"This advice is for my first-time pregnant self, and it’s to relish the crazy, sometimes bizarre magic that is growing another human!"

What is one piece of advice you wish you could offer your former expectant self?

This advice is for my first-time pregnant self, and it’s to relish the crazy, sometimes bizarre magic that is growing another human! When I was pregnant with Laurel digital cameras were just becoming a thing and smartphone photography was not a thing! We got a digital camera in time for Laurel’s birth but I wish I had had it during my pregnancy too. When I was pregnant with Violet I decided to capture a photo each week and I feel so incredibly happy when I look back at those photos! Violet loves looking at them too!

What was your primary motivation for deciding to return (or not) to work? How early did you tell your employer?

When Laurel was born I was still in academia – I was a postdoctoral fellow in Boston with pretty much the most esteemed appointment one could have (a joint appointment at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) so it was, well, rather stressful. I actually loathed my job but felt that I needed to return to it because I had applied for and won a prestigious NIH grant to do the work I was doing, and I always like to finish what I start. I told my advisor I was pregnant at a pretty typical time (around 12 weeks) and he seemed happy for me but I later learned he was not thrilled about it.

By the time Violet was born, I was 5 years into my freelance career. There was no question I’d return to work because I had created a palette of work that I loved!

FOR MOMS: If you breastfed, was there a place for you to pump that met your needs and was conducive to your success? If you breastfed, how did you decide to continue? FOR DADS: What, if any, adjustments did you (or your workplace) make to your schedule after having a baby? Was it specific to your manager or larger, whole work culture?

My academic work environment was not conducive to pumping! One of my lowest moments was squatting on the floor in a handicapped bathroom at MIT, pumping, while people were banging on the door. UGH! I did make it to 13 months breastfeeding with Laurel, which I now think is sort of a miracle. With Violet I was working out of my home office so it was so much easier to breastfeed. But the irony of course is that at around 9 or 10 months, she was like, “Yo, I’m done. I WANT SNACKS.

How much leave did you take, and how comfortable were you taking it?

Well, when I was a postdoc, NIH permitted 30 days of leave time (#demented). I applied for the maximum of 3 months of unpaid leave through my hospital affiliation. For Violet, I was back to work within a week but totally because I wanted to be and totally on my terms.

How easy was it to put a childcare arrangement together and did it work for your family?

Childcare the first go around was very stressful. For Laurel, my parents were supposed to be our childcare arrangement. But then my dad got very sick literally the week before I was supposed to return to work and they were no longer able to be part of the equation. But then something kind of amazing happened. I hated my job, I knew my Dad was going to die soon, and I wasn’t ready to leave my baby so I took those signs from the universe and pursued about 20 pounds of red tape to facilitate a gradual transition back to work, ramping back up to full-time over the course of 9 months. During that time we pieced together childcare and then got Laurel enrolled in a formal daycare full-time. And I treasured all of the extra time I was able to spend with my new baby and my Dad during that time!

When did the “new normal” set in for you?

I’m not sure anything can prepare you for how much your life and priorities will change once you become a parent. Obviously the adjustment was much easier the second time around but the sleepless nights were still hard! I will say that I’m loving the zone we’re in right now. The girls are 5 and 12 and things are so much easier. They’re so sweet and loving and funny!

 

What was your biggest challenge going back to work?

There were so many emotional things going on with my firstborn but I would say from a logistical standpoint that the logistics can be sort of debilitating — pumping and packing milk, washing bottles, packing all the gear for day care, pumping at work. And then when you forget something (like, say, a lovey at home) it can derail your day.

Who was your biggest source of support in returning to work? What was your biggest pregnancy indulgence?

I was so lucky to be pregnant at the same time as some friends – we all were returning to work and sharing tips and offering one another support. My girlfriend Paige (a friend dating back to 6th grade!) was especially wonderful. As for pregnancy indulgences, when I was pregnant with Laurel I ate a lot of soft serve ice cream cones. With Violet, a lot of burritos. To this day, I adore eating both of those things!

Fill in the blanks: As a working parent, I never expected ____ would be so hard and ____ would be so much easier!

I never expected that drop-offs would be so hard and that peeing by myself would be so much easier!

As a working parent, a bad day is when _____ and a good day is when _______.

A bad day is when you get the call from school that your kid is barfing, has lice, or has injured themselves in some way and a good day is when your kids come home smiling.

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