Chill Out with Charlie: We're working, but this isn't

By Charlie Emilia

This millennial content creator, social media geek, part-time healthy person and now first-time mom is back to my original roots as a writer. Formerly a radio show, “Chill Out with Charlie” was a peek into my life and what I had going on. Since leaving the airwaves, my journey has taken an extreme turn. For updates on what’s been happening, sit back and chill out with me as I navigate these new paths in a whole new way.

The past few nights, I’ve been waking up to a new, familiar feeling – a swollen, heavy chest. I get out of bed around 2:00am to hand-express into the face basin. My little girl, who just turned four months, hasn’t wanted to nurse lately and I’ve had to trick her into taking it. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t; but either way, she’s not drinking as much, so I’m backed up. Meanwhile, pumping makes me feel like a cow milking on a machine. She’ll take the breast early in the morning when she wants to go back to sleep, but during the day, everything else is a distraction and my nipple seems to be hilarious, because she just laughs when I put it by her mouth. Really, it’s a big joke to her. Then, just as quickly as it started, it stops being funny. She gets frustrated and demands the bottle. I knew this day would come, where she wouldn’t want to nurse anymore, but I hoped it would be when she was older.

While I love the bonding time, I can’t stunt her growth just to keep myself happy. Well, I can, but I don’t want to. This leads to me feeling like one of my backed up nipples; repressed, just waiting for the circumstances to change. This is a transformative moment in life. Even when the economy rights itself, the world will keep the scars long into the future; it will be like Irma, but on a colossal scale. You won’t be able to throw a stone two feet without hitting someone who wants to talk about it. Much of how I retain sanity is appreciating the little time I spend with my baby quietly nestled nursing in the crook of my arm.

Outside of the economy, I’m trying to figure out who I am now. I’m about to have my birthday next week and it’s always a weird time or me. A few birthdays have been a bit depressing. Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a birthday and spent it crying, filled with existential dread. I can’t see if you raised your hand, but there’s got to be at least one other person who knows what I mean. Almost exactly a year ago, I found out I was pregnant and, although a nicer event was in the works, I forewent the celebration. In my mind, I was porcelain and didn’t want to do too much in the early weeks. I promised myself there would be a get-together this year once my baby was born and things were back to normal. Now look at us – just distant with dry hands. Nothing has been the same since.

I can take the madness all around, I can thrive in this kind of environment, but I think the one thing that keeps me balanced is the quiet time we get to spend together. Come to think of it, the nursing time is the only constant I am sad to give up. Since starting back work, I spend a few days a week working behind my computer and I feel guilty. I know I’m not neglecting her, but there is a level of shame about being in the same room as her, hearing her distress and letting my partner handle it. Yes, I’m working; yes, my partner is in agreement; but I still feel like a bad mother for letting her be upset when I’m in such close proximity. I find myself walking over to pick her up, just so I can feel better about working. That cuts into my writing time, and isn’t fair to the people waiting for me, so then I feel even worse. I’m caught in a shame spiral and can’t get out.

I’m working on a healthier balance, which started with setting up a real home-office space. It’s nothing elaborate, just a desk in a corner and I set it up like I would a workspace. Then I made rules for myself: If I’m sitting at the desk, I’m at work. If I’m in bed, or anywhere else, I’m accessible and opening myself up to her. If I’m drinking coffee at my desk, I’m Charlie. If I’m drinking it anywhere else, just call me Mummy. So far, the change has only been implemented for one day, but it’s helped.

Yesterday, I got up and put on a bra. My partner was confused and asked if I was going in to work. As a matter of speaking, I was. I dressed like I would if I was going to work, but instead I sat at my desk and tried to compartmentalise my duties as an employee and colleague, but also as a mother. I still stopped every so often to take a break and do my Mummy thing for a few minutes, but only as a reward for crossing something major off my task list. It’s helped me complete work faster. There are still a few kinks to work out, but those are mainly due to technological mishaps.

When there’s a need for quieter writing, those 2:00am hand-expressions are a good alarm clock. Nothing says “wake up” quite like a wet shirt and engorged breasts. They say early mornings are the best times for revelations. I believe that. But it would be nice if I could have them in bed, instead of standing in my bathroom with my breast in my hand trying to relieve myself.

Feel free to follow me on Facebook.com/LikeCharlieEmilia or my Instagram Chvrl13. I’m open to questions, comments and any concerns you may have about your own health. But, please remember I am not a doctor. My column is strictly for entertainment and, although I may try my utmost to give accurate information, it should in no way replace a visit to your healthcare provider.

Until next time, ‘Stay [Home] Safe!’