When I was pregnant I read every article going on what to do an maternity leave while waiting for the big arrival, but they tended to be grand projects like decorating the nursery. As a first time mum in my excitement I had already done them all months ago. To be honest by that stage I couldn’t walk more than as few hundred metres without needing the loo (a tiny human dancing Riverdance on your bladder will do that), so grand projects were out of the question.
Therefore, here are some easy things that everyone can achieve, that I wish someone had reminded me to do:
- Eat at every opportunity
I am not usually someone that needs to be reminded to eat. If there was even a hint of cake in the kitchen at work I was the first one there. But labour can come on unexpectedly at any time, so if you skip meals you can get caught out. As it happens on the day I went into labour I had a lovely big lunch (thanks to Blue Bar in Skerries) and by evening I wasn’t really hungry, so I didn’t eat anything. My waters broke with a pop and a gush ( sorry too much information!) around 11pm, and at that point I probably should have had a snack, but I was too full of adrenalin which is an appetite suppressant as my brain was going “OMG this is actually happening right now”, and too busy marvelling at the amount of liquid coming out of me.
I gave birth around 5pm the next day and afterwards they bring tea and toast which was marvellous as that was the first food I had eaten for over 24 hours. I then missed the evening meal on the ward and by morning I was nearly collapsing with hunger as the adrenalin wore off, and practically ready to hug the catering staff doing their rounds.
So even if you are not hungry make sure you eat at regular intervals, even if it is just a small amount, because you never know when you might need that energy.
Throughout my maternity leave I kept intending to nap during the days, but almost always found an excuse not to. As above once labour happens you can say goodbye to sleep. I had read loads of articles recommending taking a nap in early labour. I don’t know who the superwomen that can do that are, but sleep was the last thing on my mind, with my insides reminding me every few minutes that this wasn’t an ordinary night. After the birth I was on a public ward for two nights, with a myriad of sights and sounds that would have made sleep impossible, even if I hadn’t been too busy hugging my baby all night long. By the time I got home I hadn’t slept for 3 nights, and that’s not the best start to coping with a baby that can’t tell the difference between day and night yet. Therefore frequent naps during maternity leave are a must not a luxury.
- Get a pedicure (or other pamper treatment)
By the time maternity leave starts you might not have seen your feet for a few weeks, let alone cared for them. After the birth you’ll be able to see them, but not have time to do anything about the mess you can see. For some reason I didn’t care what the rest of me looked like (bikini wax – no thank you!!!!) but it felt important to have nice feet during labour, and after when you’re laid awake in bed it’s nice not to have rough skin reminding you of the long luxurious pamper sessions you now don’t have time to indulge in. If pedicures aren’t your thing, try some other pampering treatment that you might temporarily miss.
- Buy slippers
You’ve probably spent the last few months buying clothes for your baby but don’t forget about yourself too. I had slippers before giving birth but it was only once I had a baby I realised how inadequate they were. They would pop off my feet all the time, which was fine before but suddenly a lethal hazard when carrying a baby to the changing table for the third time that night. You will be walking round the house way more than you ever have before, and cleaning the floors won’t be a priority, so taking time to research some good slippers will come in handy.
- Stock up on cleaning products
Cleaning won’t be a priority but there will be times you need to do a quick whip round – for example before a friend or Public Health Nurse comes to visit and you want to make a good impression. Or even better you might get a kind family member to offer to do dome cleaning for you. There’s nothing worse at that moment than realising you are out of cleaning products, so when you are in the baby aisle stocking up don’t forget to visit the cleaning aisle too.
- Cut the tags out of your clothes but not the baby clothes
I spent ages cutting the tags out of baby clothes so they didn’t irritate my little darling. Unfortunately that meant I couldn’t return any of the unworn ones when she had a growth spurt and didn’t get to wear them all. I swear she seemed to grow overnight.
Instead spend the time cutting out those shoulder loops they put in your tops so you can anchor them to a hanger. Who actually hangs up their t-shirts? They seem innocuous but little hands always seem to find them and get twisted up in them. If you are breastfeeding they also get entangled round your nursing bra and undressing will become like an escapology challenge. I spent the first few months running round looking for scissors to cut the blighters out.
- Go on a date with your partner
OK this one may sound obvious, but with all the excitement and rush to finish work it can get forgotten. Enjoy a leisurely date with you partner, because the next one could be a while coming. If you go for a meal take your time and enjoy every bite. Pick something that requires two hands to eat. The next time you go out you could have your little bundle with you and you never know when she might need picking up for a hug mid meal. If you are lucky enough to have a babysitter you’ll still be rushing back to see her little smile.
Whatever you do on your maternity leave enjoy it, because your world is about to change. No amount of reading articles can truly prepare you for it, but it is so rewarding, so look forward to the adventure!
Photo courtesy of Frsino Bostrom on Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/frisno/)