During my maternity leave, I mostly sat on my backside.
Honestly. Due to the amount of time spent in front of the television (and the fact the post pregnancy water retention enabled my thighs to resemble a set of squishy decorative cushions) I almost moulded myself into the sofa.
In the first 8 weeks following Iris’s arrival into the world, I watched all 7 seasons of Game of Thrones. Yep, all SEVEN. Never watched it before, never been that interested to be honest, yet I became totally and utterly obsessed.
I consumed an inordinate quantity of malteasers, custard creams and sugary tea.
I looked at my baby. A lot. I sang to her, stroked her dark fluffy bonce, fed on demand and breathed in every ounce of her beautiful, delicate innocence.
I thoroughly enjoyed every fleeting moment.
After Mabel my eldest was born four years ago, I was in a very different place in terms of both my career and a seemingly resolute desire to fit into my pre pregnancy skinny jeans. As soon as I was given the all clear from my consultant (4 weeks post c-section) I was doing dance aerobics as though my life depended on it. I climbed aboard the “clean eating” train, I gave up caffeine, and was back to the daily grind a couple of days a week. When you run your own company, it’s rarely an option to take any kind of lengthy maternity leave, not only is the funding of it an issue, but there is the obvious question of who is going to take the reigns in your absence.
I genuinely thought I was doing the right thing, for myself, for Mabel and for the business. Getting back to my usual fit, ambitious and motivated self was a huge part of feeling like “me” again and gaining control of my new role as a working Mum.
Looking back I was bloody exhausted. I hadn’t given myself time to heal. I didn’t know it at the time, but my over enthusiastic planking, ab crunching and weight lifting, only proved to accentuate my diastasis recti (abdominal separation) meaning my core stability was shot to shit, and sometimes even the simplest of tasks, became an absolute ball ache.
This time around I was determined to take some much deserved rest. My second pregnancy was dogged with unpleasant side effects that I hadn’t experienced during my first. Sickness, pelvic girdle pain, tinnitus (I know WTF?!), acid reflux, nightly leg cramps, insomnia…..I was like a walking zombie by the beginning of 2018 and I couldn’t wait for my baby to arrive in a few months time so I could get off the merry go round of nausea and discomfort. Yes life with a newborn has it’s challenges, but it was a welcome relief to actually desire junk food, sleep (albeit random times of the day) and not have to compose professional communications with clients, whilst simultaneously knocking back Gaviscon like it was going out of fashion and throwing up in the downstairs loo.
I hired a new PR & Marketing lady who would also be managing various customer accounts in my absence and set up an interim team structure that meant at least for the outlined period of my maternity leave (I aimed for 3 months off and a gradual return from June – Iris was born on the 3rd March) the company would run as normal.
From the moment I arrived in hospital to the first day I “returned” to my desk, I honestly didn’t really think about work at all. Instead I enjoyed sitting on my arse, watching Game of Thrones, eating all the confectionary.
Of course James, Mabel, Iris and I had visitors, lots of lovely visitors! But they had to make their own hot beverages, bring their own treats and nobody out stayed their welcome. And I made sure there were days when I didn’t have to see anyone at all apart from my tiny bundle of joy. Selfish or not, some days I just wanted it to be her and I. I did the bare minimum amount of laundry and cleaning required.
I’m not suggesting that you should use maternity leave as an excuse to resemble a sloth (although if you want to, who cares – it’s such a short time in the grand scheme of life) providing the weather was ok, I did go for a walk around the village most days so Iris and I could have some fresh air and I could ahem… think about what was going to happen in the next episode of GOT.
In the evenings I made the effort to have a relatively healthy meal – which included various vegetables. I also drank as much water as I could – inbetween the oversized mugs of English Breakfast. And I tried (but often failed) to eat an apple/orange/nectarine a day. We all know essential nutrients and stretching your muscles are pivotal in the body repair process yada yada. But I did absolutely no exercise at all until I felt my body was ready. I managed 10 minutes of beginner level pilates, when I felt I had the energy, and not until a good few months after Iris was born.
Did I fit into my jeans as soon as I did after the arrival of my first born? No. Did I give a flying whatsit? No. I just bought bigger jeans. And with a flare leg. ALWAYS a flare leg – so. flattering.
My maternity leave was perfect. For me. I don’t regret a single second. And I hope if you are reading this, and yours is impending, that you take the appropriate time to heal. You just grew an entire human. Listen to your body.
Take the biscuit, It’s calling your name.