Work Saved My Mental Health

“You’re a machine- everyone was like, ‘she just had a baby- why is she at work?!’ “

workThat was me. I went back to work two weeks after having my third baby. I know, I know. It was crazy. And “poor me”, right?! Like…who does that. Who goes back TWO WEEKS after having a baby?! Especially when…

it was a choice. 

Our third baby, Emery, was born in late December, and I was back at work the second week of January. Emery was born the third baby in three years to a family that was excited to have her, but a little unsure of how to manage a 2 year old, 1 year old, and newborn. And by “family” I mean “mother” and by “excited” I mean “terrified.” 

(but also excited). 

Long before she was born, I thought a lot about how to handle having a baby in the middle of a school year. I’m not a teacher (anymore), I’m a doctoral student at IUPUI. Knowing I couldn’t afford to work full-time anymore with two babies, getting pregnant with a third pushed that decision from a “maybe” to a “definitely.” I decided to go ahead and start a doctoral program because, hey. Why not just add as much chaos as possible? No, but seriously- I didn’t want to give up forward momentum in my career/needed a way to defer my student loans. I started the Fall, 2015 semester as a full-time student, part-time. The Graduate Assistant position helps me afford tuition, pays a small salary, and is a part-time. 

I work with an amazing organization focused on protecting students’ Civil Rights. My co-workers were completely accommodating to me having a baby. They gave me a massage gift card as a gift (which was awesome- they knew I didn’t need baby stuff, but could use some “me-time”), and I was even welcome to bring her to work with me.

And I did. At two weeks old, she came to work with me (no, I wasn’t worried about germs- she was my third baby, get real). My co-workers would help hold her while I went to the bathroom, soothed her while I made or heated her bottles, and I was even able to nurse in the office or in a nursing room on campus. I wasn’t at all upset about coming to work so soon after  having her.

Actually, and here’s my secret: I needed it. 

If I’m honest, during that time, my home wasn’t a peaceful place for me. I had two babies who wanted me to put down the new baby so I could hold them instead. My house was chaos, and I wasn’t coping all that well. Post-partum depression/anxiety/sleep deprivation/never being able to shower or put one/all of the babies down. It was so hard. Don’t get me wrong- my two “older” kids (we call them “The Bigs”) we were actually really amazing at being older siblings at such young ages. But it was just so chaotic to me- during those days in January, I just didn’t have an easy time coping in my own home. I really loved having somewhere quiet to go, where I could put my baby in the Boppi on my lap, and focus on something. 

And,  yeah, I would have loved to sit and nurse and binge watch a series on Netflix, but that wasn’t going to be my reality with a third baby. Everything felt so out of control, I depended on that routine. I needed my (cubicle) space to breathe, I needed the quietness, the conversation, and I need to have some work to do: I needed to feel like I had a responsibility because the ones at home were just too overwhelming. 

I’ve had awesome, supportive co-workers through every pregnancy, but in a way that just wasn’t the case with my first two, I needed my job after Emery was born. And, truthfully, I still do. Not because I need to get away from my kids, necessarily, but because I need a focus and a routine. And don’t get me wrong- paid family leave is imperative moving forward in this country. I don’t think this is right for everyone, and it was right for me because I had the right work environment and the right kind of job for it. And honestly, I think it’s what saved me. work work work

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