Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Lessons From Maternity Leave

Guinevere starts daycare tomorrow.  I go back to work next Monday.  I’m full of mixed emotions.  Honestly, this has been a really good leave.  I feel like I’ve had adequate bonding time with my baby and am surprisingly looking forward to going back to work.  It kind of feels like when the run of a show is exactly the right length: some shows I’ve done run for one weekend only, and it feels like it’s too soon to say goodbye when the final curtain closes.  Then there are other shows I’ve done that seem to drag on and on and by final curtain, you can’t wait to pack up your makeup and get out of the theatre.  And then there are those golden gems where you feel perfectly satisfied with how long you’ve embodied that particular character and performed the choreography and you are ready to move on to the next project, but will forever look fondly on that particular cast and show.  That is how I feel about my leave. 

Sure, there are things that I envisioned I would do that I didn’t get to do, but I think that’s how any segment of time works.  I don’t have any regrets about the time I’ve spent getting to know my daughter.  I love that now I know her cues for when she is tired or hungry.  I will miss our long mornings “talking” to each other – but at least we have the weekends for that.  I have learned so much in the past 3 months!  Not only about my daughter, but about myself. 

Things I learned about myself during maternity leave:

·      It is actually possible for me to eat quickly.
For those of you who have never eaten a meal with me, I am probably one of the slowest eaters ever.  I like to take my time and savor my food and really enjoy it.  That’s not really possible with an infant.  I learned very quickly – in the first week or so – that newborns don’t let you take your time with food.  I can now eat an In n Out burger and fries in about 15 minutes (I used to like to take an hour to 45 minutes to eat my burger and fries).  I also learned that I can tolerate cold food.  I used to be one of those people who liked their food scalding hot.  Now, I still prefer my food that way, but if I have to, I can eat half my meal, then feed the baby, and then come back to the meal and finish without needing to heat it up again.

·      It is possible to feel refreshed on 2 ½ hours sleep.
Pre-baby, I would be groggy if I didn’t get at least 6 hours of sleep. I now understand what true sleep deprivation is.  Sleep deprivation is one of the things everyone warns you about when you are about to have a baby, but you will never truly understand until you experience it yourself.  I still remember the first time Guinevere slept for more than 3 hours, it felt like a present!  I felt rejuvenated and refreshed.  Now she is sleeping much better, usually waking up just once during the night to be fed.  She is starting to sleep through the night more and more.  Of course, even when she manages to sleep through the night, I still wake up to check on her or go to the bathroom or feed the cat.  Someday I will get 8 hours uninterrupted . . . someday.

·      I am NOT a stay at home mom
Toward the end of my pregnancy, I had half a thought that maybe it would be fun to stay at home with my kid.  (I think I was mostly influenced by just how much daycare cost.)  About 3 weeks into my leave (maybe even earlier) I realized that I am NOT made out to be a stay at home mom.  I have so much more respect for stay at home moms now.  It’s hard work!  And I’m lucky – Aaron was able to stay home with the baby and me for most of the first two months.  After spending all day taking care of Guinevere, I am ready to go to bed by 9pm!  I love my child, I really do.  But I miss work.  I miss my co-workers.  I miss interacting with adults on a daily basis.  I miss using my brain!  Not that it doesn’t take brainpower to look after a baby, but I miss the intellectual side of my brain.  I actually miss redlining contracts and contemplating complicated legal terminology.  I guess this means I chose the right job and career path at least.

·      Best advice from a friend: set aside some money to hire a cleaning person to clean your house at some point during maternity leave.
I highly recommend, if you can afford it, to hire a cleaning person to come in your last week of leave (if not more often).  You would think that not going to work would give me plenty of time to clean my house . . . but no.  Babies take up ALL of that time.  And during the time Guinevere is napping, I am napping too, checking facebook, blogging or attempting to pick up here and there where I can. I am so glad Aaron and I set aside some money for professional cleaning.  The reason I recommend it for the last week of leave is that the first couple weeks the baby is home, we had the grandmas staying with us and helping to keep the house clean. Three months later, all their good work had been covered over by dust, etc.  I’m hoping that maybe we can swing it to make this a monthly thing, but as of right now, it’s just a one-off cleaning.

·      It will take me a long time to get used to saying “my daughter.”
In fact, I probably won’t get used to it until the next kid comes around, and then I will have to adjust to the fact that there are two of them!  It’s kind of like when I was engaged.  It took me forever to get used to saying the word “fiancé” and by the time I finally did, I had to start calling him “husband.”  I think it took me almost 5 years to really have that word flow right out of my mouth.  Hopefully it doesn’t take me 5 years to get used to saying “my daughter,” but if it does, no one has to know but me . . . right?

Here are some of my favorite images from the past 3 months:
One of our first pictures as a family.
Yoda baby!  After one of her first baths.

Photogenic even at 3 weeks old.

In Michigan.
My beach baby!  First trip to Santa Monica/Venice Boardwalk.

1 comment:

  1. Haha I completely agree on the words daughter and husband! Hope today went well for you and there weren't too many tears :-)