It wasn’t too long ago when I was soaking up the rays of maternity leave with a cocktail in one hand and a perfect baby in the other. Then I woke up. My maternity leave really was only a few months ago, but the rest of that intro? Not so much. It sure is fun to think there will be loads of glamorous free time, but as the story goes, maternity leave is totally not a vacation. There was plenty of time, though, to marinate and reflect on all the new experiences I was going through, which I attempted to document for future reference.
Some of these words of wisdom were graciously passed along to me, and others I learned along the way.
If this is your first rodeo and you’re willing to squeeze in just a few more drops of advice, here’s what I learned regarding maternity leave as a new mom:
1. There’s not always a fix.
There’s nothing more annoying than looking for a solution, and then realizing there’s not a fix. Ahem, welcome to parenting. “WHY is my one-day-old baby screaming bloody murder during the night?” said the mom (yeah, that’s me) who thought she might be missing some memo. I honestly believed the doctor was going to give me some sort of helpful advice. Instead, the general response I received was, “You have a newborn.” Yup, it didn’t take long to realize and understand that sometimes with a baby, there’s not always a fix.
2. It may feel like forever in the moment, but it will pass in the blink of an eye.
Piggybacking on the fact that there’s not always a fix, I clung to this piece of advice for dear life that first week when my baby thought is was cool to scream from midnight to 3am. You better believe those 7(ish) days felt like walking through mud. In the grand scheme of things, though, the nauseating sleepless nights were gone in no time. Hang in there because you’ll be over those hurdles before you know it. Then you’ll be left wondering where all the time went.
3. God gives you the grace to handle the situation at hand.
My uncle-in-law passed along this tidbit when I was pregnant and had mentioned not worrying about things like labor or no sleep because I knew when the time came, I wouldn’t have a choice. I loved it, and I think it applies to so many aspects of life. If you’re stressing about things that are beyond your control, just stop and take a deep breath. You’ll be able to knock this whole parenting thing out of the park, whatever that looks like for you and your life.
4. You can only be helped as much as you help yourself.
I don’t think I would have survived maternity leave on my own. Seriously, between the husband, family, friends and even the neighbors, I rallied my village and together we conquered. One time my husband even laughed at my willingness to take people up on their casual offers to babysit so that I could run errands. If they didn’t think I actually would, joke’s on them. At least they got extra snuggly baby time as compensation. If people offer to help, it’s up to you to a) accept it and/or b) tell them what exactly you need when they ask.
5. Put patience ahead of your priorities.
Parenting is so much harder when you’re impatient and put your priorities first. But don’t get it twisted! This piece of advice isn’t about letting your kids run all over you. Particular to this blog post, it’s more about surviving maternity leave when your little human has no idea that you just desperately want to fulfill some basic needs, like showering. For me, it seemed like just about every time I strategically tried to plan to do something, cuddling included, my sweet, crying bundle of joy never simultaneously coordinated. Parenting often got the best of me those days, but the days when baby came first, those were much easier. Patience, let me tell ya, gets you so far.
6. Don’t let people guilt you with “the laundry can wait.”
To the person who invented that phrase, go away. Yes, I wish I could have spent ALL of my maternity leave wrapped in magical snuggles and slumbering alongside my sleeping child, but guess what? My spoiled-milk-smelling self maxed out at about two days of no shower. And I literally had to have clean bottles to feed my child. You are the only one who knows what really needs to be done in your life, so tell any birdies chirping on your shoulder to shhhhhhh. Because maybe the laundry can wait, but it might only be one more day if you’re out of burp cloths and your child is a happy spitter like mine.
7. 9 months in, 9 months out.
Your body, that is. I worked out my entire pregnancy but also ate miserably and carried a baby, which left me with a wonderful #mombod. I’m not gonna lie, I care about my body. I literally cried when I got home from the hospital and my socks barely fit. (Did you know you can get puffier after birth?) But I also made a commitment to myself that I wasn’t going to stress (keyword – stress) about diet and exercise immediately. Having a baby is chaotic enough. I just loaded up on bigger-sized Old Navy sale rack clothes to get me through the interim, and slowly but surely, my body has been naturally recovering on its own. Even some of those interim clothes are fitting pretty loosely. So as hard as it may be, give your body time. 5 months, 12 pounds to go for me.
8. Be nice to your body!
Speaking of bodies, talk about a real lesson learned. From the girl who “overhealed,” spent the latter half of maternity leave visiting the OBGYN weekly, and received a delayed release for exercise, take it easy. I don’t know if my overactivity post-delivery directly caused my abnormal healing, but I can’t help but to blame myself for pushing too hard too soon. While I felt physically great after birth, I completely overdid it on day six with a doctor visit, Target pitstop and quick walk around the block. I was just so excited to get out of the house. The next day, I felt awful. I had some surprise swelling and pain, was running fever and even had to give the doctor a call. That + newborn = no bueno. So seriously, even if you feel like a million bucks, don’t overdo it.
9. Get out of the house.
Once you’re physically and mentally ready, time to get off the couch. Yes, I know – trust me – getting out with a newborn can really be a pain. Even the smallest trips out can seem daunting. I promise, though, getting out will make you feel so much better. The couch and tv can be a total time and brain suck (which I could go on a totally different rant about). Get some fresh air, run an errand, just get out of the house! Aside from feeling accomplished in general, it will help build your new mom confidence in no time.
10. Embrace the moment.
This was the maternity leave game changer for me. A week or two into it a light bulb went off. I decided to quit trying to do so much (you know, those to-do’s that don’t really matter), be more content and take it all in. I will never get those months back, and I’m thankful everyday that I made being a mom a priority.