When Maternity Leaves Ends

**I have attempted to write this post numerous times yet it never comes out as I intend for it to. I decided to go ahead and hit the publish key anyways in hopes that my transparency is beneficial to someone else out there who may have experienced something similar. But be warned, this is practically a novel. You probably shouldn't read it. I included pictures in hopes that you'd hate me less for writing such a long post**

If you remember this post, you'll recall that I was pretty heartbroken about my maternity leave ending. Heartbroken doesn't really do justice to describe how I was feeling, though.  Devastation, severe panic, even depression probably sum it up more accurately...

I viewed the end of my maternity leave as dooms day. And I cried. A lot.

I expected many things from motherhood and felt (foolishly) prepared for them. I expected the sleepless nights, a spit up ridden wardrobe, going many hours without eating, and even many days without a shower. I expected changing endless diapers, reading the same books and singing the same songs again and again. I even expected possible struggles with breastfeeding. What I didn't expect, and what no baby book or blog post could have ever prepared me for, was the intense emotion I would feel. Motherhood is emotional and I was in no way prepared for it. 
I dreaded my return to work so much that it became an obsession. I spent countless hours crying while rocking my baby boy; pinning over the milestones I would miss, sobbing into his blonde hair wondering if he'd miss me, if he'd need me, if he'd know I loved him and that he was safe and well taken care of while I was away.. Maybe all women who have to return to work have these thoughts? I don't know. But I do know that the intensity of my emotions frightened me. It also embarrassed me and became something I was ashamed of. Something that I didn't want to talk about to anyone --even my husband until I would simply explode with grief and sob helpless, chest heaving, hard to breathe sobs into his arms, "I can't leave my baby... I can't leave my baby..." over and over and over again.

I didn't feel like I could survive the separation, and that's when I realized something was wrong. I was so heavy with grief that I no longer recognized myself. I couldn't get through a sentence without exploding into sobs. I felt dark, bleak, and hopeless. I felt like a failure -- as an employee, as a wife, as a mother, as a women.

People kept telling me, "Oh, it's just hormones!," and I desperately wanted to believe it. But these were more than just mood swings brought on by sleepless nights and leaky boobs, these were dark moments that left me feeling frightened and alone. Something was off with me. Emotionally, things just weren't right. And instead of the passing of time making me feel better, I simply got worse --more anxious, more confused, more sad.

What I thought at the time was just a bad case of separation anxiety over leaving Jack I now realize was a postpartum struggle.

I remember standing in my kitchen telling my friend Kristen that Steven and I thought that maybe I should talk to someone... maybe what I was experiencing wasn't normal... maybe I needed help. I tried so hard to not let the tears that were pooling in my eyes spill over. I wanted so badly to be strong and not sound like I was losing my mind. But the truth is, I was! And as soon as she left I lost it. I. Lost. It.

That's when I knew I wouldn't be going back into the office.
Writer David Sedaris has this theory that your life is like a stove top with 4 burners. One burner represents your family, one your friends, another your health, and the last one is your work. In order to be successful you have to turn off one of your burners. In order to be really successful you have to turn off two.. For me, emotionally, I had too many burners on. I chose to cut one of them off.

I quit my job that following Monday. I simply called my boss and said I couldn't leave my baby. I love my job. Heck, I even love my boss and the other guy I work with, but I felt then (and I still struggle with it now) that I was emotionally incapable of leaving my son. I know I wasn't able to be mentally present at my job in the emotional state I was in. I knew I would be a better mother, wife, and friend if I let my work go.

Within a few short days I felt a huge weight gradually be lifted from my shoulders. My head felt clearer and my heart felt lighter. I knew I had made the best decision for my family. The fog I had spent the last 3-4 months in was beginning to clear.

It all sounds so simple when I write it down, but it wasn't. Career wise... I enjoy my work and know I'll have a hard time finding anything like it in the future. Financially... Steven and I are taking a huge lifestyle cut and may even have to consider getting rid of our home down the road. Socially... I feel like I failed. I feel as though I let down my co-workers who thought I was going back to the office. I feel like I let down other women who do work outside the home and do so successfully. Honestly, a part of me envies those women. And, to be totally transparent, I let down myself in a lot of ways by just not having it all together. I wanted to be able to throw on my skinny jeans, step back into my high heels and march into the office. Superwoman, right? But I just wan't ready.
Turns out, I am still working (but from home) until they find a replacement for me. The last thing I wanted to do was leave my job on bad terms, so I agreed to stay on so that there is a smooth transition from me to the new technical writer. Working from home and taking care of my little man these last 3 months has proven to be the most difficult thing I've ever done, but I feel very fortunate to be able to do it and much, much happier.

I am so thankful for my amazing and supportive husband, family, friends (and even my employer!) who have all played a significant part in where I am today and how much better I feel! And I am beyond excited for this new season in my life!

If you made it to the end on this Monday morning.. Bravo!


Ashley said...

Soo glad you came to your decision. I think it will be the best decision for your family!!

Laura-Hyde said...

I didn't just wanna read and run; I've not got children but have always wondered how women handle the emotions that come with motherhood. Props to you for doing what was right for you and your family; there is no one-size fits all. I think some women enjoy the break from their children, I think it helps them remember who they are, but other women seem equally fine taking years off work to raise their children. There is no set way to do things; just do what is right for YOU. Good luck, Danielle xx

Cara said...

Thanks for sharing, Danielle! I can't imagine how hard it would be to be dealing with the feelings and emotions you've had to deal with for months and then deal with having to quit a job you love. I don't think anyone or any mom can fit into a "box" of what is right or wrong. You have to do what is best for you and your situation and your family. Glad you're feeling better!!

Kaity said...

Aww...I'm glad you were able to do what was write for baby and for you, Mama. Unfortunately, staying home isn't an option for me when maternity leave ends (thank you, student loan debt) and I worry it'll be equally as hard. At least I'll feel not-so-alone <3

k8te said...

loved your honesty here...i am 7 months pregnant and already dreading maternity leave ending, and my baby isn't even here yet! unfortunately we can't financially make it work for me to stay home...i'm sure it'll be a difficult transition back. glad you found a way to make it work for you and your family!

Jane {In The Pink & Green} said...

Thank you so much for sharing, and I totally know what you mean, when it comes to tough topics, sometimes it's hard to convey exactly how you're feeling in a post. I am currently pregnant with my first baby (a boy as well!) and I have been thinking a lot about the pros and cons of staying home vs. keeping my job after he's born...and at the end of the day, I realize that I am going to have no idea how I'm going to feel until he's actually here. That's why I'm just trying to keep an open mind at this point vs. making a decision now since I know that nothing can really prepare you for how you'll feel once your child is here :) I definitely struggle with some of the things you talked about already though, on the one hand, it's hard for me to think about just not having a job especially when none of my friends stay home and it would be a change to our lifestyle...but at the same time, the thought of someone else besides me taking car of my baby is really difficult to think about, and in some ways it does feel like a lose/lose situation and already I can see how it would be tough not to feel like you're letting someone down. However, it sounds like you absolutely made the right decision for you and your family, which at the end of the day is the most important thing. Best of luck to you and thanks again for sharing! :)

Melissa Smith said...

I feel for you so strongly and I sincerely wish I was to the point of being able financially for me to stay home. Unfortunately my husband is still in school and can't take over my part of the income until he graduates but I look forward to being able to stay home. You are strong!!!

Lauren said...

Thank you so much for your honesty. I'll be transparent, at the beginning of my pregnancy my hormones and this life change I experienced some depression. I decided to talk to someone and so glad i did. Sounds like you made the best decision for you. That took guts and I admire you!

Sarah said...

This post must have been so hard to write. It is raw, but most of all, REAL. Just by putting fingers to keyboard and letting it all out, you've helped others. I have no doubt. Sometimes we have this preconceived notion of who we are and what we want... and life has a funny way of proving us all wrong. In your case, you were meant to be home with your little man. For now, anyway. I wish more moms were honest with how hard the transition can be. Oh, and the guilt and pressure we feel to be everything to everyone. It's all too much sometimes. Kudos to you for making the brave choice to do what you needed to do for your own health and happiness rather than succumbing to outside pressures. I'm so glad you pressed "publish".

Holly said...

Thank you SO much for sharing this, and for being so honest! I think you were very brave to make the decision that you did for you and your family! Going back to work after I had Topher was the hardest thing I've ever done ~ I was SO happy when my boss said I could work PT from home after I had Ellie. We've had to make a lot of changes to make my staying home financially feasible, but it was definitely worth it!