The Best & Worst Things I Did During Maternity Leave
Before having Jacob, I remember thinking that a 12 week maternity leave sounded like an extravagant vacation. 12 weeks away from work- who even does that?! LOL. Moms, you can go ahead and slap me through your device.
I quickly found out the reality that is newborn life. And I am here to tell you that this phase absolutely rocked our world. We thought we were relatively “prepared.” We took the classes, read the books, did the tour, packed the bags, checked off every registry item & readied the nursery.
But becoming a parent is like becoming a teacher- you have no idea what you’re doing until you’re actually doing it. Maternity leave was simultaneously the most magical, exhausting, terrifying and amazing time of my life.
Today I want to share with you the best and worst things I did for myself those 3 months. Maybe it will help you someday, maybe you can connect with what I’m saying or maybe it will just help give you an understanding of what someone you know might be going through at that time.
Obsess over pumping – My breastfeeding journey included a lot of pumping before I even started thinking about returning to work… I could write an actual novel about how much I hate pumping (another time). I knew I needed to be prepared for leaving Jacob to go back in January, so I started doing some serious math in late November about how much milk I should feed him & freeze each day to make sure he wasn’t going from mostly breast milk to mostly formula. I wasn’t an over-producer and it was a lot trying to figure all that out. We got a deep freezer because we ran out of space in our refrigerator…. I was on a mission. If I could go back in time, I’d tell myself to chill. Yes, it was great having a stash ready when I went back to work. But honestly, Jacob would’ve been just fine with a little more formula.
Compare myself– When Jacob was six weeks old, I immediately started comparing myself to other moms. I knew that this was the standard time for maternity leave (at least in education it is) and I seriously could not fathom how in the world moms go back to work that soon. I was a full on disaster at 6 weeks. Joey would come home for lunch and I’d still be trying to drink my first cup of coffee. I have never seen days go by so quickly… a blur of diapers, feedings, pumping, burping, and rocking. With each passing week, I continued to question my mothering skills because I wasn’t ready to combine it with work. Now that I’ve made it to the 11 month mark, I’m sad I was so hard on myself. Comparing myself stole joy from one of the happiest times of my life. I still and will forever believe that 6 weeks maternity leave is NONSENSE. My husband can get 4 months paternity leave! I don’t care how many babies you’ve had, it’s a crazy time and none of your thoughts should be consumed with comparing yourself or returning to work.
Social Media– When I was pregnant, there were many accounts I unfollowed on Instagram. I just knew that it wasn’t a good time in my life to watch fitness models display their perfect figures…that was a good decision for me. But after having Jacob, I started following a bunch of influencers that had babies around the same time. Mostly I can just blame them for the ridiculous number of packages that showed up on our front porch. I swiped up all night long- consider me influenced. But following those accounts was more damaging for me than fun at the time. These new moms looked perfect… like they hadn’t missed a beat with sleep, like they had time for a 45 step skincare and makeup routine to start their day and like it was no thing getting all dressed up while caring for a newborn. That’s great for them that they could make it work… I get it, it’s their job. But for most of us, this is not realistic. Maternity leave is the most acceptable time in your life to rock your dark circles and wear your comfiest pajamas.
Chores– First off, let me just say that I cannot stand the advice that “the laundry can wait.” Literally, it cannot. When you have a baby spitting up all day long, somebody better keep it moving. The dishes can’t wait either…especially if you’re pumping. BUT THE REST CAN. I vividly remember the first day I was home alone with Jacob. It was strange. I wasn’t used to this concept of not being productive all day. So what did I do? I grabbed the Windex and cleaned windows I have never touched before… apparently it was very important to me that the outdoor patio windows were sparkling clean. WHY?! I laugh now thinking about it, but what I needed to be doing was resting!
Daily walks– One perk of having a Fall baby was the perfect weather. My favorite thing to do from October- December was to get out and walk. When you are locked up in the house all day with a baby, the fresh air really helps. That hasn’t changed for me… this is still one of my favorite things to do with Jacob.
Allow others to help– I know that we are incredibly blessed to have family so close to us and not everyone has that luxury. Family help was everything for us. My mom even came and stayed with us the first night! I had no problem with my mom and mother in law visiting as much as they wanted. They would often come over at 5:30am and snuggle Jacob while I crawled back in bed for a bit…the best sleep I got back then. Between the two of them we were so spoiled- folded laundry, delicious meals, uninterrupted showers, and lots of baby love. As new parents, it would have been really tough for us without this support.
Visitors– This one could really fall under either category depending on how you feel. We had a revolving door of family and friends visit us, and we truly enjoyed it. I loved introducing Jacob and having some real conversations. Everyone brought food, gifts, and knew their time limit. I really cherish the pictures we have from those early weeks with our loved ones, especially since COVID came around 5 months later.
Soak in the snuggles– I don’t think I put Jacob down for his naps until sometime in the Spring. He laid on my chest for every single one of them. I loved taking it all in… his breathing, his tiny hand holding mine, his smiles. That sweet time just goes by so fast and you never get it back. I still rock him at every nap and before bed…. I’m soaking up those snuggles as long as he will let me!
Do any of these resonate with you? Best or worst- what would you add to the list?