**Note: I wrote this essay last year at this time when my maternity leave expired 2 weeks before the school year ended and I had to go back to work for those couple of weeks. At that point I did not realize that that I would end up quitting my full-time position in order to work part-time and spend more time with my son.
Deceived By Maternity Leave
My first baby arrived unexpectedly two weeks early in February of this year. I went from not being even a teeny bit dilated, to my water dramatically breaking at a friend’s baby shower. As my husband drove me to the hospital, my first thoughts were of the unfinished work I had to do at my job, and my next thoughts were how excited I was about my maternity “vacation.”
I had previously envisioned my maternity leave to be a whirlwind of excited visitors at my house, “mommy and me” fitness classes, and leisurely days at the park with my baby. I pictured myself back at my pre-pregnancy weight within a week or two happily strolling my neighborhood with my new bundle of joy. I daydreamed of being able to sit in bed holding my baby while devouring a plethora of good novels as we catnapped throughout the day. That is until reality slapped me in the face.
My son emerged from the womb with the appetite of a grown man, and from the second he came out he proceeded to want to nurse every 1.5 hours for the first month. While I was truly thankful for his voracious appetite, it was hard to take a “mommy and me” class on one hour of sleep, and having visitors at the house was unappealing because of my zombie-like state.
Instead of leisurely reading books throughout the day or strolling the park, my days were a never-ending cycle of changing diapers, breastfeeding, and burping. Literally NEVER ending- as soon as he finished burping, he pooped, and the cycle started ALL over again. Yes, I was happy to have an adorable healthy baby, but did he really have to poop with every feeding? And why was it so difficult to get a burp come out of that little body? During that first week I was lucky if I had the time to take a shower, let alone read a book.
On the 8th day after my son was born, we did have that endless supply of visitors I had previously envisioned due us hosting a Bris at our house. This was not the experience I envisioned either, as I hid in my room most of the time not wanting anyone to see my sleep-deprived bloated body. When a few people came to my room to check on me and the baby, instead of them getting to know my baby like I anticipated, they sat there while I breastfed for the zillionth time that day and stumbled to form coherent sentences.
Speaking of bloated- as soon as I arrived home from the hospital I anxiously weighed myself on my bathroom scale, expecting to have lost most of the pregnancy weight due to my love for Pure Barre classes during pregnancy. I weighed myself and saw that I had only lost a grand total of three pounds since my little munchkin was born, and thought I was going to scream. How had I not even lost the weight of the baby yet? I hopped on the scale several more times expecting the numbers to be wrong, and then my hormone-infested self sat on the bed and wept. Most of the weight did eventually come off within a few weeks due to my good habits during pregnancy, but I did carry around a giant pregnancy belly for a good 6 weeks postpartum.
My gorgeous baby is now three months old, and my maternity leave is over. He is now sleeping through the night, and breastfeeding every 3-4 hours during the day. I am actually able to go out and do stuff with him throughout the day, and am back in shape to be able to take mommy and me fitness classes with him. Baby boy is endlessly shooting me heart-wrenching grins, and giggles and coos constantly throughout the day. Although he has always been adorable and the apple-of-my eye, he is now even cuter than before. Why is it that just when he is at his peak of cuteness, my maternity leave is now over? Maternity Leave- you were not what I had envisioned. Can we please start over?