As I write this, I am sat in a caravan in a holiday park in North Wales (as glamorous as that sounds!), having a very welcome and needed mini break with my little man and whilst he is sleeping, I am pondering my 13 months out of work so far, the first 11 months of mummyhood and the last 2 months of maternity leave yet to come.
When I first found out I was pregnant, I envisaged a certain future for myself and my new family. Pregnancy offered an opportunity to create a life that I had always dreamt of.
I dreamt of a comfortable, glowing and trouble free pregnancy. For the most part this was the case. I absolutely loved my pregnant body up to around 7.5 months when carpal tunnel syndrome and fluid overload struck. I piled on the weight and struggled to mobilise as much as I would have liked to. I struggled to sleep and I had to stop work earlier than expected. I wasn’t able to do things that would normally bring me comfort but I knew it was temporary… even if it felt like an eternity. Nonetheless, my bump remained big and round and beautiful and I was the proudest I have ever been showing it off.
I hoped for a calm, relatively stress-free, well controlled birth and attended hypnobirthing and antenatal classes to be as prepared as I could be. In reality our baby decided to arrive 3 weeks early via emergency c-section and I was very very poorly, needing a blood transfusion and 8 days in hospital altogether. It also took my body took a lot longer than the 6 weeks to recover from my c-section and the traumatic birth. My body felt battered and bruised and not my own at all for a very long time afterwards. But I am grateful for what my body was able to physically and emotionally cope with and how it delivered an amazing gorgeous baby boy and nothing can take that achievement away.
I hoped for a fun filled, transformational maternity leave. During which time I would make at least 50 new mum friends and their babies would be best friends with my baby. I would become a social butterfly and find and grow my “tribe” threefold. In reality, I probably have a dozen new mummy friends which actually, isn’t as few as I often think. I hoped I would gain a new lease of life and energy. I think I underestimated how much it takes to be a new stay at home mum. There is a lot of sacrifices made I think. A distinct lack of adult interaction, trying to juggle baby fun time with appointments and chores, trying to socialise with other mums and babies, maintaining old friendships, relationships coupled with sleep deprivation, long days and long nights and trying to look half human and somewhat attractive is no mean feat. How do people do it? Really? Please help me!
I genuinely have the best time with my son. He is such good company and is always the life and soul of any party. He sings, he plays and he is just wonderful. Have I made the most of my time off with him? I hope so. I really do. I feel very grateful to have had so much time off work with my little boy and to have had the support of his daddy to enable me to do so. Nevertheless, I am very aware that I have spent much of my maternity leave anxious about how quickly time was going and how much I wanted/needed to do and worrying about my maternity leave ending. I think that summarises me quite well at times. So anxious about the future that I forget to be present. I hope my baby boy didn’t feel that.
The last few days on our mini break have been a revelation. Without distractions, chores and “things” that I put on myself to do, I feel like I have connected with my son more than ever. He laughs when I laugh, he holds my hand and he wants to sleep and cuddle next to me. I’m so glad I made this time available to reflect and focus all my attention on him.
I hoped that during my lengthy maternity leave I would suddenly turn from a not-so-girly girlfriend to a glamorous yummy mummy with nice nails and coiffeured hair that my partner wouldn’t be able to resist. In reality, I have had my nails done once for holiday and my hair lives in a scruffy bun at the top of my head. Hormones have played absolute havoc and my lovely strong hair is now brittle and dull and my previously dye-hidden grey hairs are now a permanent fixture. I can’t fit into my pre or pregnancy clothes and I have no idea how to dress for my new body shape. Besides hiding my body with baggy tops. I resist doing exercise because it feels like an insurmountable amount of effort to find the time, energy and motivation to do it. I resist eating reeeeally healthily because chocolate and cheese and bread are undoubtedly more comforting in the short term than a salad but then the cycle continues and my self esteems and confidence have really plummeted.
But at the same time, again, the last few days of our trip have shown me that my son won’t remember how rough I lool or rotund I am. He will remember fun mummy and good times so despite feeling pretty down about myself and how I look, I have still got out of bed, dusted myself off and we have gone swimming, had photos taken in which my chubby face and rolly polly face are clearly visible, danced and sang like nobody is watching, pulled silly faces and made silly noises without a care in the world.
But at times, it feels like such hard work and so incredibly isolating. It feels like I am the only person in the world feeling like I feel. It feels lonely. I have never been particularly social or a going out out sort person but instead have used work and achievements as a means to validate my self worth and to fulfil my identity. I’m wondering if 15 months, as lucky as I am to spend each and every day with my son, was much too long for me, my well being and my mental health. I am looking forward to January. New job. New me?
I will settle for a better balanced me. Let’s not push it and aim for unreachable expectations! Being a working mum will certainly bring new challenges but I’m excited to bring some of my other ‘beings’, as well as mummy, into play, to get moving, to learn new things
and to have a change of routine.