Pregnancy and the OP: 3 tips for making your maternity leave a celebration...not a nightmare
I remember my first pregnancy like it was yesterday...well maybe more like almost nine years ago. I was about two years into my first hygiene gig after college, and I was excited and completely clueless about what to do to prepare for this life-changing moment.
Of course, I’m pretty sure I made every mistake in the book. Anywhere from how I announced my pregnancy, to how indecisive I was about my time off and to how I came back to work. There was quite a gap in time between my pregnancy and the last woman in the office who had a baby. Thankfully, my office manager helped guide me and gave me some ideas to consider while I navigated my options.
Whether you are pregnant for the first time or you are riding the crazy train again, I hope this article will help you while you are sorting through all of the decisions in front of you.
I’ve had three children while I’ve practiced hygiene and I think I finally got it right on the third try. The work thing, that is … not the child thing, although he turned out pretty good in my opinion.
1. When to tell your employer
This is entirely up to you! Some women like to sit on their special news for as long as possible, and other moms can barely wait for the pregnancy test results before announcing to the world. My advice here is to hit pause for a minute and consider a few things:
Does your office have any procedures for planning maternity leave? Blow the dust off the employee binder and read it over. If no formal procedure is available, then I recommend asking your employer for some time to have a private conversation when it’s convenient for the both of you. This could take place over the phone if needed.
How busy is your weekly schedule and how far are you booked out with recall appointments? This will help you to know where you sit in relationship to your due date. Work with the office manager to block your schedule out or make arrangements with a substitute hygienist. Finding a sub could be a cinch or totally stressful depending on where you are. So start making contact early!
Side note: this is always good time to block 30-minute pumping sessions if you are breastfeeding. Every mother’s needs are different. You will have to do some guess work at first and make adjustments as needed.
2. How long will your maternity leave be?
I get asked about how much time I took off from work and my answer was different each time. I had 9 weeks with my first, 10 with my second and 12 with my third. Each time I learned and made changes based on my previous experiences, and structured my schedule to fit the needs of my family and to continue to contribute fully to my patients at work.
Maternity leaves in the 6-, 8-, 10- and 12-week ranges are pretty common. Sit down and really do the work in this decision. Financial realities may be a major factor. You have to know where you stand so you can recover and enjoy this special bonding time with your baby.
Having a solid timeframe will help your employer prepare for your absence, and make the transition between your leave and return to work a celebration rather than a nightmare.
3. Returning to work
Ease into it or Hit the ground running?
Speaking of celebrating! Some of us are ready to get back to work, and we have our scrubs, socks and shoes pulled and ready to don the first day back. Some of us yearn for more time and are sobbing the entire day. Ladies, this is so normal! You are ready and you can do it. If you opt, to stay home that is okay too!
You have been preparing for this. You’ve known the first day back is coming, and the days, hours and minutes are ticking loudly in your head and heart. Honestly, you won’t know how you truly feel until you are face-to-face with the door of the babysitter’s house or are sitting chairside with your first patient with tears welling in your eyes. Take it one hour at a time, one day at a time and one week at at time. You need time.
Give. It. Time.
You will get it! Have faith in yourself. You will be back in the groove in no time. Twirl that scaler, hit that fulcrum and get that calculus!