I’ve officially been back at work longer than I was on maternity leave. And ironically, if I were at my old job, this would be right around the time I would be returning to work. The end of maternity leave came out of nowhere this time around, which makes sense since it was 8 weeks versus 20 weeks.
Since this was my second time around, I was able to hit the ground running without the false expectations I had as a mom-to-be. Oh that silly naïve almost mom, thinking Maternity Leave was going to be this glorious and relaxing time. Oh how the mighty have fallen. Here are some maternity leave tips and hacks to help you survive
Leave the house at least once a day
Being stuck inside all day, every day, with a newborn is challenging, boring and lonely. Newborns basically do three things – sleep, poop, eat, and repeat. Of course, it is incredible to just snuggle all day with them because they can’t escape. Take in their smell. Enjoy the feeling of them laying in your arms. Because once they figure out how to crawl, they want nothing less than to break free of your embrace. And forget about getting a toddler to sit down for more than three seconds. That often ends with boogers on your cheek and a block down your shirt.
Everyday, make a plan to leave the house, even if just to go for a walk around your neighborhood. Too cold to go outside? Drive to your nearest mall or department store (or even grocery store) and just walk around. On both of my leaves, I spent countless hours wondering the aisles of Target. It’s during those times that I discovered just how many different types of organizational bins exist (and how badly I needed them for my house). Side note: You do not need those bins. If you’re anything like me, they are still sitting in your basement. I had such big goals of organizing the basement while on leave. Which brings me to my maternity leave tip.
Set one (realistic) goal per day
And by goal, I do not mean to clean your entire house or organize your garage. I mean, something that you can actually accomplish between feedings and diaper changes. My daily goals ranged from drinking one hot cup of coffee to actually making dinner. Neither rarely happened but at least I set them.
With my second leave, I went a little deeper with my goals and was able to actually put laundry away on certain days and take the dog (and baby) out on the trail. With my first, it was pretty hard to even leave the house. It took a while before I felt comfortable enough leaving without an entire department store piled into my diaper bag. The first time around, I was prepared with enough formula and diapers to be stranded for days. Abby was set for any and all circumstances. Because you never know when you’ll be stranded in suburbia and needing five different baby tutus. The answer is never. You will never need five tutus to get coffee. With my second, I was lucky if I remembered to pack clothes. Gregory often ended up in a public place just wearing a diaper after a poop explosion. But at least I remembered the diaper (even if one time it was his older sister’s diaper.)
Tell people to visit
When you first have a baby, people flock to see the new bundle. They bring food, stories from the outside, and often, coffee. But after a little while, the crowds lessen and you’re on your own again, wishing someone would come over to let you sleep or give you the opportunity to speak with another adult. It’s not their fault. People work during the day. Life gets a bit busy. And, in many cases, they think you’d prefer to be alone.
After my maternity leave with Abby ended, I often spoke about how lonely I would get during the day with no one to talk to except an infant who barely kept her eyes open and a pup who didn’t understand this tiny creature with ear-pinching noises. (The cat was rarely seen). And the most common responses I received were “Why didn’t you tell me, I would have been happy to visit. I just assumed you wanted alone time with your baby.” People believe you want space. And yes, in some cases you do want to be alone to enjoy your baby, but on some days you crave the outside world. Pick up the phone and tell someone you need a visitor. You just had a baby. A tiny human just escaped from your body and is demanding your attention constantly. You are allowed to be selfish and tell someone you need them.
Do something that makes you feel human everyday
It is really easy for the days to blend together. One minute it’s the early morning and your pouring yourself a cup a coffee, and the next minute it’s 6 pm and you realize you never even tasted it. I can’t tell you how many days John would come home from work and I hadn’t moved from the couch once. I’d find myself frustrated and surrounded by wet bibs and empty boxes of cereal (the only thing I was able to eat all day), wearing three-day old pajamas. I often felt outside of my element, exhausted, and often smelly.
My second time around on maternity leave, I made a plan to shower and enjoy one hot cup of coffee to myself each day. A small victory, but something that made me feel more like “me”. And once I was cleared to workout by my doctor, I would go for a walk (and later a run). I’m not saying these were easy to accomplish. It often involved waking up at 5 am in between feedings and diaper changes. And that hot cup of coffee usually happened at around 4 pm right after Gregory went down for a nap and Abby was at daycare. There was little chance of enjoying a hot cup with a toddler attempting to pull you away from a newborn.
Give yourself a break
If you can swing it, take a few hours off one day. Ask a family member or a close friend to watch your baby and take yourself out. Grab lunch alone. Go see a movie. Get a pedicure. Go for a walk without a baby in tow. During my time with Abby, John took an entire day off of work, giving me the opportunity to just worry about myself for the day. Since my time was so short with Gregory, John took an evening with both kids and I went out to dinner with a friend. Another day, I went out with just Abby and John spent the day with Gregory. Having even just a few hours to do something other than taking care of a newborn (even if it still involves the responsibility of mom) rejuvenates you like you wouldn’t believe.
So go make the most of your maternity leave. And remember, you’re a Rockstar! You got this!
Since getting pregnant, I joined way more online mommy groups than I probably should have and I’ve left a majority of them just as quickly. The ones I’m still in consist of three groups – those that provide interesting and scientific research; those that I’m a member of just because of sheer laziness to leave; and the very few that I’m completely in love with. Seriously, the moms and moms to be in that last subgroup are filled with some of the most amazing women I know. It really is a lifesaver knowing you are in a close group with people who are going through the same things as you. They are there when you have a question about bottle types, need some advice on poop color, amount, time-between, etc. (yes we talk about poop consistently), or when you just want to complain about the fact that your two week old will only stop crying if you are standing and swaying non-stop, even after five hours and when it’s 2 am and all you want to do is pee or just eat a banana. That’s when real bonding happens.
Anyway, recently a few of the moms-to-be in my groups have been opening up about being harassed about bullied about their birthing decisions – specifically, having a c-section. Once again, why do people feel the need to judge? And, more importantly, how do moms even have the energy. Right now, I’m bouncing a baby old on my left knee, petting a pup with my right foot, and attempting to drink my coffee before it gets cold (while blogging). And, if I had any more mental capacity, it would be used to figure out how to warm my coffee in a microwave so it tastes fresh and not like a layer of burnt espresso on top of day-old cold coffee. Seriously moms, how do you have the energy for anything else?
So, as someone who was berated before, during and following Abby’s delivery, I thought I’d share some insights about C-section judgments.
Here are a few things you may hear if you are scheduled for or had a C-section:
“You took the easy way out.”
Oh yes! Having a C-section is 100% the “easy way out.” Being numb from your neck down while someone slices through you is completely “easy.” Climbing out of a bed while your abs are still healing to feed your newborn is an incredibly easy way out.
“It’s unhealthy for the baby / You should know better.”
Yes, we were meant to birth children through our vaginas. I get that. But guess what – that doesn’t happen in every case. Apparently, in many cases, a c-section is necessary for a variety of factors (such as the baby being breech, low heart rate during delivery, etc.). And Abby was perfectly healthy at birth and is perfectly healthy now.
“You poor thing, forced to have a c-section.”
I want to set the record straight. I was not forced to have a c-section. I actually didn’t want one. I wanted to have Abby the “traditional” way, but that didn’t happy. And guess what, I tried very hard to push out my 9 pound + baby, but I couldn’t. And at the end, a c-section was the only way to get her out. So I made the decision to do what was best for her. No one forced me to do anything.
“You’re not a real mom if you don’t have your baby natural” (aka vaginally).
So what does that say about people who adopt? I guess they aren’t real parents. Nope. I guess being there for your child whenever they need, holding them when they are sick, and soothing them when they are sad does not make you a real parent unless you birthed that kiddo through your vagina.
This last comment actually is the worst one I heard. And it was the one that actually resulted in most of my tears leading up to Abby’s birth and even after. You see, when you have a c-section, you don’t get to hold your baby right away. Your arms are frozen to the operating table and your baby will be brought to you. If you deliver vaginally, and everything is on par with your child, he or she is typically handed to you or laid on your chest. In my case, John got to see Abby as they cleaned and checked her. I heard her crying from across the room but couldn’t see her. Finally, he brought her to my face and all I could do was turn my head. And then, she and John left as I was sewed back up. I didn’t get to hold my baby for more than an hour. And during that time on the table, hearing the surgeons laugh and nurses tell me how adorable my baby girl looked, “you aren’t a real mom” kept replaying in my head. And in recovery, I couldn’t move my arms for what seemed like an eternity. I kept hearing nurses and doctors tell me how beautiful my baby girl looked, but she wasn’t with me. I finally was reunited with Abby in my postpartum room – hours after her birth. While other moms may have held their baby moments after birth, attempted breastfeeding, and smiled at their newest treasure, I waited with those voices replaying in my head. You’re not a real mom.
When I finally got to hold her, I didn’t let her go for a solid two hours. I soaked in as much of her as I could in this moment I wanted. And in an instant, I remember she moved slightly in my arms, opened her eyes briefly, and I cried. That was the moment I knew I was a real mom.
So, to all of my fellow moms and moms to be – you are a real mom, no matter how your child comes into the world.
Real moms birth babies vaginally
Real moms have c-sections
Real moms adopt
Real moms are the moms who are there for their child for the rest of their lives
Judgmental moms are not worth your time!
Don’t let anyone ever tell you differently. And, for anyone who decides to share their “enlightened” look on the world in which you are not a real mom because of XYZ, you have my full permission to flood their inbox until it’s filled to capacity and no one can ever email them again with selfies of you with your baby. That is the sweetest revenge.
When you’re pregnant, people praise you for gaining weight. When you’re pregnant, people pay no attention when you finish a jar of peanut butter (well, they might, but you don’t care). When you’re pregnant, that bump under your shirt is glorious.
When you’re no longer pregnant, people still ask you about your weight, but in a much different way. “How is your post-pregnancy diet going?” “Remember, breastfeeding will help you lose that baby weight faster.” I hate those people. I really do. And when you’re no longer pregnant, you still dream of peanut butter but now people stare at you when you dip your spoon into the jar (those people are not your friends because those who can resist peanut butter are not worth your time, your friend is in that jar – damn, I love peanut butter – what were we talking about again?) Oh yea…. When you’re no longer pregnant, that “bump” is the now your stretched skin that I like to refer to as my pregnancy pouch. It’s a terrible bastard that is harder and harder to hide.
Since being cleared to work out again, I’ve spent as much time as possible sweating at the gym, running/walking on the trail every chance I get, and that jar of peanut butter has gone untouched. That poor poor jar, sad and lonely. (Guys, do you think I have a peanut butter problem – no, I didn’t think so – ok moving on). And now that I’m under my pre-pregnancy weight, I look back at these past few weeks, my hard work, my strength to skip dessert, and stare at my post-pregnancy, under pre-pregnancy weight body and think to myself – “Wow, so not worth it.” Despite my hard work, I still have the pouch, I still have those sneaky stretch marks that didn’t show up until week 40 (sneaky jerks), and while I can fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans, my muffin top spills over the top. And honestly, once you have worn maternity jeans, there really is no going back. Let me paint a picture – these are jeans that hug you in the best places but feel like sweat pants! It’s AMAZING. Oh, and of course, it is now officially summer, meaning that I can’t hide those unwanted rolls under a bulky sweater – well I could, but the smell of poop is usually close by, I would prefer not to add in my own stink (though I could probably just blame it on the baby as well – I’ll have to keep that in mind).
Oh, and of course I’m now bombarded with ads about losing baby weight fast, stroller running groups, and classes that will “bounce my body back.” Can we just stop assuming our bodies will bounce back, because here’s the honest truth – THEY WONT! You’re body is COMPLETELY different. You grew a human (or in some cases, multiple humans)! Your organs were moved, your skin was stretched, and your uterus grew to crazy sizes to ensure this human had enough room. Then, after all of the stretching and growing, you birthed that baby either by pushing it with all of your might or having major surgery. None of this is easy – NONE.
You’re lucky that I can still walk the dog after all of that!
So, since having Abby, I’ve been trying to love myself more to teach her that she should love herself. I want her to be confident, even if I haven’t always been. And if someone puts her down, I want her to raise her head high and walk away (and flip them off as she walks away if she’s anything like her mother).
Here’s to loving your stretch marks, embracing your scars (both physical and emotional) and not caring if someone stares as you eat from that jar of peanut butter. You deserve that peanut butter!