life, love, and maybe babies

Monday, December 21, 2015

Make Like a Tree and Maternity Leave: 10 Tips to Prepare You For What'sComing

Maternity leave. Two tiny words that can bring up a wealth of all kinds of emotions. Fear, anxiety, joy. For the most part, the idea of maternity leave (if you're taking it) will make you feel excitement, and maybe even a little hopeful. After all, newborns sleep a lot. You're going to get SO MUCH DONE! You might even start and complete that novel that's been living inside you for the last 10 years. Move over, J.K. Rowling, there's a new best selling author in town.

Then you get home with the baby and you realize things aren't exaaaaactly like you thought they'd be. And with that, here are the top 10 things about maternity leave you never saw coming.

10) Time flies, even if you aren't having fun

You'll probably be up before 6:00 AM. And yet, somehow, when your husband walks in the door in the early evening and asks, "So what did you two do today?", you find yourself wondering exactly that. WHAT THE HELL DID I DO WITH THE LAST 12 HOURS?

I'll give you a hint. You changed diapers, fed baby, changed baby, soothed baby when he cried for two hours straight, attempted to load the dishwasher but gave up when baby woke up from his nap, and took a shower. (No promises you get one of those tomorrow, though.) When you look at that list, how in the world did those few items take up that much time?

Because they just do.

I'm convinced days with a baby are actually looped into some sort of cosmic time warp or dog year phenomenon, where one minute is actually 10 minutes. So hours really only last six minutes. And therefore, those 12 hours are really only 72 minutes long.

Trust me on this, I know what I'm talking about.

9) Television makes no sense

When you first started thinking about maternity leave, you poured through your Netflix account, looking for a great series to start (and maybe even finish!) while your babe and you snuggled on the couch.

Good luck with that, honey buns.

What actually happens is you watch the first few episodes when baby is sleeping 16-17 hours a day and get really into it. (For me, it was "The Affair" on Showtime). Then, right as you're getting into the meat and potatoes of the show, baby decides he's had enough of you eye-gulping television and wants to be fed smack in the middle of episode 4. So you pop the boob (or bottle) in his mouth and settle back in. But he doesn't want to be fed anymore, he wants to be rocked and cuddled. So for 20 minutes you look into his eyes and coo at him until he drifts off to sleep. But then you have no idea what the hell just happened on your show. You reach for the remote, but the movement startles baby and he wakes up...and you get to start all over again.

Bottom line? You aren't going to be watching any television unless it's something you've already seen.

8) You will learn efficiency at a pro level

This happens fast. Pre-baby, you could nestle on the sofa in the morning, drink in the morning peacefulness, and occasionally change the channels on the television.Those days are gone. Now you must learn to think in advance of what you could possibly need before you sit down. TV on? Check. Channel correct? Check. Coffee in arm's reach? Check. Bladder empty? Check. You will learn to anticipate every conceivable scenario and your response to it before you're seated. (I'm convinced this is actually brain training for when my child is older and is trying to think of ways to sneak out of the house.)

7) You might hate your partner a teeny little bit

Your days are spent changing poopy diapers, feeding your baby on demand and occasionally eating a meal. So when your husband gets home, you fully expect to be able to do a changing of the guard and hand baby over for a bit of a reprieve. Perhaps you'll finally pay the bills that have been mounting on the kitchen counter. Or eat an apple. But Hubs might have other ideas. And for the record, it isn't even his fault. He (or she) comes home from a hard day and wants to have snuggled with a happy baby. Not grumpy, smelly, hasn't-slept-for-hours baby that needs to be rocked and bounced. So when you give him that baby, don't be surprised when he immediately tries to give him back and say, "Oh, he must be hungry. I can't help with that." And then you want to throttle him.

This is going to take communication for both of you to get through. Hubs needs to know you need a break. After all, you've been working hard all day too, just in a different way. Both of you deserve a little downtime and you're going to have to take it in shifts. I remember the exact moment I realized Hubs and I needed to talk very seriously about what I was expecting from a help perspective when he came home from work. I was sitting on the couch nursing my son and realized I had left his pacifier upstairs. I asked Hubs to grab it and he replied, "Well, what would you do if I wasn't here?" I considered calling a divorce attorney right then and there.

The point is, you have to talk to one another. You both must understand that life is different now and "downtime" might just be a fond memory. And you need to be there for each other.

6) You will kick yourself for "powering through" your tiredness when you were pregnant.

Because naps were at least an option back then. Now your bed beckons you and you have to ignore it.

5) Your laundry will become biblical

Remember the feeding of the 5,000? This is what happens to your laundry. One tiny, little human will produce more laundry than you could ever conceive. Sometimes baby wears an outfit for literally three minutes. Then it's one go-around with a blow out diaper and baby needs new pants and you need a completely new outfit.

4) Your bank account will suffer

No, not because you need to buy diapers and formula and wipes, although those certainly cost money. The spending shenanigans comes from online shopping. But wait, you say, I thought I was going to be spending all my free time rocking baby and being tired. How am I going to shop?

Your body is an amazing thing and will learn to buy things with the use of only one extremity. Did you know you can rock baby with one arm and scroll through Amazon with the other? You will become next level amazing at it. 

To make matters worse, night time feedings may cause half-awake spending, which is both the best and the worst kind. The best is when a package arrives that contains an item that you've always wanted but could never pull the trigger on. Did Hubs buy this for you because he loves you? What a doll! And then the worst part comes...because you realize you sleep-bought this item for yourself during baby's 3:30 AM feeding. Oops.

If you want to try and curtail the damage, don't save your credit card info onto your phone. At least then you have to physically go and get your wallet to purchase something. Otherwise, you're just a few clicks and an Amazon Prime membership away from bankruptcy.

3) You will wear out Google

Is baby supposed to burp after breast feeding? When should she stop sleeping in her bassinet? Are these weird bumps on her arm normal?

Get ready for your entire search history to revolve around things that may or may not be wrong with your kid. And prepare to feel more judged than you've ever felt. For the first three weeks of maternity leave, I relied on Google or Mom Blogs to guide me through what I was supposed to be doing. The problem arose when I found great advice, then three minutes later found advice that counteracted the great advice I just got. It's a vicious cycle. 

Use Google if you truly think it will help, but more than likely, you'll end up more confused and fully convinced you're failing at motherhood.

2) You won't work out

I bought a set of workout DVD's my second day of maternity leave, and they're still sitting in my kitchen. It's not that I don't plan to use them, but I've made peace with the fact that they're going to have to wait until after my son is in daycare. This is the one time in my life I can spend an unprecedented amount of time with my baby. I'm not going to use it worrying about my gut and stretch marks.

The workouts can wait.

1) It will fly

Don't blink. Your time with baby will be over before you can even process that it's happened. Sure, eight or ten or twelve weeks sounds like an eternity, but it isn't. As the end of my uninterrupted time with my son comes to a close, I am floored by how quickly it's gone. I struggled with feeling like I got nothing accomplished, but then I remember that I had a baby. I kept him alive. I fed him from my own body parts every single day and he is happy and thriving and well. 

And now I have to turn him over to someone else.

It breaks my heart, but I know I soaked up every minute of my time with him and didn't take any of it for granted. Even when he was cranky and barfing or pooping every four minutes or refusing to go down for a nap, I was grateful for him. I was thankful to have him in my arms, a little piece of my husband and me.

And now I'm ready to go back to work and watch him thrive. 

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