Maternity Leave – a Performance Review

On the eve of my return to the working world, I thought I should do something corporate.  I’m giving myself a performance review on my role as a stay-at-home mom.  Now, being I’m doing this as a half-joking memoir, I’ve already failed to set objectives against which to judge my actions, so I’ll just have to wing it and make some up now…

1. Bond with child
This was the easiest part.  Despite my fears that I would be handed a baby after delivery and all I’d want to do was hand it back and get some sleep, I was completely elated when (after being in the post-op recovery room) I held the small one for the first time.  I tried to mentally prepare myself for having to grow to love my baby, but that was completely unnecessary, as it was most certainly love at first sight (and smell – my god do newborns smell amazing).  So from my end, mission accomplished on day 1.

As for the small one, I couldn’t pinpoint when I knew he knew me.  That being said, I am 100% sure he knows who I am by smell, sight, sound and touch at this point, and that he’s even happier and calmer when I’m around (especially when I’m holding him), which I must admit is just about the greatest feeling ever.

Overall grade: A+ (we’re tight)

2. Learn to care for child
This one took me a bit more time, but I am happy to report that I can confidently identify when he’s hungry, change a diaper, coax out a burp, give a bath, extract boogers, clip fingernails, change clothing, treat diaper rash, use a car seat, use a stroller, use a baby sling, and do all manner of rocking/bouncing/walking/singing/cooing to sooth him when he’s upset.  So yes, I can care for my child.

I will admit that while much of this came naturally, I was hesitant when it came to leaving the house with the small one until about week 6.  Maybe it was the cold weather, maybe it’s just because I never got the cabin fever I’d expected (and therefore had no urge to leave home), or maybe it’s just that I know what a terrible driver I am, but the thought of taking him on an outing all by myself (no husband to help) was daunting at first.  I can’t say that I look forward to outings even now, but I am definitely able to strap him in the car seat, pack up the stroller and run errands.  What can I say, maternity leave made me a home body.

Overall grade: A (I wouldn’t go open a daycare, let alone attempt to care for someone else’s child, but I can handle my own without trepidation)

3. Watch out for postpartum depression
This was a big fear for me, not that my family has a history of it or that I have ever struggled with depression, but I really wanted to be sure I’d set up all things baby such that I could call in for help if I needed it.  And while I did experience the wild ride that is crashing hormones (night sweats, crying for no reason whatsoever), I was never depressed.  I was definitely touchy, and my husband would probably tell you I was more fragile than is usual, but I never felt incapable, never fearful about holding or caring for my baby (although I was anxious about night feedings for the first week or so), and I never felt out of control or overwhelmed.  I credit my husband, for having such a flexible schedule and for being so supportive, and my neighbor who would stop in (she’s our resident baby/child expert) and serve as a great point of reference.

Overall grade: A (disaster averted)

4. Breastfeed exclusively
Yes, the first two weeks hurt like hell and I’ve had ducts clog on three separate occasions, but overall breastfeeding has gone remarkably smoothly.  The small one latched on the first time I held him and has fed like a champ ever since (hence his monster size).  If anything, I’ve had an oversupply problem, which means I now have a plentiful stash of frozen milk as back up for my return to work.  I’ve even mastered using both my electric breast pump (Medela Pump in Style Metro Bag) and the plunger-style hand pump that comes with it.  I am confident that we will be able to breast feed for a year, and may even decide to go longer.

Overall grade: A+ (not a drop of formula touched the child’s lips, and I am lady boobs these days)

5. Meet new moms
Definitely my weakest performance.  Because of my aforementioned hermit-like inclinations, I didn’t start being social until the last two weeks or so in terms of meeting new people.  Honestly, I think this would have been a bigger deal if I were going to continue to stay home, in that I would eventually catch cabin fever and need to find someone to hang out with while the rest of the world toils away at some form of employment.  But because I knew I was going back, I didn’t want to take the effort (and let’s be honest, meeting new people is way more tiring than midnight feedings) to meet new people who I wouldn’t see once I was back to work, but I didn’t feel like I could hang out with the working moms until I was back to work and officially among their ranks.

To remedy this, I’ve started joining things.  There’s a holistic moms group in town and I plan to attend their meeting next month, along with La Leche League and a local group called Birth Circle that I attended a few times while pregnant.  And once he gets older, I’ll take the small one to the mommy and me swim classes at the gym on Saturday mornings, as it solves to inevitable problem of the working mom – I get to be social AND spend time with my son.

Overall grade: Incomplete (retake next semester)

6. Create transition plan for return to work
Haircut [check]
Manicure [check]
Majority of pre-baby work clothes fit [check]
Mastered using breast pump, purchased all gear need to successfully pump at work (including a large water bottle to make sure I hydrate and plenty of healthy snacks to feed my ravenous appetite) [check]

Honestly, I don’t think I can grade this one yet, but based on the last three practices days, my husband will be a-okay fine as a stay-at-home dad, I can certainly pump enough to keep the fridge stocked with milk, and I’ve timed it and as long as I get up by 7:15 AM for the small one’s first feeding of the day, I can make it out the door in time to be at work at 9 AM (it is a beautiful thing to only live a 15 minute walk from your office).  That, and I only need to get through two days before I get a weekend to decompress.

Overall grade: TBD

7. Enjoy maternity leave as much as possible
Maternity leave is a fantastic thing.  I can’t imagine having less than 12 weeks… especially those poor women who go back after 6 weeks, which is almost exactly when the kid first starts becoming more than an adorable ball of need.  In fact, if I’m in a good enough position both financially and professionally, I’ll try and take off six months for the next one.

But did I enjoy it, you ask?  Yes, absolutely.  Even though I’m not a co-sleeper, I adore napping with the small one laying next to me, just listening to him breathing.  The hours of holding him may take a toll on my back but I can’t imagine having missed out on them.  And I really did succeed in avoiding doing anything more than staying at home and enjoying my new baby – dishes went undone until he was asleep, we kept the cleaning lady once a week so I wouldn’t need to take on new chores, and I lived in my pajama bottoms and cardigans whose shoulders were constantly coated in spit up and drool, just hanging out with the boy and having no responsibilities beyond keeping him happy, fed and clean.

I never missed work or felt isolated, and while I did have moments during the first month where I wished my husband didn’t have to go to work, by the end I enjoyed hanging out with the boy just me and him almost more than the time we spent all together as a family – he’s so calm and serene when it’s just to two of us staring back at each other.

It was definitely the most amazing three months I can recall.

Overall grade: A+ (wish they offered it again this semester)

and now I go back…
I don’t dread tomorrow.  I think I’m probably still in denial about it (as evidenced by the fact that I should probably be in bed by now and I still have to pump).  I don’t look forward to it either, but it’s like the end of a good vacation (not the one where you stay a day too long and really wish you were home, but the kind where you’d love to extend and you know that you can’t but you still feel like you got to let go and relax).

All that is to say, I hope I can get through the next two days without crying.  Or at least not in front of anyone.

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One Response to “Maternity Leave – a Performance Review”

  1. maternity Says:

    maternity…

    You can get dresses with draw strings or garters….

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