Menu

Leaving Maternity Leave

Jump back into the working world with a little help from Baby Caravan.

Leaving Maternity Leave

The business of making a baby is about nothing if not preparedness. A birth plan? I’d made one. A hospital bag? Mine was packed a good month in advance of my due date. When my husband and I returned home with our two-day-old daughter, our apartment was filled with all manner of bottle systems and stroller contraptions and handkerchief-sized items of girlie clothing.

For a while there, everything was more or less under control: the baby was still alive. Her older brother had given up his campaign to rename her "City Bus" and was all about the hugs and kisses. Just as my maternity leave was nearing its end, though, I had a new army of scenarios to fret about.

FEATURED VIDEO

Which is why I summoned Emily Crocker and Jennifer Mayer, two of Brooklyn’s finest doulas, to my doorstep some three months after the birth of my daughter. They’d come over to walk me through the rather fraught business of jumping back into the working world.

Emily and Jen, along with doula London King, are co-founders of Baby Caravan, a band of six baby workers that focus on birth and postpartum doula’ing. To round out the continuum, the company has just launched its back-to-work program, which entails a mix of private sessions and group classes aimed at providing support for mothers returning to the grind. Clients typically receive one private session, a follow-up written plan, and phone, text and email support after they report to the office.

“Women make up more than 50% of the workforce and are responsible for 100% of the baby making in this world, and yet we have no support when we go back to work. It’s utterly astounding,” says Emily, a postpartum doula and mother of two. “We have worked with and spoken to women in all types of fields including OB/GYNs, heads of PR of large advertising firms and small business owners—and they are all extremely anxious about leaving their babies at home.”

Jen has been a birth doula for a decade, is a certified holistic health coach and is expecting her first baby this winter. “This program was inspired after I followed up with my clients a year or more after their births,” she says. “Many had amazing maternity leaves and really enjoyed that time with their little ones. Then they went back to work, and the rug was pulled out from beneath them. It’s something people don't talk about—you’re supposed to ‘just pump and get on with it.’ But it’s a big deal. And it's okay to feel ambivalent.”

A few days before our visit, Emily and Jen emailed me an intake form with some lay-of-the-land questions. I was asked to share my childcare plans, the names of my family members and where I stood on the issues of exercise and take-out’s role at the family dinner table. I was also asked to rank in order of concern six aspects of returning to work, including sleep, my pumping plans and sharing duties with my husband.

Once we were seated in my living room, Emily and Jen used my answers as jumping off points for what would become one of the fastest two and a half hour conversations in history. We talked about why I love my job, and why it's important to me that my kids see their mother thriving out of the house. Then we moved on to the logistics and unpacked each aspect of my return to work, discussing my plans and nifty little ways to tweak them.

“There’s no one size fits all answer, we can help moms make their decisions about pumping strategies or getting dinner on the table every night,” says Emily.

I wasn’t too concerned about pumping, but preserving family dinner was preying on my mind. “It would be easy if I could just make pasta every night and never have to think about it,” I said. Emily and Jen actually thought that was a brilliant idea, and soon we were in agreement that I should put aside any Ottolenghi-esque ambitions and my household would eat the same quartet of super-easy meals Monday through Thursday. “We did that when I was a kid,” Emily said. “Taco Tuesday was everybody’s favorite.”

Another thing I’d been worrying about—handling all the family-related emails that I can never seem to stay on top of —didn’t faze Emily and Jen. “That’s an important part of parenting,” said Jen. “I call it ‘kinkeeping.’ Women tend to do the bulk of it. If you’re the main kinkeeper, it’s important to remember all the work your partner does that makes your life easier.” Telling them about all the things my kids’ father takes care of made me feel grateful, and less overwhelmed. Emily had a practical suggestion. “Why don’t you allow yourself to forget about these things except when you’re pumping? That can be your time to deal with any kinkeeping.” This seemed eminently doable.

When I voiced what might be my biggest concern—that I will sorely miss my children—Emily had these words: “You’ll see them for dinner, and that’s the sweetest part of the day. There’s so much less aggravation than when you're on your own with the kids in the middle of the day.” My mind flashed to a particularly messy scene from the previous afternoon, and I smiled.

A few days after our meeting, Jen and Emily emailed me my plan. It ticked off the things that I seem to have in good order, and offered a few suggestions for ways to make the trickier parts of my transition easier. They urged me to call another new mom at my office to chat about the mothers' rooms before my first day back, and to set aside a couple nights a month for post-work drinks or a yoga class. They even gave me homework, asking me to come up with a list of dinner "musts" (e.g. Must get vegetables on the table more nights than not) and "must nots" (e.g. Must not serve bagels for dinner... twice in a row), aimed at helping me establish a low bar for what counts as success.

Of course, there are limits to what Emily and Jen can do. Were they able to assure me that I'll never get an emergency call informing me that my toddler had locked himself in the bathroom? Could they guarantee that every morning I’d wake up fresh-faced and my work dresses would emerge from the closet unrumpled? If only. But it felt bizarrely comforting to give voice to the stress that had been building up within, and remember why I’m so excited to top up my Metrocard.

Baby Caravan's back-to-work program costs $300 and includes the one 2 hour private session, a follow-up written plan, and phone, text and email support after a mom reports to the office. Additional hours are available.

Image source.

In This Article

    Sunday Citizen

    I live in the Northeast and when I woke up this morning, my house was freezing. It had been in the mid 40's overnight and we haven't turned the heat on yet. Suddenly, my normal duvet felt too thin. The socks on my bare feet too non-existent. Winter is coming, and I'd been drinking rosés still pretending it was summer.

    I couldn't put it off any longer. It was time to do my annual tradition of winterizing my home—and I don't mean making sure my pipes and walls have enough insulation (though obviously that's important too). I mean the act of evaluating every room and wondering if it has enough hygge to it.

    If you've never heard of hygge, it's a Danish word that means a quality of coziness or contentment. And what better time to make sure you have moments of hygge all throughout your house than right now? As far as I'm concerned it's the only way to get through these dark winter months (even more so during a pandemic.)

    So I went room by room (yes, even my 4-year-old's room) and swapped in, layered or added in these 13 products to get us ready for winter:

    Keep reading Show less
    Shop

    Sorry, you can’t meet our baby yet

    Thank you for understanding. ❤️

    In just over three weeks, we will become parents. From then on, our hearts will live outside of our bodies. We will finally understand what everyone tells you about bringing a child into the world.

    Lately, the range of emotions and hormones has left me feeling nothing short of my new favorite mom word, "hormotional." I'm sure that's normal though, and something most people start to feel as everything suddenly becomes real.

    Our bags are mostly packed, diaper bag ready, and birth plan in place. Now it's essentially a waiting game. We're finishing up our online childbirth classes which I must say are quite informational and sometimes entertaining. But in between the waiting and the classes, we've had to think about how we're going to handle life after baby's birth.

    FEATURED VIDEO

    I don't mean thinking and planning about the lack of sleep, feeding schedule, or just the overall changes a new baby is going to bring. I'm talking about how we're going to handle excited family members and friends who've waited just as long as we have to meet our child. That sentence sounds so bizarre, right? How we're going to handle family and friends? That sentence shouldn't even have to exist.

    Keep reading Show less
    Life

    Mama, all I see is you

    A love letter from your baby.

    Mama,

    I can't see past you right now, I'm so small and everything's a little blurry.

    All I see is you.

    When you feel alone, like the walls are closing in, remember I'm here too. I know your world has changed and the days feel a little lonely. But they aren't lonely for me.

    You are my everything.

    When you feel like you don't know what you're doing, you're making it look easy to me. Even though we're still getting to know each other, you know me better than anyone.

    I trust you.

    Keep reading Show less
    Life