weeks after that, I still needed to go very slowly and very carefully out of bed for my incision site where the c/section had been performed to not hurt excruciatingly.
Other Challenges in the First Few Weeks Following Birth
On top of it, I was still recovering from being sick. I came down with a cold 3 weeks before I was induced, and because of being pregnant, my immune system was weakened, and I was still sick.
On top of all this, breastfeeding had not at all been the walk in the park I thought it would be. I thought it was this natural process that was beautiful and god-given, but as it turned out, my daughter’s latch was absolutely horrible, if you’ve ever talked to a lactation consultant, they’ll tell you a bad latch could produce a ‘lipstick tip’ looking nipple, which in retrospect I had every time I unlatched her. I found out after 27 years of my life that I had what LCs call inverted nipples. I had to learn and become well acquainted with a double electric breastfeeding pump, nipple shields, lanolin, airing my nipples, constantly leaking with breastmilk all over my entire life.
AND TO TOP OFF ALL OF THIS — I was blessed with a very high needs baby girl. Name the most common newborn problems, this little lady had them.
She had colic, jaundice, severe diaper rashes, was impossible to burp, cried every single night from 6pm to midnight for 3 months without fail and impossible to soothe, wouldn’t ever take a pacifier, nursed constantly and for super long 45 minute stretches, one minute was super constipated another minute had back to back blow out diapers. 15 loads of laundry a day. Then I got clogged ducts (which feel like marbles in your breasts — OUCH!) She wouldn’t ever nap alone in a bassinet, crib or otherwise, she always had to be on me — velcro baby 24/7