Before I had Henry I was so excited to go on maternity leave. I felt massive, I was getting a bad back, shooting pains down my legs when walking, peeing every half an hour and to be honest was getting a little fed up of being in a constant state of uncomfortable.
The stress of finding a new job had been lifted as I had secured a new job after two and a half months out of work part way through my pregnancy, so I felt better about taking time off for the baby and still having enough money to live.
But until you live in maternity leave you don’t really get it. It is just that, it is leave from your normal day job. It is not a break. It is not time off. It is not a holiday or relaxing.
I’ll be the first to admit that I referred to maternity leave as a break, but I’ll now tell anyone that it really is not a break. You’d be delusional to think it is after a week. And it really isn’t the relaxed and lovely time off that it is made out to be.
You’re dictated to by a small hungry child who when it doesn’t get its own way will scream at the top of their lungs until you cave. There is no reasoning, and you will often creep round your house,pee to the sound of crying, and dream of hot cups of tea in a way you used to dream about a naked Tom Hardy.
If your boss at work treated you like this, you’d quit, on the spot, but quitting with a baby really isn’t an option, and threatening it only falls on deaf ears or makes them laugh!
You’re on call 24/7 and all though the evening shift supervisor (the other half) may help out when they come home from their dayshift, you know you’ll be getting up at 2am because the guilt of daddy doing it is too much for you when they have to return to the office tomorrow.
Pyjamas become your uniform of choice, and not the silky satin kind with kitten heels – oh no, it’s Primark all the way because you know the second you put a fresh pair on, aforementioned infant will spit up ALL over them, and in your ‘brushed for the first time this week, and it’s Thursday’ hair.
You have a constant battle with yourself, your hormones and your self doubt. You think battling with sales or marketing or your boss is hard, try arguing with your hormones that make you want to cry every time you pass a mirror and spot your mum tum which really hasn’t gone down as fast as the magazine suggest it should, and your self doubt of whether the baby is warm enough, and why are they crying now, I must have forgotten something, as well as the sleep deprived gremlin that is hiding underneath all that!
The first few weeks are sleepless nights, cluster feeding and pooey nappies. They then turn into rounds of playtime, fighting sleep and finding time to put on a load of laundry (because the basket is starting to groan under the weight and your in your last pair of pjs) whilst thinking about a new diet to rid yourself of the mum tum, but really craving six chocolate digestives (you always cave to the digestives – the diet starts tomorrow).
You think maternity leave will be about coffee dates with friends, and play dates with other mums, maybe a trip to the salon whilst your beauty sleeps. Coffee dates are only navigated once the baby has been fed and is happy. Play dates wait at least three months, because before then you can’t maintain the perfect mum facade in front of another mum, and making new mum friends on two hours sleep feels like more work than a 12 hour shift on A&E (it probably isn’t but you try telling a new mum that and see how much of your head is bitten off!). And a salon trip!?! What’s the point. The only person to have looked at your properly this week is the cat, and he just wanted the food in your hand, and he’s not a person even if you claim he is because he’s the only ‘adult’ conversation you’ve had all day.
In fact going out is almost always a bit of struggle, and sometimes it is a huge struggle. For one thing your kit is massive and the mental checklist takes 10 minutes to get through. Then there’s the money. Maternity pay can be described as pitiful at best – although don’t get me know I’m grateful that we get anything at all – but it does mean that though you may really want and need a coffee trip into town, the purse strings might not stretch that far, so selling 90% of your old possessions seems like a good idea, and to be honest half it no longer fits, and the other half is just plain questionable with a baby – bye bye four inch heels!!
So no maternity leave isn’t a break. It’s harder work than all the jobs I’ve held combined. It’s lonely, and exhausting and all-consuming.
BUT it is 100% worth it. Because I get to see my baby boy smile everyday at the utterly stupid faces I pull at him. I get to see him grow and develop. Not much beats the feeling of getting a tired baby to fall asleep. Nothing beats seeing them giggle and laugh. I get cuddles, and sleepy cuddles are the best kind of cuddles when you realise that above everyone else in the entire world, YOU mean the most to them, YOU are their entire world and their safe place. No bonus, pay rise, award or prize beats that.
And I occasionally get a HOT cup of tea!
(also snapchat filters are HILARIOUS with a baby and when you haven’t put make up on for a week)