Slowing down is not in my nature, so being still, resting, and accepting the fact that I can’t do as much as I’m used to, proved to be a real challenge. I’ve been working for a library or university as an archivist for 16 years. My daughters are 12 and 9, so it’s been a while since I’ve had a baby or been out of the office for an extended leave. When you’re at work, staying home sounds like a luxury. Oh, to have time to do laundry during the week, or clean the house properly, or read uninterrupted for a long stretch, or spend time writing without distraction. Before delivering, eight weeks sounded like such a long time that the planner in me designed all these projects to achieve.
Being home for maternity leave is anything but the above. It took me four weeks to turn off the “must-achieve-something” part of my brain. After the first month I finally threw out the entire idea of accomplishing projects and accepted that any goals must be proportioned appropriately. Finally I understand why Faith and Family’s “Seven Quick Takes” is so popular. If you don’t keep track of the little things, a whole day passes without feeling as though you’ve accomplished at all. You go to bed wondering what on earth did I do all day.
Here are a few post-partum observations from a type A “older mom” overachiever.
- Newborns come with three settings: nursing, fussy, and asleep. When he falls asleep you have a pretty big decision to make. You can lay him down and try to get something done, or stay on the couch and hold his warm, cuddly, little body, and watch a little tv until it’s time to nurse him again.
- Watching the Food network cooking shows is going to make you hungry and want to cook. This tends to be problematic when you’re laying on the couch holding a sleeping baby. Dozing is a much more appealing alternative.
- If you spend all day watching HGTV house shows like House Hunters or Designed to Sell, I promise you will walk around your own house lamenting the fact that you don’t have the perfect kitchen backsplash, hardwood floors, or granite countertops. Don’t even think about the fact that you haven’t even vacuumed your carpets since you came home from the hospital.
- Don’t schedule tree service, bee removal, cable tv installation, or an electrician during the first two weeks, even if someone is helping you out at home. Trust me on this one.
- Immunizations, heel sticks, and circumcision for the baby is actually more difficult for you. The baby won’t remember a thing, and may not even cry, but the fact that something sharp has pierced their skin is seared into your heart.
- Hormones make you crazy. Postpartum hormones are more powerful than pregnancy hormones. You can go from weepy exhaustion to “I will kill you before you come near my child” in the blink of an eye.
- It’s okay to start a load of laundry and not finish it on the same day. It’s also okay to run a load of laundry every day, instead of doing it all on the weekend. It’s not advisable, because then you feel like all you’re doing is the laundry, but it’s okay.
- Don’t answer work emails or phone calls. If you worked right up until delivery, the office will actually try to contact you for the first two weeks, unable to accept that you’re really and truly “not available.” You can stay in touch and send them pictures, but the first time you answer a work-related specific question, you open the flood gates and it won’t stop.
- Personal connection is important. It’s easy to feel isolated and alone at home with a baby all day. The Facebook app on my iPhone is a lifeline connecting me to friends, although it’s tricky to compose long messages. (I prefer a keyboard to texting.)
- It’s much easier when other people are at home. My daughters, being 9 and 12 years old, are a huge help. Though I don’t enjoy their fighting over who gets to hold the baby, I do appreciate that they willingly change diapers. I also love having my husband around on the weekends. I love him and just his presence at home is comforting to me, even when he’s stretched out on the couch, baby nestled in his arms, watching a football game. (Go Pokes!)
- Getting out of the house is a very big deal. Running an errand prevents the day from turning into one long monotonous blur of tv, nursing, laundry, eating, and trying to pick up the clutter. Of course I keep thinking I’m going to attend daily mass at 8:30 a.m. but I haven’t made it yet.
- Babies can go pretty much anywhere. At three weeks, I brought the baby to an all-day softball tournament. It took me two hours to get out the door, but we saw three of the four games. At five weeks old, we took him on a thousand-mile round trip to three different places for Thanksgiving week. By the end of the week even I thought I was crazy, but we survived.