My Maternity Leave
Brooke is 11 weeks old as of yesterday, which means I have one week left of my maternity leave. I knew I wanted to share my (very flexible) maternity leave plans, but I also wanted to wait until the end of my leave in case I needed to pivot. This blog post could have gone a myriad of ways.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from my maternity leave this time around is that it has allowed me to extend grace to my 28-year-old self. I've always felt a lingering guilt about my newborn experience with Cam. When Cam was born, he cried on average six hours a day for the first 8 weeks of his life. He's always slept well at night, but those daytime hours were brutal. I'm amazed I didn't end up with post-partum depression or even post-partum psychosis! Listening to a baby crying for 350 hours of your life is enough to put anyone over the edge.
With Cam, I chose to return to work after 8 weeks, so he went to full-time daycare and I also switched to formula at that time. I can look back at what I wrote in Cam's baby book and see that 8 weeks was the age he stopped constantly crying, so I'm not sure if it was age-related, breastfeeding-related, or boredom-related, but the 8-week mark proved to be a turning point.
Given that history, I had zero expectations for Brooke's newborn phase. I had an idea of how I hoped it would go.
In October, right before Brooke was born, I had the good fortune of stumbling across an old blog post written by my good friend Emily. It referenced her grandmother's philosophy to raising kids: "I just tried to enjoy them." (Here is the link).
I just tried to enjoy them.
That little phrase stayed on my mind these past 11 weeks and I'll be carrying it with me in the years ahead.
Below are a few things I wanted to accomplish each day during my maternity leave should it be going swimmingly (and thankfully it did go swimmingly). Here is the list:
1. When Brooke is awake, give her my undivided attention.
This seemed doable to me, assuming she wasn't crying like a banshee, since babies are only awake a few hours a day. I think it's so important for babies to have positive and nurturing human interaction, especially early on when their brains are experiencing the most rapid development. Eye contact is important to me. A calm presence. A peaceful environment. No screens. I didn't want her looking at me looking at my phone.
Her favorite activities were looking out the window and staring at the ceiling fan, so I just sat with her and we did those things together. We enjoyed watching wildlife in our backyard. Multiple deer walked by each day, as well as birds, rabbits, a possum, and one squirrel even came up and tapped on the window, which made me smile.
If Brooke would've been crying like a banshee all day, then all bets were off and it would have been pure survival mode.
And - lest you think I'm perfect - I discovered early into my leave that I could stream Food Network on HBO Max and I ended up watching all 35 seasons of The Pioneer Woman cooking show.
2. Take a bath each day.
This may be a weird thing on my maternity leave to-do list, but late in my pregnancy I started taking Epsom salt baths and I discovered that Epsom salt baths cure every ailment. We don't have a fancy bathtub, just a standard-size tub in Cam's bathroom, so this isn't exactly a luxurious bubble bath situation, but I spent 15 or 20 minutes taking a bath each weekday for the first 6 weeks. It allowed me to have a moment to relax and I think it contributed to my body healing very quickly after labor.
3. Get outside everyday.
Fresh air is good for everyone and I wanted to prioritize getting outside each day for a walk in the neighborhood with Brooke. I was successful during the first few weeks, but definitely had to stretch this concept a bit during the latter half of my leave. If we walked outside from the house to get to the car? That counted.
4. Organize and de-clutter every room, closet, cabinet, and drawer in our house.
This was a lofty goal, but I did what I could when Brooke was napping. If I had to stop mid-task, then I allowed myself to stop and get back to it later. This was one of those situations where things had to look worse before they could look better. I would empty out an entire closet or cabinet onto every available surface and it looked like a tornado had gone through our house until I had time to sort through it all.
I still have a few more spaces to tackle next week, but I feel like I was able to accomplish quite a bit.