“I was stressed about the cost of childcare–and a stranger taking care of my baby–from the time I was probably 12-weeks pregnant. It was this looming dark cloud in our home because of the cost, but what neither my husband nor I thought about was if there was any availability for infant-care in our area. (People should really tell you to plan for child care during your pregnancy instead of all the other unsolicited advice, but I digress!)
There was a time during my pregnancy that I did second guess even returning to work after my maternity leave ended. Would it be worth it? Paying so much in child care that it basically feels like you’re paying to be at work, depressed, away from your newborn? But I had to go back. My work provided our family with all of our insurance coverage–something I wasn’t going to disrupt with a new baby to care for. After months of feeling unsettled at work, I finally expressed my anxiety to my manager. Her first response? ‘Just bring her with you when you come back! We can have an office baby!’ It was unbelievable. She can’t be serious! But she and almost everyone else in the office were so excited and supportive and ready for Baby P to join the team!
I work for a small company with less than 50 employees so I was allotted 6 weeks of unpaid maternity leave, and I added on one week of PTO on top of that. My husband Tony took one week off from work since his company does not offer paternity leave. I bonded and snuggled, and nursed, and snuggled, and nursed that tiny girl again and again for 7 weeks. It was magical and perfect! And exhausting and emotionally wrecking! And smelly and painful and awkward! But magical and perfect nonetheless. But that seventh week was creeping to an end more quickly than I anticipated, and I cried about it almost daily.
Tony took the day off on my first day back to work to stay home with Priscilla. He thought I should get myself situated and caught up before diving back in with a newborn in tow. Every day for almost two months I would lug Priscilla and all her baby gear with me to the office each morning, try to bang out as much work as possible before her first nap, which she would take sleeping on me, and then I’d continue working on my tasks for the day.
I wasn’t as efficient or productive as I thought I was going to be, but everyone was so understanding and helpful through the weird process of adjusting to an ‘office baby.’ My coworkers worked as silently as possible for months, bringing me coffee when I couldn’t get up, and then re-heating that same cup because I never drank it in time. It was so sweet I could cry. They’d take phone calls in other rooms, or play lullaby music when I needed P to sleep. One gal was my go-to baby entertainer when I needed a moment to focus or even just use the restroom! She would play silly videos for Priscilla or rock and bounce her. Occasionally Priscilla made the rounds to other floors so colleagues could coo at her and have their turn with a quick snuggle.
There were downsides, though. I couldn’t participate in every conversation or meeting I needed to if P was nursing, or if I was trying to get her fussy self to sleep, or if I was cleaning up one of her many massive blow-outs. I ignored phone calls and returned the person’s message with an email instead. Everything I wore had to be nursing accessible which was its own set of challenges. Plus the very obvious side effect of feeling like a tremendous burden on the people you work with because they are changing almost everything about their day-to-day, and here you are with a crying baby and an office space that has the lingering scent of diaper cream.
After a few months my dad was able to help us with taking care of Priscilla during the day. I’d take her to work with me one or two days a week, my dad would watch her about three days a week. I was also able to work remotely from home if needed, which was another generous accommodation my boss made for me. Sometimes young babies are grumpy and fussy and would rather be comfy at home than spend nine hours in an office with fluorescent lights. Shocking, I know. And on those days, I’d work from my dining room table, with P plopped next to me, doing her cute baby things.
During that time we toured a few child-care centers and got our name on the waiting lists. We were told it would be around nine months before an opening which seemed like an eternity, but there was a surprise opening for part-time care starting January 2019! It was kind of nice to do part-time at first so we could just see how it went, and I could still have my girl with me a little bit during the week. I needed my time back at work but I was SO sad my days with a baby co-worker were coming to an end!
Right now Priscilla is 14-months old and has been in child-care for about 10 months, and so far she loves all of her teachers and her little toddler buddies she gets to interact with on a daily basis.
Being able to bring my new baby to work with me, especially as a first time mother, gave me the peace of mind I needed when it came to enrolling her in child-care. My employer allowed me to do this because he knew I would be more likely to stay with the company with this arrangement, and also, because he’s a good person and realized it really wasn’t that big of a deal if sometimes a baby came into the office! My office is quiet and relatively private, and there are not a ton of people in and out of there on a daily basis, so it is a perfect setting for an infant to join in. I know this isn’t the case for every work place environment, but there really are more companies that can extend similar arrangements to their employees, if they cared to. It can seem like a wild idea – bringing a baby into the work place?! But if baby is relatively undisruptive, and no one directly involved feels uncomfortable or put out, why not allow new moms some flexibility? I have a co-worker who is due with her first child in a few months, and we plan on her having a very similar situation as mine. Everyone will adjust to the new, temporary normal, until this baby’s daycare spot opens up. And in the meantime, we all get that new baby smell again and continue on with our work.
I hope that someone reading who that is experiencing a similar battle, to continue on working or not, can find some hope in this story. To find that there is some middle ground. Talk with your managers, your boss, see what kind of flexibility in your schedule they’re willing to provide. Maybe you can be the one to implement a new policy at your company and start the process of making new mothers feel comfortable and valued in the workplace.”
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This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Emily Reed of Spokane, Washington. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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