Back To Life...Back To Reality
So today marks my last day off on maternity leave, after having over a year off work. And yes, I’m spending it writing a blog post. Well the truth is, Rory is napping, the house is tidy, and I can’t bring myself to do any more work because I should enjoy having the freedom to relax!
Everyone has these perceptions of what maternity leave is going to be like. I envisaged spending countless days in my pyjamas, not getting dressed, binging tonnes of series on Netflix in-between milk feeds, nappy changes and millions of naps. I also imagined walking for miles with the baby in the pram, eating out for lunch, going for coffee and meeting new friends at baby groups. It turns out only half of my visions were true, and I bet it doesn’t take long to work out which ones!
For me, having a Caesarean meant that my recovery was going to take longer than usual, but I was incredibly lucky that with how the school holidays fell, Luke only worked for 2 and a half weeks out of the first 6 after me having Rory. Naturally this was an incredible help. My mom was just around the corner too, so could nip by to drop anything off or pick me up to take us out whenever we wanted. If I’m perfectly honest, this blog post is mainly a thank you post, because if it wasn’t for a certain group of people, I would not be where I am today.
This post isn’t to tell anyone how to be a mother or how to use their maternity leave. But this is what worked for me, and looking back I can honestly say I have no regrets during my time off. I’m also not going to document my entire year off. I will talk you through some of the things I did and how I feel you can make most of your time off together. There won’t be a Top Tips in this post either, as I’m sort of doing those as we go along.
I’ve been incredibly lucky to have a full year off work (technically just over because of school holidays), due to us having savings from selling our old house. Who knew that having to live with my parents for over 4 months ended up being a blessing in disguise! Money is always tight whilst on maternity, even more so the longer you have off. However, we’ve tried where possible to live as close to a normal life as we could, meaning we’ve still eaten out/had takeaways and gone on a couple of mini breaks. Having time off together as a family is the most precious thing which you cannot put a price on. Particularly during the last couple of months, we have put things on a credit card which I’ll worry about once I start getting paid again. When my first pay cheque comes in I don’t think I’ll know what to do with it, so it can start paying off our bill! I appreciate not everyone is in the same position as us, and this wouldn’t work for them, but for us it worked, and also proves that we all need a little bit of financial help at times.
Over the space of a year, Rory and I attended various baby classes (see my separate post about these). These clubs are at times more for you than your baby. It makes you get up and out of the house, meeting other Moms and soon learning that you’re not alone, and you’re certainly not going crazy! You’ll always meet a Mom who is getting less sleep than you, which makes you feel a bit better about yourself! Being on maternity leave can be a very lonely, so it’s important that you get out there. I wouldn’t have gone to my first class with Rory at 5 weeks old if it wasn’t for Nicola. I was incredibly fortunate that one of my best friends was off on maternity leave for virtually my entire year off work. There are 14 weeks between our boys and they love being together. We’ve attended every club together for the past year and I’m so grateful to have her there! For those first few weeks, we were texting each other at all hours, but that soon stops. With us both back at work now, we’ll only see each other once a week at dancing so we’ll have to start going on play dates! But this is why it’s so important to get out there and create your support network.
Family are the most important thing in the world. My family have such a strong bond, and with Rory coming into the world, has only made that bond even stronger. As part of my ‘weekly routine’ I went up to my grandparents house 2 afternoons a week. This has become even more fun since we started weaning Rory. We go round for lunch, have lots of play time, and more often than not have our afternoon bottle and nap whilst there, all whilst drinking copious amounts of tea. Rory has given my grandparents a new lease of life and there is nothing more precious than watching them play with him. As well as this, everyone knows about mine and my Moms Costa Tuesdays! The ladies know our order, and worry that something’s wrong if we’re not there each week at the same time! It turns out, becoming a Mom makes the relationship you have with your own Mom even better. We also went round once a week to Luke’s parents’ for dinner. Not only does this help with finances(!) it meant that they got to have quality time playing with Rory too. These great people have kept me sane, told me I’m doing a good job and shower Rory with so much love. I would have gone stir crazy staying in my house every day if I didn’t have these people to share my journey with, so thank you!
So, as you can see, so far, everything has been focused on you being out and about with people. Don’t get me wrong, Rory and I have had plenty of pyjama days, but it turns out these tend to be the most stressful. I didn’t think I was the type of person who gets cabin fever, and like I said before, thought I’d enjoy being off work just watching Netflix all day. I haven’t watched a single series from beginning to end, because I’ve been out of the house so much! If you can’t drive, or don’t live locally to family, just a walk with the baby in the pram to the local shop or around your estate will be enough.
This is the bit that I struggled with - time for you. Now most of you know, dance is a big part of my life and my whole family’s life. Not being able to dance for 6 weeks after having Rory was one of the hardest times in my life. Once Luke had gone back to work, I found things really hard. I was still recovering from my Caesarean so couldn’t drive. After speaking to lots of other Moms, they’ve all agreed that weeks 3 and 4 (normally when partners have gone back to work) are much harder, not just because you’re on your own, but sleep routines etc all start to change. I felt like I’d lost my identity, I remember crying loads, and just felt really down. I didn’t go as far as developing post natal depression, but part of me was definitely lost. It wasn’t until that first week back at dancing that I realised what it was. It is so hard to get caught up in that whirlwind of being a new parent that you feel that’s who you are now. Going back to dancing meant that I was Whitney for that short period of time, rather than just Mom. I’ve been to dancing every week since and even though my body doesn’t love me for it, I still enjoy it. Do not feel guilty for having that time to yourself if possible. Rory’s grandparents look after him at this time as there’s a crossover before Luke gets back from work. It’s more quality time for him as family and you can be rest assured your baby is ok. Do not stop doing your hobbies just because you’re now a Mom. The same goes for spending time as a couple. It may be as simple as sharing a takeaway once your baby is in bed, or watching a film with no distractions, but remembering that you were a couple before you were parents makes sure that you don’t lose yourself when becoming parents.
Make as many memories as possible. This is something that I’m getting better at, but was terrible when I first became a Mom. I look back and can’t find any photos of me with Rory, and not that many of him. I’d be sat at home playing with him or cuddling him whilst he sleeps whilst Luke was at work. I wouldn’t think to take photos because I’m in the moment. But despite the thousands of photos we have of him, I still don’t think I have enough! I would say at least once a month, Luke and I scroll through our phones and just show each other loads of cute photos of Rory when he was tiny, and reminisce. You’ll be amazed about what you can remember from each photo, as they all have a story to tell.
I cannot believe how quickly a year has gone. Rory is 1 in 10 days. So much of that year, especially the first few tough weeks, is a blur. Most of it is just a huge memory, which puts a smile on my face, and maybe makes me shed a tear or two. It’s funny how quickly you forget the ‘bad’ stuff, no matter how hard it was at the time. But it’s also funny how quickly you end up back at work, in a routine, where those couple of hours each evening become the most precious time in your life.
I suppose this is where I need to thank Luke. He is an incredible Dad to Rory, and a wonderful husband. We run a pretty tight ship here, and I think that’s why we’ve become successful parents. Rory comes before everything no matter what. We’ve found things tough. There’s been times where we get angry at each other over nothing. There’s been times when we’ve just cried. But we get each other, and sharing our lives together with Rory is the best thing ever. Rory has a sign on his bedroom door which says ‘You are our greatest adventure’. I don’t think I’d believe that if I wasn’t sharing this adventure with you. So thank you, for everything.
I’m signing out now before I get any more emotional! Please like and comment on my post. If you have any questions about my maternity leave journey then please let me know. I’ll be sure to do a new post once I’m back at work properly letting you all know how it’s going!
Mommy Davies x