I Want My Maternity Leave Back

I feel awful saying this out loud but I really didn’t enjoy my maternity leave.  When I was nearing the end of my 40 week stint as a professional incubator, I had visions of snuggling with my squishy baby while watching TV and reading books.  Long chats on the phone with friends and family.  Shopping trips and lunch with the ladies.  Catching up on blogging, email and Facebook.  Basically just six whole weeks of Saturdays and Sundays. 

Instead I pushed out a child and was thrust into this brand-new life with an itty bitty (well, not that itty bitty at 8lbs 4oz thank you very much) baby who was easy by most accounts, but still, a brand new baby.  And we had a lot of stuff to figure out together.  Like those hours in the early evenings when she just cried.  For no good reason.  And I wanted to throw myself on the floor and cry right along with her.  Or the times that she projectile vomited and I wanted to run for the phone to call my husband, my mother and the doctor because O MY GOD a baby should not have that much stuff coming up.  Or the never-ending challenge of trying to determine if she was hungry or tired or just pissed that she pulled the short stick and had to go home with me. 

Then there was the coming to terms with the new me.  The me that had to choose between bathing and eating some days.  Bathing almost always won because it was the only that made my lady bits feel better.  And speaking of lady bits, I spent 5 damn weeks medicated, sitting down ever so carefully and scared to death that I was going to forever feel like someone took a baseball bat to my crotch.  It took me a good two weeks to pull out a mirror and check out the damage for myself.   The new me was always in sweats, never in make up and desperately wanted to slip into my pre-pregnancy jeans. 

The thought of leaving the house seemed like both an escape and a death trap.  I wanted to leave the house, see people, be human again, but that meant leaving my child or taking her with me.  Leaving her seemed to go against every fiber in my body, but taking her?  That means putting her in a car and driving.  On a road.  With other people.   You see where I’m going here? 

I figured it out.  As my six weeks came to an end, the lady bits started to feel a bit more like normal (although it would be another four weeks until the bleeding stopped – that’s right folks, I bled for TEN EFFING WEEKS).  I got some of my energy back. I mastered the Happiest Baby on the Block soothing techniques.  I learned how to bath with the baby in her bouncy chair and grab a granola bar on the way out the door.  I took a deep breath and took C with me when I left the house.  I finally got back into those jeans. I met a friend and her little one for shopping and had a jolly time pushing the girls around in their strollers. 

And then two days later I went back to work.  So now that I sort of feel like a better version of my former self, I think I would like a redo on my maternity leave.

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Pack my bags – I’m moving

To the state of Constant Conflict. Where a new mother, hell any mother, is pulled between wanting to be the same energetic and focused person she was before she birthed a child and the distracted and tired person she became after she had to leave that child to go earn a paycheck.

Again, I KNOW I am not the first mom to go through this and I KNOW everyone says it will get easier. My daughter is in good hands. That is not the point. The point is before I held my little girl and spent just about every moment of her first six weeks of life with her, I always rolled my eyes at the person who left meetings early to get home to their kids, or the person who never went for drinks after, or the ones who complained under their breath about having to travel out of town for work. I was NEVER going to be like that. I wouldn’t let having a child at home keep me from doing what I needed to do to advance at work. (Side note, my ambition is more about wanting to keep a roof over our heads and Nine West shoes on my feet than wanting to rule the world).

Well, I am now that person. Yesterday was my first ‘real’ day back from maternity leave and after a long day of presentation rehearsals and discussions that ended at 7:45, the rest of the marketing department, including my boss and our agency contacts, were headed to dinner. It was my weary voice that asked if dinner was required and skipped out to come home to kiss my kid before putting her to bed. I know I should have taken put in the extra time, especially after being gone for six weeks. I should have been at the table when ideas for today’s presentation were being discussed.  But every single fiber of my being told me to go home. So I did.

And I cried the whole way, because I feel guilty for leaving and guilty for feeling conflicted.  But conflicted is what I feel.  As much as I know leaving was the right decision, I couldn’t help but wonder if my boss is thinking that I’ve changed or if other members of the department feel like I’m not pulling my weight or if I was missing something.  If the next time there’s a new position in our department, will I be judged as not being serious about or dedicated to my job and will it go to someone with less responsibility at home.  And then I think that worrying about those things when my baby is six weeks old makes me a terrible mother who doesn’t understand her priorities. 

See….constant state of conflict. 

Today, I’m holding my baby

Forget writing thank you notes (its been a month, what’s another few days), going through clothes (that’s depressing anyway) or cleaning my house (like I need an excuse to avoid that)… today I am doing nothing but holding my baby, because tomorrow I am leaving her ALL DAY to go to a meeting for work.  ::sigh:: 

Yes I know my maternity leave doesn’t end until next week and I made the choice to be involved with 2010 planning while I was off and I offered to attend the non-mandatory meeting tomorrow.  Do not remind me that all along I’ve talked about how I could not be a stay at home mom, how I needed to get out of the house for ‘adult conversation’ and to feel productive and how I was pretty sure I could rock as a working mom.  Seriously, do not go there, because right now the words to the “You’re Gonna Miss This” song are running through my head and all I can think about is how much I’m going to miss tomorrow and every other day that I’m at work while she is home.  The way we cuddle in bed early in the mornings, and the way she smiles and gurgles after being fed and changed mid-morning, or the way she curls up on my chest to take an afternoon nap.  

So, tomorrow, I will go to the meeting, stop at Dunkin Donuts for a hot chocolate and put on my happy face about how it feels good to be back; but today, I am holding my baby and trying not to cry.  And seriously, the first person to say I told you so, loses blog reading rights. 

The Choices We Make

People warned me about this… sort of… I heard “your life is going to change” so many times during the last nine months that I wanted to throat-punch anyone who dared give me that knowing look and start to open their mouth to grace me with their words of wisdom about how I wouldn’t be able to pick up and run to WalMart when I wanted or how Craig and I would have to arrange child care if we wanted to go out for a hot meal or about how all around wonderful my life would be once I had a baby.

Nobody told me that there would be days that I would have to choose between showering and eating. They gave me advice about “sleeping when she sleeps”. Sounds easy enough. Except some days this child only sleeps in 30 minute increments. Which means that by the time she falls asleep – deep enough that I can lay her down I have about 15 minutes before she’s up again wanting to be held or fed or needing a diaper changed. So in those 15 minutes do I take a quick bath or eat something? And if I chose sustenance over hygiene what exactly do I eat? Nothing that requires microwaving since the beeping will surely wake her up and nothing that takes longer than a few minutes to prepare because I want to have time to actually eat it. So, if anyone goes to the grocery store could you grab me more cereal and bread please? (side note, this is probably why I’m only 4 pounds from my pre-pregnancy weight.)