You know how they say the years go faster as you get older? Well when you have a baby they bloody fly by! I finished work and started my maternity leave on the 15th of September 2017, almost a whole year ago. If you follow me on social media then you will know that I have actually started easing my way back into the world of work already – and have been going in one or two days a week on KIT (Keep In Touch) days. Since I have started these, the weeks have been slipping away faster than ever, and as we are away on holiday next week I have suddenly realised I have barely any maternity leave left at all.
In this post, I’ll have a bash at summarising one of the craziest years of my life – and how I feel about returning to work (disclaimer: my office is right next to a Starbucks, so I am hella excited about that. Hi PSL you sexy basic bitch.)
My maternity leave started when I was 37 weeks pregnant, but R was 5 days late so I had almost a month of waiting around to do. Not that I did much waiting. I had invited my friends, family, and any bugger else who would answer their phone to come visit for a day and occupy me. An addition to that I nested. I nested hard. I scrubbed the kitchen floor and baseboards with bleach, but couldn’t get close enough to the floor to see the baseboards because of my massive belly. After I had seen everyone, opened the many wonderful, wonderful presents that I was given, eaten all the cake that people brought, done all the housework I could… I was exhausted. And emotional. I ruined a load of washing by accidentally putting in a red pillowcase, and when I pulled out a tiny pair of trousers streaked in red I had a full on ugly cry. Like sobbing on the living room floor, uncontrollable welling up for hours because I had ruined some baby clothes, cry.
And then ta-dahhhh, bish bash bosh a casual fifteen-hour back to back labour later R was here. No one prepares you for that moment, or for the many truly beautiful moments that have filled the past year. Even though you have carried them for nine months inside of you and felt them kick and squirm, when they are placed in your arms you suddenly realise that shit, they are a tiny human being. I remember R feeling warm, and wet (and kinda gross), and that is what hit me. He didn’t feel like a beautiful porcelain doll, or look as pristine as a baby cleaned and swaddled for a photo shoot. He was heavy and warm and had shat everywhere, and you realise that this is a life you are cradling in your arms. It is here and kicking and screaming and brand spanking new. This is the first time he has touched someones skin, nestled into his mum, seen another person’s face. He could be, and can be, anything. That’s humbling, awe inspiring and mingles with the rush of love you feel for this tiny person to give you the biggest high ever.
There are a myriad of other beautiful moments; tiny, perfect, everyday moments that happened over the past year. His first beaming smile – that both me and D saw. When as a newborn, he curled up onto my chest to sleep, like a little frog. He was warm and heavy, and wouldn’t sleep anywhere else, but if settled on me might sleep for an hour or two. When I was on the sofa with him sleeping on me, not feeling too tired and D brought me a mug of tea and some biscuits – that, right there, was heaven. When I was breastfeeding, and the feed went perfectly, the latch was no problem, he snuggled into me as he fed. And then I would put him over my shoulder to burp and he would fall asleep – breathing sweet, milky breath into my face… and it smelt of baby. Like nothing you have ever smelt, just baby. And now when he stands on his own two feet, without even noticing he has let go of the sofa because he’s so intent upon dancing to D singing. He dances to everything and anything, but is scared by the Happy Birthday song. I hope I never forget these moments.
But at the same time its so fucking lonely. When you are up every half hour with a new born that won’t sleep. When you are hallucinating from lack of sleep. When you are pacing the floor at 3am crying, needing a wee, your boobs pissing milk all over your last pair of clean pyjamas and you don’t know why the baby won’t stop crying. When every bit of advice given to you, no matter how well-intentioned, is against your instincts and you just want someone to tell you that you are doing ok. When the list of household jobs to do is never-ending, but the baby is teething, and the Sainsbury delivery is at the door. When Google tells you that you baby should be in a routine / be sleeping through/ be dropping bottles / be rolling over, crawling, saying their first words. When you turn up to a baby group, feeling super chirpy that you are out of the house, on time, and for a change the baby is awake…. and then they throw up all over themselves, you, the floor, everywhere. Shit, shit, shit shit shit. You count down the minutes until your partner walks in through the door, only to forget they are having after-work drinks and you are doing bedtime alone.
It’s so amazingly exciting. You have a new baby. AWESOME! Your friends and family come over and bring loads of presents, and food, and fuss over you. AWESOME! You take super cute photos in themed outfits. BASIC BUT AWESOME. They smile for the first time. They roll over for the first time. Pet a dog for the first time. Try ice cream and smile the biggest cheek-splitting smile. AWESOME.
Then, on the other hand, it can be really bloody monotonous. The first weeks are an endless cycle of feeding, winding, changing tiny little nappies, and trying to get some sleep. Breastfeeding is easy in some ways, hungry baby – shove a boob in their mouth, upset baby – boob, crying for no reason baby – boob. Brilliant. But when it’s only you with the tits, then the endless feeding of a newborn feels like it never stops. You have to adjust to the notion that you are the person with the baby day in, day out. Your head is filled with: nap schedules, how much they have fed, how many wet and poopy nappies they have had – all the thrilling stuff. Your partner comes home with tales of office hi-jinks, a Christmas party to go to, stag dos to plan… and your day has consisted of six outfit changes due to spit up, and two outfit changes due to explosive poos. Oh no wait, you actually did something really exciting… you went to Sainsbury’s and bought yourself a bar of chocolate the size of your head. You wild adventurer!
It’s been an incredible, amazing year and I am so grateful that I have been able to take a full year off with my baby. But it’s been an unrelenting one. I had the notion that I would be going back to work fresh faced and relaxed whereas instead, I’m tackling a piled up inbox and I am bloody exhausted.
Don’t get me wrong, I am excited to be back at work. The KIT days so far have been full of plans for new objectives, catching up on what’s been happening, what’s new and of course – I have been able to pee on my own and drink hot cups of coffee. Heaven.
But then I get home from work and it’s to a hectic scramble to get dinner on the table so we can all eat. Then it’s straight into bedtime routine and R is tucked up, I do some housework, and just like that I have missed a whole day with him. Missed all the little tricks and quirks of the day, missed him waving and pointing at planes in the sky, yes even missed changing his peachy little bum.
It’s going to be a big change, going from spending every minute together to spending four days a week apart. It hurts my heart to think that I will miss more firsts, won’t be there when he is upset or bangs his head. But I need to go back to work, not just because the cash dollar is bloody needed, but because it is good for me. I enjoy it, I thrive off it, and it gives me a purpose. I’m a better mum as well, more organised, more inclined to do things on our days together, plan activities, visit places, bake tasty treats for a picnic.
But it still hurts. So for these last days of maternity leave I will be snuggling R a little closer, not worrying if naptimes are cuddles on the sofa, visiting our favourite places and spending as long as he wants on the swings.
Love, B xo