This is my last week of maternity leave before I return back to work and it's safe to say I have some seriously mixed feelings! On one hand, I am very excited to return to a somewhat "normal" life! However on the flip side, I am so nervous about leaving my baby girl for a 12+ hour shift at the hospital.
Maternity leave has been such a blessing. Time off work has given me the opportunity to get to know Avery, learn how to take care of a newborn, and find my own role in motherhood. The past twelve weeks have been filled with non-stop learning—about Avery, my own self, my husband, and our newfound working relationships.
Nothing about this time has been easy. You can read and research and Google all you want, but there's so much you just have to learn first-hand by experiencing it. There have been several times where the baby is fussy and both Chase and I are at a loss for what to do. How do I comfort her? Is it time for her to eat? What should I do? What am I doing wrong?
And no one prepared me for that. The books didn't tell me how helpless I'd feel at times. No warning on how hard the baby blues would hit. No guidance on how to navigate the unmanageable anxiety I'd face.
But we learned. And I'm still learning.
Since Chase had to return to work pretty soon after Avery was born, she and I had a lot of one-on-one time together. Being alone—just the two of us—really helped create a strong bond between us. And without the responsibilities of work, I was able to focus solely on her.
10 Things I've Learned While On Maternity Leave:
Avery wants to nurse, all the time. Some days it feels like we breastfeed nonstop. Hungry? Tired? Bored? Out in public? The answer is almost always—the boob.
2. Breastfeeding is MESSY. Why did no one warn me of this? Constant leaking. Letdowns at the most inconvenient times and places. And the number of times I've accidentally sprayed Avery in the face? Couldn't tell you. I learned I'd better just keep a burp cloth with me at all times.
3. Cloth diapering. There was a huge learning curve with this one, but has been so rewarding. Read more here. Disposable diapers have been so prone to leaks and blowouts, so I'm thankful cloth diapers have worked so well for us thus far.
4. Water intake directly correlates to milk supply. If Avery acts frustrated, I immediately question how much water I've had to drink. My goal has been 96oz, however some days I only drink 64oz. My large, insulated water bottle goes with me everywhere.
5. Surviving on broken sleep is hard. It's getting better with practice (and as her sleep stretches are slowly getting longer), but broken sleep makes you feel exhausted. Especially in the beginning, babies will wake up to eat every 1-3 hours, around the clock. Naps have been crucial, and Chase taking over night-time feeds once a week has been a life-saver for when I'm at my wits end.
6. I have to communicate my needs. If I don't tell Chase how I feel or what I need, he won't know. If we don't talk about it, we can't fix it.
7. I need alone time, away from Avery. This was a tough one. Avery didn't leave my side until she was exactly a month old, and I felt so guilty about leaving her. But for my sake, I need alone time. I've started going to the gym again, which gives me time to myself and helps me mentally recoup.
8. I need quality time with Chase. Going on dates—without the baby—has been crucial to the survival of our relationship. I don't want to get lost in motherhood. I want our marriage AND family to thrive.
9. Stop Googling. One night, I found myself Googling 'why does my baby spit up?' I paused and said to myself - Meagan. You are a mother-baby nurse. You TEACH new parents that spit-up is normal. This is anxiety. It is okay. She is okay.
10. There are so many different ways to (safely) care for a newborn baby. It isn't black and white like I'd thought. As a nurse, I teach my patients so many things regarding care for their new baby. But as a mom, not ALL of those textbook "rules" were applicable or true. You do what's best for your child, and sometimes those topics are controversial. Cosleeping versus a bassinet, vaccinations, delayed cord clamping, breastfeeding versus formula feeding—are just a few of the decisions we've had to work through.
As maternity leave comes to an end, I find myself reflecting on the last twelve weeks. I think about what I've enjoyed and what I wish I'd done differently. There's a lot I wish I'd known, but some of it just had to be experienced.
And lastly, no one told me how amazing this would be.
I miss working and having a sense of routine, but as I wrap up this break, I know I'll soon miss this precious time. My life with a baby will never be the same as it was before, but I can't even understand how I ever lived without her.
I wouldn't trade my maternity-leave experience for the world.
Speaking of returning to work...
I am excited to announce that I have accepted an RN position at the East Tennessee Children's Hospital. I will be doing Neonatal Intensive Care, and I could not be more thrilled. Cheers to starting this new chapter!
Until next time,