back to the grind

Oh, Monday morning, you came without warning.
Yes that’s right. My maternity leave officially ended at 8:30am this past Monday. I’m not gonna lie, there were tears involved. I’ll admit, going back to work even without miss Natalie waiting for me at home would have been tough after 12 weeks out of the workaday loop; maternity leave has taught me nothing if not that, had I the disposable income & lavish wardrobe, I could totally get on board with the lady-of-leisure lifestyle. Alas, that’s just not in the cards at this point in my life. Luckily, I have a pretty fantastic job to go back to (it’s hard to complain about work when my week consisted of hanging out with kids at the beach, making craft projects, and volunteering to play with the kittens at the animal shelter, topped off with birthday cake from my co-workers…. I don’t exactly “have it rough” in the traditional occupational sense), which made the transition a little more palatable.

But of course the toughest part of going back to work is being away from the budgie for so much of the day. Mikey and I feel truly lucky that because he is a teacher he has the summers off to spend with Natalie, which means we don’t have to worry about childcare until the fall and he finally gets the opportunity to spend his days snuggled up with our girl instead of walking out the door to work every morning. I don’t know how he’s been doing it for the first three months of her life–the night before I had to go back to work I had a good long cry while I nursed Natalie before bed and could not for the life of me imagine that my full-time-stay-at-home-mom gig was really ending. But back to work I went, and I have survived my first workweek and now am staring down a 4-day weekend with my two most favorite people in the world. I’m really fortunate to be going back to work part-time for the foreseeable future, which means all summer our little family of 3 will enjoy long weekends together, and in the fall when Mike heads back to work we’ll only be looking for childcare a couple of days a week (thanks, mostly, to my mom being so willing & eager to be our designated baby-sitter!).

Making it even harder to head off to work, though? The incredible changes we’ve seen in Natifuss over the past two weeks or so. It seems like overnight she has transformed from the cute little newborn lump stage into a full-on baby, which is even more painfully adorable than her already sweet little self. She has become so much stronger, and has a new heft to her that makes carrying her on my hip or up on my shoulder completely different. My parents describe her straight-up posture while you carry her now as her “giraffe neck” pose, which is captured quite perfectly in this picture, taken last week:

Yup, that’s my big girl, perched right up, looking around at everything. She is completely enraptured with her environment and wants to spend most of her time checking out the sights and sounds of all that’s around her. The days of simply cradling her in my arms all the time seem to be gone for good as she now demands to be moving around and looking around as much as possible.

Her social smiles are also so much more developed now, which might be my favorite thing ever. Even just in the past couple of days we’ve noticed that she is much more willing to give up a big wide-mouthed grin in place of her usual down-turned grouchy expression. She still tends to get her grumpus on when the camera comes out, but for the most part she is proving to be a very happy, smiley baby. Mike has been bringing her to me at lunchtime when I’m at work so I can nurse her and have a noontime snuggle, and to be greeted with all those smiles and squeals every day is just about the most wonderful thing I could ever imagine.

But the biggest development of all?? Natalie is officially rolling over!! Mike was the first to discover her latest trick when, after changing her diaper, he put our fussy face on her playmat and left the room to wash his hands and came back to discover this:

She did it!! We spent most of yesterday evening trying to catch her big turns on video, and high-fiving over her big accomplishment. Every time she does it she seems quite stunned to discover that she’s on her stomach, and looks around a bit bewildered while we stand cheering over her.

All of these changes have made it a little tougher to be away from her (I spend a lot of time wondering what milestones I’ll be missing when I’m not at home), but I am slowly adjusting to my new schedule and keep reminding myself that it’s really a pretty lucky situation we’re in that Natalie’s first 6 months of life will be spent entirely with her parents as her day-to-day caregivers, and since more than half of my week is still going to be spent at home with her I’ll be with her more than I’m apart from her. It’s a challenge, for sure, but we’re surviving it.

We’re planning on making the most of our days off together this summer, and have a busy social calendar all filled up for the next several weeks. On the docket for tomorrow is the Farmer’s Market with my fabulous in-laws, cake & ice cream with my parents (it’s my birthday, don’tcha know); Friday will be a beach day if the weather cooperates; Saturday it’s the Botanical Gardens; and Sunday will hopefully be pajama-day in the Flagg/Cherry household before I head back to work Monday morning. Pictures of all surely to follow.


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