Reflection on maternity leave
So at the start it's all batch cooking, house cleaning and lunch with friends - then the baby arrives!
After the initial few weeks the visitors decline and you're left with a special few- your real support, your real friends and your valued family.
Some 'friends' won't even show an interest- will never send a card or see your baby; even friends that you really helped and supported through their maternity leave.
Then you'll find some friends are angels - texts just when you need it, offers of a meet up with cakes and cuddles. These friends are often not the ones you expect it from - but really appreciate.
And of course there's your new 'mummy friends' - the ones you can compare with; night wake ups, nappies, weaning, funny stories - people you didn't know before but now have the most wonderful thing in common with. These mummy friends are amazing - your lifeline in the middle of the night- the most amazing find.
You will think it's all naps, cake with friends and baby cuddles but it's really not the 'holiday' your other half teases about. Each day involves several loads of washing, lots of changes of clothing for you and baby ( a reflux baby doubles this), stinky nappies, episodes or crying for no apparent reason (both you and baby!) and desperately chasing your tail trying to keep the house clean!
You will do things you say you wouldn't - you'll co-sleep occasionally due to exhaustion, let your baby watch tv (just to grab a cup of tea), drop your regular workouts, stop eating salad and not respond to texts and calls for a week or so!
The leisurely coffee and cake with friends - it'll happen more at the start but then you'll realise (a) coffee and cake is expensive - especially as your maternity pay dwindles and dwindles; (b) making a catch up longer than an hour is impossible with an irritable baby or your friends active toddler; (c) finding a diary date is hard between yours and your friends baby groups, other appointments and returns to work.
Tiredness is extreme but it gets so mental that your 'normal' is just tired zombie! You will wash your hair once a week with the support of dry shampoo, you won't remember the last time you shaved your legs and will never paint your toenails! I thought I'd always paint my nails (something I can't do when at work as I'm a nurse) but nine months later and I have not done it once.
Your baby will have everything and you'll forget yourself (and others sometimes). You won't mind the self neglect but will often feel bad for the lack of attention your partner and the dog gets.
You will return to your pre-baby weight and size. I did after three months but the consistency will never be the same; a strange wrinkly belly, inside out belly button and wonky boobs (from breastfeeding). You both won't care and will care massively about this dependant on how you're feeling that day! This week, I've decided I need to make an effort with skincare and makeup but still don't even brush my hair much!
I'm sorry if I've made it all sound negative, it's not. I have the most wonderful little thing in my life! She's always happy to see me in the morning (and the middle of the night), always accepts a cuddle, is happy to tag along on a shopping trip, accepts any food I make with excitement, listens intently to everything I say or sing. We have the most wonderful days together (if somewhat monotonous), have taken in a full range of baby groups, spent days snuggling, sunny carrier walks, special family day trips and a number of family holidays.
To be honest I'm both dreading and looking forward to my return to work. Being a mummy is the most rewarding but tiring thing and a day at work means I can be me - feel like a have a brain and feel valued. However, I will never have this time again - never get so much time to see her change and grow hour to hour, day to day- I will miss new skills and milestones - and I hate that.
See you maternity leave- you've been amazing!