Categories
Life Work

Don’t wait until you have your sh*t together.

Just be like Nike and go do the damn thing.

Let me tell you, life can get hectic. It’s been difficult to even come up for air at times. I haven’t even taken great care of the blog lately, but hopefully, that will change after implementing a few habits that will fit some writing and web page maintenance into my daily routine. But I don’t have to have it all figured out to do some amazing stuff. Here’s how I go about doing it.

Keep learning as you go. (And never stop.)

My education does not end at my bachelor’s degree. Sure, I don’t have to show up in a classroom to learn these days, but I’m always learning something new. Whether it’s on the job, or while I’m enjoying some time off, I’m still learning every day.

It may look like I have it all under control on the outside. Some days, I do. But there are definitely days where I’ve gotta wing it and see what happens. It involves a bit of risk-taking, which I’m also still learning how to do. I’ve always played it on the safer side of things since that is how I was brought up. Now I am discovering how rewarding it can be to take the chance to pursue what I want.

Stop procrastinating.

Procrastination has always been my worst enemy. I’ve been hesitant to pull the trigger on some things because of whatever excuse I could figure out. Some were legitimate concerns, such as financial cost, time commitment, etc. Others were quite plainly, just dumb. (Ex: *deciding to scroll through my phone on social media for 2 hours instead of doing something useful*)

Hustle while you wait.

I had to switch my mindset if I wanted anything to change. And it was hard. It took several weeks to really start getting this through my thick skull. I went from thinking “I want to do X, but…” to thinking “What can I do today to get to X?” and it has been life-changing. I stopped focusing on my barriers and started focusing on the actions that I can do in the present moment that would help me get there.

This part of the habit-changing process is boring, tedious, and ruthless. It is the ugly side of every transformation. Nobody really discusses this part. Because it’s not motivating or sexy. It’s hard work. It can even get really painful. This is where you get into the rhythm of doing something regularly, even when you don’t feel like it.

Go get what you want.

Add a 2-year-old toddersaurus rex into the mix, and it can definitely get easier to give up and throw in the towel sometimes. This is where persistence is key. If I fall, I’ve got to get back up. That’s really important.

Sometimes that means writing a blog post while on the kitchen floor playing with cars and a teddy bear with my daughter, who insists that her mama should play. And while chasing a cat out of a Christmas tree every 10 minutes or so. No matter what, I’ve gotta press on. Every minute counts.

Think of the long-haul instead of short term success.

Recently, we’ve put a house in rehab on the back burner because of other jobs and projects that had greater priority. (because of money!) One of the most time-consuming parts of this thing so far has been laying down the new flooring. I knew that if we tried to do it ourselves, we would never make our 2020 deadline we set for ourselves for the house to be complete.

Thankfully, I was able to bring on some additional help who had some experience laying down flooring because frankly, I had none. Zero. This was the first house I have tried doing this sort of thing on. And with just two of us, it took 10 hours to get the majority of the flooring down. (Not bad for a couple of rookies!)

Find the silver lining in every situation.

Sure, it would have been easier for me to just give up and have my hired help do all the work, but I wanted to learn, too. I didn’t want to lose my opportunity to learn something useful for future projects.

Just because I didn’t have the experience in something, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t give it a good try. I approach anything unfamiliar with that mindset. I just need to try. I don’t need to know everything or have all my sh*t together to do something today. I’ll get there.

It took a lot of trial and error for us to get into a groove. But as we learned, we got faster and more efficient at laying each part down correctly. And little by little, the house was transformed. It started to look amazing. Change is hard, so there’s definitely strength in numbers. The people in your corner can make all the difference.

Focus on today.

There’s also another way to look at how important the present moment is, especially as a parent.

Whenever I come home from my day job, it seems like my daughter grows just a little more each and every day. She’s also learning new things and slowly changing herself as well. It’s amazing to see how much she’s changed from last year.

PJ went from crawling and cooing into being a talkative, bubbly and fiercely independent little girl who can run circles around me today. And next year, she will change even more. It’s a wonderful, yet bittersweet thing for me to witness. And she’s definitely not waiting until she feels like she’s got it all figured out. She’s just going for it!

Categories
Life Work

Confessions of a recovering workaholic.

The path to succeed is never linear.

Let me start by saying that I’ve been feeling extra guilty for not being able to update here much lately. Work has taken a big chunk of my time, leaving little wiggle room for much else for me, including things like sleep and showering. Our first family vacation is just around the corner now, and I’ve been scrambling to get the last little bits of stuff together before we drive away and shut the world out for a week.

But I’ve been here before. Actually, I’ve been in worse situations, where there was too much work and not nearly enough down time. Not too long ago, I managed to graduate college debt-free by taking 18 credit hour semesters, working three jobs, and actively participated in two other student organizations. All while helping a family business get off the ground.

Now that was hell. 60 hour work weeks feel like vacation to me now.

There will be periods of time where I’ll have a sort of mini existential crisis. This is when I’ll wonder what the hell I’m doing with my life (not fully utilizing my bachelor’s degree is one example) and whether it is beneficial to me in the long run. Sure, things can get depressing while pondering the above, but it is an important thought process for me to have.

You see, people like to think progress is like A, then B, then C. When in reality it’s basically jsGjdkslHkdnskd- (literally slamming my keyboard) then maybe you get money for it. God, if life was really that predictable and stable looking, I feel like people wouldn’t be freaking out about nearly everything as much.

Running out of money and dealing with severe burnout was not in my master plan of obtaining a bachelor’s degree. I don’t think anyone finds any pleasure nor strives to work themselves to the point of sleep deprivation and forgetting to do things like eat, sleep, and neglect basic hygiene things like showering. No wonder people are all smelly and depressed these days. Fortunately for me, the resulting crashes from overworking myself had positive outcomes. I learned to slow down to stop and smell the roses without feeling guilty about it.

Growing up, my work ethic was born out of necessity (for things like eating) and at the same time trying to keep up with the kids that had money to do extracurricular things. School field trips, social activities, club fees, you name it. Sure, I could work long hours and suck up the pain associated with that, but I was smart enough to know in the long run that working this way 24/7 is just plain unsustainable. But I wanted a lot of things. And the only way at the time to get myself those things was to work my ass off for them.

While it takes a certain degree of madness and dedication to accomplish any big goal in life, the best advice I can give anyone with a full plate is to make sure to come up for air every once in a while. All the work, bills, and general chaos that is life will still be waiting for you after that much-needed break. Don’t let the little things kill you.

Now here’s the part where you really came for – How to not die of burnout? Maybe you’re in the thick of it and need some tips on how to manage when breaks are apparently not an option? Now let me stress this – please take time to take care of yourself. You are useless to others if you don’t put on your own oxygen mask first.

Anyway, here are my somewhat embarrassing and sometimes nasty things I did to get by during the worst of it.

1. Be resourceful and find many uses for everyday things.

Is it day 7 of dirty hair and the dry shampoo decided to run out? Baby powder to the rescue. Don’t have the money for shaving cream? Conditioner works wonders. Not only does this save time and avoid stressing about the little things, it is also very frugal and can save money down the road.

2. Be efficient about time management.

Use notes. Calendars. Reminders. Auto-payments. Anything that can help clear up some mental capacity in your head is great. I’m not ashamed to say I will always use calculators to check my work when crunching numbers. I don’t always trust my math skills, and it saves brainpower for worrying about other silly things.

It is also known that simplifying parts of your daily routine helps to keep that mental space clear. School and work uniforms actually do us a favor – they require little effort or thought in the morning to throw on, and they help reserve that mental energy for working or studying.

3. Don’t be picky.

If things don’t go to plan or play out like you’d like them to, don’t fret. Also, don’t spend your precious energy force to fix things that were perhaps never meant to be fixed in the first place. Focus on what you can do yourself. Don’t allow the actions of others or anything else outside of your control make you feel stuck in a loop.

This is something that is also easier said than done for me. I’m still learning how to let go and let live. If this starts to overwhelm me, I give myself a mental “time out” and start to focus on my actions and how I react to certain situations.

Taking a day off for a breather isn’t the end of the world either. Those things that need to be done or conquered will still be there the next morning. So please rest if needed!

4. Start saying NO.

Imagine you’re sitting at the dinner table during the holidays with some distant relative who keeps insisting you haven’t had enough to eat, but you’ve eaten enough to feed a whole village in one sitting and you just can’t take anymore. You politely have to decline or risk your stomach rupturing.

Simply apply the same visual in your work, your personal life, or whatever when that plate is overflowing. Those who mind won’t matter and those who do matter won’t mind. Your health and sanity is what matters most at the end of the day.

Categories
Health Work

Here’s how to say no: Advice from a recovering people-pleaser.

I felt compelled to jot this sentiment down here since it seems like everyone around me finally started to recover from their holiday hangovers. I’m just now getting back into the swing of things myself. After time off, it may seem inappropriate or invoke feelings of guilt to decline projects or tasks that come around. But becoming a “yes man” can do more harm than good sometimes. Believe me, I’ve learned this the hard way more than a few times. I’ll still relapse every now and then and bite off a bit more than I can chew, but I just have to remember that I’m only human… And that I need to do things like sleep and shower to keep me sane enough for the next day.

Ironically, learning how to say no has allowed me to become even more productive, despite taking on fewer assignments. Know why? Because if I don’t have a million and a half things to do, life becomes less stressful. Less stress allows me to focus better on the things that do matter. It also prevents me from binging on Taco Bell because of the self-induced time crunch I’ve put myself into because I haven’t carved out time to pack a proper lunch or dinner. Saying no isn’t just good for my physical health either, it is also wonderful for the soul. How nice and liberating it feels to not be compelled to help people all the time, 24/7.

That being said, I understand that there are goals to be accomplished. It’s the new year, and everyone is on that New Year’s Resolution bandwagon right about now, trying to keep to new commitments or changes that will be beneficial in the long run. But old habits also have a tendency to die hard.

If one of your resolutions in 2019 is to take care of yourself, I’d highly recommend starting with this magical word. And look, you don’t have to be an ass about saying no to things (unless you really want to, I’m not judging you). There’s plenty of ways to decline politely and with grace.

Here are some baby steps to get started:

1. Say the actual word out loud.

Not something like “I’m not sure” or “I don’t think so”… Just “no” should suffice. If no seems too harsh, you can also try some other decently firm options:

“Not for me, thank you.”

“I’m afraid I can’t.”

“Thanks, but I’ve got a lot on my plate right now.”

2. Save the explanation.

This will save both time and energy. You also don’t want them to try to find a way around a fabricated excuse to try and win you over. Sure, the whole “my kid is sick” thing can work, but only so many times before someone starts to question what you could be feeding them.

3. Remember opportunity costs.

Nothing comes free. What would it cost to take on another request? Sleep? Money? Time? That desperately needed venti quadruple shot caramel macchiato from Starbucks?  The choice is yours. Would it be worth it?

4. Don’t procrastinate.

Sure, you can hold off your official answer if you’re not sure about your decision yet, but this will only satisfy whoever you’re answering to temporarily. They’ll be back.

5. Keep your boundaries in check.

If you’ve said no once already, don’t be afraid to say it again. If they start to be pushy or rude about it, then you can just ignore them. Or be rude back. Whatever is your style, I guess. Just remember to reinforce your position. Don’t be a doormat.

6. Prioritize.

If this happens to be a work thing, and your supervisors are asking you to tackle more than you can handle at the moment, you can always say something like “I’m game to take on this project, but I would need a few weeks to get it done right. How would you like me to tackle this while working on tasks A, B, and C?”

7. Go on, be selfish.

I get it. It can still be hard sometimes to say no, especially when it happens to be towards your toddler who is now throwing a tantrum in the middle of the grocery store because you wouldn’t get them a candy bar. Or when your mother in law tries to guilt trip you for the 10th time this month. Remember to put your needs first and take care of yourself.

Go on, embrace your inner Ron Swanson.

ron swanson nopeee

 

Categories
Health Tech Work

Why “unplugging” from the internet is important for me.

I fondly remember the camping trips I used to take growing up. We loaded up the car until things were starting to spill out of the doors, ran around the house a bit to make sure we didn’t forget anything (except the kitchen sink) and headed towards our favorite camping spot. It wasn’t too far away from where we lived, but it was far enough to be out of the noise of the city, and away from any responsibilities and obligations that we had back home. This was our vacation ritual almost every year, and we all looked forward to it every season.

Once we arrived, the bags got unpacked, the food got cooking, and our phones got turned off and packed away for an entire week. Yes, all the way off. Not on silent or vibrate. We went completely off the map.

Nobody could reach us easily and we could enjoy our family time in peace. I feel like this practice would cause some panic attacks now – but it seemed to be completely normal to do this sort of thing only 10 years ago.

Ha, “only” ten years ago. Look at me throwing around decades of time like it’s nothing. Psh.

2000s-childhood-photo-cringe
Here’s a cringy childhood photo from the early 2000’s – proof that I really am getting older.

So why is it so hard to disconnect these days? Well, the internet is a lot more than what it was back in 2008, cell phones can now do so much more than just contact people, and a sort of obligation of availability seems to have taken hold of a lot of people. We now have online presences to maintain on our social media profiles and websites.

I think we’ve gotten to a place as a society where if we decided to unplug from our online lives, people will actually become concerned that we’ve died or something. (I’m still here, WordPress!) We’ve forgotten that we also have lives offline that need tending to.

The whole morning routine is even impacted by technology. Checking email, catching up on the news, even working out, it all usually involves being online or connected to our smartphones and/or the internet now. I have always done my best to keep a healthy boundary between my offline life and the online world. There are several reasons why I do this, and the biggest of these is to make sure I can stay healthy and productive IRL.

Even my husband and my in-laws will get irritated with me every now and then because I don’t always have my phone on me. There are certain days where a smartphone would be a distraction to me, and if I’m at work or on a job with them somewhere, I will more than likely not have my smartphone physically on me.

Just look at my life for the past few weeks:

  • I’ve picked up more hours at a part-time job, and my employer would not appreciate me updating my blog/Facebook on the clock.
  • We’ve closed on a “fixer-upper” that needs some TLC before someone in Toledo can call it a home, and have been chipping away on the to-do list for that. (Another post on that later!)
  • I have a 1-year-old.
  • The laundry has been piling up.
  • I have friends to hang out with.

… You get the idea, right?

Besides being in a busy season, here are some other important reasons why unplugging needs to be done regularly for me.

For Mental Health

I think of it like brushing my teeth. It’s annoying, but it needs to be done every day or some funky stuff will start happening in my mouth. The same thing applies to my brain. And my eyes. My head will literally start to hurt from all the light of the screens I stare at for hours, and looking at perfect, flawless photos of friends and other things I follow 24/7 is definitely not good for my mental mojo.

Turning off the computer and putting my phone away lets me be more aware of my surroundings, and allows me to be grateful for my life around me. It is good to live in the moment.

For Work

It really wouldn’t be safe for me to be distracted by a YouTube video while trying to use sharp and dangerous power tools that could cut off my arm. I can only multitask to a certain extent – and the more places my attention is, the less effective my work is.

This also applies to my writing. I find if I do it too much, my creativity suffers a bit. If I allow myself to unplug and experience the world going on around me, then I can jump back into the online world later and put those things on paper (or on this blog) for others to read about.

For My Daughter

There would be something seriously sad about missing a big moment of her childhood now because of my inattention due to my smartphone. Or from working too much. Or from being away a lot.

PJ is growing up so fast. Walking has now turned into running – sometimes clumsily into random objects. I really need to keep an eye on her now!

She is a big reason why the unplugging time for me is absolutely mandatory. PJ will not be this little forever, and I’ve got to cherish every moment that I can before I miss it.

For My Husband

Unplugging is definitely a thing that we both can struggle with sometimes, and I know he loves his time online with his friends playing Overwatch or PUBG on the Xbox, and then zoning out on Netflix after a long day. But we’ve both come to a shocking realization – everything on our bodies is starting to hurt and we are getting older by the minute.

There are so many things we want to get out and do together before we get so old that we can’t move well anymore – and we also need the time together to keep our relationship solid. Even if it’s just a few minutes in the morning sipping coffee together in the kitchen before we head to our jobs. Quality time offline to connect and check in with each other is so important!

For Freedom!

*cue screeching ‘Murica eagle here*

wat-eagle-reddit-murica
“lol wat?”

It is so liberating to not have any strings attached when I decide to go offline and to explore and to just live my effing life! As I’m wrapping up this blog post, I’m already thinking about what I’m about to go do next on a rare day off. I’m waiting for Dan and PJ to wake up from their naps. Maybe we’ll go to the park or something, but everyone is definitely looking forward to spending family time together today until Dan has to report to work this evening.

Gotta take advantage of chances like these to relax! I’ll be back soon with the story of our latest project soon.

 

Categories
Life Work

Career or children? How I’m coping and striving to have both.

Let’s face it – being a parent is hard work. And it’s severely underappreciated.

I’m not even in the thick of it myself yet and I can already feel the struggles of motherhood weighing down on me. Work-life balance is the newest sought after thing as today’s parents desperately try to maintain a workload of a full-time career and the workload of raising children.

We underestimate how much this balancing act will cost us, and without taking adequate time for self-care and rest, we end up with burnout. In my experience, this is not pleasant at all and can take a period of time to recover fully from to feel somewhat back to normal.

EJ Dickson from Bustle wrote in her latest blog post “Young Women Are Convinced Motherhood Is Going To Suck — And They’re Right” that many young women today feel like they must choose between a career or having kids since it has become simply impossible to manage both. Multiple factors to take into account here are the high costs of childcare, previous student loan debt and high medical bills, the stigma working mothers face after returning to work (not being able to join happy hour or taking leave for a sick child), and maternity leave policies, or lack thereof, that provide little to no support during a big life change.

reddit_twitter_image
Why is everything expensive?

It’s no wonder younger women are placing value on work over motherhood lately. Even in my case, I had placed value in my career in over prospects of marriage and having children because I had spent 5 years of my life (and plenty of hard-earned cash) investing in myself for the work that I had wanted to do.

So when the big news did come crashing through my bathroom door, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I was happy, but it felt like any future career opportunities had died that day. Once I saw that test come back positive, it felt like I was literally flushing away all of my hard work and my now worthless bachelor’s degree down the toilet.

I had to reinvent myself and start over. And it was hard. My work identity fiercely fought against my new mom identity and had started to fade into nothingness. Somewhere in there, I lost myself among the bills, the deadlines, and the dirty diapers. I was a complete disaster. Along with the postpartum depression crap that was happening to me at the time, it all really sucked.

family-car-husband-baby-wife
Candid family photo as we wait for business partners to arrive.

After a while, I had a sudden realization – Since when has anything in my life been perfectly linear? Sure, I face more obstacles if I choose to continue down the career path I had chosen at the beginning, but life has a tendency to throw wrenches in plans of any sort that I try to make. Big events like these force me to slow down, take note of how I’m feeling, and see if I need to adjust my course.

I’m thankful that PJ came into my life when she did. She helped me remember what I felt was the most important to me in life. Of course, I do have moments where I fondly remember the freedom I had before having her, but now whenever she stays for an extended visit with Grandma, I find myself missing her and covering her in smooches and hugs when she returns.

After I reviewed my options, I found that it would be best for me to take a brief pause in my career. However, I would not leave the workforce entirely though, that would completely ruin me. I’m the kind of person who needs to work or I would end up going nuts.

So currently, I’m working a few side jobs while I am continuing to network, study up on industry trends, and preparing myself to get my hands dirty when I am finally ready to hit the ground running back into the marketing world. Maybe if I have the time, I’ll conduct some field research. That may be wishful thinking at the moment with how full my plate has been lately!

I have to keep in mind, this season is only a detour. Not the end of my working days. Not the end of what I’ve worked so hard to attain.

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PJ with her first cupcake for her first birthday.

And the more that I work on my own, I find that I like being able to be my own boss and call the shots. What would stop me from starting my own business? (I’m already a part of the in-laws’ family business in real estate!) Of course, I could come up with a million reasons on why I shouldn’t even bother, but it’s an option I’ve been considering for a while now. If anything, life and motherhood have been trying to get it through my thick skull that I need to be fearless.

And after this past year, I think I’ve finally been enabled to be just that. I was so concerned with doing things a certain way, and I was trying to take a more traditional path towards success. That path caused me to have a lot of anxiety if things didn’t happen like I wanted, and it caused me to cling on to a job I wasn’t completely happy in. Baby PJ came into our lives and turned it upside-down, dumping out all of the junk and silly things that had collected over the years. Things in our lives that did not improve our well-being were completely eliminated. Children definitely make you re-evaluate your life and priorities, and they leave no room for things that serve no purpose.

My fear of failure in everything was finally defeated by failing over and over again. I eventually got used to it. I’m finally able to be at peace if things become unpredictable and blow up in my face. PJ has also forced me to be very efficient with my time management. (And that’s a good thing!) With these two critical things, I can face new challenges without withdrawing into my shell – free of the perfectionist chip that was on my shoulder.

While I’m here in this season, I must remember to be thankful, to keep learning and working (even if it’s outside my field), and remember to breathe and take care of myself so that I can be the best version of myself that I can be for me, my husband, and my dear daughter.

Categories
Life Uncategorized Work

Boobs, bottles and breast pumps: How I managed to survive breastfeeding.

**Okay, here’s a disclaimer before we begin. You are about to read my personal experiences with breastfeeding. I talk about my boobs here and if that makes you uncomfortable, please stop reading now and go do something nice for yourself. Maybe treat yourself to some ice cream and go get your haircut or… something. You do you.**

Alright, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I wanted to rant a little bit about the challenges that I’ve faced while nursing and pumping for my daughter these past 8 months. (Woo! only 4 months until I meet my goal!)

I didn’t really give too much thought of whether I would breastfeed or give formula while I was pregnant. As I was en route to the hospital to deliver PJ, I was at peace with either method, as long as my daughter was getting fed and was healthy, that’s all that mattered to me. Without a second thought, I flung myself into the responsibilities and incredible discipline that came with breastfeeding and pumping.

The first few months were HARD.  The first few weeks? Almost unbearable.

While I spent my first few days with our new little bundle of joy, I was in a complete fog. I think I was still in shock that I had actually delivered my baby without dying and that I was holding her and looking at her for the first time. But soon enough, she became very hungry. The lactation consultant would come into the room and latch her onto my breast but did not really explain to me what I was about to experience.

“It will feel a little tender at first, but nursing shouldn’t hurt.”

Don’t listen to people who tell you this. These kinds of statements are LIES.

I screamed in agony as PJ tried to latch on to nurse for the first time. My boobs were definitely not ready to be my baby’s new chew toy. We had a lot of problems right out the gate. Her latch wasn’t great, as this was a skill that babies actually have to learn to be able to drink at the breast efficiently. I didn’t get the memo that this was something that had to be practiced in order to be able to work. I fumbled with my other breast and tried to perform what was called the “nipple sandwich” in order to feed my squished nipple to PJ.

Surprisingly, if you keep trying to put one of the most sensitive parts of your body into a hungry newborn’s mouth, you end up with pain. Lots of pain. Imagine that.

Tears were rolling down my face as the nurse and lactation consultant tried their best to console me. They believed PJ was not getting enough milk, and so they brought out these small, 3-ounce bottles of Enfamil to feed her and to encourage her to sleep. Even though I knew before stepping into the hospital that I would be okay if breastfeeding didn’t work out, I was totally devastated in the moment. I thought that this was something my body was supposed to do, and I started to think that I was a defective mother right from the start. Of course, this was while my hormones were out of whack and I was far, far away from recovering from the delivery, but my feelings were real.

I didn’t give up. I used the hospital pump religiously around the clock to see if I could give breastfeeding another go. Holding one pump funnel onto one breast, and holding the baby in my other arm, I tried to pump and nurse PJ at the same time in my hospital bed. At the end of the second night, my nipples became raw, cracked and started to bleed a bit. It was not a pretty sight. I was not a pretty sight. I felt like a great big mess the entire time I was recovering.

And then, we got the discharge papers.

I was not ready to go home without knowing I had tried my best to get the milk flowing for my daughter, but I knew the nurses had better things to do than deal with this weeping, squishy blob of a woman who was formerly myself. I kept trying. And kept trying some more.

And then, a miracle happened.

I got a quarter of an ounce of milk from one pump! From just a few drops, I was starting to make more of what I needed to feed PJ, and I was over the moon with this achievement.

But after I got home and googled everything about breastfeeding and why I was having so much trouble, I found that what I was experiencing was NORMAL.

Apparently, most newborns only need about an ounce or so of milk in the first week of life. And it is common for women to make only an ounce or less in the beginning. And the nurses were giving my newborn 3-oz bottles of formula. Huh.

The pain eventually started to subside as I kept pumping and nursing, but it wasn’t until after 4 long months that I noticed it became a little less painful. I was able to get used to the sensation at that point.

I used my pump at home just as religiously while I was on my medical leave, practicing for the big day when I would be returning to my office job, about a half an hour away from home. Bigger challenges were ahead of me, but for the moment, I was just happy to be out of the hospital and back home where I needed to be for the next few weeks.

 

door warning
What my HR manager and I  originally wanted to use as a “do not disturb” sign.

Returning to work was another great obstacle I faced when trying to keep my milk supply up and prevent some painful conditions, such as mastitis. Babies are not very predictable creatures. They don’t always eat the same amount at the same time each day. My boobs were engorged, confused, and feeling raw on a good day. You don’t wanna know what a bad day was like.

Also, with the new laws in place to protect breastfeeding mothers, my previous employer was required to give me a pumping area (that was not a restroom) to use during the workday. Which I had no idea about and I was perfectly prepared to go pump in my car if needed. That probably would have been pretty awkward to some poor person who had to walk by my car in the parking lot.

I believe I got a pretty decent setup. A cute and comfy chair from Target and a small Ikea-like table were set in a small supply closet, next to a mini refrigerator to store any pumped milk. (So the other coworkers would not confuse my breast milk with the coffee creamer, I’m sure.)

My Human Resources Manager at the time was super supportive of the decision to breastfeed my daughter and the company was happy to assist me with whatever I needed within reason. However, when things were starting to pile up at work, it would cut into my pumping time and would cause me to be in an incredible amount of pain if I didn’t take care of business – at least two to three times during the workday. A dual electric pump was a necessity. I was so thankful that my insurance covered a Spectra S2 breast pump that I used at home, and that I received a Medela Pump in Style breast pump from my baby shower to use at work. I carried that Medela EVERYWHERE, and I loved that it was so discreet. It just looked like I was carrying around a harmless black tote bag.

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The Spectra S2 (above) and the Medela Pump in Style Advanced (below).

Having the ability to take work home with me and use flex time if needed was huge, but I also needed to make sure in the long run, I kept work at work and didn’t bring it home with me. I was blessed to have this ability since I know that not every mom has the luxury of even a supply closet to use when needed if she chooses to breastfeed her child after returning to work. There are moms that I know that still need to use the work bathrooms to pump, despite the new laws put in place.

Fast forward a few months later, around the 6-month postpartum mark, and I noticed some changes – the milk I was producing seemed thicker and had more fat content in it. Shortly after I noticed this, I became extremely fatigued after every time I nursed PJ or pumped. I had forgotten that producing milk took a lot of energy from my body, and even more so now that PJ was starting to become more active and alert – she needed the extra energy, and it had to come from somewhere.

It was one of the few times where I actually had to eat more food to keep up with the caloric demands of this new milk. Worried that I would put back on the pounds from pregnancy, I had started to revert back to my old habits and diet, where I would only eat about 1200 calories in a day, along with exercise here and there. I was determined to get back to my pre-baby weight, and even that was considered overweight for my height, at 180 pounds.

However, breastfeeding moms need additional nutrition to keep milk supply up – which can be anywhere between an additional 400 to 500 calories a day or even more. It took some trial and error to realize that even though I was still overweight, I needed to be taking in at least 2000 calories a day. I was definitely not eating enough and I was thankful my mistake didn’t cause any damage to my milk supply.

I have to remember that weight loss after pregnancy is a marathon, not a sprint. I will get there. I hope.

Now I am only 4 months away from meeting my goal of nursing PJ for one entire year. It has been a labor-intensive act, but I am forever grateful that this experience has helped me bond with my daughter and allowed me to slow down enough to spend quality time with her during her first months of life. Also, all the money I saved by not having to buy formula was also a huge bonus.

But after this, I’m definitely going to think twice about breastfeeding and if it would be the best choice once baby #2 comes along. And hopefully, that’s not for another few years.