Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Maternity Leave Comes to an End

I have certain treasured memories about my maternity leave with Kate three years ago (twelve weeks, from Jan. 28 to mid-April, 2009), like sitting out on the front porch with her as the weather got warmer, enjoying the first rounds of March Madness at home, and clocking countless hours on the breast pump as I quickly adjusted to my role as an exclusive pumper.

Ever since I realized that my maternity leave with Claire would coincide with the holiday season (a loaded term, I know, but my leave does include Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas, and New Years, so I really do mean a season of holidays) I looked forward to doing Christmas shopping and wrapping with Claire by my side, spending a whole week in Louisville over Thanksgiving, and doing other fun family things with all the unscheduled time we would enjoy. And it has been lovely.

This is my last week of leave, and while I'm feeling okay about returning to work on Monday (and packing a fun bag of new picture frames, Christmas candy, a mug warmer, etc. for my office), I'm still a little sad about not having my sweet days of so much one-on-one time with Claire, and about entrusting my baby to other caregivers during the day.

As my leave approaches its end, I want to record some memories. It's amazing how quickly we forget little things. Even now, as I glance through my planner (in which I record everything, even after the fact), I find myself saying "oh, yeah! I forgot about that!" So here's what stands out about these last eleven weeks: 
  1. my week of "me time" before my due date, during which I enjoyed a mani-pedi, read novels and sipped lattes at Starbucks, scrapbooked, and lunched with a friend. 
  2. Halloween activities with Kate while we expected Claire to arrive "any day now."
  3. Claire's shockingly quick labor and delivery (six hours from first discomfort to her birth) 
  4. Charlotte's disappearance and miraculous return
  5. seeing SIL Alexis, Uncle Wayne, Uncle Jim, and Cousin Layne, all of whom just happened to be visiting Nashville during Claire's first two weeks of life.
  6. shopping for those matching Christmas dresses I'd daydreamed about from the moment we learned we were having another girl. (Ended up with simply coordinating dresses, not matching, since they didn't have the plaid one in 0-3 mos.)
  7. shopping for Christmas gifts during the day with Claire in the sling or stroller, rather than battling crowds on Saturdays or squeezing mall trips into evenings after work. 
  8. holding Claire in the sling as I sit at the computer, blogging and doing my cyber-shopping, since she likes to be held all the time and the sling enables me to have two hands free.
  9. spending Thanksgiving week in Louisville (and Kate's crazy behavior, a result of new-baby stress mixed with routine-busting travel, it seems), especially going to Light Up Louisville for the first time.
  10. watching the Today show almost every morning, which I love, and sometimes switching over to Family Feud, Jeopardy, and Millionaire if I'm just hanging around nursing Claire or doing things around the house. My desire to be on a trivia-based game show at some point in my life has been reaffirmed. 
  11. Kate's aggressive affection toward Claire, smothering her with hugs and kisses.
  12. but also her adjustment behaviors—wanting a paci, crying more easily and pathetically as she needed more parental attention and care, and maybe having a little regression in potty training (she wasn't totally accident-free before the baby, so I'm not really sure if Claire had an effect).
  13. helping out with Room in the Inn and our church's food pantry, things that are difficult to make time for when I'm working.
  14. spending weekdays just me and Claire, whether cuddling at home or running errands. She's so kissable and sweet!
  15. doing things just me and Kate as I try to give her individual attention: doing crafty things and taking her to the library, the Monkey's Treehouse (indoor activity place) or bouncy places. Often, however, when Matt's able to keep Claire and I suggest going somewhere "just you and me," she says "and Claire?" excitedly, wanting Claire to join us even as I'm trying to meet what I thought was a need for alone time with Mommy. So, we've done a lot of things "just us girls," as Kate says, leaving "that boy" (as she sometimes calls Daddy!) at home. 
  16. So many other fun things: hanging with my MIL and SIL for a leisurely afternoon in downtown Franklin (a cute little town south of Nashville); seeing my parents more often than usual; taking the girls to an ice skating show; doing Christmassy things with Matt and the girls like getting our tree, seeing Santa, and Kate's school program; doing Furman admissions interviews for my alma mater (they've invited alums to meet with prospective students in their area—cool, huh?); date nights with Matt for his birthday, the Sunday school party, and just because; singing the the cantata at church; and more. 
Some of these things could have/would have happened even if I was working full time during this season, but some wouldn't have, and it has been fun to have this leisurely time to get Claire out and acclimated, getting us accustomed to having another member of our family, and just treasuring this time bonding with my new baby girl. 

My motto for Monday and the days following is "it's gonna be okay." Have you seen those "IGBOK" bumper stickers? That's what I'm plastering at the front of my mind right now. I'm not near so distressed as I was before returning to work after having Kate. I've done this before, and survived, and it only took about three days to adjust emotionally. I love my work and I don't regret being a working mom, and if I became a stay-at-home mom, I'm not naive enough to think it would be like a never-ending maternity leave. This is not our "real life," so to speak, but more like "playing house" as I wrote when on leave three years ago. Monday will be a "back to life, back to reality" moment, a new normal as we learn how to get four people up and out the door each morning, but the fun and fulfillment certainly doesn't end.

There's so much I'm looking forward to in the coming months: Claire's baptism on the fifteenth, Kate's birthday two weeks after that, the many milestones Claire will have in that busy 3-6 month stage this spring (and beyond!), planning a spring/summer vacation, playing outside when the weather gets warm, going to the pool this summer, and so on. We're moving into a new stage, and while I'm a little sad for this time to end, the good times just keep on coming. 

1 comment:

Katie Bug said...

I'm a little sad for you, too. You are keeping a good motto in mind, though! When I went back to work after my maternity leave with K, I had two goals: be on time and don't cry. Thankfully, my principal was wonderful and family oriented enough to pull me aside and say, "You know it will be okay if you can't meet those goals, right?"
And I thought I'd also add that it cracks me up that Kate calls Matt "that boy".

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