I’m coming to the end of my time with my baby boy Jack. The end of a whole 12 months maternity leave. I feel a little sad, anxious and apprehensive about what is to come, a whole mixture of feelings. I am almost grieving that time, like it’s something real that I have lost, but it isn’t. This time that I have had has been wonderful, inspiring, horrendously challenging and life changing. I am eternally grateful to my husband for giving me this precious and beautiful time with our son. Time to grow and learn together about the people we will be. I will never lose or forget this incredible year. Year one of Jack. Year one of my journey into motherhood – you crazy, yet wonderful beast you!
Last week, when talking of my fears of going back to work, my Mum said that I must focus on the positives. On all the things I have done with Jack, our solo adventures to the beach, lazing around on blankets in the garden over summer, listening to our favourite songs, getting lost in the woods, a wild variety of Mum and Baby groups and possibly my favourite pastime – being at home together in our little baby bubble, huddled and tangled up close together, usually with Jack’s head resting on my chest, my hands cupping his legs up into our best snuggle. Watching our favourite movies together, predominantly Disney, Trolls, Moana and Finding Nemo.
Maternity leave hasn’t been what I expected, it’s more. A tentative, beautiful roller-coaster of emotions and doubts. I never thought I would question myself so much, until I became a mother.. Is he sleeping okay? Can he breathe? Is he too warm… maybe I should take his blanket off? Now he’s too cold? Am I feeding him enough? I really should clean the house. Am I boring my own baby?! Maybe I should play with him more. Lets do story time. When did he last poo? Is that poo normal? Am I normal?! And so on..
It is so intense. Motherhood is an amazing challenge where you are given little to no instructions or guide book, yet countless, often condescending advice from others. It is both mentally and physically draining, a job like no other. But, I have absolutely loved it! I never thought I would enjoy watching someone sleep as much as I do, his full, precious eyelashes flickering whilst he dreams, Jack’s crazy expressions at anything and everything, the funny face he does when he poops, the excitement and adrenaline like no other when he claps for the first time or says his first word. I have loved it all. And I thought writing about it, during my last week off with him would be strangely cathartic and healing. And help me process this amazing and difficult year. Here’s what I have learnt about maternity leave, being a new mum and all those silly expectations:
SAY NO!! If you don’t want to do something or see someone, just say no. It’s so simple, and yet something that I have really struggled with. A classic people pleaser, I tend to put others needs before my own. After Jack was born those first few weeks were really fucking hard. I was sleep deprived, in pain, mentally traumatised and anxious as hell about keeping this new, little person alive. The last thing I wanted was countless visitors and trips away. In hindsight, I should have been firmer, and also those first few weeks with your other half and new baby are so wonderfully special. Spend it together, make time for yourself, order takeaways, stay in bed and cuddle – everyone else will still be there when you are ready to let them in.
Invest in some good, lengthy baby classes. I never anticipated signing up for baby yoga, messy play or sensory classes, but I am so glad I did! They became my lifeline. The classes became part of my new routine with Jack, a bit of structure in our new, crazy world together. And even better, the mum’s I have met there have provided me with countless advice, silly stories and playdates.
Create your own Mum squad! Believe me, we are all in the same boat. All of us winging it, clueless and often trying to keep our shit together. I found great solace and comfort with the five girls I met at a baby massage class in January – we were a little helpless, and in a strange way looking for each other. Push yourself to make new friends, you need them. Create events, organise nights out and time together – it’s so important and I have loved getting to know these amazing girls and seeing our babies grow together.
Leave the house. Even just for a ten minute walk if need be. If you think you’re going bat shit crazy, as I like to call it, or your anxiety is peaking and temper wearing thin, get out of the house now! Please. The amount of time I have walked into our village for nothing in particular, perhaps fresh air, and returned much calmer and focused is ridiculous. Our walks took us on many different paths, to nature parks and reservoirs, exploring woodlands and new places, these walks and quiet times quickly became mine and Jack’s favourite.
Accept the mother you are. I have only recently learnt about this one. I had so many grand plans for my maternity leave, albeit stupid, excessive and ridiculous ones, but plans all the same. I thought I would sort the house out – not that it needed sorting, painting the kitchen walls, decorating the dining room, maybe even a deep clean.. Or that I would reorganise my life to a neater, picture perfect version of myself and all that is around me. I thought that perhaps I would pick up a new hobby, crafting lots of pretty shit that people buy on Etsy, like the cliché Insta Mum’s, maybe start my own little business on the side for extra money. Card making or candles, yeah I love candles. I also had this grand illusion of me bouncing into a new exercise and diet regime, like properly eating clean and going to hot yoga weekly and getting this amazing post baby body within six months or so. Yep, none of those grand ideas really materialised and that’s okay! Know what I do have? A relatively sound mind, a close relationship with my GP, a body that has done incredible things and protected me and my son, a lovely, safe home in a beautiful area, super caring and loving family and friends who have stood by us all through some pretty shit times, and more importantly we have each other.
And time, yes, for now I think we have plenty of time.