Reflecting On My Maternity Leave

With just a week and a half left in my maternity leave (I head back to work on Monday, June 5), I’m starting to feel nostalgic for these weeks Maggie and I have had together since her birth. It’s so hard to see these weeks come to an end, but I’m also incredibly grateful for the time I was able to take off to exclusively focus on being a mother. I know I’ll always treasure this time!

There have been lots of things about having a baby and becoming a parent that are different than what I expected. (To clarify, there have been lots of things about having MAGGIE and becoming HER parent that are different than what I expected.) Starting with her birth, which was so much faster and better than I’d thought it would be (based on my being induced and being told to expect the process to take up to three days), Maggie has been surprising me in all the best ways right from the start. I’ve been so very fortunate to have had such an overwhelmingly positive introduction to motherhood during these first eight weeks on the job.

A few here-and-there thoughts about my maternity leave experience:

  • Time really does fly by. Everyone tells you before you have a baby that time is going to fly by. I’m only eight weeks in, and it’s already so true. Some mornings, I get Maggie up and she’s a different baby than the one I put down for bed the night before. She’s bigger or she’s smilier or just more HER. More of her personality is coming out every day, which is a joy to witness, but it also means that brand-new baby stage keeps getting father in the rearview mirror. It’s bittersweet, to be sure!

  • Have a baby in the spring if you can swing it. It’s the best, because days and nights are getting longer and the weather is warming up but isn’t blazing hot yet. I loved being able to take Maggie out early and often and not worrying about dressing her in a million layers or fretting about it being cold and flu season.

  • I didn’t ever feel like I was losing my identity. True, I gained the new title of mom, but I haven’t felt like the rest of me — the pre-baby me — has been pushed to the wayside at all. I’m still all those other things I was before, but with this new, amazing layer added onto it all. Being on leave has given me the time to be fully engaged in being a mother AND continue to do many of the things that make me feel like myself, such as blogging, baking, Pure Barre, freelance writing, and spending time with friends.

  • I’m completely infatuated with this tiny human. I knew I’d love my baby, but I didn’t know this kind of obsession with her would be possible. I post pictures of her all the time, knowing that I’ve become “that” mom, and I couldn’t care less. I miss her when I put her to bed at night. (Even though it is great to get good sleep, don’t get me wrong!) I find myself staring at her in awe just about daily. How did this perfect little person get here — and how did I get lucky enough to call her mine? It’s been so rewarding to watch her grow and learn, and I can’t imagine how that feeling will continue to evolve as we watch her come into her own even more.

  • I felt really good physically. This I attribute in large part to being able to do Pure Barre throughout my pregnancy (I took class through week 41 and taught until I was at 38 weeks). I fully expected it to take a while to get back to feeling and looking like myself physically, Thankfully, I have felt like, well, ME for the most part since having Maggie. Pure Barre helped me gain just 18 pounds in total during pregnancy and, even more importantly, retain the core strength to help my muscles get back to where they were before pregnancy just a couple of weeks after Maggie’s birth. That really helped me feel more energized in those early weeks of caring for Maggie, which was huge. (Below is a side-by-side comparison photo of me at 39 weeks pregnant compared to five weeks postpartum.) To say I recommend Pure Barre during pregnancy is a major understatement. It worked miracles for me!
  • I felt surprisingly stable emotionally. From an emotional stability standpoint, I had been warned by several friends to expect some crying jags and major hormone-related mood swings to happen early on. I hoped to temper those, and so I opted to have my placenta encapsulated, and I certainly recommend it to fellow mamas out there. I don’t have another, non-encapsulation experience to compare it to, but I’ve heard from many women who have not encapsulated with one child but have with another that it makes a huge difference. All I know is I was able to avoid crying spells and mood swings completely, so I’ll definitely be going this route again with future kiddos!

  • I’ve watched far less TV than I thought I would. I had a whole list of Netflix shows to watch during maternity leave, and I’ve barely chipped away at any. As it turns out, these last few weeks I’ve preferred for things to be quieter generally, choosing reading or just being present with my girl above turning on the TV. That’s been an unexpected but welcome change in my routine. (Kevin and I are still watching Netflix together most evenings, and I still find it to be a really relaxing way to escape and unwind at times, but when I’m alone I’m watching less and less these days.)
  • We were able to introduce travel and flexibility early on. Kevin and I knew that, obviously, many factors in our lives would change once we became parents. However, we wanted to find ways to keep some of our lifestyle intact and just bring Maggie into the mix. Travel is one of those things that’s important to us, because between visiting my in-laws at the beach, family in South Carolina and Atlanta, and lots of weekend road trips, we stay on the move. Since Kevin has the ability to work from anywhere (he works for himself), we’ve already been able to take Maggie on several trips to hopefully get her used to being flexible and on-the-go. So far, it seems to be working well! She’s been to the beach twice, to South Carolina twice, and to Atlanta twice, sleeping well and doing great in the car throughout*. (*A LOT of this has to do with the fact that Maggie is an incredibly easy baby, which we are acutely aware of!)

To sum it all up, my maternity leave has been one of the most special times in my life, and it’s going to be a strong dose of reality once it’s over. I’m trying not to worry too much about how I’m going to squeeze everything in once work starts back (working full time plus teaching Pure Barre plus blogging and freelancing and, most importantly, being a wife and mom), because I know Kevin and I will get into a rhythm and we’ll figure it out. For now, I’m going to focus on relishing the midday snuggles I get with my girl every single day. Reality (my NEW reality) can wait a few more days.

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