Nobody likes to set herself up for failure.
So as I considered my return to work after my second baby, I didn’t seriously think I was equipped to take advantage of my company’s policy which could allow me to bring her with me. I knew I would be returning to a backlog of work, in part due a database conversion that happened while I was gone. And I would have to perform in an open office…and with a new supervisor! No; it couldn’t work.
But maybe it would have to work. My first daughter, now three and a half, happily skips to her classroom every morning. Her tearful good-byes are a faded memory that I dreaded revisiting with Baby E. So during my leave, ignoring my wiser self, I put off contacting our preferred daycare provider about openings. When I finally made the call, I was told there were no openings until a date shortly after Baby E would turn 6 months old. Hmmm…
I’m so lucky. My employer made it easy for me to return to work and wholly welcomed Baby E. My open desk space was temporarily swapped with my supervisor’s so that I could have a private office. An all-staff memo was sent about my baby coming to work, including “baby-related ground rules” such as “if her door is closed please respect her privacy” and “give reasonable accommodation for meeting times as babies don’t follow a schedule”!
The weekend before my first day back I went in and prepped my office with some supplies and a play yard and swing just purchased from a local consignment sale. I took a photo of the set-up, I was so pleased. At that point, wearing Baby E was just an after-thought. I remember having worn my first “a lot,” but really just enough to get an occasional household errand done and to make shopping a bit easier. Well, that is “a lot”!...anyway…
I first brought my new BabyHawk mei tai to work with me, and found Baby E loved to spend time in it. She slept a lot! I got a lot of work done! And she made me look like I knew what I was doing; I wasn’t failing, and I worried less and less about what my colleagues thought. In fact, she took so well to the carrier that I worried out-loud on my very first post to Babywearing International of Madison’s Facebook page:
Anything encouraging for me? I actually have a bit of mommy-guilt associated with baby-wearing. I get to have my daughter at work with me (full time from ages 3-6 months, this is our 3rd week). When she's being fussy I find two options will make her happy: I get in her face and play with her (would love to do this, but not conducive to getting work done) or wear her until she falls asleep. I feel guilty that wearing her to sleep is the easier option for me. Still, if she's sleeping she must be happy...right?
The responses I received were nothing but reassuring, and so with that virtual “blessing” I dove into it. I found out the hard way that I was tying the mei tai incorrectly (ouch!) and fixed that. Baby E grew up in it—first froggy-legged, then cinching the seat with a ribbon, then seated without.
I wore my Ergo a few times, which seemed to confuse my colleagues. “How many carriers do you have?!” they said, after only seeing the two. So for kicks I brought in my ring sling, though only wore it that once. And later I broke out the stretchy wrap, a Moby D that I bought used three years earlier for my first baby. I had a slight, hidden resentment towards it. I had had a c-section with my first, and so my partner carried her in that wrap before I ever got to. I never took the time to get comfortable with it. But here I was now, feeling like an administrative pioneer, making the Moby work for me! It quickly became our snuggly morning nap wrap.
Baby E and I got into a wearing routine: morning drop off at work and transport from car to office with all of my bags (Ergo); lonnnng morning nap (Moby); lonnnng afternoon nap (mei tei); socialization with colleagues, nursing, diaper changes, and some motor activity in between.
We wore through departmental meetings, conference calls, an off-site meeting and more. I managed a nice lunch in a packed restaurant with colleagues with a napkin over her head, as well as plenty of bathroom visits where I’m proud to say that I never got tails in the toilet water! I admit, some days it wore on my body so that all I wanted was to ditch the extra weight and get a deep tissue massage. But most days she was wonderful, and it was an amazing opportunity to bond. She learned what it looked like when I starting tying in front of her so that she would give me “uppy” cues not unlike nursing cues!
I think failing in any sense was never truly a possibility. As a mother, I will always try my best and find a way to make things work. But babywearing made it so much easier for me to feel successful. Baby E is now in daycare, but we still enjoy our babywearing moments at times when we’re off. For our time at work, having felt her soft head on my cheek as I processed reports and holding her tiny foot in my hand as I sat in on a conference call were moments gifted to me by an awesome employer and a supportive culture for babywearing. To those of you reading this, thank you for helping to create this culture.