Today’s my 28th birthday. And, as I kick off the day (and approach this year), I’m making a concerted effort not only to practice gratitude and positivity but also to practice a lot of self-love.
Honestly, I’ve always been that kind of person who puts other people and their needs first. You can ask my husband. Or my parents. I tend to give and give, without expecting anything in return.
Not that generosity is a bad thing. Or that I expect to become someone who gives only conditionally. But I do recognize that taking care of others is fruitless if you’re not taking care of yourself: you can’t love fully if you’re not full yourself (I’ve unpacked this a lot during therapy so I won’t go into it a lot here…).
Motherhood amplified my tendencies for extreme selflessness. Which makes sense, given that this little person’s well-being is entirely dependent on me. Of course, it’s a lot of responsibility, but it also provides a lot of opportunities to really stop thinking about myself, in even the most minute ways.
I not only survived my first week back at work post-maternity leave but I also somehow managed to get through the days without a single tear.
True, it was a short week: I purposely asked that my return date be a Thursday to ensure as easy of a transition as possible. And, while I was physically present, I honestly can’t say that my mind was operating the way that it should have been — speaking coherently in a business meeting is proving to be a lot more difficult than I anticipated…
But I’m cutting myself some slack. And I’m outwardly admitting: Yes, I’m human, and I’ve spent the past nearly six months of my life operating in a way that’s drastically different from working in an office environment, so this transition is probably going to be a bit challenging.
And, thankfully, I’m surrounded by so many work colleagues that not only hear what I’m saying but are also supportive.
So, on this Sunday evening, I’m not feeling as horrible as you think I would be — and that lack of dread has made me reflect on the first time I left Tadashi…
He was a few weeks old. It was a hot summer day in Dublin, Reggie and I were both on maternity leave, and I was deep in the throes of a particularly bad bout of baby blues. My older sister had recently moved to the apartment complex across the street, and she (and the rest of my family) knew that I was going through a tough time, mentally and emotionally. I had not left Tadashi’s side at all since coming home from the hospital.
After almost five and a half months of maternity leave, I’m finally returning to work. I knew that this day was going to be filled with a bunch of emotions — but, despite everyone’s warnings, I couldn’t have anticipated how intensely those emotions would hit me.
Honestly, there’s a part of me that’s eager and excited to return to work. That’s the part that suffered major cabin fever while on leave and yearned for some type of routine other than nursing my baby around the clock. The part that’s looking forward to conversing with other adults about things other than cradle cap care and feeding schedules. The part that can’t wait to see my work friends and be back in the city and work on something for me, for once.
Don’t get me wrong: I recognize how lucky I’ve been to stay with my baby for as long as I have. Nearly half a year of parental leave is a rarity in the U.S. And, bottom line, I would never exchange the opportunity I had to bond with Tadashi* for anything else in the world. It’s been a whirlwind of a journey, but I know that Reggie, Tadashi, Henri, and I are all a little happier because I spent this time at home.
But I also know me. And I know that I would’ve always wanted something for myself in addition to being the best mother possible for my boy. Which is why going back to work always felt like an inevitability to me.
With that in mind, I woke up yesterday morning feeling a little anxious but mostly determined. I resolved to use my last day of maternity leave to spend some quality time with my little family (Reggie’s back on paternity leave for a month as I transition back to work) and to prepare for my first full workday. We grabbed breakfast together at a little cafe in Pleasanton and ran some last-minute errands.
2017 was an intense year, both for the world and for me. All craziness aside, though, the year also brought me one of the greatest blessings of my life: Tadashi*.
Bringing my child into the world meant enduring countless emotional, mental, and physical changes. Emotionally, the first few months of Tadashi’s life were a rollercoaster. Mentally, assuming a new identity as “mother” led to some pretty profound shifts in my priorities: with a child, my intent this year and in all future years is to live my life in a way that makes not only me happy, safe, and fulfilled, but also my little family (especially my son).
Physically, 2017 proved to be an interesting journey.
Of course, pregnancy brought its physical highs and lows. While I didn’t experience any particularly stubborn symptoms (thankfully, no morning sickness or odd food aversions here!), I definitely felt uncomfortable, especially throughout the third trimester. Aching back. Shooting paints of sciatica up and down my thigh and left butt cheek. Swollen feet that wouldn’t fit in anything but Birkenstocks.