I haven't blogged about this before now for a couple of reasons.
First, I know it's considered a huge privilege to bring a baby to work. Not every parent has this option, either because of the nature of their position or because of their employers philosophies or worksite rules. I've feared that by describing my experience I might make those who are unable to take their own babies to work feel guilty. In no way am I trying to start a mommy-war; this post is just me sharing what worked for me.
Second--and this is confession time--part of me is embarrassed that I returned to work while my baby was still so new. Whether I returned because I had to or because I chose to (in reality it was a mix) doesn't really matter. Either way, my brain is having mommy-wars with itself. So, realize that though I'm writing about how glad I am that it all worked out, I'm also worried I'll be judged on the fact that I attempted it in the first place. Give me the benefit of the doubt; I did weigh the pros and cons of returning to work (considering both earlier dates and later, with and without baby) and this was what worked out best for me and my family.
So. Enough of that. I am sincerely grateful and happy with how it all went down, and here goes the tale:
When Ilse was seven weeks old, I packed us into the car one morning and headed into my office for work. Ilse had been born during a very busy time of year for my office. Yes, I was fully eligible to take unpaid FMLA leave of up to twelve weeks, but I was both feeling a responsibility to my office as well as a significantly lighter purse (unpaid leave, remember). So I asked to come early with baby in tow, and my supervisor and her supervisor agreed. It was Bring Your [Infant] Daughter To Work [Every] Day!
Logistically I was set: I have my own office. If I were in a cubical or working on a sales floor, I may not have been able to convince everyone that my newborn belonged with me at work. But with my own space and door it seemed reasonable. Also, my supervisors (and the company in general) consider work/life balance high priority. So for my bosses to say, Sure, bring her in! wasn't all that crazy-sounding around these parts.
But how did it actually work? I focused on a few key items to keep things moving smoothly:
(1) I babywore Ilse in a Wrapsody wrap each day. Though surrounded by unfamiliar sights/sounds, Ilse knew right where I was every moment and was kept safe and warm.
(2) I breastfed on demand. A full-bellied infant is a happy (and sleepy) infant. Most of my job duties are performed while parked in a chair, so I'd be sitting at my desk (with Ilse in the wrap) and whenever she'd stir I'd check her diaper (if it were time for such things) and then nurse her. This is where using a wrap totally rocked, because I could adjust Ilse in it in a way that would allow me to carry-on with typing or sorting-through emails, albeit somewhat more slowly and one-handed. And because of the wrap sometimes I could even leave my desk and wander over to the shared printer in the middle of the office and run off copies while discreetly nursing.
Here are actual photos me nursing Ilse at work:
(3) I set-up a Pack 'N Play. I had permission to set it up in my office, and though moving between my desk and my file cabinets became a tight squeeze, I'm happy it was there. The P&P was both a place to put Ilse down when I couldn't hold her (such as when I was putting on the wrap--though more often than not there were co-workers ready and willing to snuggle her) as well as a stable surface on which to change her diapers. I'm certain we could have managed without it, but this way I didn't have to scan for errant staples every time I set her down. Small blessings.
And that's my story. Ilse and I went to work every day together for six weeks. By the end of her twelfth week she was become more alert for longer timeperiods and I was starting to feel some pressure, juggling her and the job at the same time. It was okay, calling it quits to bringing her in at that point. I felt at peace with it. She and I had been able to share our days together from her birth, and I'd managed to contribute at work as well. It truly was a win-win.