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  • Writer's pictureMike Douglas

Back to work (post baby birth)

Updated: Sep 29, 2023

It’s a week until I go back to work, and at the moment I don’t know how I’ll do it.

We’ve had a baby(!) and I love this little dude, spending time with him is amazing. I love his silly sleeping faces, his wonderfilled eyes, even his quiet loud farts and burps.

Just being around him is such a privilege and a delight; even in those moments when he cry’s and will not settle. While I’m sure that gets more annoying as time goes on, I think both our birth experience (potentially a separate post on that) and my depressive brain means I see each moment as a gift, as a blessing. And never as a current or future expectation.

Right now, with a sleeping Henry snoring on my lap, mouth half open and limbs flopped, I can feel his warmth against my skin and our closeness. We’ve spent much of today in contact and with skin to skin time. Sure there was a gap when I needed the toilet, when Laura was having cuddles and when the midwife was here. But most of the day we have spent cuddling. And this is what I’ll miss when I’m back at work; the closeness. The long cuddles, the knowing everything he’s done today, being part of every decision and action. Once I’m at work, Laura will get to have/ be that for Henry, and I will not.

I knew going back to work after having a baby would be an adjustment. But I never knew or imagined that it would be this hard.

I like work, my job, my team, the mission and actions. I like tasks and purpose. I thought I’d be itching to get back because I like and (mentally) need work. But I’m dreading missing out on Henry.

I won’t get to be his everything, or be part of everything he experiences. At this stage that feels so scary and wrong. I’ve used my leave to have 4 weeks off post birth and that feels like not long enough. It took us 2 to 3 weeks to (partly) recover from our birth experience. Meaning there has been much less time to just enjoy being a new family. There’s still emotions and experiences to process and discuss, but rather than having time and space to safely do that, I feel rushed back to work.

Maybe I’d always feel it’s too soon, but having researched a little, there seems to be well supported projects campaigning for more paternity leave in the UK, arguing that 2 weeks on a reduced salary and or using annual leave to top this up or as a replacement isn’t good enough. And I would hugely agree with that, especially with your first baby. In two weeks the birthing partner may only just be able to walk around the house or pick up light things. Then suddenly they are left to cope alone. Let alone caring for and hopefully bonding with baby. It is just ridiculous.

Much like exposure therapy we have worked on small things to get me used to not always being with Henry. On two occasions I’ve gone to the gym, while Laura and Henry have gone to her parents for a few hours. This worked well, as I had something active to do which kept my body busy, with music and podcasts keeping my mind busy. While this did help, I’ve been against just being apart for the sake of ‘getting used to it’. I don’t want to waste my Henry time getting ready for being at work.

Detachment wise, I’ve also found letting other people hold him really difficult. It almost always brings up an emotion and physical desire to jump up and pull him into my arms, away from whoever has trespassed into our space. I just want all the cuddles.

This is something exposures have again been helpful for. While I still don’t like it, I can tolerate seeing some people hold him for a short while. But often I’ll try and use the time to complete a task. This makes the most of the time not directly observing or holding him and also keeps my focus away from watching something I’m still not fond of.

Once I’m back at work I’ve decided that I’ll likely be going into the office a little more to help get used to working again and having that time away from Henry.

In the future, he’ll need space and independence to learn and grow. But right now, he’s a baby and I want him at my side, always. So, if you have a meeting or call with me in the near future be prepared, Henry maybe just off screen.


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