Shit folks, my last full week of maternity leave has ended. As of Wednesday this week I am starting my Keeping in Touch days in preparation for going back four days a week at the end of September. It feels like the days of maternity leave have started to run away from me, and I thought I would look back over what has been a crazy year.
Naively I thought maternity leave would be a doddle, I have never had such a long stretch of time without working before. Even as a student I’d be busting my ass waitressing in between lectures. I had a lovely list of things which I aimed to do over maternity leave, convinced I would probably be bored. Babies sleep a lot don’t they? I mean, how much time can they actually take up? They don’t DO anything. LOL at the thoughts of a child-free Becks.
Believing the above to be true I set about putting together a list of things to do. Rewatch all seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race – which really should be the top of everyone’s to do list. Rewatch Sex and the City – natch. Go through all my Pinterest boards and reorder them. Clean out the kitchen cupboards. Update my Linkedin. You know, prioritised the really important stuff.
One thing I was adamant on though was that I wanted to start blogging again. I’ve had three other blogs previously and have always enjoyed writing. I was determined to get back up and organised on my ‘year off’ and really put some work into my writing.
The the baby arrived. And all of my plans went to shit.
A newborn baby brings with them a complete whirlwind of chaos. There’s the feeding them every three hours, getting to grips with breastfeeding, changing countless nappies, cleaning up pee, poop and puke, singing endless lullabies and trying to make sense of an ever changing routine. The first three months passed in a blur. I remember feeling like a failure and getting myself so worked up because I hadn’t managed to get the washing out of the machine, or even had lunch by the time Danny came home from work. I look back now and think ‘you nutter’, why was I worrying about getting the washing on the line? I should have spent every spare moment with my feet up relaxing and enjoying the newborn baby snuggles.
And then R got a little bit older, and we braved more adventures out; to baby groups, into Manchester, even to Yorkshire to stay with my family. We started to get into a tentative routine, and I began to recognise R’s cues and moods. However I still felt a bit panicky when I thought about what I was actually ‘doing’. I had nothing under my belt and the year was creeping by.
In a fit of enthusiasm I cleared my work email inbox (why? why? Becks why?) and volunteered for an amazing event. Pregnant Then Screwed Live in Manchester. I set that as my blog date, I would start writing, I would learn so much at the event and have loads of amazing content. And I did have a brilliant time, met some amazing people, and got a lot of tips. (You can learn more here.) I even sent my friend a WhatsApp discussing starting a website. But nothing got written. That was May 2018.
And then as you all know, the auspicious date of July 25th 2018 rolled around and I broke the internet. Well not really, but I did post a picture of me in my pants, began to write in a fashion that was more sweary than intended and thus began this lil blog, the second sweet child of mine. It took me three weeks of writing, planning, and figuring out WordPress to even write that post. I know it doesn’t look like it – but my writing gets crammed into naptimes, or late evenings. I’m proud of what I have done so far, and writing makes me feel alive.
But I still get the old, I HAVEN’T ACHIEVED ANYTHING hanging over my head. My photos aren’t Insta-perfect, my writing is littered with bloody’s, fecks and the odd unjustified paragraph. I don’t have a shiny website, and my Kindle is full of books I haven’t read.
Well this one goes out to me and all the other mamas out there questioning where their days have gone.
In the first year your baby will get through about 2500-3000 nappies. That’s a lot of time spent wiping a tiny arse. But also a lot of time (once your baby is older) spent wrestling a baby that has suddenly sprouted extra limbs and is thrashing like a beached whale, out of and into nappies. And then you have to admire their perfect dimpled bum and tell them how handsome they are. An impromptu bum out session, whilst singing nursery rhymes helps to solve any nappy rash problems but also is a heap of fun. Oh, and then there’s a poop on the rug to clean up.
If you are breastfeeding, there’s a lot of long nursing sessions to get through. You fish breastpads out from your shirt, jeans waistband, socks, coffee-shop floor ten times a day and readjust those leaky udders. You cry when you get up in the morning after the first full nights sleep and discover so many blocked ducts your boob feels like a sock full of golf balls. You spend hours expressing so that your partner can give baby a bottle and you a break.
If you bottle feed there are a million parts of bottles to wash, sterilise, assemble. There’s a late night formula run, and endless worries when the formula company change their recipe. In a sleepy state one night you spill the bottle,and begin the whole routine again, all the while the baby is screaming for milk.
Then baby is on the move, and housework is back on the priority list again as tiny hands find every stray bit of fluff and it goes straight into the mouth. You vacuum and wipe up spills but they still manage to find the one piece you have missed. Or failing that, they will find and chew on an old flip flop. Toys get strewn everywhere so you spend ‘just a quick ten minutes’ putting them away once, twice, three times a day. And you still stand on the duplo pig and hop round the living room cursing every single bit of plastic shite in the Kallax unit.
The point is Mama’s, that every day you are doing something. You are doing something more important than any to-do list. You are raising a person. You are teaching them about the wonders of this world. You are teaching them love, empathy, confidence and kindness. If you succeed in that then fuck Linkedin, fuck Instagram, fuck followers and fuck washing the dishes. You have done us all proud.
(And if you go back to work, you are still doing all of those things, just with an eight hour shift and Northern Rail pissing on your parade. You got this Mama.)