I got an email from work today. A novel of an email mapping out everything that was taken care of while I was away. Meeting and event requests began to chime, marking themselves like graffiti into my Google calendar. After almost five months of maternity leave, I had one week left. But work was already starting to seep its way back in. And not even a blink later, I am down to my final 48 hours. Since I know I am done having kids, it’s my final maternity leave. All the nerves and fears of what lies ahead in two days has already clouded the last two days of pure focus of mom and baby.
Three years ago I had my first maternity leave. After three months of struggling through all that is so new and so scary about a newborn, and so much Googling of all that is so new and scary, which leads to so much more scary, I was looking forward to being back at work. A friend told me that her first three months of being a mom, she felt like she lived in a cave. I could totally relate. Breastfeeding was and will always be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I would time my few outings around feedings. Ok, if baby just finished eating and fell asleep, I can quickly run to Target, and please, please, please, let her sleep the whole time and then race back home to my cave to feed her again. I had zero confidence of nursing in public, alone, with a baby that would thrash, not latch, make a huge mess, spit up…a lot.
Of course, going back to work, I was nervous about pumping, and sad about having to balance life between my first baby and my career. But I made it through that first day back, and pretty quickly got into a routine. I loved having two jobs – being able to be a mother, and have a career I enjoyed. And nursing got much easier after month three.
My second maternity leave was so different. Obviously it is more work having two kids, but there is a layer of confidence this time. Of course a newborn is still scary, and there was still plenty of symptom Googling, but I didn’t feel like a cave dweller. My three year old certainly wouldn’t handle it. Pretty soon after our second was born, I had to continue with our go-go-go lifestyle. It was summer, there was so much to do, and this new baby was going along for the ride! Nursing was way easier, my confidence of taking care of a baby was much stronger, and I didn’t need to stay home as much. In fact, I felt much better being out and doing things.
I joined a Mama + Baby Yoga class. I didn’t leave yoga class in a sweat, but it was so nice to be in a room with other mamas who had babies at the same time as I did. We all shared stories, planked, down-dogged, and happy-babied while our own babies laid there and watched, cooed at each other, cried, rocked by the yoga instructor, or even started to roll off the yoga mat.
I joined a mom’s group to mostly meet up and go for walks with mom friends. We traveled several times during my maternity leave. I even traveled solo with two kids, flying to San Diego and back. Overall, my second maternity leave was more enjoyable because I wasn’t as scared about figuring out how to take care of a baby. In my fog of a postpardum brain, I actually remembered what to do. I was exhausted and it is still very hard to get used to interrupted nights of sleep, or feeling like your arm actually might fall off your body from rocking, and rocking, and rocking a crying baby to sleep at 4am.
Now with 47 hours to go, I am really beginning to wonder how I went back to work so easily the first time. I am confident I am not having any more kids, but the thought of this being my last maternity leave feels sad for some reason. Bridal showers, weddings, pregnancies, births, maternity leaves….an end of an era?
But I do know what I am nervous about…..two kids in daycare ($$$$$ ugh), two separate drop offs, pumping at work, middle of the night feedings, toddler tantrums, commuting with a toddler and a baby in the car, being able to focus at work (remembering how to do my job), having the energy to be a good mom and wife at the end of the work day, cooking simple healthy meals. I’m nervous. Going back to work feels different this time. I’m going to wake up sad my first day back (if I’m able to sleep at all), I might not be able to give it my all at work, and I know that some days will be harder than others.
Thank you, thank you second maternity leave. I really, truly enjoyed every moment of you.
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