Sunday, August 29, 2021

Seven Months: Back to Work

This month, Zoe has learned to live without me.  I don't mean to sound self-important, but she's been relying on me for survival since she was born... er, conceived!  So naturally, the separation was not easy.  I would say that it went as smoothly as it could have gone, though.  She and Wes have a strong bond and he's still at home with her every day.  Luckily, she gets to stay at home in familiar territory because Wes's mom has been coming over to take care of her.

I'm sure that it has been a very hard few weeks for Zoe, but she must feel so much more independent now.  She's learned to do so much: bottle feed, fall asleep on her own at night, sit in a high chair to eat solid foods, digest and poop out the solids, roll over from back to belly.  She may now also understand some Cantonese!  We also have learned how smart babies can be.  It took her a lot less time than we had anticipated to take the bottle, even though previous attempts have all been failed.  I think she was more perceptive than we could tell--she knew that if I was there, she had no reason to take milk in any other way.  Also, she has never slept in, but I had to actually wake her up on my first two days of work (yes, of course I was late because of this!).  I am not sure if there was something in the breast milk or if she can sense my impending absence, but she definitely knew and wanted to prevent me from leaving the house.  It sounds far-fetched, but she woke up at her regular times on Saturday and Sunday, but come Monday, when it was time for me to go to work again, she slept in again!  
Here are some photos that Wes took of me and Zoe doing our normal things on my last week of maternity leave.  Looking at these mundane moments is so poignant.  These pictures capture a pace of life that I'll never get back--the last few days of a time that was both very, very difficult, and very, very cherished.

I miss Zoe a lot when I'm not by her side.  Not gonna lie though, it has been really great to return to my job.  I feel like I was able to go back to doing something that felt familiar and comfortable, even though I was at a brand new school.  For the first time in six months, I finally felt like I knew what I was doing for most of the day--plus, I love my career.  I felt like even though I was rushing around from treatment session to treatment session and pumping in between, I at least had control over my schedule.  But, the push of staying longer at work to stay on top of my shit and the pull of getting home earlier to attend to Zoe before she sleeps results in a constant feeling of guilt.  Add that to the anxiety of possibly infecting her with COVID as I share room air and materials with tons of unvaccinated kids of various ages and three adults. Really, I barely have the time to worry about the virus, but it’s in the back of my mind every time I see a child who cannot keep his or her mask on properly (or at all) and each time I pump in the shared bathroom.

Speaking of pumping, it has been so hard to figure out how to do it efficiently and effectively.  I'm glad that there hasn't been a problem with my milk supply (knock on wood), but I've had to try three or four different locations before finally settling on moving a desk into a single-room bathroom and getting over the germaphobic side of it.  It still is better than having a student or staff member walk in on me!  I have yet to forget a pump part at home and so far I haven't skipped a session, but it feels like I'm constantly rushing around and snipping things off to get it done, even though pumping is scheduled into my day.  I am often stopped in the hallway by staff, or spending time preparing/cleaning up treatment supplies while I am supposed to be pumping.  There were a few times when I just did not have time to wash my parts afterward, or to pump out the amount of milk that was needed.  I'm learning to make some adjustments though and factoring in more time.  It sucks because I feel guilty for spending time pumping at work, but when I don't do a good job of pumping because I have work to do, I feel guilty for not providing enough for Zoe.  Paperwork gets pushed off to the end of the day, but once the day is over, I am hurrying home a bit early so that I can feed Zoe because it is just not worth pumping again when it's that close to the end of the work day.  Of course when I get home though, none of the paperwork gets addressed until after Zoe goes to bed.  

On my first full day away, she was very hungry when I got home because she had been holding out for me.  And because she hadn't eaten all day, she hadn't slept much either.  It was a reality check for me, getting home and hitting the ground running.  Feed, soothe, back to basics.  I was frustrated because I just wanted to catch my breath and play with her, see her laugh and smile, lie down under a tree together (let alone doing any unwinding on my own part).  Nope.  Zoe's like, "Great, so you're finally home and I am hungry as hell, I've barely slept, I want nothing more than to breastfeed and fall asleep in your lap."  She was super pissed off when I tried to move her to the crib and she let me hear all about it.  It really sucked because I just wanted to lie down in my bed and nap, too.  But she comes first.  

It has gotten better by now, though.  Zoe has become pretty good with the bottle, and she is taking her naps when Grandma puts her down.  She also surprised us by rolling back to belly and sitting up with so much more control.  She still face-planted the other day when Auntie Margaret and Uncle Andrew were here, though!  She greets me with big smiles when I come back from work and when I go to say good morning to her.  It's such a relief to me, because I always wonder if she is angry at me for deserting her for so many hours.  Yes, we did have to sleep train her because of my return to work, but she did really well with that.  She did not cry nearly as much as we braced ourselves for, and now we've seen her fall asleep on her own with no tears at all.  She does call out for milk in the middle of the night when she's hungry, but that's totally understandable with all of the growth she's been doing.  I've also decided to just let her fall asleep and stay asleep in my lap when I get home to feed her, as this gives both of us a chance to unwind from the busy day.  I just zone out on my phone while she comfort-nurses, and then when she wakes up we go and do some fun things together.  

It's been really hot out, so we can't really go on walks after work, and I miss doing yoga under the tree with her next to me, but we've found some other quality ways to spend the few hours we have together before bedtime.  Standing in the shady front yard watching monarch butterflies and cars has been peaceful and fun, reading some books in Mandarin and English, snuggle seshes in the big bed together with Daddy...but my favorite thing to do with her after work has definitely been food tasting!  We've been waiting for this moment since she was born, I guess.  She has eaten avocados, apples, bananas, chicken rice porridge, oat cereal, kabocha squash, spinach porridge, eggs, tomato, salmon, peanut, ube, and her favorite: bread.  Specifically, the French baguette from Farm Shop.  It's been so fun to see her jam new things into her mouth, and she's also been very self-directed with using a loaded spoon.  She's been open to trying everything we offer, even a slice of lime!  Her reaction to that was priceless, by the way.  We have taken so many pictures and videos of her eating, like it's the best entertainment we've seen in our entire lives.  It's definitely messy, but not really that bad.  She usually doesn't miss her mouth or drop things intentionally.  We're so excited to expose her to the world of flavors and textures!  Also, we've been clamoring over her wonderfully formed solid poops.  The first time she pooped after eating solids, there were little flecks of green spinach inside.  Wes took a photo and texted it to me while I was at work, and we were so proud!

I know that Zoe is in good hands while I'm gone, and I think she knows that I am always going to come back.  Wes's mom says that she definitely knows the difference between us and herself.  The separation from her sucks, but at the same time, I feel that she's learning so much.  It's exciting to see her going through so many changes, becoming more and more of a human every day.  It's crazy to think that she will be mobile soon, and I wonder if she might already have a personality... I am trying to soak it all in when I'm home because I'm gone for such a big chunk of her waking hours now.  Even in looking at these next photos, she just seems so much more mature.  We love her so much!!

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