As friends prepare for maternity leave, I cannot help but reflect on those two short weeks I spent at home before E. arrived. In some ways, they felt like an eternity, while in others they weren’t nearly long enough.
Every pregnancy is different, but here are the things I would go back and tell myself:
1. Don’t agonize over how much time to take from work before your due date. California offers four weeks of pregnancy disability, take the four weeks. I went into prodromal labor (a very long, slow labor) with E. three weeks early and had her 12 days before she was due. Originally, I had planned to work until two weeks before my due date. So glad I didn’t. There would have been no break and I was already exhausted in the classroom when I left.
2. Make your pre-baby maternity leave about you. After the baby is born, you won’t often have the luxury of slow showers, long mornings in bed, etc. Even if you are anxious for that little bundle to arrive, force yourself to spend time to yourself. Get your hair cut, indulge in a massage, do whatever you enjoy on your own.
3. Don’t forget your partner. Go on a couple dates, take long walks together, snuggle up on the couch and watch TV. After baby, you will have to work a lot harder to make those moments happen, (especially when you are also competing for time to yourself for basic things like showering and eating).
4. R-E-L-A-X. Watch TV, snack, and nap without guilt. There will be more than enough to do soon and you don’t know when you will need that burst of energy for labor. Get in every restful moment you can, even if it means sleeping during the day in your recliner in the living room.
5. Stop worrying about whether or not you have every item you need for baby. Believe it or not, Amazon will still be waiting for you with two-day delivery and there will (hopefully) be plenty of people in your life willing to run to the store if you need something sooner. Do have a speedy thermometer, though. That’s one thing you don’t want to have to rush to the store for when you have a sick baby and an advice nurse insisting on a rectal temperature.
6. Eat well. You are about to run a marathon. If you eat crap, you may feel like crap. Fuel up with food that makes you feel good. This may be easier said than done when the only thing that sounds good is a greasy pepperoni pizza, but find a way to complement those cravings with something healthy. Green smoothie, perhaps?
7. Getting antsy? Socialize. Schedule lunch dates with friends who work. Visit other moms with babies. Call your mom.
8. Can’t rest anymore and don’t feel like leaving the house? Start a project. Or three. I worked on a children’s book for E. I made a collage out of shower cards. I prepared intricate meals to keep in the freezer for after she was born. Releasing creative energy helps take the anxiety out of waiting for those contractions to get real.
9. Be willing to say no. I remember turning down a friend’s birthday party and cancelling a girl’s night and feeling really disappointed. In retrospect, I didn’t have the energy for those things and it turns out I was only days away from delivering, (I thought I had weeks left). Listen to your body. If you’re exhausted, don’t go out.
10. Above all, be kind to yourself. Let go of any expectations that you’re supposed to be doing any of the above. If you don’t feel like it, don’t, if you do, do. Sounds simple enough, but those last few weeks of waiting are one of the strangest stretches of life. Everything moves in slow motion. As annoying as it is to hear when all you want is that baby, make the most of it. There will be plenty of (wonderful) time with baby soon enough.
Anything I forgot to mention? What advice do you have for parents about to have their first baby?