Some people, who do not know, will think maternity leave is a vacation, in some ways it is, and in others, it is not.
1. Renegotiate boundaries in your body, mind and spirit.
Your baby is in what we call, her fourth trimester. Basically, your baby is supposed to incubate inside you for another three months, but our heads are too big, so instead we are born three months too early so that wee little humans can actually exit the womb. What does this mean for you during your maternity leave? That you will be woken up about every 3 hours and that your baby will sleep about 18 hours a day. The 18 hour a day sleeping your baby needs gives you time to rest.
The urge may be to to start that business you always wanted to, to open up your work email, to reorganize every closet (not my urge, but I am sure it is many people’s), maybe even to clean in general. Your work is to rest as much as possible. Sleep deprivation is a form of human torture for a reason. And not having a full 6-8 hours of sleep in a row will wear you down after awhile. But resting does not mean sleeping, you can read your favorite magazines or some great novels. Maternity leave can feel like a vacation in some ways.
This is time with you and your baby. It is special (and can be challenging.) Ultimately, in order to truly enjoy this time, you will be renegotiating boundaries. Asking yourself, what does and does not have to really be done? Does all the laundry have to be washed and folded? No just washed, maybe washed. Just worn, not inside out.
2. Sleep when the baby sleeps
If you can sleep when the baby sleeps, this is a wonderful thing. The tricky place here is that many people have partners that almost immediately go back to work, so in these situations, shall we call it sleep or passing out? As one of these mothers, my former husband went back to work almost immediately and I was left taking care of the baby on my own. He and I chose this, as we chose to live far away from family.
The tricky part about this is: yes it is incredibly fulfilling to take care of your baby, and everyone needs a break. Postpartum depression or not, the last thing a new mother feels comfortable doing is leaving a newborn with a sitter, because the sitter is a stranger and your baby is not verbal. So, sleeping when the baby sleeps will feel great. Hiring a sitter for a couple of hours a day, if possible, is wonderful as well.
3. Join a mama group or support group of some kind.
I joined a stroll in at the local Y in the East Village. This was fantastic, basically you stroll in with your baby and sit around with a group of mothers and have group therapy. Did I make my friends at this stroll in? Not really. I made my friends once I moved out of the East Village and into Brooklyn. There we had baby parties, where I met all my mom friends. This was amazing.
Sometimes, you have to dig around, and sometimes, there will be this intuitive urge to move, do it. (If you feel the need to move and it is possible, move during month 5 or 6 of your maternity leave) not during the fourth trimester, Botton line, listen to every morsel of intuition that is positive and proactive for the long term benefits of you and your family,
Sleep for your body. Read for your mind. Build support and community for your spirit.
First thing in the morning, we’re really tired, and we look at each other and we wonder, ‘Are we ever going to get sleep?’ And yet, it doesn’t matter if you don’t get sleep. It’s an honor to take care of them.
– Angelina Jolie
Written by Zoe Hicks
If this article interests you, we highly recommend reading Everything You Need for Your Baby According to Science