I still can’t believe that it has already been two months since I gave birth to my baby boy. It seems like time literally flew by and that I accomplished nothing while on maternity leave. After 8 weeks of maternity leave I am back at work full time and looking back on my vacation time I guess I really never knew what to expect or what my maternity leave / vacation would look like. I imagined that I would have a lot more down time and somehow actually thought that I would be bored out of my mind. However, my vacation was not like any other I have ever taken and I don’t think there was any relaxing going on. So first time mommies awaiting your little bundle of joy, this post is for you! This post is all about what to expect while on maternity leave and some tips and tricks to get you through the not so relaxing vacation.
THIS IS NOT A VACATION
I don’t know why I always looked at maternity leave as a vacation and much needed time off from work. My last trimester of pregnancy was miserable and every day that I went into work I silently prayed that I would go into labor so that I didn’t have to finish out my shift. I dreamed of full days spent sleeping and relaxing in my comfy bed with my newborn baby cuddled up by my side. Little did I know that I wouldn’t be doing much resting while on my leave. While in labor I went probably 36 hours with little to no sleep and then after Hunter was born I went another 8-10 hr night taking care of him by myself in the hospital room without any additional sleep. You will be awake every 2-3 hours caring for your newborn since they have to eat this often. The process is as detailed below:
1. Change Diaper
4. Change Diaper
5. Rock / Sing / Swaddle them to Sleep
By the time all of this is done it is almost time to start the process all over again. Even if you have help from a significant other, let me tell you, both of you are still going to be up throughout that entire process almost every single time. It is very hard to get any sleep with a crying baby.
PAIN …… OH THE PAIN
I have a pretty high tolerance for pain and actually tried to go without an epidural during labor but was ultimately talked into one by my nurses as there was a possibility of an emergency C-Section. Your whole first month of maternity leave, if not longer, will be spent recovering from labor. Make sure to pop those ibuprofen every six hours and add in some tylenol too if you are really feeling it. Whether you deliver vaginally or have a C-section you are going to need time to recover and you are going to be in pain. I remember trying to go without any meds about four weeks postpartum and walking through the grocery store almost in tears due to unexpected pain. walking hurts, sitting hurts, going to the bathroom hurts, just basically you moving or doing anything will hurt!!!
ASKING FOR HELP IS OKAY! YOU ARE GOING TO NEED ALL THE HELP YOU CAN GET
The first couple of weeks of maternity leave are rough and you may want to be super mom but it is definitely okay to take and accept help as much as needed. The sleep deprivation is real and besides feeding and taking care of the baby, you still have to take care of yourself. You still have to find the time to shower, eat, grocery shop, and do household chores. It all really adds up and trust me when I say there isn’t enough time in the day for everything. Doing anything or going anywhere takes three times as long with a baby and you aren’t even allowed to drive yourself for at least two weeks postpartum. So keep your head held high and accept help in any and all forms when provided.
CREATE A BUDGET AND STICK TO IT
Between the diapers, wipes, clothes, and formula (if formula fed), babies need a lot and none of it is cheap. Before you go on maternity leave make sure to make a budget based on your maternity leave wages and all expenses. Most people do not get paid maternity leave so it is important to understand just how much you will be getting paid and when. You do not want to be out of money and needing to buy baby essentials. For example; I work at a hospital and we do not get any paid maternity leave time. After two weeks of taking paid time off from our PTO banks our short term disability would kick in but was only effective for 6 weeks. Essentially we get paid 60% of our base pay / hourly rate for those 6 weeks and the rest of our time off has to come strictly from our PTO bank. I also work night shift and a weekend contract so while on my maternity leave I did not receive my night shift differential or weekend contract pay. Let me just say that my maternity leave paychecks absolutely sucked. While I am grateful to have been able to have taken the time off to stay home with my little one, I really wish U.S. insurance companies would allow for paid maternity leave. You do not want to be stuck in a sucky financial situation so make sure to plan accordingly and save prior to going on maternity leave if necessary.
LOTS OF CUDDLES
Maternity leave goes by faster than you would ever imagine so make sure to cuddle your babies as much as possible. Before you know it your little baby is sleeping through the night, talking, walking, and growing up. People always say that babies grow up in the blink of an eye and it is soooooo true! My maternity leave seemed like it was so short. I didn’t feel like I had been off of work for a whole 8 weeks. Now 8 weeks later and my baby is already so different from when I first brought him home. He is already smiling, laughing, trying to hold his own bottle, out of newborn clothing, and growing up before my eyes. Make sure to get in all the cuddles and cherish every moment of your leave as much as possible.