Well folks, I am at the very end of my maternity leave. Sixteen weeks (nineteen if you count the loooooong weeks before baby) of what has probably been the best time of my life (hyperbole intended.) My co-blogger, Lindsay, has already written what I consider to be the best summary of the competing emotions (well, I am not sure there is an emotion other than sadness really in competition here) surrounding my return to work, so I will let those words stand. Instead, I will try another angle – the best things about my maternity leave (besides getting a baby out of the deal, that’s a given!)
Long Walks – When I imagined my maternity leave pre-baby, I was very concerned with how terribly bored I would be – the primary image I could conjure up involved me staring at a baby, wondering what to do with myself for an entire day. I want to laugh at my pre-baby self! It turns out, there is very little time in which blankly staring at a baby is actually possible! Babies poop. A LOT. So there’s that. Plus the other side of the digestion equation, eating. Which involved me and only me. Of course, there is also my hygiene, which let’s be honest here, my shower count is probably at an all time low. And the ever vigilant attempts at a regular nap schedule (HAHAHAHA.) That means that from the hours of 7:00 – 2:00 or so, there is a lot of the just general very, very basic business of life and maintaining the life of a small human.
HOWEVER! Around 2:00 or so, everything has begun to settle down. I have eaten my 100000th peanut butter and jelly (seriously, I think I have eaten more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the last 16 weeks than I have in my entire lifetime combined), Sailor has eaten her 10000000th helping of milk (of the DAY), and I am beginning to get antsy for some sunshine and vitamin D. Luckily for us, Southern California exists in a static summertime, so I usually wrap up that tiny baby of mine, and begin my daily long walk/Sailor’s afternoon nap. Sailor is a huge fan of being wrapped up – I am so glad that I decided it was worth the effort to track down a couple of woven wraps that I love and watched many, many youtube videos in order to learn how it actually works.
For her first few weeks, being in a wrap equaled almost immediate sleep, but as she woke up out of her tiny newborn-ness, she slowly began staring at anything and everything. We mostly walk down to the Palisades Park and walk along the path from one end (a random totem pole) to the other (Santa Monica Pier.) One of my favorite memories was the first time she actually made it to the park awake. I was like, “Sailor! You are seeing so many things for the first time!” It was really awesome to imagine her taking in all the sounds and shapes and colors and attempting to make some sort of meaning out of all these NEW THINGS. Little babies are so cool that way. It is WAY less busy at Palisades Park during the week (as a working person, I had no idea!), just us new moms, some tourists, and a plethora of grandparents. Sailor and I have been stopped no less than four times by grandparents concerned with (1) Sailor’s bare feet – I am not good at remembering the sock thing and (2) Sailor’s general well being – wraps freak older people out!
Park Sitting – When Blake and I took our two long Europe trips, we discovered the greatness that is park sitting. When you are travelling for an extended period of time, it is so nice to take daily breaks at whatever park is nearby, and just sit around – napping or talking or sleeping. It turns out that the exact same thing is true with a little baby! Starting when she was only two weeks old and my mom was still helping out, we would make the trip down to Palisades Park and set up a quilt and just sort of lay around – playing and sleeping and nursing. Sailor attracts a lot of admirers during this time – people comment on her hair (“Look at that crazy hair!” or “What a pretty color!”), her eyes (“So blue!”) and her mom’s inability to put socks on her before leaving the house (“Don’t you think her feet are cold?”)
Naps – Despite my earlier posts on naptime anxiety, I think probably the best part of everyday has been the long naps Sailor has taken on my chest over the past 4 months. I still try to put her in her crib for her actual nap, BUT after an anxious few weeks where I literally was OBSESSED with naptime (just ask my husband about my sole talking points for about 3 straight weeks), I decided that life is too short, and my maternity leave was even shorter. Who wants to spend that whole time with an unhappy baby protesting to being left in a cavernous crib/prison when you COULD be spending that time with a happy little sleepy baby, sleeping on your chest like the cutest baby that ever cuted? NO ONE! So, with a long trip to New York and then Texas ahead of us, I just gave in, and seriously, I am pretty sure these little naptimes will be what flash before me on my deathbed (hmm, weirdly melodramatic there.)
Watching her discover her voice – There is a lot of changes that occur with a baby from 0 months to 4 months, but my favorite, BY FAR, has been watching Sailor discover that SHE TOO can use her mouth to make little noises. She is currently working on “sentences” or rather “long strings of babbling ‘oooo, eeeee, maoenemem bbbbbbb'” (an exact quote.) She began with simply moving her mouth around, like she was talking – however, minus any sort of noise at all. Then she began coo-ing. COO-ING! Babies literally go, “coo, coo, coo” and no one with any sort of heart can stand it for one second. Her little sounds keep increasing and increasing – it really sounds like she is trying to talk to you, if only you spoke whatever vowel-centric language she is speaking. Adorable.
Wearing Sailor – I know that the expressions “wearing your baby” and “baby-wearing” invokes some strong parenting technique opinions from a sub-section of people. BUT, as much as I tried, there is really no better way to describe using a giant swath of fabric to essentially tie a baby to your chest. So, who cares, I am going with “wearing Sailor.” I started attempting to use baby carriers when Sailor was a teensy one week old – I had a slightly too big baby K’tan that I loaded her into for my short walks around the block or, as my c-section scar healed a little bit, down the six long blocks to the park. I attempted to use a stroller the first few weeks, but quickly realized that Sailor was NOT a fan of places that didn’t include a beating heart nuzzled against her ears. I was beyond nervous on those first few walks and basically spent the entire time also negating the point of baby carriers and kept two hands poised under the wrap, in the event that a little tiny baby came tumbling out.
I have come a looooong way from those first few weeks. As mentioned, I spend a lot of time walking around the neighborhood and park near our apartment. I have two different woven wraps (and hopefully more, more, more! Those things are addictive.) that I use to quickly wrap her up – we then set off for a few hours, Sailor catches a little snooze, and I listen to podcasts. If she wakes up and expresses her desire to kick her legs around (via some crying, pushing, and/or kicking) once we reach the park, I can simply put the wrap down on the ground and lay her on top of it, and hang out – wrapping her back up to walk home. It’s great!
I use the wrap for most of the day – it is amazing. I wear her around the apartment if there are some chores I need to finish, I want to sew, or I am attempting to calm her down enough so that she will get sleepy enough for a nap. It makes me feel like I am fully experiencing her for the whole day, without leaving her laying on a little playmat while I take care of the daily boring chores of life. She gets to be a sweaty little chest nugget and I get to blow dry my hair or set up the crock pot or fold laundry. Win win!
Meeting Blake – I haven’t done this in a while, but when Sailor was just a little peanut newborn – I would bundle Sailor up in blankets around the time I expected Blake home from work. I would walk down the sidewalk to wear he typically parks, and about 75% of the time, it would work out perfectly that Blake would be just pulling up. It was a great surprise for him, and, I don’t know, it seemed extra special to be able to walk the block or so to our apartment as a new threesome.
So, there you go. Those few things don’t really do justice to an entire 4 months worth of memories, but those were the best parts of my daily routine. I have no idea how the next phase of this whole “motherhood” thing will go, I worry about spending 8+ hours everyday away from my baby, but I know that I am not the only person who has even had these worries/sadness, and that SOMEHOW these other people even more than survive. I’m never any good at endings, so I will just abruptly stop this particular blog post with this picture which sums up my last few months: