Graduated Learning: Life after College

I got my degree, I got a job…now what?

Maternity Leave: Plans vs. Reality April 24, 2016

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I had big plans for my maternity leave.  I was going to read a ton of books!  I was going to use the bread maker every day!  I was going to binge watch Psych!

This wasn’t quite how things went.  My first days after giving birth were quite overwhelming.  I was either sleeping or nursing or eating.  Actually, that pretty much describes most of my maternity leave.  Oh and changing diapers.  Though I didn’t actually change any diapers until we got home from the hospital (husband or nurses did it while we were at the hospital) and I briefly got overwhelmed when I got home when just trying to change diapers.  But more on that in a post about diapers.

I tried to take advantage of “sleep when the baby sleeps” but at the very beginning, she only really fell asleep if you were holding her and then it was tough to put her in her bassinet after she fell asleep.  So, having family around to hold her while I got some sleep came in very handy.

I very much appreciated visits (and food) from family and friends.  Trying to make meals on top of everything else that needed to get done was just not feasible.  And it was nice to be able to socialize.   A few visitors also helped clean the house a bit, since at times trying to tend to dishes and other chores was also overwhelming.

As time went on and it was just me and the baby at home every day (husband was able to take a week off after we came home from the hospital, then my mom stayed with me for a week), the the routine of sleep, nurse, eat, also got a bit of laundry thrown in, and occasionally dishes (I could handle loading and unloading the dishwasher, but doing the big pots and pans was a bit much at times).  And I started making some simple dinners if the baby managed to fall asleep at the right time, or if I could wear her while working in the kitchen.

As for those big plans at the beginning:  I only fully read one book, and read part of three other books.  The book I fully read was recommended to me by a fellow new mom.  I’d recommend this book to other new moms planning to return to work and pump breast milk.  It was Work. Pump. Repeat.  It was very helpful to help me figure out how to get ready for pumping when I went back to work.  The other books I partially read included another book for working mothers, Working Mother Nursing Mother.  It came recommended to me by a few other folks.  I also found it helpful, but didn’t get to finish reading it before going back to work (I still have it and will probably catch bits of it when I can).  I also started reading Your Baby is Speaking to You, which had some fascinating insight on what exactly a baby is up to in those first few weeks.  It helped me understand a bit more the different movements and reactions the baby was having.  The other book I had started reading before the baby was born but I gave up on reading a week or so into maternity leave was The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  I had put it on hold at the library months earlier but it finally became available a week before I had the baby.  I am in definite need of tidying in my house, but I don’t think I can get through this book any time soon.

I didn’t use the bread machine once.  My husband did use our rice maker to make overnight oatmeal, which was delicious, filling, and easy to do.

Instead of rewatching all of Psych on Netflix, I went ahead and rewatched all of Parks and Recreation.  Totally worth it.  The last few days of maternity leave, I did actually start watching Psych.  Most of my Netflix watching happened when nursing or if the baby was resting but I wasn’t able to fall asleep.

I did manage to get out of the house a decent amount.  In the beginning most trips out of the house were for doctor’s appointments, either mine or the baby’s.  We didn’t leave the house much.  But after the first month, I did try to make the effort to get outside.  I put the baby in the stroller and ran local errands (drug store, library, etc.) or otherwise just explored our neighborhood.  I also met some new moms at the local “Baby Cafe” events.  These are meetings hosted by lactation consultants and other trained professionals for nursing mothers.  It was helpful to get out of the house, meet other mothers and hear about their experiences and what worked/didn’t work for them.  Plus the professionals had plenty of advice and would answer any questions new moms might have.  Here are a few north of Boston-area ones but if you live elsewhere you can find out about Baby Cafes (in the United States) here.  They were started in the UK, so there are quite a few there, but there are also some in a few other countries as well.

I went back to work this past Wednesday.  Unfortunately, my husband had to travel for work starting that same day, so I had to juggle daycare drop off and pickup, and then tend to everything at home.  But luckily I had prepped a huge amount of food before Wednesday so I could just reheat and eat when I had a moment to myself.  But very glad he’s back home!  And I am very grateful to my boss for allowing me to work more flexible hours in order to accommodate my schedule.  So I didn’t have to worry about how I was going to be able to do everything!

I’ll have plenty more to say about being back at work, having my child in daycare all day, and other observations about being a working mother, but for now, that’s a good starting recap for what my maternity leave was like.

How did your maternity leave plans compare to reality?

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