So maternity leave is a vision of many beautiful hours spent gently rocking your sleeping baby in a moses basket, reading books, while you drink cups of hot tea, eat salads, catch up with long-lost friends, and watch the scales quickly return to those pre-baby digits.
I’m due back at work soon. I dont know where the past 1o months have gone, but having been completing my KIT days this week, it led me to do a bit of a reflection of some of my intended maternity leave fails…
1. THE EXERCISE BIKE
Around a year ago I bought an exercise bike off Amazon. It wasn’t long after I’d been admitted to hospital and I was getting itchy for exercise – mostly it was a mental need at that time having gone from all-to-nothing when put on strict hospital bed rest. So I decided to buy an exercise bike to waste away the hours when Lily was sleeping soundly in her crib, particularly on wet days when going for long walks wasn’t practical.
Well the inevitable happened. I put it up for sale on Gumtree last month, and 24 hours later it was sold (luckily for almost what I paid for it!).
Not that the intention wasn’t there, but for the first 6 weeks Lily would sleep nowhere but on my chest or in my arms, day or night. The reflux made it even worse lying her down, but my chest was where she wanted to be. We also went on alot of walks. Not having a car helps, but I still walk around 10-15km most days, even if it’s raining, and I’m lucky enough to still get to the gym 4-5 times a week to keep up the exercise.
From then on, and still to this day, nap time becomes my only opportunity to do anything I can’t do when she’s awake, while creeping around the house avoiding making an ounce of noise! Cooking, cleaning, laundry, answering emails… going for a pee… attempting to set up my laptop (see point 5!) So, needless to say, the bike plan was a fail!
2. THE RUNNING PRAM
Somehow, I won a running pram. I was ecstatic. I could now fulfill my dreams of not only going for walks, but going on beautiful long runs with Lily too! Again, I never really considered the reality.
Firstly, we live between an industrial estate and a ghetto. My daily long walks usually lead me into town or towards a park, but for running we don’t have the greatest of locations, particularly with the potholes and slanted pavements, not to mention the endless daily stream of HGVs to snake.
But that’s not really an excuse. Being prem, Lily wouldn’t ever be a size for the pram until she was over 8 months. It also faced away from us which worried her as she liked to see us, and I don’t have a car to be able to drive to nicer places very often.
We also have the world’s smallest house, so folding this thing and storing was near impossible. It just became impractical and although when she will be maybe 18 months it may be more suitable, for now it had to go. Thankfully it went to a beautiful home in Pitlochry, which brings back many nostalgic childhood memories, so I know it will (hopefully) be in a happier place! For now, I’m sticking to my long walks in our normal pram – and the running pram money was saved for her upgraded car seat and new parent-facing pram that I’d never have dreamed of affording otherwise (thanks to Facebook buy/sell groups!)!
3. THE BABY GROUPS
Baby sensory, swimming classes, baby massage, stay-and-play… I had something in mind pretty much every day of the week. Firstly, what I didn’t realise was that to join more than one paid-for class each week, you’d need to remortgage your house, just to sing nursery rhymes in a circle. Even one class a week is tough on basic maternity allowance, but seeing how much Lily loves splashing in the pool makes that expense worthwhile.
Being a little socially awkward I also only lasted a mere 45mins at my first free local baby group. At least when there’s organised activities you don’t need to hear ‘i’m-such-a-perfect-mum’ stories from someone who clearly wants to tell you how much of a perfect mum she is. I just felt bad for not being that perfect mum, especially as a FTM to a 6week old prem baby, when I had no idea what I was doing (now I’ve learnt just winging it is OK!)! 45mins, and I left. Plus it meant Lily didn’t get a stomach bug or cold every Tuesday!
Secondly, you’d not actually have the time to attend them all. With midwives, health visitors, family visits, friends, doctors appointments, immunisations, and baby picking up every bug going from the classes, you’re actually going to relish a quiet day at home just the two of you.
4. THE CATCHING UP WITH FRIENDS
Pre-maternity leave I had several other friends also either already on maternity or who were soon to be on maternity. We were going to meet up each week, babies becoming besties. Plus other friends who did shift work who I could easily see with all my spare time. And others who I’d be desperate to see when they had a day off, having been at home on my own all week. Well, again, similar to above, there never seemed to be the time. Some friends I’ve only seen once. Not really the foundation for baby-besties!
5. THE STUDIES
I love learning. Being a teacher, I also loved teaching myself. So I thought I’d do some studying while on maternity leave. All that free time while baby slept. At first I found it fairly easy and completed the diploma I’d started earlier in the year. At this time it was actually something I could do while she slept on my chest for so many hours. The sheer overwhelming exhaustion made writing full sentences slightly challenging, but typing usually helped distract me from desperately needing to pee, but being unable to move with the sleeping baby on my chest. I amazingly passed with a Distinction.
By 5 months I decided to take on another course with the hope to complete it by the time I returned to work. It was a course I’d wanted to do for years and was really looking forward to. Then the difficulties began. Lily no longer slept for hours on my chest – her naps last 30mins max, so by the time she’s settled, I’ve opened the laptop, waited for Windows updates, logged on, and returned to the last sentence, she is stirring again. Attempting to type with her awake just results in her wanting to press EVERY key on the keyboard, and clamber over the screen. Thankfully my partner has been amazing help at letting me get my work done, and my tutor has been very understanding (luckily yet to find a string of nonsensical letter mid-assignment!), but I should have really thought this through a little more!
6. THE TEA DRINKING
Noone told me that babies have innate knowledge that they must wake up when you are about to sit and drink a cup of tea, or even worse, sit down for a meal. Just writing this and my delicious ‘I-WILL-drink-this-one’ brew is sitting half-drunk and cold on the table next to me. There’s a film building on the surface from its hour of neglect. I think my partner can vouch for the number of cups of tea he’s made me that have been unintentionally abandoned in this same manner. From the moment she was born, any tea-drinking plans have been replaced with emergency nappy changes, sudden desires for milk, or a need for attention. Now she’s climbing and grabbing, it’s not even safe to be in the vicinity of a tea. The most challenging was always when she fell asleep on me, with the fresh tea just slightly out of reach. But tea or no tea, now I’d just love for her to want to fall asleep on me again, rather than deciding I need a limb or plastic shape shoved up my nose!! She’s just growing too fast…
The closer I get to the end of maternity leave, the more I’m wishing I had more of those Mummy-Lily days. Just going on a long walk, watching her look up into the trees that are swaying above her. Heading to the museum to explore the artefacts (yes, I’m still probably more excited by the dinosaur!). Squeezing my still-bigger-than-I-want-it-to-be bum into her ballpit so we can read about pirates together. Even just quietly watching her play with her shapes as she learns, working new things out for herself. I’m going to miss this. But I’m also not going to dwell on the exercise bike, the running pram, or the lack of baby groups. I’ve just got to count myself lucky for being able to share the moments I have with her, and make sure we have plenty of adventures lined up for when I’m home from work. And maybe a cup of hot tea…