I consider myself lucky.
Most women in America have to return to work 6-8 weeks after giving birth, and some even sooner than that. I was able to take a full 3 months off before returning. Do I wish I had longer? Of course! I’m from Canada originally, where women are given a full year of maternity leave. I’m extremely jealous of my friends who have that extra time with their kids! But that’s just not the way here (unfortunately), and it really could have been worse for me.
I’m also lucky because “returning to work” means dragging my un-showered self over to the couch and opening up my laptop. I don’t have to drive anywhere, and I don’t have to leave my baby behind. My husband also works from home which is extremely helpful, so we can trade off on who’s taking over baby duty. He generally has more time, but when he’s working it has to be at a specific time. My schedule is more flexible, but I have a lot more deadlines and work that needs to get done to reach those deadlines.
Here’s what a typical day looks like in my world with my 3-month-old daughter:
2:30am – Baby wakes up to feed. My husband gets up to feed her with the bottle we’ve prepped the night before, and I grab the old empty bottle on my way out of the room to pump. I spend about 25 minutes pumping, watching the baby monitor as my daughter finishes feeding and drifts back to sleep. I get jealous as I hear my husband climb back into bed and start snoring. I then wash the pump parts and the old bottle, and prep two new bottles. I bring one to bed with me for her next early morning wake-up and leave the other on the kitchen counter for the one after that.
3:30am – I fall back asleep.
5:00am – Baby wakes up again to feed. I roll over, grab the prepared bottle off my nightstand, pull the bassinet closer to me, and pop the bottle in her mouth without getting out of bed. I struggle to keep my eyes open for the 15 minutes it takes her to finish, resting my head on the side of the bassinet. She won’t go back to sleep this time, though. She’s all smiles, kicking her feet up in the air and smashing them back down with screams of joy. After another 15 minutes of me trying to calm her down, my husband gets up and walks with her until she passes out again.
5:45am – The baby finally falls asleep, and we can sleep a little longer.
6:45am – The baby’s up. For real this time. My husband drags himself back out of bed and takes her to the living room, where he feeds her and video calls his parents to say hello. I love that he does this. It gives me an extra 1 – 1.5 hours in the morning to catch a little extra sleep before my day begins.
8:00am – He enters the room with the baby, who’s ready for her first nap of the day. I drag myself out of bed and go directly to the couch. I pump with one hand and respond to work emails with the other while he puts her to sleep. He’s struggling to get her to sleep. Sometimes she goes to bed easily, but usually she fights us. She’s screaming in the other room until he picks her up again, and then starts crying again when placed back in the bassinet.
8:30am – I finish pumping and the baby’s finally asleep. I continue working while my husband prepares breakfast for the both of us, which I eat at my laptop.
9:00am – Baby’s up again. He gets her and keeps her entertained for the most part, only occasionally interrupting me to help with prepping a bottle or to show me something cute she’s doing.
10am – Time to put her back to sleep again. Once again, she screams bloody murder every time he puts her in the bassinet. I hear the squeaky floorboards as he paces back and forth in the room with her, trying to calm her down. I watch on the monitor as he pushes the pacifier into her mouth, and she spits it back out and starts crying again. I’d like to help, but I know he has to work most of the afternoon and I have to finish a proposal by the end of the day. I try to stay focused, but she’s not making it easy.
10:20am – She’s back asleep, finally.
11:00am – It’s time for me to pump again, right as baby wakes up. My husband gets her while I pump and quickly try to finish up my work – I’m running out of time now.
11:30am – I finish pumping and take the baby from him. He’s coaching a client at 11:45am and needs to prepare. I can see she’s thoroughly exhausted him already. For the next 45 minutes she and I look in mirrors, do some tummy time (which she hates and screams through), and bat at items on the activity mat.
12:15pm – Time to put her to bed again. She goes down easy this time. I have no idea why, we’ve done nothing different. I try to get some work done before she wakes up again. My husband suggests I take her for a walk while he teaches the 1pm boot camp, which annoys me but he’s right. We should get her some fresh air. I brush my hair back into a ponytail and get dressed before the baby wakes up.
1:00pm – She’s up again and I get her. My husband tells me boot camp should take “a couple of hours” and I mentally prepare for 2-3 hours of baby time. More activity mat time, mirrors, tummy time, feedings and diaper changes.
2:00pm – I put her to bed, and again she goes down easily. Just takes the pacifier, holds my hand for about 5 minutes, and then turns over and closes her eyes. I’m not sure why, but I won’t complain!
2:30pm – She wakes up screaming, which doesn’t happen often. She’s in a terrible mood, so I leave her in the swaddle and carry her with me while I go to the kitchen and prep a bottle one-handed. When I’m finished I look down and realize she’s asleep again. Assuming it’s only temporary and that she’s in the process of waking up, I let her stay like that instead of putting her back in the bassinet. She just keeps sleeping. After 30 minutes I finally sit down with her to rest my arm a little bit, and she continues sleeping on my chest. I should have put her in the bassinet so she doesn’t get used to this, but I don’t want to disturb her. I just read about how babies should be getting at least one long nap during the day, and it seems like this was it.
3:30pm – She’s up again. My arm is killing me, but she gives me a big smile as she stretches herself awake. Totally worth it. I give her the bottle that I prepped an hour ago, and she poops so forcefully that it explodes out the back of her diaper and onto my pants. My husband is working in the office/nursery, so I need to deal with this as best I can using what’s in our diaper bag. I strip her down, wipe her back and bum, and put on a new diaper. While I’m doing this, I hear our cat vomiting somewhere in the apartment (not an uncommon occurrence for the old guy). I need some clothes for the baby, and have to stealth into the nursery to grab something. Clutching my naked daughter to my chest, I walk toward the office only to step in the cat’s puke right outside the door. Lovely. I strip off my socks and put them in the laundry basket, then get into the nursery and quickly grab a new outfit. I get her dressed and place her on the activity mat while I clean up the vomit and get myself into pajamas. There will be no walk today. I’m done.
4:00pm – I play with her for the next hour, expecting my husband to come out and relieve me at any moment.
5:00pm – My husband’s “couple of hours” boot camp has turned into four hours. I’m frustrated and he’s extremely apologetic. I eagerly hand the baby over and pull out the pump. I’ve missed my 2pm pumping and my boobs are killing me. My husband gets her down for her last nap.
5:30pm – I finish pumping and my husband hands me a drink. I sink into the sofa with my drink and suggest we order dinner instead of cooking today. He agrees.
5:45pm – The baby’s up again. My husband gets her, and we both smile and coo at her, playing with her until the food arrives. At this point we sit next to her on the floor with our plates on our laps so she knows we’re there for her while she happily bats away at a hanging bell and grabs some crinkly paper.
7:00pm – Time to put her down for the night. We dim the lights, get her into her swaddle, and my husband walks around with her. She doesn’t want to go down though. Apparently she had a great day and doesn’t want it to end. She smiles and coos for the first 10 minutes, which quickly turns to crying and screaming. We sing to her, whisper to her about what tomorrow will bring, try feeding her again…anything to calm her down.
7:45pm – The baby’s finally asleep. We turn on the baby monitor and collapse on the couch. I pump while my husband turns on the TV. We zone out for the next couple of hours.
10:00pm – I pump again, and we get ready for bed. This includes prepping two bottles to put on the nightstand for those late-night feedings.
10:45pm – We crawl into bed silently, being careful not to wake the baby. We kiss and say we love each other, and then I snuggle in his body. He starts snoring within 5 minutes, but I struggle to go to sleep. I kick him a couple of times when his snoring gets too loud, in case it wakes the baby up.
11:15pm – The baby wakes up to be fed. I’m still not asleep, so I feed her and let my husband continue sleeping.
11:30pm – She goes back to sleep immediately after being fed, and I follow soon after.
3:00am – Repeat.