Sunday, 15 November 2009

Mixed feelings

This post marks a number of things for me - the end of my maternity leave, the start of a new job, Gemma starting nursery, and another rather emotional watershed which I'll come onto later. It's a bit cheeky of me to hardly post at all this year and now offer up a huge rambling discourse but bear with me..

At the beginning of November, I started a new job at Oxfam. Earlier this summer I got a call from a recruiter, and as I was always planning to go back to my previous role full time in January after my maternity leave, I initially said I wasn't interested in the job they were describing to me. Then the magic words 'based in Oxford' were uttered as well as the organisation involved, and - well, I quickly became quite a little more than interested. There followed a couple of late nights frantically getting my CV in order and an interview where 'winging it' would be a generous description of my approach, and I was offered the job as Head of E-Commerce. Brilliant!

One of the really nice things about it all was the fact that Oxfam have a workplace nursery on site, and luckily there was a place for Gemma in the under-two's room. Towards the end of October we started settling in sessions, starting with an hour of me and her meeting everyone and playing together, through me leaving her for longer and longer periods, until a couple of weeks ago she had her first full day there. She goes two days a week while I am at work part time, then from January we are both five days a week. She absolutely LOVES it. I almost feel guilty picking her up at the end of the day as she is clearly having a ball, and all the staff comment about how she's always happy and smiling and laughing. It's made it so much easier for me to end my maternity leave and go back to work, even with starting a new job, knowing that she's happy and cared for during the day. And having debated the pros and cons of going back to work in one of my previous (all too rare, this year anyway) posts it has cemented in my mind that it is utterly the best thing for us both. Hooray all round.

So why the mixed feelings? Part of it is that while I am really enjoying my new job, and finding it a fascinating organisation to work for, it is quite hard to get into it on two days a week. I know come January I will be desperate to get back to the two days on, five days off routine (sounds bliss, doesn't it?) but I've never in my career had to get my head around things on such a part-time basis. Luckily I have a great new team, new boss and new colleagues who are fantastically understanding and accommodating and insistent that I take these first few months as pure induction time and don't do any actual work. This is just a time thing - I'll get used to it very soon and before I know it, it'll be January anyway..

The main reason for my wibbliness at the moment is more personal though still baby-related. For those who aren't parents and probably also those who haven't breastfed, the following ramble probably isn't going to be of massive interest, so feel free to skip. Normal service to be resumed shortly. I wanted to get my thoughts and feelings on the subject down though, before time blunted them a bit.

So, it's come to the time when I have made the decision to stop breastfeeding Gemma. I always knew I would breastfeed my child from birth, unless there were any physical reasons why I couldn't, and thankfully both of us got the hang of it relatively quickly. My initial plan was to breastfeed until she went onto solids at 6 months old, and then see what happened then. What happened was, we found out she had a cow's milk intolerance, and couldn't take dairy without coming out in hives. As most standard formulas are based on cow's milk, this made it an easy decision to carry on BF for her milk feeds, as I didn't want her to have too many soy products in her diet. We went through a dodgy period at around 7-8 months when she was biting me a lot while feeding - YOUCH! - and I nearly gave up then, but persevered and she got over it. I had a vague idea in my mind that I would wean her either at 12 months, or when she started to walk, whichever came first (at current progress the birthday will definitely arrive first...!).

But now, at ten and half months old, I can tell my supply is diminishing, and quite quickly too. I was BF for her early morning and bedtime feeds, with her having a cup of soy formula in the afternoon, and especially at bedtime, she still seems to enjoy the comfort and close contact. However I can tell it's taking longer and longer for the milk to come through; and there isn't anywhere near as much as there used to be. Occasionally she gets frustrated at both of these things and that's not great for either of us, and of course I need to make sure she's getting enough milk on a daily basis anyway.

This morning then, I gave her a cup of formula when she woke up. After a few confused grabbings she realised what was going on and absolutely wolfed it down, confirming in my mind that I'd made the right decision. But at the same time I was a bit downhearted. Surely she should have been more upset about the lack of boob? Tonight I breastfed her bedtime feed. It was fine. I think it was for the last time though - I'll give her a cup tomorrow night. I want her to become able to be physically independent from me and I want other people (Ali, grandparents) to be able to put her to bed at night. I know this is the right step forward. But it feels so strange and sad - only for me obviously (apart from the slight change in bedtime routine I don't think Gemma will take long to get over it) - and emotional. I have completely loved being able to feed my child and knowing I have given her a great start in life. I've felt so close to her as a result and I am sure it helped us to bond. It's been a lot cheaper too ;o) And this is a step forward for us, not a bad thing at all. So forgive the self-indulgence of this post, but I'm glad I got it out of my system, as a marker for lots of things that are ending but more importantly a whole new chapter that is beginning - for both of us.