Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Maternity Leave is Not a Vacation

When I was pregnant I made the decision I would take the longest maternity leave I could to bond with my new baby. I found out I was lucky enough to be able to take off 12 weeks, paid. I went for it! I was so excited to spend 12 whole weeks with my new little baby and not at work. I planned everything out. We would play all day and I would clean the house, paint the living room, cook meals, go shopping, work out, spend time with my dogs and get P into a schedule (yeah, I thought I could start a schedule on Day 1)....it was going to be the best 12 weeks of my life.

For the first four weeks I had Hubs at home with me. We spent every day on the couch watching TV and playing games on our phones. We took care of our daughter and ate take out when we remembered to eat. We took naps and sat up all night together if P wouldn't stop crying. I didn't shower. I went days without changing my clothes; I lived in pajamas. I didn't clean a damn thing. In fact, the clean laundry would sit in the basket waiting to be put away for a week before I would give in and do something about it. When I did shower, I would stand there and cry because I was sad, and the burning of my stitches made me feel like I was never going to heal. The giant pads as long as my arm that I had to wear every day made me feel so unattractive that I didn't feel the need to get dressed or change my clothes; who was I trying to impress? I knew recovering from childbirth was not easy, but I really didn't know how hard and painful it would be for the first few weeks. I was always uncomfortable, and let's not forget the perpetual fear of having to go to the bathroom! Oh yes, my days were filled with meaning.

Hubs eventually had to go back to work and I continued the same pattern of sitting on the couch all day. Yes, all damn day. I managed to pull myself together to take care of P without him, but nothing else changed. At 6 weeks post-partum I finally started on anti-depressants. After a few days my motivation to live a life returned, and now the real work began. Everything I had neglected for the last few weeks had caught up with me. I washed dishes, did the laundry (and put it away the same day), took care of the dogs, played with P, took naps and ate nutritous meals. By 7 weeks post-partum I began running again. I went grocery shopping and even cooked dinners. I ran errands with P and tried to find a reason to leave the house almost every day, even if it was just to the gas station or the Starbucks drive thru. Anything to get out of the house for a small amount of time seemed satisfying. My days seemed busy and passed fairly quickly. Eventually, P and I fell into a natural routine that consisted of watching Good Morning America every morning, feeding, playing and napping. P would nap and I would enjoy my morning cup of coffee and catch up on my news feed (yes, that bitch Facebook still plays a role in my daily life, although I am much less bitter at others posts now). Throughout the day P would watch me wash bottles and fold laundry or dust the living room, and then we would venture out for our quick errand and come home and play and nap some more before I would start dinner before Hubs got home from work. We always seem busy together and I now involve her in almost every task I do throughout the day. I am finally bonding with my baby.

I am now 8.5 weeks post-partum. I still haven't cleaned my bathroom. I haven't painted my living room. I don't make my bed every day and sometimes I stay in my pajama pants. But I am not bored. Every day I focus on getting better and bonding with P. I don't mind that I can't work out as much as I wanted to or that my house projects remain incomplete; I'll get to it all eventually. I am on maternity leave, I am not on a paid vacation. I've accepted my life has changed and my days need to remain focused on my daughter and my family. People are still in shock that I am choosing to stay home for 12 weeks, but I need at least that long to adjust to motherhood. I am not on vacation. I am in the middle of a total lifestyle change.

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