How Maternity Leave Helped me Build a Better Relationship With Myself
I never really thought that going on maternity Leave would help me build a better relationship with myself. I mean really, the concept had never crossed my mind as even being compatible. Maternity Leave, after all, is meant to help you heal after birth and help you bond with a new baby…. not figure out some major part of who you are. Right?
Well that isn’t how my experience worked out….
At 10 months pregnant I took 2 weeks of holidays off from work, I spent that time going to appointments and taking care of the last-minute details I thought needed doing. I spent time at home, and running errands and basically doing anything and everything I wanted in preparation for baby to come.
I moved slowly, and carefully, and I drove my little car everywhere. I slept when I was tiered, and ate when I felt hungry, and visited friends and family I hadn’t seen in a while. I journaled, and I hobbied, but mostly I slept, and rested.
Needless to say I LOVED IT.
That is likely one of the most favourite times in my life sans kiddo.
At the time I wasn’t fully connected to kiddo, I mean he was there, I was pregnant, and I understood that in theory. But emotionally I didn’t feel even remotely connected to that fact.
You would think I should though, he was (and still is) and active little mover. When I slept he would move so much you could see my stomach shift all on it’s own. If I sat in my car and got too hot I’d get a kick in my stomach that would cause me to want to throw up. Every now and again he would push his hands out one side or the other like he was trying to stretch. The bump looked cute, and oddly strange and disconnected all at the same time.
Yet for some reason I didn’t have this “Strong Maternal Connection” like I expected. I think this had to do with the fear of loosing baby, and protecting myself from the pain I knew would happen if I did. But I’m not 100% sure.
Oddly enough during this time I started to feel like I was getting re-connected with my body’s natural rhythms. And I think that was the most revealing thing for me.
It was only 2 weeks, but it has informed my choices and how I re-built my entire relationship with myself since then.
Ok, I’m not going to go into a whole lot of details here, that will be a whole other post at some point.
But I am going to say that I was extremely blessed with my delivery. It went the way I hoped, and I had the people around me I wanted. Heck it went so smoothly I had to be convinced I was actually in labour up to 3 hours before the delivery. I figured I would do what was asked just to humour my husband and doula…
But the big thing was that I found the process entirely empowering.
Having dealt with many situations where my power was taken from me, the delivery I had felt like I was getting permission back to not only be empowered. But to be powerful in my own right.
I belive that every woman is entitled to this kind of delivery (no matter what the mechanics of it are). And I am thankful daily that I had the opportunity to experience this.
The exhausted weeks….
Yup, like every new Mom I had the first couple weeks of pure exhaustion. I had planned ahead and made some freezer meals, but that didn’t really help the way I expected it to… if there is ever a next time I’ll make individual portion versions as well. 😉
My internal clock got tuned to kiddo’s rhythms. I would wake minutes before he would, and fall asleep minutes after.
I ate when food was put in front of me, and … forgot to shower, or clean the house and a myriad of other things that could have been done.
I took the time to heal the big wound that is left behind after a placenta is birthed.
I rested, I relaxed, I tried to bond with my new son. And while I never had some big “ah-ha” I’m now bonded to him forever moment. I had moments when I was emotionally overwhelmed and stressed, and I cried for no apparent reason. Hormones + Exhaustion can do that to a body.
People kept coming over when I didn’t want them there, and I know hubs would have let me hide untill they left, but I felt obligated to come out and show my little boy off at least a bit.
We had people over the day after we had him. A day later I let others hold him when all I wanted was to hold him myself. But people like to celebrate babies, besides being cute and adorable they represent new beginnings and a whole lot of joy.
We also in the 3rd week of kiddo’s life went to my Grandma’s 90th Birthday party. It was a great thing to do.
I’ve always had a connection with that particular Grandmother, she and my Grandfather lived close to us when we were growing up. So I had the chance to get to know them fairly well. I was reminded at that party, that being true to yourself will earn you more respect and love than continuing to hide. I also felt more confident saying “No” when people asked to hold my new little one then I had felt comfortable saying “NO” ever.
It was freeing,
Building your Relationship with yourself while on Maternity Leave
For the remainder of my maternity leave I focused on building up who I was. Please don’t misunderstand, I spent a LOT of time caring for my kiddo, and showing him with lots of love. I never neglected him.
I just found ways to build self-care into my day.
When I needed to move, we went for a walk.
When I needed to eat, I would get cuddled up with him and eat.
I learned to ask hubs for help with things like grocery shopping (seriously our food bill was never as low as when hubs did the shopping).
I went for breakfast with friends, and mall walks when it was bad weather, and if I didn’t feel like it I didn’t.
I didn’t shower and shave every time I left the house, I did it when my body felt like it needed it not when society told me I “should”.
I dropped the idea of doing makeup entirely for the entire year, and I don’t regret it in the slightest.
I drank a tone of water, as a breastfeeding Mom I had to.
I ate ice cream when I wanted, and chocolate, and did you know they lost the appeal cause I could have when ever?
I cuddled my little man, and started to notice that I was bonded to him. It just wasn’t one big moment when I was overwhelmed with it.
I took pictures, of kiddo yes, but also of myself both with and without kiddo.
And I relaxed. For the first time in years, I let my guard down completely, totally.
And I had NEVER felt more alive, then when I watched our son play with my husband. Or when my husband held our sleeping son cradled against his chest as we watched a movie quietly.
You see I connected back to myself, specifically my own heart. And it opened up a whole new world of joy and enjoyment in my life.
The realization of who I am.
At some point I must have figured out who I was as a Mom. The people who came over didn’t bother me any more. I was ok sharing kiddo, when kiddo would let others hold him.
I stopped apologizing for him screaming in the grocery store as we shopped.
I stopped apologizing for breastfeeding him in public.
I stopped apologizing for how I looked, and felt.
and I started just enjoying the moment.
And one day I started to sing again. Not the hiding in the shower or car, but in our home, belting it out at the top of my lungs when anyone could hear it, singing. I realized at that time I had found my voice.
And that, was an amazing feeling.
Going back to work….
Now Maternity leave was not all rainbows and roses, there were some challenges. And at one point I knew that I would be going back to work.
As much as I had enjoyed the time off, I also loved the first few months back at work.
But I got away from the routine and schedule I had set for us when I was home.
Kiddo was now in daycare, and someone else owned my days from 8 to 5, Monday to Friday. I was to arrive at a preset time whether I had enough sleep or not. I was to eat lunch at a set time, hungry or not.
So for now, there are parts of who I am that are in hiding. They are not compatible with the schedule I need to maintain now.
But if there is anything to take away from this, it’s that if you have that opportunity to re-define your relationship with yourself in any situation.
Now? I can see a few new skills that I love building, and some new focus points that I am choosing to work on. But I wouldn’t have found those if I hadn’t gone back to work and started building a relationship with myself after Maternity Leave.
Now, I take more time to enjoy the moment and relax with my family. The other stuff (like paying bills etc) is important yes. But More important to me is the confidence that I feel when I keep my heart open to the moment.