What were we thinking! promote confidence and reduce distress in parents with a first baby

Maternity leave musings

By Jemma

Maternity leave musings

When I finished work five weeks ago I was worried that I would be bored at home, or that I’d feel like I could still be at work. I haven’t really felt that way once … and still have a couple of jobs left on my to-do list!

So what have I done whilst on maternity leave?

At the start of my leave, I finally became acquainted with the slow cooker my mum got me for Christmas (I may have in fact requested it with this specific project in mind.) My freezer is now stocked with frozen meals to the point where I have to be mindful of any frozen purchases every time I go to the supermarket.

For the first few weeks I made trips into the city to catch up with friends, run errands and attend appointments but in recent weeks, I’ve been more inclined to stay closer to home and now generally only venture down to the local shops or to midwife appointments. I did, however, manage to attend a baby and child first aid course.

Then of course there are the ‘basics’ like attending a birth class at the hospital, a couple of baby expos and a few trips to every new parent’s rite of passage - Ikea. My partner Barney and I also had a non-traditional, co-ed, no-games baby shower at a local beer garden.

I’ve assembled furniture, rearranged our bedroom and spare room and have washed several loads of tiny outfits and linens. I’ve spent lots of time online, done a little bit of yoga and some physio exercises, and I’ve managed to become familiar with TV schedules ... I’m sure I’ll develop my late-night schedule to rival its daytime counterpart in time.

I’m also enrolled in two post-graduate subjects, and after being a little lax at the start, have recently been spending more time studying. Not only do I want to get ahead to compensate for the early days of parenthood, I need to study in particular for the assignment that’s due the day before the baby!

So do I think we’re prepared?

In terms of the big day, my hospital bag is packed (as is the baby’s) and I have a rough idea of a birth plan, though I fully accept that it may not be adhered to. What lies ahead is so unfamiliar I can’t even begin to feel confident that we’re on track, but I think I can accept this, and am ready to go with the flow.

Expert response from What Were We Thinking! expert, Jan O'Connell

Well done Jemma! You’ve been well organised and very productive to achieve all of these things in the past five weeks. Having this length of time between paid work and beginning your parenting life is a welcome and valuable time. 

Often it isn’t realised how much physical and emotional energy is connected to the daily activities and responsibilities of paid work until you stop and move away from it. It is great that you have had time to adjust to ‘letting go’ or handing over to colleagues and being able to do the things on your ‘to do’ list. This is a wonderful way to commence your new phase of life as a mum. Continue to enjoy the relative quietness of your days, even though you probably now just want to meet and hold your child.

It certainly is a bonus to feel that you are prepared for the future. There are many parents each year who, finding their child is born unexpectedly early, can experience a sense of feeling a loss at having missed this anticipated or planned period for preparation and rest; and frequently a sense of being somewhat overwhelmed with the business of everything that happens when their baby is born.

It is an amazing time of joy and happiness when your child arrives, however life does change and the sense of feeling that you have ‘control’ and some organisation in your life is generally found to slide for quite a while. You’ve prepared well so this experience may be considerably reduced, for sometime at least.

It is common for parents to feel a sense of frustration and anxiety around the difficulty in being able to manage time and daily activities with an infant or young child in the household. It is important to try to step back to look at the situation and be realistic with your expectations about yourself and other things. Remember to be kind to yourself and your partner, take one day at a time, or perhaps, just one feed and sleep period at a time! Keep connected to WWWT as the worksheets may be of particular interest and value to you and your partner over the next few weeks.

There are so many new and fun times ahead of you. Your changing family life and interests may move you away from your work colleagues and maybe some friends. However, you will soon make connections with health professionals and other new parents in your community who will support your family through your early parenting life. All the best!

Posted in:  A new reality  Baby 0-4 weeks  In this together  Late pregnancy  Mums