Why I Failed Maternity Leave
3 Tips on How to Master Being a New Mum
Maternity leave. A time where – according to anyone who has never been on maternity leave – you have copious amounts of freedom and space to do whatever you please. A time where you, the mother, create a special bond with your lovely newborn because you decided to – for very unselfish reasons – create life and care for something more than yourself.
Mother and baby, n’aaaaaaww.
Hold up and REWIND that n’aw.
And let’s take it back a bit. Maternity leave feels like being smacked in the face, hard. You spend 10 months carrying around this very heavy creature in your uterus that one day forces it’s way – in a painful expedition – out of your body and then cries at you for a very long time after. I didn’t sleep, my boob was in a constant 2 hour cycle of milkage, my uterus was in pain, I couldn’t walk or sit, I couldn’t see straight.
It was like I was in the war trenches waiting patiently for Private Ryan to run around the corner and save me.
But now more than a year later, I feel like I may have missed the trick.
It WAS a special time, and I should have appreciated it more. Most of the time I was wallowing in my sunken shell of a woman about how tired and bored I was, but actually I could have cherished it more.
So here is what I am going to do the next time around:
Just be tired.
I fought my tiredness so hard that I was making myself even more tired. I stressed myself out by worrying whether I was being a good mum, cleaning while I should have been sleeping, caring when I should have been letting go. You can’t do everything and shouldn’t expect yourself to. The worst part was that there was no pressure from anyone else, the pressure was ALL IN MY HEAD.
I expected my body and mind to bounce right back to where it was pre-pregnancy. I wanted to be the ‘old me,’ and tried to go out with friends but this only made me feel worse. I started to compare myself to their un-baby filled lives, galavanting all over London to nice restaurants and fancy parties that in my reality I really was not able to do – even though I tried. I was too tired and not in the right mindset. I should have allowed my mind to catch up to my new reality.
Let your mum and/or partner look after the baby.
In the first week of Bear’s life I was quite precious about spending time with him. I very quickly came to realise that after my mom went back to America I was screwed. I should have let her watch him the entire time so that I could catch up on my sleep (the labour was three days long and I did not sleep at all). There was no reason to stay up and try to do everything – I see a theme happening here.
Even though you are EXTREMELY tired, this is the only one-on-one time you will have with your newborn.
This one I really regret not knowing.
I thought it was all so boring – my maternal instincts didn’t kick in until a later date – and I was doing my masters part-time. Every Monday I went to class from 9-5 and during the week I would study between Bear’s naps. I also started blogging which was beneficial but also challenging and could have waited a few months. The newborn stage was over in a FLASH and I was back at work within 5 months. Looking back now it all flew by way too quickly. Next time around I will make sure to really be there with my newborn.
The key theme here is that I need to:
Stop trying to do everything all at once.
This is a note to my future self on the next maternity leave but actually... now that I’m writing this... it’s also a note to myself NOW to chill the fuck out.
I work full-time, I am a mum, I blog, I manage and write for Happy New Mum, and I am developing a business plan. I have way too many things on my plate and I am starting to realise that it’s all too much. Doing it all is not ‘having it all.’