What do you mean Maternity Leave is over?
After giving birth to our third baby, I used to tell my husband if we had any more kids, he’d better be ready to support us because I was definitely going to quit my job and stay home. Sure, I also wasn’t planning on having any more kids when I ranted off, so really I could’ve said anything without it having much weight… “If we have any more kids, we’re going to sell our home, move out to the country and live off the land.”
And here I am with yet another baby, facing one of her biggest milestones. No, not crawling. Not her first tooth. Not walking or even the elusive (or mythological) sleeping through the night. This is even bigger. It’s the end of my maternity leave.
Yes, those sweet 12 weeks you get to rest, heal and bond with your baby. To forget about all else — like deadlines, and clients, and new business pitches, and workshops, and networking, and…
When I got the opportunity to extend my leave a few extra weeks, I jumped on it. Three and a half months of just me and baby. And my husband. And the boys. And my mother-in-law. But you get the point.
Since she was born almost four months ago, I hadn’t spent more than one hour away from her, so this was pretty big, for me at least. Over the weekend, I tried to prepare her for my return to work on Monday. I let her know I wouldn’t be around to nurse her to sleep for her morning nap, or to sing her the silly songs I like to make up because after four kids my lullaby repertoire is still very limited. And sadly, that’s including songs in English and Spanish. I told her I wouldn’t be around for her to spit up on, but encouraged her to do so on Daddy.
I wondered if she’d miss me. I wondered if she’d notice I was gone. I wondered if she’d even care that someone else would be the one playing with her and feeding her.
As Monday morning rolled in, it was hard getting ready. Mostly because none of my clothes fit me. As I searched through my closet, I regretted giving away my “fat” clothes over a year ago. A sure-fire way to keep myself motivated not to gain any of the weight I’d lost back, I naively told myself at the time.
Once dressed and ready to go, I nursed her one last time. One. long. last. time. I looked carefully at the way her little nose crinkled, at the way she held my fingers, and the way she looked at me with her squinty eyes — taking it all in so it could last me until I’d see her again. Thank God I only work part-time now. How did I do it working full-time with the other three?
Work was uneventful, in a good way. The day’s highlight? Pumping 10 oz. even though I was reminded of all the reasons I hate pumping. Because in case you don’t know, breast pumps were at one point certified instruments of torture during medieval times.
As soon as I got home, I drilled my husband to find out all the details of her day, secretly looking for any indication that she noticed my absence. Turned out her day was pretty uneventful too. She went with Daddy to take her brothers to school. Napped pretty much all day, and drank 4 oz. of mommy’s milk. Wait? Only 4 oz. in almost six hours? On my second day at work, she drank only 1 oz. and slept all day, waking up right as I pulled up to the driveway. A friend said she was being a good baby while I was gone.
Loss of appetite. Excessive sleeping. I say those are classic signs of depression.
Yes. She missed me.