The Truth About Maternity Leave

I had an extremely romanticized version of what my maternity leave would entail when I was pregnant.

In my mind, it was daily walks with my babe, frequent play dates (ie, mamas drank wine while babies slept), daily trips to Target to get out of the house, watching new TV series, crossing things off my neverending to-do list, reading a lot, freelancing, and of course, blogging every day so as not to forget one precious moment of my sweet baby's first months. I imagined being in a blissful state of baby euphoria for 12 wonderful weeks.

Ha. HA. Ha. HA. Ha.

To those who think being on maternity leave means laying around all day watching TV in your pajamas, sleeping when baby sleeps, lunching with your working friends, crossing things off a long to-do list, and basically hanging out for 12 weeks (if you're lucky) -- you're only partly right.

Do I spend most days in my pajamas? You bet. But mostly because I can't fit into much else, and because I spend a large portion of my days with one or both boobs out, with either a baby or a pump attached me. So yes, lots of yoga pants/pajamas/nursing tanks, and lots of television. There is little else you can do other than watch TV or read when you are feeding the baby, no matter if you do it from your breast or a bottle. Oh, and I get peed, pooped and puked on pretty much at least once every day, so - why dirty my cute clothes and create more laundry that I don't have time to do?

Of course there are days where we snuggle, all day long, in my bed, with My DVR or Bravo shows on marathon. I will admit that and I am not sorry for it. After all, these are the days to cherish.

Sleep when baby sleeps? SURE THING. Great idea in theory, but if any new mom has actually been able to do this, I would love to know how. For me, I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've taken a nap during the day when Liam is sleeping. Why? So many reasons.

For one, my baby in particular didn't do a lot of daytime - or nighttime sleeping at first. He is super alert and spent a lot of time in the beginning wide awake during the day, so therefore, I COULDN'T sleep. 

For another, I've found it impossible to just close my eyes and sleep when Liam is sleeping because I can't shut off my brain - my mind is racing with the millions of things I need to do, people I need to call back, laundry I need to do, showers that need to be taken. Not to mention that I've got one ear open for any squeak or squeal that needs my attention, and I have to make sure he's breathing every five minutes. Maybe I need to pump. Maybe I've now gotten out of bed, had my shower and/or coffee, and don't feel tired anymore, so I want to actually get stuff done, like laundry, the dishes or tidying up the toys. Maybe I want to take the sleeping baby out for a trip to the grocery store before he wakes up and goes berserk. Or maybe I've got Liam sleeping, in my arms and just want to stare at his beautiful face and kiss his soft little head and smell his new baby smell until he wakes up and starts screaming at me again, and I forget how angelic and so very precious he is.

In the early days of maternity leave/Liam's life, days were unpredictable. Some days I literally sat around topless because he was eating so frequently, there was no point in getting dressed again. His sleeping during the day was all over the place, as he was still adjusting to figuring out his days and nights. He ate ALL the time. To be honest, those first few weeks in general are a complete blur, as they were spent in a haze of complete and utter exhaustion and frequent hysteria. I was lonely when Bryan went back to work and all the visitors went home. I was overwhelmed with responsibility. I cried a lot. I still do. I was scared something would happen on my watch and I wouldn't know what to do. I was exhausted and bored, and I felt guilty for thinking these things and not "soaking up all of these special moments."

Now that Liam is a little older, I have  better idea of what a "typical" day looks like. He wakes up for the day around 7am. I nurse him and then we both go back to sleep for another 1-2 hours (if I'm lucky). This is the only time I sleep when he sleeps; I'm exhausted from the previous night. We wake up, eat again, then have some play time/tummy time/awake time before he's ready for a mid-morning nap. Rinse, recycle, repeat. If I plan to do errands or anything, I usually try to time it so that I feed him and load him up in the car seat so he'll take a nice snooze while I'm running around. he loves the car, so it's nice to have him in there when he's calm and not screaming his head off (happens from time to time). Same for if we want to get outside or walk anywhere - I'll feed him, play with him for awhile and load him in the stroller or into the Baby K'Tan and off we go. He falls asleep nearly instantly with any type of motion. 

We figure things out as we go - for example, we know that for Liam, after he's been awake for 2 hours, he is tired and ready for a snooze, otherwise he gets super cranky. Obviously, I'm more comfortable taking him out on my own than I was only a few weeks ago. I don't feel like I'm going to die of fear when I drive a car with him in it. I know that it's OK if I take shower and he wakes up while I'm in there, and God forbid...CRIES! Even better, now I know he likes to hang in the Rock 'N Play while I'm in the shower, so long as I bring it in the bathroom with me. I know it's OK to set him down for a minute and walk away to take a breath if he's being hysterical. Some days, I feel like I know what I'm doing. And then the next day comes and something changes and I feel like we're back to the beginning.

We work on trying to create good sleep habits during the day. But we also break all the "sleeping rules". Whatever works.

We're getting closer to finding out when bedtime is. Most days it's a crap shoot, and that's OK - he's only 10 weeks old! We've found that whenever he does go "to bed," he gives us a nice 5-hour stretch of sleep to start the night. Obviously, the later this happens the better, because it coincides with when I sleep. But some times, he'll go to bed at 6pm, which doesn't help anyone out if he just wakes up at 11pm.

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE being home with my boy. He is growing and changing every single day, and now that he's 2 months old (what!), he is really starting to get a personality. He smiles and "talks" -- it is so nice to see those things after weeks of feeling like you give and give and give to this little being who does nothing but take. It's gratification of sorts and makes all the hard moments and days worth it. It is so rewarding to know that everything he knows about life and the world, he learns from me and Bryan, and watching him discover and experience things for the first time is indescribable.

But it was hard being here alone every day at first. Some days, it still is. 

My advice to other new moms on maternity leave, those just beginning maternity leave, or about to take maternity leave? Celebrate the wins where you get them. Did you make it outside the front door today? Amazing! Did you get the baby to sleep in his crib, even if for 15 minutes? Congrats! Did you make your coffee before noon, finish it by 2pm and only have to reheat it 3 times? Hallelujah!

Today, I completed 22 minutes of a 30 minute workout during the 90 minutes my son was sleeping. The rest was walking back-and-forth to his room to put his pacifier back in or rocking him back to sleep. But 22 minutes is better than zero.

Set goals for yourself every day. Start small - that might mean taking a shower every morning or calling a friend you haven't talked to in awhile. Work your way up to getting out of the house, for the first time, and then as often as you can and feel comfortable with. Everything you do for the first time will seem terrifying and daunting, because it is, but just rip off the band-aid and try it - you can do it, I promise.

You will have days where you can't wait to go back to work. Where you're counting the minutes until your husband gets home so you can have 5 minutes to yourself. Where you wish your baby would stop yelling at you when you set him down for just one second. You will feel guilty for thinking such things, for wishing this time away. Don't - its normal.

But do keep perspective. My new mantra is "This too shall pass." That goes for the good and bad days. Not every day will be bliss with your baby. Take each day as it comes. Try to take advantage of this time off. It's cliche, but time really does go so fast. Face each day with a clean slate, and fresh eyes, because for every bad day, there are a million amazing moments you'll want to bottle up forever.

PS - Ain't no shame in the Mommy/Baby selfie game!

1 comment:

  1. So good - and - I have to add - it's not just maternity leave, friend. This happens forever! 14 months in we still have TERRIBLE days where I totally (I won't even say...) and then we have blissful days where life with a little is the best thing ever. Being a career Mama and Dada brings a whole new level of...SHIT what are we doing? :) You are doing great and will continue to learn and grow as each day passes.


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