Tag Archives: Maternity Leave

Thoughts on Maternity Leave, Before Baby

Oh the memories. This picture reminds me of the tired excitement of those last weeks… And the walking every isle of Costco for exercise on a rainy February afternoon. Thanks, Husband.
Oh the memories. This picture reminds me of the tired excitement of those last weeks… And the walking every isle of Costco for exercise on a rainy February afternoon. Thanks, Husband.

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?

Month Five: The Leap

Month 6 and year 31 may be the most exciting yet.
My beautiful, present reality.

31 tomorrow. You don’t need to wish me a happy birthday. I am happy enough.

This week I wrote my letter of resignation with tears in my eyes. A blessing to choose between two good things, but hard to let go. My school has become part of my identity. Those kids changed me. My coworkers are friends. It took forever to type. I wrote, deleted, wrote, deleted. I could not find the right words to express the difficulty of my decision. It is strange how much our jobs become entangled in our identities.

Still, my life has changed. I am not ready to leave my sweet girl for six hours a day. Maybe fewer would have worked, but I am grateful life chose for me. The words of advice that stuck with me most were about time. Jobs will be there when she is bigger and more independent. She will only be a baby once. My heart feels for every woman who has had to decide or wished she could.

Now our life changes. We no longer need to live five minutes from my work. We will move. Our house is already for sale. I am tired of living minutes from a bowling alley where gang members have killed each other and down the road from a motel closed because of prostitution. I feel for the homeless faces around the corner but it would also be nice to live in a bubble for a little while. It feels terrible to type that, but some days it is too much for my bleeding heart.

The funny thing about our neighborhood is, just like my work, I also love it. We have kind neighbors and many friends with little ones nearby. I laugh to think there is also a golf course, racquet club and Whole Foods in such close proximity, grand old houses tucked just beyond the chaos. Those same homeless faces remind me to take nothing for granted. Some days the ugly strip mall where they congregate is somehow beautiful set against the polluted sunset. Reality is crisp here.

Still, we are ready for change.

We might live with family for a few months as we regain our bearings. An untraditional approach but we are untraditional. Rick Steves once told a young family in Northern Europe they were unusual by American standards because they lived in an attic above their parents. They laughed. I guess we are unusual too, because a piece of me is called to go home, regroup, be part of a community again. We don’t have to, we want to, and that makes me smile.

I miss my village.
I come from a big family and more than anything, this drives me back.

 

I could use a village right now instead of just me. The Huffington Post article about missing the village hits home. It excites me to live with other women, share in the household duties, have someone else hold the baby for a bit, not be alone all day but still have the space to write and spend time with my daughter. Families all over the world exist this way, we can too, or if nothing else, it is a worthy experiment. After it is over we can return to our solo lives in a new neighborhood we have picked a bit more carefully this time.

On Sunday, Eloise will be five months old. Month five of her life has been about change. I have stood on the edge of a decision for so long and now it is in place. Yesterday, after the tears had dried and I impulsively pressed send on that letter of resignation, I lay in bed next to my daughter and smiled. There is no looming date of return to the real world. She is my real world for now.

I also get to write. Scary to think I have no excuses beyond the obvious need to care for a baby and keep a house in order and… Okay, there will always be excuses, but I am determined to make it work. I laughed last night as the words “living the dream” repeated a bit sarcastically in my mind. I am living my own dream, but it is different and more complicated than I ever imagined. The trick is feeling worthy enough to embrace it.

Deciding to Jump: To Go Back to Work, Or Not?

It's the sweet, quiet moments like these I hate to give up.
It’s the sweet, quiet moments like these I hate to give up.

I am standing on the edge of one of the biggest jumps of my life. Either I go back to work part-time as an intervention teacher and attempt to juggle my dream of writing into the mix of afterwork motherhood, or I take a deep breath, and jump straight into life as a stay-at-home mom and writer.

For many, the answer seems easy. JUMP. But the decision is much more layered than I expected. I love my school, my students, my coworkers. Some days I feel on the verge of going stir crazy at home. I have a part-time job waiting that may never be there again. The predictability of a work schedule, a paycheck, and good health insurance speaks to my cautious nature. Returning to work is somehow the less frightening choice.

With a face like this, it is hard to leave home.
With a face like this, it is hard to leave home.

Then, there is my daughter. Our biological strings are still firmly attached. When I am away, she is constantly on my mind, pulling at my body for milk. Every day she does something new, something I do not want to miss. While part-time work may give me the chance to catch many of these moments, it does not leave as much space for writing. As it is, I have to sneak my words in a few at a time, while she is sleeping or while I do not have to use my precious childcare hours for some other endeavor, like getting my teeth cleaned or running to the grocery store. And then, of course, there are other family circumstances that must go unmentioned.

A friend and I talked this week about how mothers feel pressured to be supermom and do everything, but the truth is, I don’t feel pressured, I just wish I could do everything. If only I could be in three places at once, mothering, writing, and working.  Obviously mothering wins on that list, but between writing and working, I do not have it figured out and the battle is agonizing.

Returning to work is the known. Taking the leap of faith is the unknown, but so far motherhood has been one huge leap of faith, from our decision to see if it happens, to hoping every moment of every day she would be born healthy, to the daily trial and error of new parenting. In order to make this jump work, we will need to restructure everything, to change the way we live.

Even as I write this, I feel aware of how lucky I am to be able to make this choice– but I also think the choice is within reach for many more women than they realize, it just requires a possibly uncomfortable amount of change.

If you have been in my shoes before, how did you come to a decision? Did you jump impulsively or was it clear one option outweighed the other? For me, it has been much harder to decide than I ever expected.

36 Weeks: Now is About Now

Today is exactly four weeks from our due date. According to the hospital, this means we can expect our sweet baby in anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks. Apparently due dates are not very accurate. All this means is whoa, this is really happening!

Yesterday was my last day of work before maternity leave. As I stood and watched two of my coworkers have a dance off to “What Does the Fox Say” in front of the entire school, it hit me that my life is about to change and I am going to miss my work more than I realized. There are things about my job I absolutely love, like the spontaneity and joy manifested by my coworkers, adult and child alike.

Choreographed dance numbers just happen to top my list.

Students who normally show me little affection hugged me yesterday. I ended my afternoon with sweet applause from twenty-nine little sets of hands. My class submitted hundreds of baby names to my back table. My team of teachers decorated the staff room, made the baby personalized onesies, and presented an elaborate table of treats. Gifts appeared on my desk all day.

Every time I said good-bye and got a sad look from a child, I reminded him or her I would be back, a strangely reassuring statement for myself, too. While I am planning to return to work, I also know the future is unpredictable. The coming months will bring a lot of choices. These last few weeks of teaching have been extra hard. I am hopeful my patience is hiding somewhere underneath the aches and hormones of pregnancy.

After all, teaching has become part of my identity over the last four years. Then again, my identity is about to change, and underneath all the layers is also a desire to write, to teach yoga, to… As these thoughts surface, I have to quiet them. Now is not about June or even September. Now is about now, a funny thought given all the hubbub about living in the present. Shouldn’t now always be about the present? Somehow my impending transformation makes this concept more real than ever before.

For me, the coming weeks mean crawling back into the quiet of my mind and finding those spaces of calm so that I can use them both in labor and those first few weeks of parenting. I have everything I need today, a thought that has brought me peace on many occasions in the last few months. Contentment in the moment, how novel. Now if only I can make it last…

A favorite student question, "What are you going to name the baby?" To which I reply, "Not sure, because we want to see her first." Yesterday they decided to take matters into their own hands and help us out.
A favorite student question, “What are you going to name the baby?” To which I reply, “Not sure, because we want to see her first.” Yesterday they decided to take matters into their own hands and help us out.
My team of teachers is amazing. These onesies will keep me laughing through some exhausted newborn days, I am sure.
My team of teachers is amazing. These onesies will keep me laughing through some exhausted newborn days, I am sure.
All the love we have received from students, coworkers, friends, and family has surpassed anything we have ever experienced. It is amazing how people come together to celebrate new life, my heart is truly touched. Now all there is left to do is be present and wait.
All the love we have received from students, coworkers, friends, and family has surpassed anything we have ever experienced. It is amazing how people come together to celebrate new life, my heart is truly touched. Now all there is left to do is be present.