Even though it’s been over a year, maternity leave has been on my mind lately. In addition to prepping new moms left and right at work, I recently revisited my journal from that time for a future blog. That journal captured all the emotions of my maternity leave and inspired me to share these phrases that got me through it!
Walks! Sunshine! Air!
I’m neither an outdoorsy person nor an extrovert and even I was getting cabin fever at home on leave. Daily walks became my chance to join the world and was a great way to soothe Henley. While we didn’t see many folks, being outside helped me start to get comfortable with my post-baby body and even helped me shed some of those pounds. Vitamin D for the win.
Have a plan.
Day 18. That was the first day I was truly by myself with Hen. I wouldn’t say I was frazzled, but I definitely had moments of, “What am I supposed to be doing?”. I made a schedule and taped it to the fridge. It had a suggested schedule + ideas for when she was asleep and when she was awake. It helped me fight brain fog and feel productive. I no longer had to remember to do tummy time or take a shower; I just had to check the schedule. But...
Days with newborns aren’t perfect so remember to be adaptable! There was one rainy day that I spent pushing her in the stroller around our kitchen for hours. It was the only thing that would make her happy and outside wasn’t an option. It’s okay for things to not operate like clockwork - read your little ones cues and be comfortable with following their lead. As someone once told me, no one knows your child better than you.
Colic is real. Most days around 4:00 p.m. Henley would scream for an hour, the terror hour. I found other parents in my life that had experienced this so I didn’t feel crazy and each day geared up for that hour. I made sure before it hit that in addition to mentally preparing - I set myself up for success by eating a snack and downing some coffee. Luckily, my husband came home around 5:30 p.m. each day. Her terror hour would end, we would have thirty happy minutes, and then everything would appear together when Quinn walked in the door.
I’m ridiculous grateful to be a mom. Shortly after having Hen, I watched from afar as a friend lost her young son. That reset my perspective on having a newborn. Every cry, every snuggle, every smile was magic, because I didn’t and don’t deserve it. Once gratitude sank in, I made a plan to be present in each moment with Henley. This meant I didn’t actually read all the Harry Potter books I brought home or finish my pet projects as planned. While I love the naive pre-baby me for her optimism, I’m happy I soaked up my time with Henley. Instead of learning how to sew, I memorized things like her cute wake up routine. I can still picture her little left arm stretching up like Superman as she pouted her lips before fluttering those long lashed eyes open. Total magic.
Your job is love.
People often ask me what’s the best advice I got as a new parent and I have to say it was from Henley’s pediatrician. She said, “Your only job right now is to love her.”. That has stuck with me. It’s the phrase that helped me to adapt, survive terror hour, and remain present. I didn’t need to be super mom/wife, I just needed to love her. That advice still gets me through.
I finish every email to new parents at work with “Enjoy this time with your little one”. I truly mean it. For every hard moment there are a dozen more I wouldn’t trade for anything. Maternity leave was the hardest, but best experience of my life. I felt every emotion: lonely, happy, scared, sad, blissful. I’m thankful that I had the foresight to keep a journal. One day I’ll share it with Henley so she can read about our adventures those first few months. An alternative phrase here is “Enjoy and document it”.
Practice for when it ends.
Oh dear. This was the hardest part. On my first day back from leave I sat at work for an hour and cried while Henley was at daycare. But I gave myself two weeks to get it right and practice did make perfect (not easier). I also spent my transition time meeting with coworkers, reading emails, and talking to my manager about evolving my role. Just being in the office helped bring my mind back to work. Honestly, it was so helpful to take it slow that I added two weeks transition time to our parental leave policy for others.
Cut yourself some slack.
Whether it’s figuring out what you’re doing as a new parent or getting your groove back at work - cut yourself some slack. Feeling emotional is normal, I recently told an anxious mom returning to work, “It’s okay to feel whatever you’re feeling”. She was/is going to be fine, but I could tell she was holding herself to a certain standard, because I’ve been there too. It took me six months to find joy in my work again and that’s okay. Now I’m adjusting to having a toddler and most of these tips hold true and I’m still remembering to cut myself some slack.
Whether you’re preparing for leave, on it right now, or just returning, I hope these blurbs inspired by my own experience are helpful.
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