Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Five things I learnt when I resumed working after becoming a mother!

With my daughter Aanya at a function after work
by Dr Parul Chopra Buttan

She was 2 months old.

I remember looking at the divine baby in my lap, sleeping blissfully, warm in her mother's cuddle, full with milk from my breasts. I felt, this is it...this is heaven...and eternity...and everything in between! Hormones surging through me, I felt so complete, so fulfilled in that moment, I needed nothing else.

I decided then. I'm not going back to work for the foreseeable future!! How can I? It's inconceivable that I should leave the pleasure of this divinity to go to work! Seemed so mundane! Like leaving saakshaat God's company to chat with a friend, a mere mortal!

As days passed, I reaffirmed my resolve to soak in my baby every living moment of the rest of my life! The fact that I was financially secure and didn't really need the money to pay bills further added steel to it.

Then, I spoke with some of my cousins who were working, with children. Young mothers, kickass lawyers, HR professionals, marketing managers...regarding how could they step back into work leaving these little Gods home! I was curious to hear the other side of the story too: "Even though you feel like this currently, it'll change. You can surely take it as it comes. Years of study and learning can't be put to waste. You'll need a break from the baby too!! Babies are just fine with mommies working."

Over days, I realised my decision was stemming from bliss but also, from some fear. Fear of missing out on my child, fear of distance from her, possibly also of her needing me less & less in my absence and adjusting to it comfortably!

I probed my thoughts for weeks and finally got some clarity and some courage! After 2 more months I felt sort of ready, like just slightly ready for a short part- time sort of thing. As it happens, the universe sensed it.

Papa, a general physician, received a with-family invite for a one hour laparoscopy (key hole surgery) conference. Knowing my interest in it, he suggested we make a family outing of it. (Yes, that's how sometimes family outings look like in a family of doctors!!)

They took turns babysitting my 4 month old daughter Aanya, while I soaked in the scientific feast excitedly! It reminded me of how happy my work makes me, how it fulfills my soul, how it's my calling, not just a career!

The next day, a physician we met at the conference called me with a job offer. Just the ideal serving from the universe! A one hour OPD within one kilometre of our home! I met the hospital's Director and we finalised.

I remember I started leaving my daughter to sleep in the afternoon with her daadu daadi. I would quietly check on her every 10 minutes but soon, I realised she quickly settled down happily in the routine. So I gathered my courage and took my first step out of the house without her!

As I reached the OPD, just sitting in the doctor's chair, free from thoughts of diapers and feeds, concentrating on my clinical stuff, I felt an exhilaration! I remember I saw my first OPD of 4 patients with a grin plastered across my face! I couldn't get it off, even in reminding myself they must think the new doctor is funny for smiling so much!

Oh, the feeling returning to work gave me! Indescribable fulfilment!

This is what I learnt over the next few months as I expanded my work to full time attending consultant at Max Hospital, Gurgaon when she was 8 months old.

1. Happy women make happy mothers  make happy children. If your work fulfills you, by all means go ahead, arrange a safe environment for your baby and go to work! It's more than worth it. The joy you generate at work flows into your home which in turn generates joy and enthusiasm for you to take on work! It's a win-win and you are bathed in joy all the time!

2. Arranging care for your baby in your absence is paramount. So you're not worrying about it at work and can be fully present wherever you are. In my opinion, there is no one better than grandparents and family to be with. But for those not having that option, a trusted babysitter or good day care facilities are a boon. Remember to check on them once in a while and be reachable by phone all the time in case of an emergency.

3. Babies are fine with our absence for a couple of hours and it can even be productive for their growth. She developed such deep beautiful relationships with her grandparents nourishing them all in the process. Having such relationships will enhance your baby's emotional and social quotient, an essential life skill.

4. Start slow. There is no right time or a right duration of work to start. Go as per your comforts but don't be scared to push it just a wee-bit more. Listen to your intuition as pregnancy and mommyhood would have begun to teach you already!

5. You can continue to breast feed. I did so for over 2 years. All options are possible. Milk expression and storage. Bottle feeding or paladay feeding. Top feeding. You could come back home for a quick feed at lunch time, work from home if possible a few days a week or the baby could visit you at work some time!

Once a month I had 24 hour Sunday shifts and my husband would bring her over. While it was heavenly to see her, sometimes she would get quite hassled if I wasn't free and made her wait. Sometimes she would even howl when leaving and once mummy had to come in to hold her as my husband drove back. I felt horrible naturally. The key thing to remember is only you remember this time! Babies blissfully live in the present and do not recall when they were pained by separation from you.

Aanya now happily waits at my clinic on some days, for me to finish work
Go ahead, women! Pursue the life of your dreams! Make it fulfilling and inspirational and happy!! You owe it to yourself. Not despite having a baby, but because of it. And they will learn the art of living from you.

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