The biggest downsides of working from home

I’ve been working from home for about 2.5 years now, which I never thought I would do. Initially, I was forced into it because of the global pandemic, but then I took a job with a company that wants me to be fully remote given there’s no New York office, and I figured… how bad could it be since I had no idea when the pandemic would end? Well, now I’m 2+ years into that job with no New York office in sight. And while it’s been fine because I’m happier pumping milk and prepping my baby’s meals while at home, this isn’t going to last forever.

The biggest downside, especially for someone like me, is the lack of camaraderie and socializing; setting up Zoom hangouts and 1:1 social chats just is not the same as being in the office or going to happy hours. The second biggest downside, and one that may even tie for the first one I noted, is that I’m nowhere as active. I don’t get as many steps in during the day. Even with daily morning gym workouts, there is not as much walking throughout the entire day without a commute. I’m sitting a lot more and walking around my own apartment, but you never get as many steps in that way. When I used to be in an office, I’d easily get 15K-20K steps in every single day. I highly doubt I even get half of that now, even when I do longer runs or time on the elliptical. I need to be a lot more intentional about getting out of the apartment just for the walk and the fresh air.

I can’t complain, though. I’m lucky to have the privilege and flexibility of working from home. I have a lot to be thankful for. I just need to be more intentional about increasing my activity level.

Going down from 4 to 3 pumps per day

I originally told myself that when Kaia turned 11 months, which is literally in 4 days, I would officially drop down to 3 pumps per day. But given that I have been doing 3 pumps per day each Saturday we’ve been going out, I figured… what difference is it really going to make, anyway, if I start it just a few days earlier? It means one less set of washing pump parts; one less hour connected to a pump, 10 less minutes connecting and disconnecting, more time to myself to do whatever else I need or want to do. Today was the second day in a row of 3 pumps per day, and it felt so weird. On days when I am not out and am home or just working from home, my pumping schedule will be something like 7:30/2:30/9-9:30, but on days when I am out, I will need to push the second pump probably closer to the last pump of the day. Today, I did my second pump at 2:30, and it just felt a little odd: I can’t remember the last time I felt so liberated, not pumping and not feeling the time pressure to pump or get something done before pumping. Every Saturday and Sunday felt like a time crunch to pump and get something done before or after, and today, for the very first time ever, I did not have that feeling. It felt weird.

It’ll probably take me some time to get used to it, and for now, it feels nice to have such big pump outputs in my three pumps a day. But I know at some point, my body will get the signal that I’m pumping less frequently because I am getting closer to weaning since my baby needs less breast milk, and so that amount will eventually start dropping off. It will likely be a little emotional, especially since I worked so hard to get my output up in the beginning. I’m just mentally trying to prepare myself for that drop off and my eventual weaning off of pumping and providing my baby breast milk. It’s likely the most intense journey I’ve ever been on outside of trying to conceive, getting and staying pregnant, and labor and birth. My body has done Kaia and me a lot of good, and I am blessed and grateful for it.

When (baby) formula frees you

Yesterday, I caught up with a neighbor friend whose baby is 5.5 months old. I hadn’t seen her or properly spoken with her since her baby was about one month old, so I wasn’t sure how she was doing or how her pumping journey was going. Similar to Kaia, her baby just wasn’t able to suck well and was also a bit on the smaller side at birth, so she had to resort to pumping quite frequently early on. She knew my journey was still in progress, and so she leaned on me for a lot of advice and tips. She told me that while on a trip visiting family in Utah and Colorado at the four month mark, she finally just decided she couldn’t do it anymore, so she weaned herself off pumping quickly to dry up and switched 100 percent to formula. She said she already wasn’t able to provide even half of her baby’s needs with pumping, so she didn’t see a point to continue. And though she has just gotten comfortable with her baby being exclusively formula fed now, she still has pangs of guilt every now and then, especially since she still hasn’t gone back to work and won’t until January.

“I feel so liberated, though, so free!” my friend said. “I felt guilt, but I have so much more free time to just enjoy her and do other things and not be stuck connected to a pump. I can leave the house and feed her anytime, anywhere! I can hold her just for the sake of holding her. I feel like I can have a life again!”

I hear this a lot from moms who make the switch to exclusive formula feeding, that it’s freeing, liberating, gives you agency over your life and your body. It gives you more time to bond with your baby. I get all that, and last January, I momentarily even thought about just stopping. But I’m still happy I kept up pumping. It definitely has been a sacrifice, and my life certainly has not been that free because of this chosen journey, but my baby will only be a baby once, and so I have no regrets that I went this route. But what this also means for me is that whenever I do finally wean off the pump and completely stop breastfeeding, it will definitely warrant a celebration of some sort. It will be the end of an era and the beginning of a new one, plus open the doors to new ways to bond with Kaia.

When your milk supply drops after your period returns

I was never going to be sure when my period came back, but based on everything I had previously read and what all my mom friends and colleagues warned me about, once my menstrual cycles resumed, my milk supply would drop. I was mentally bracing myself at around the six month mark, since my doctor had told me that around six months would be a “normal” time for my period to come back, assuming actively breastfeeding. My friends told me theirs came back between 8-9 months with active nursing/pumping. Well, lucky me, mine didn’t come back until the 10.5 month mark, so it was later than I guessed. But the decrease in supply was not welcome, and as it started plummeting days before my period, I’d figured that was the sign it was back. Seeing my output numbers decrease day after day and the sharp drop in milk output on my day over day graph hurt. I’d spent the last 10.5 months exclusively pumping. The first 2 months were the greatest struggle. The next four months, I saw my maximum output and was so proud of what I’d achieved after the slow and miserable start. And to see all of that hard work starting to get chipped away with a decrease in output just felt so sad to me. Academically and logically, I knew pumping would be an emotional journey, but I would’ve never imagined at the beginning how much I could tie my self worth as a mother to my milk output. And to see the numbers decrease the way they have in the last two weeks just felt miserable. Even if Kaia is drinking less milk now, it still made me sad. It’s work I did solely to provide sustenance for her and no one else. I saw it as my duty as her mother to do this, to nourish her for as long as I physically could.

One day, I’ll look back on this journey and be grateful and extremely proud of what I’ve done, despite how grueling and miserable at times it was. Even now when it’s “easy” because I have my routine down pat and know what I am doing, it’s still annoying to be tied up to an electric nipple sucker for 4 hours each day. Each day of this journey, I have been grateful for my body. I hope one day, when Kaia is old enough, I can share this with her, and maybe, just maybe she will appreciate all the time I sacrificed, attempting to give her the very best.

A new approach to shopping for groceries with baby

On average, I go to Trader Joe’s about once a week, if not a little less. And when I do, I usually have my eye out for staples that we normally eat, as well as new seasonal items that we either have tried and liked, or could try out for the first time that are temporarily available. But another thought I have that is top of mind is: what is a new food that Kaia hasn’t had yet that would be baby friendly (low or no salt) for her to eat?

This week, it ended up including: ground turkey, shiitake mushrooms, couscous, and acai puree. I also get a few things that only she eats: bell peppers (she loves these roasted), European style whole milk yogurt, and sweet potato.

I told my nanny that this is top of mind when I go to Trader Joe’s, and she laughed. “Kaia has no idea how good she has it! She had…. *only* 7 things to eat for her lunch today! What a life!”

Left hand cortisone shot and tendon adhesions

I went back to the orthopedic doctor this morning for a second cortisone shot in my left wrist. I let him know that the pain had pretty much subsided in my right since he gave me a shot there about two weeks ago, but it was clicking a lot more in the last few days, plus I’d had a little pain in it depending on the type of movement. He told me clicking was normal at this stage and was a sign of healing, which was good. But he did take a look at both wrists and noted there was still a lot of stiffness, likely from tendon adhesions as a result of lack of full mobility from the pain I’d had. So he suggested I do hand therapy, at least 1-2 sessions, to learn exercises to get my mobility back. I didn’t want to cause any permanent loss of mobility in my tendons in my hands; my hands are pretty damn important and integral to my health.

Recovery is on the horizon, I thought, as I walked home and made call to set up an OT evaluation for my wrists. I can’t believe there’s finally a potential to be pain free in my wrists soon. It feels like forever since my wrists and thumbs felt completely normal and I didn’t even notice them. I suppose that’s how you know you take your good health for granted; you don’t even appreciate your limbs until something like this happens, and everything just feels like it’s going wrong.

Baby’s first lobster

While on the road today, Kaia had a few new “firsts” for foods today: lobster, cream, mayonnaise, and oyster. She absolutely loved the lobster. Not sure if it was the lobster itself or the butter/mayo that was in it, but she gobbled it up. We tried to limit how much she had since we didn’t want her exposed to too much salt. Luckily for her (AND us), she didn’t have any negative reactions to it. We also gave her a couple tastes of the lobster bisque we ordered, as well as a small taste of the oysters we got. She’d definitely been teething quite a bit over the last few days, as she’d been drooling a lot more and had a few bouts of fussiness. But while at a restaurant on Saturday night in Wilmington, she started making this strange wheezing sound, which immediately had me disturbed. Why would she make that strange sound? Is it just a new sound she’s learned to use her vocal chords to attract attention, or was she actually having issues breathing? And did it have anything to do with her exposure to shellfish earlier…?

She stopped doing it once Chris picked her up to hold her, which was good news, but it still had me a little worried. So we decided that even though our mains had just arrived, we’d down our drinks and take the food back to the hotel to eat. We’d never done that before with her, but we just wanted to make sure she was comfortable and warm.

In the end, she was fine. I think it was probably just more teething, as I do feel the teeth on her top of her mouth coming in; I can already feel the ridges poking out. But these things will always cause a little alarm, especially when you are on the road and not near home/the doctor.

Pumping in the car en route to Delaware

There is no such thing as a convenient time to pump. Even when people say that when you wake up or go to sleep, those could be good times to pump, well… those are also good times to go exercise and… SLEEP EARLIER. But it’s especially annoying when it comes to travel. Because not only do you have to think about how to pump and cover up if in public, but how do you store your milk once it’s pumped? So on the way to Wilmington today, I pumped while in the car. Chris drove. Kaia babbled and napped. I pumped. I set myself up while Chris stopped the car to get gas, and I pumped en route, which actually wasn’t so bad after all. It was a good way to pass time during the 2+ hour drive. When you’re in a fast moving vehicle on a highway, you don’t have to worry much about people noticing that your nipples are out and exposed, connected to an electric nipple sucker. It was just a bit nerve wracking to disconnect and empty out the milk while the car was still moving. I just got lucky and there were no sudden stops or bumps as I was consolidating the milk and getting the last drops out of the flanges and duck bill valves.

I told my friend, who has also breastfed and pumped, that next month, I would go down to 3 pumps per day once Kaia reached 11 months of age. Then, when Kaia turns 1, I’ll go down to two pumps per day. It’s a bittersweet thought: I’ve both hated and been grateful for pumping this whole time. It’s been massively inconvenient, but I’ve been grateful to my body for what it’s been able to provide my baby, and I’ve taken great pride and joy in knowing I can feed my baby food that my body produces just for her. She insisted to me that although it would make me feel a little sad to not do this for Kaia anymore, it would also be extremely liberating, which I know would be the case. But it’s what our night nurse originally told me: everything has its time, and cumbersome things like pumping have a definitive start and end point. I’m closer to the end of my pumping journey than the beginning of it.

“You’ll have many other ways to bond with her,” my friend said to me. “Your relationship will grow.”

I hope so.

Shishito pepper for baby

“Are you CRAZY?! Do you want me to call child protective services on you?!”

My nanny was going a little ballistic at me this afternoon when I told her that as part of her dinner, I’d add some shishito peppers to Kaia’s plate. I would pan fry them on the stove until blistered, then slice them in half. I’d test a half of each and then give her the other half to ensure they weren’t hot. With shishito peppers, there’s always a bit of a “surprise” element: you never know if you will get one that is mild to plain, medium heat, or HOT. I’ve been eating these tiny peppers for years, and while the vast majority have had no heat, a handful have had mild heat, and maybe one or two ever were actually spicy hot. Our nanny had never had shishito peppers, and she seemed wary when I described them to her. She thought it seemed a bit suspect that it was not predictable whether they’d be hot or not hot at all; she’d never heard of these peppers before. So I cooked them, then offered her some. She tried and said she liked them. Plus, neither of the ones she had were hot, so she seemed more open to having Kaia eat them for the first time.

“This is a very different house,” our nanny declared. “Kaia has quite the life!”

192nd food tried will now be shishito pepper. She’s doing pretty well at 10.5 months of age for variety.

10-month doctor’s visit and freebies at the pediatrician’s office

The nanny and I brought Kaia to the doctor’s office today thinking that we were just going in to get her second flu vaccine (baby flu vaccines are two doses), but they ended up taking all her vitals and doing a semi-thorough examination of her. I wasn’t expecting that, but it was nice to see her get measured and weighed again. The doctor is very pleased at her growth and proud of how much solids (and the variety of which!) she’s been getting. She was also not surprised at exactly how much Kaia hated being at the office. My baby cried the entire time she was getting measured. Then, when the doctor came in to examine her, she cried the whole time, not even stopping to allow the doctor to take a quick look at her little pupils. It was absolutely tortuous for her.

The funny thing I always notice every time I go to the pediatrician’s office is all the free samples: baby lotion, baby body/hair wash/shampoo, diaper rash cream, booger wipes. It’s always something different each visit. So me being me, I always scope out the new stuff to see if it would be anything interesting we could take with us during our travels given their size. I also leave a few items like rash cream or lotion in Kaia’s diaper bag. This time, there were booger wipes (yes, that’s what they are actually called), which I still haven’t used, as we had some other samples we were given previously. But there was also something completely not baby related: face wash with exfoliating beads in them. It looked like an item you’d get at the doctor’s office if you were a teenager, trying to figure out how to maintain and care for your skin.

Not sure how targeted those free samples were, but I guess free is still free, even if it’s not relevant to the audience. I suppose parents do need to wash their faces after all, so I grabbed two!