Let me just clarify a little, that I'm sharing my motherhood journey because I hope other working moms (especially those in music) can see that not only CAN this be done but that it IS being done. And, in truth, it has already been done - just like so many other aspects of motherhood, behind closed doors.
As I write down these experiences, I'm aware that some might seem ridiculous and uninteresting to many - but I'm the kind of person who does (and did!) a lot of research and as I looked for ideas about how to navigate and ultimately reconcile the 'problems' of motherhood and musicianship. I didn't find very much and that alone can be scary and disheartening because, at least for me, you can feel like an outsider when you go through something very important that not everyone shares.
So in the spirit of creating resources for new professional moms or really anyone who just needed to take a minute off and then return, these are some of my experiences.
I decided to return to work at the beginning of the Fall Semester because I thought that would be easier to just bite the bullet. If I had taken FMLA, I would have had to return to work at week 7 of the semester - just near the halfway point. My thoughts at the time were that making the transition back to work would be difficult enough, no need to make it more difficult by adding in a cold start to the classroom that already would have a 'flow' by the middle of the semester.
I have been a music theory professor for about 15 years now, and yet - in my six week postpartum world - I was very nervous to return to work. This nervousness wasn't because of teaching but mostly because of the planning that went into me being able to do my job.
These are real examples of the higher anxiety issues that I encountered and had to overcome when I returned to work:
1. I had to bring what let's just call 'feeding stuff' on a daily basis, figure out how to manage all the materials needed, (and their cleaning) for that as well as schedule that around my course and workload. (This was a main focal point because we had some trouble on the food front at first and I was very worried about maintaining our good progress)
2. Organizing childcare, my sister had a baby 4 weeks after I did. So when I was returning to work, we were also trying to help her do those early home and caretaking needs that new parents need. Without my mom, returning to work would not have been possible. Which made me realize how invested WHOLE FAMILIES are in working moms. Its not just me that supports my work, my daughter does, my husband does, my mom does, etc. We all contribute to my working. It is a group effort. [There is a lot to talk about here, so I may circle back around to this in a later post]
3. Driving a car. This may sound silly but I was actually worried to drive. My work is 1 hour and 15 minutes from my home, one way. Fun fact: Six week old babies sleep very often throughout the day (and night) but they don't sleep very long. So I was up every 2 and a half hours at night (and all day) with the baby. Driving a car, on a highway, that distance, with my brain in such a mushy state due to lack of sleep made me very nervous at the time.
4. Finding time. Before baby, I put many hours into my work, and those hours were largely irregular. I don't mean that I don't have a routine or schedule when it came to work (I did of course) BUT I could open up my hours (or flex) any time I needed too. For example, if I was working on a project that needed more time I could simply say, "oh I want this to be better, I'll work on this a bit more" ...... that really changed.
After baby, I have to plan my work ahead with a fine toothed comb, at least that was my approach to the first semester of school, I'll talk more about this in the next blog post.
So, true story - coming home from the hospital was a scarier than I thought it would be. Simple little things, like how to get baby into the carseat and buckle if safely and driving on the road felt like large tasks at that point along the road to recovery.
While I was in the hospital, I got an email from Virginia Tech inquiring about a piece for a conducting etude book. I talked it over and decided to participate in the project as a good first post-natal excursion back into composing. So I signed the contract for a piece that would be due in December of 2022.
Once we got home, we were very happy to be there and not have to move around too much while we found and settled into our new routine as a family. In hindsight, I remember this time as being a smooth transition but I also remember struggling with feedings and lack of sleep as being very real struggles. Even now, 6 months later - I sleep 4 hours maximum in a single stretch at night.
So those were the main challenges - sleep and food. Thankfully, my mom was there to help us and she helped cook and clean the house so we could focus on learning more about what the baby needed.
In all honestly, recovery took quite awhile and thats ok. When I got home, I made the mistake of focusing on the baby so much so that my pain meds got away from me and I really struggled for a few days. Once we realized the issue we were able to fix it but yes the learning curve on parenthood is very steep and immersive! That '4th Trimester' was all about food! (still is! lol)
6 weeks after delivery I turned 40 and the semester started. I chose to go back to work and not take maternity leave. (more on that in the next post)
Since my last blog post a lot has happened! LITERALLY ONE DAY after my last post, I had my beautiful daughter and became a mom AND a composer! I've been collecting my experiences from the last 15 weeks privately, searching for a narrative to share with my readers.
My daughter was born during a planetary parade of 5 planets!
An auspicious day indeed :) Her birth was a surprise. We did not know at the time that she would be a girl and it was one of the best surprises of all. A precious moment <3.
Although 3 planet parades are common - 5 (or more) planet parades are much less common. A planetary parade like the one my daughter was born in won't happen again until 2041!
We were in the hospital for a few days and headed home to recover and get to know each other a bit.