I am now back at work after a 14 week maternity leave. While I anticipated tears and immense heartache, neither occurred.
For one, I work from home a couple days a week and have a nanny who comes over to watch Zoey so if I want, I can see Z and/or eat her cheeks by way of giant kisses. This saved some serious emotional breakdowns. Two, I have a great nanny who, during her trial gave me peace and confidence. Three, I am pretty sure some crazy God miracle is happening. Honestly. Because how could any mom not be a crazy wreck? The fact that I am not is either a) because of aforementioned miracle or b) because it hasn’t happened YET and will or c) I’ve lost all of my emotions. I’m going with A. Final answer.
Okay so anyways. Maternity leave. Was amazing. Like beyond amazing. I loved every single solitary second of it, including the no sleep and raging hormones and wanting to punch Rick in the face sometimes. Okay, not really on that Rick comment but no sleep + raging hormones has to end in some level of physical outrage, right? Yeah.
In all seriousness, I am SO thankful for the time I had with Zoey. And I thought I would share with you my top 10 takeaways from maternity leave, including a few pieces of advice (since I am this expert mom now).
1. Plain and simply, I just love spending time with Zoey. I love changing her diaper. I love going on walks. I love the snuggles. I love the tears. I love it all. And on maternity leave, you are with child, pun intended, basically 24/7 so I am happy that I loved it. Yeah, I know, you are reading this and thinking “um, yeah, no kidding, Ann! Every mom loves spending time with their kids!” Well, it’s not true. I have talked to moms who couldn’t wait to get back to work. That wasn’t me and I would have given my left arm to get another 14 weeks with her.
2. I logged into my work email a total of 4 times in 14 weeks. I’m considering that a huge win and it was so worth it and good and right and healthy. I’m sorry, Starwood and all companies, but, the U. S. of A. hasn’t caught on to what true maternity leave should be (my vote would be one year) so the fact that us ladies who give birth only get 8 weeks, legally, is nothing short of an awful joke. And these precious moments come and go in what feels like ten minutes. So, work truly was put on hold for me and I focused totally on this little girl.
3. A lot of women told me to rent a bunch of movies on netflix or watch a lot of TV and all that jazz. I am not so sure about that. While, yes, the TV was on in the background sometimes and yes, I caught some HGTV, Rachel Ray and The Pioneer Woman, I really didn’t watch that much TV during the day. I guess maybe because I don’t watch TV in general and would prefer to read blogs or blog myself. Maybe that’s why. But I am here to tell you…don’t worry if you don’t watch a ton of TV.
4. I met moms. Moms that live in my neighborhood. And moms that are great and loving and smart. Enough said. All you moms out there get this, I am sure. And if you are a mom and you see a new mom with a baby, reach out. Say hello. Ask her to have a cup of coffee. You could honestly change someone’s life by doing some of these simple gestures.
5. Before having Zoey, I dreaded the sleepless nights and sleepless life to come. After Zoey, it doesn’t bother me for a second. Two reasons why. First, I may be the only one BUT, I think God gave me some crazy hormone or weird adrenaline thing that completely got me through my days, no problem. I can count on one hand the amount of naps I took. BTW, that whole “sleep when the baby sleeps” advice is a cruel joke…more on that later. Second, I loved my nighttime feedings with Zoey. They were intimate, peaceful, quick and thankfully she is a great sleeper at night. She fussed a little, I feed her and 15 minutes later we are all back to our deep sleeps. Yes, I am lucky.
6. The schedule saved me. And will save me. I had basically one giant goal with Zoey and that was…a schedule. Admittedly, I pushed a bit too hard when she was like 2 weeks old and I wanted to get her to get an eating routine and sleep 12 hours straight (is that too much to ask a 2-week old?). Kidding, I wasn’t that crazy, people. But at around 6 weeks we solidified the schedule and stuck with it and forged through and it has been a life saver. I used a few resources including a book called 12 hours by 12 weeks, a book called Babywise, a book called Happiest Baby on the block, some friends and my own gut. Combine all of those and we have a solid schedule for her feedings and naps. She loves her crib, sleeps well, eats well and therefore, all is well in the Ueno household.
7. Living in Miami while on maternity leave during the best 14 weeks of the year, weather-wise? Yeah, that was amazing. The walks and fresh air and dining al fresco on Lincoln Road and shopping with Zoey and sun and did I mention fresh air? I won’t ever forget those outdoor moments! So my advice? Move to Florida, in April, while you’re 3 months pregnant, have the baby in November and take the rest of the winter off to raise that precious child. 🙂
8. Apart from my new mom friends I met in Miami, I had two friends (one in CA, one in NY) that both had babies around the same time as me. They have been an awesome part of my journey and it has been great to share and laugh and joke and complain and give advice and get advice and text at 3am and then again at 5am and then again at 7am. Never underestimate the power of super long texts.
9. I took my first weekend trip away from Zoey just a couple weeks before going back to work. And it was one of the best decisions of my life. First, it was for the IF Gathering which in-of-itself is made being away worth it. But second, it was just so great to step away from my 24/7 Zoey life and do something else for 72 hours. And third, Rick and Zoey had an amazing weekend and bonded and he loved it and she loved it. Fourth…sleep. I highly recommend getting away, even for 24 hours. To take a breath. To get your head above the water and the bags removed from under your eyes. To reflect. Yes, it’s hard and yes, I missed Zoey. But it was worth it times a thousand.
10. I had so many women and moms and friends and family cheering me on. Ladies, we have to cheer each other on. I will never forget the phone calls, the visitors, the neighbors who dropped by, the words of wisdom, the ears that listened to me, the emails written. I felt encouraged, inspired, connected. I felt fortunate. I felt known. I felt understood. And when you are a first-time mom having no clue what you’re doing, having hormones that consume you, in a city where you know virtually nobody, having women step into my life, slowly and intentionally was incredible.