Friday, October 25, 2013

Maternity Leave Reflections

Last morning of maternity leave

Well, this is it. Work is standing on my doorstep and I don't really have a choice…I have to answer the door. Back in July, 13 weeks seemed like a lifetime. Not working for three whole months was a dream and I felt like that time would last forever. Now that I'm at the other end of those three months, it was actually more like the blink of an eye.

I can't even believe it. I can't believe that this is a “normal” weekend. I can't believe that I have to get up on Monday morning, leave my baby and go to work. It's so hard to wrap my head around it that I can barely even think about the logistics of actually getting out of the house. This week has been filled with tears. In fact, they are clouding my vision as I write this. They crop up when they are least welcome and at the most random times. I'm just so sad for the end of this time and for the changes to come.
I really don't think I would want to be a long-term stay-at-home mom but, like I keep saying to Phil, just a year would be nice. Annabelle is still so tiny. I have been her primary caregiver for 11 weeks and I'm just about all she knows. She still needs her mom. The thought of only getting a few hours a day with her is heart wrenching. I can barely stand the thought that her entire world is about to change and she has no idea. There will not ever be another time where I will be able to spend that much focused time and undivided attention on my precious girl. These 11 weeks with her were so precious and oh so fleeting. I feel like they just slipped through my fingers even though I know that I enjoyed them to their fullest.
Before my maternity leave began, I was busy thinking of all of the things I could do during my time away from work. I pictured myself organizing closets and doing projects and visiting with friends. When I was cleaning up my computer desktop a few weeks ago, I even came across a “maternity leave to-do list” that included things such as, make a mirror for the hallway, create shelving for the master bathroom, frame and hang large photos and so on. All I could do was laugh and hit 'delete'. Looking back, I can say that I don't regret for one second how I spent my time. There was a lot of snuggling, cuddling, rocking, singing and generally hanging out. There was not a lot of cleaning, cooking, primping, working, etc.
If I could give a few pieces of advice to any woman who is preparing to have a child anytime soon or even further in the future, here is what I would say:
  1. Snuggle. Take as much time as you possibly can to snuggle with your new baby. They are little for such a short time and there is nothing like newborn snuggles. Nap together, rock together, sing together, and just be together.
  2. Chores can wait. They will still be there in a few months. If you're going to break your snuggle and actually put Jr. down, do it so that you can shower or take a nap or take a few minutes for yourself. Don't do it so that you can vacuum, fold laundry, do dishes, or clean the bathroom. Get your significant other to chip in and help with those things so you can soak up that sweet sweet baby smell.
  3. Set goals. But don't shoot for the stars. Keep your sights reasonable but make sure you have something that you are striving to accomplish each day. For me it was to take a shower and make one trip out of the house. This did a couple of things. The first was that I maintained some level of feeling like a human being when I otherwise was not. It's amazing what a good shower can do. The second was that it gave me confidence in doing things out of the house with baby in tow.
  4. Reach out. I connected with several of my old friends who are moms, both new and seasoned, and I leaned on them for support when things were just plain hard. They were awesome and it made all the difference.
  5. Research, but not too much. Go ahead and read books, skim through Baby Center groups, Google, and so on. I did and I still do. However, you are mom and you know best. Follow your little one's lead and your instincts and everything will be fine. If you get too hung up on how it's supposed to be, you'll miss how it is.
  6. Breathe. There are times when things are going to be so hard that everything feels impossible. You will look at your husband and likely say something along the lines of, “what have we done?” This does not make you a bad mom. This makes you human. As ready as you were for your tiny human to make his or her debut, you weren't ready at all. No one and nothing can prepare you for how much your life will change when you bring that little baby burrito home. But just when you start to wonder if it ever gets easier, it does.

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