6. Pumping time could — miracle of miracles! — be working time. Granted, there are mothers who need Zen and the art of Medela maintenance in order to make enough milk. Not me. My version of that peaceful easy feeling was putting a charmingly threatening "do not disturb" sign up while getting through 52 emails and an inch-high stack of paperwork, almost entirely undisturbed. This was a revelation — and an opportunity to debunk any assumptions my colleagues may have had about my milk-making "breaks."
7. Maternity leave was like Crossfit for my work muscles. My body was still mushy. And my mind was blotto with lack of sleep. But, it dawned on me, as I got through my day's work at a faster clip than ever before: That baby was the best personal trainer I'd ever (or, OK, never) had.
At home on maternity leave, I'd had to pivot from task to task on a moment's — or a scream's — notice. I'd called upon depths of patience I had no idea I possessed. I'd been firm about scheduling, but also flexible when a re-org was needed. And whenever I'd left the house, it with a bag that could have kept a whole village clean and alive for days.
At work, all of that translated. It was a miracle of motherhood how efficient, decisive, and determined I became. I only wish I'd noticed it sooner… and bragged a little more.
8. All of this, even the hardest parts, would inspire me one day. The greatest joy of those first few months back at work — besides snuggling my baby boy each evening when I got home — was getting to the other side of the adjustment period and being able to say: That was ridiculously hard, and yet, here I am. I did it. The transition was finite and fruitful.
It took me years — and a whole second kid! — to be able to articulate that feeling, but the minute I did, I was certain that I had to share it. I surveyed and interviewed hundreds of new working moms — teachers, lawyers, police officers, doctors, waitresses, CEOs — and dug deep into the scientific research about career and new motherhood to find real, actionable advice to help moms have all of the choices they deserve. The result is my true labor of love (pun 100 percent intended), my book, "The Fifth Trimester: The Working Mom's Guide to Style, Sanity, and Big Success After Baby." And it's proof that, for me at least, there is no "slash" anymore. A better life is my work. And my work is all about living a satisfied life.
This article originally appeared on TODAY.