The Leave After Birthing a Child

I couldn’t think of another way to say maternity leave and I didn’t want to say Maternity Leave Part 2.

Where were we? Oh yeah, having a baby is expensive and said baby doesn’t come out with a manual telling you how to change the batteries or even how to cash in the warranty.  I mean I found a receipt in Norah’s first diaper but it said that I needed to bring the original card from purchase to exchange and in the haze of the epidural I somehow misplaced it.

Just kidding.  You’d have had to pry her from my cold, dead, stitched-up hands.

I love the term leave.  Leave implies taking a break.  I don’t know about you, but taking a break from my job would have included far fewer stitches and many more margaritas.  Leave implies a rest of some sort. Let’s reflect upon a few things that are not restful.

  1. Sleep deprivation.  I didn’t sleep for three days before I went into labor with Norah.  And then I was in labor for 40 hours.  And then I was so hyped up from it that I didn’t sleep for another couple of days.  And then remember that baby? She seemed to think she was entitled to FOOD every two hours.
  2. Percocet.  I won’t delve into the nitty gritty, but I needed some stitches.
  3. Visitors- I loved them, I promise! But it’s not easy to rest when you feel like you should be sharing the baby.  And I had this problem where I had to be present for every introduction because I wanted to see everyone’s reaction to her beautiful face.
  4. The internet.  It’s very easy to say “don’t listen to them”, until you’re sleep deprived and on Percocet and tired from visitors.  And then you’re telling yourself (because of what you see online) that every other mother has makeup on post-baby, and they are up at night cleaning the house, and they have all lost the baby weight, and that they haven’t ever watched Law & Order: Special Victims Unit sobbing while trying to figure out how to hold the pump just right and lamenting the fact that it’s just not the same without Stabler.

I didn’t feel like a normal human being until Norah was four weeks old.  And even then I wasn’t what mainstream America considers normal.  I’d say I was doing a great job of existing.  Not really the state of mind you would choose to be in before taking a ‘leave’.

So I have only started feeling like a normal, albeit emotionally unhinged human being at the halfway point of my already too-long maternity leave.

The other half of it was spent really getting to know this perfect little alien.  And that’s not something that you just wake up having perfected.  It’s hard.

I was incredibly lucky to have family close by and to have friends who came and brought us food and took Norah so we could sleep. Not everyone has that, and not everyone even has the eight weeks I had.  I say that because I seriously have nothing to complain about.

I’m actually the exception to the rule, and there is something terribly wrong with that fact.


My Maternity Leave

I’ll be honest, this is probably about as interesting as watching paint dry for the vast majority of people, but whatever.

I worked full time before I had Norah, and there was no such thing as maternity leave at my job.  I got short-term disability, but only after being cleared by a doctor, and only at 2/3rds pay rate.  I got 6 weeks for a vaginal birth and 8 weeks for a c-section.  I was “unlucky” enough to have a vaginal birth.  I’m sorry you’ve now had to read the word vaginal two (three) times.

So I had 6 weeks, and then I tacked on another 2 that the company was ‘generous enough’ to give me completely paid.  So in all I had 8 weeks.  Eight weeks.  EIGHT.

At the onset of the leave six/eight weeks sounds like a good chunk of time.  I mean when was the last time you had six/eight weeks off from work? That’s plenty of time to bond with your baby, establish a schedule and a feeding routine and be ready to rejoin society!!

Are you effing kidding me?

I didn’t insanely bond with Norah right away- it took a few days.  I of course loved her more than life itself instantly, but I didn’t really ‘get it’ until we took her home.  I think it was the sheer exhaustion in the hospital.  And when I did? Ooooh boy.  I remember my mom handed me my dinner, and Derick sat down to eat next to me and I started bawling into my salad.  I had fallen in love, and HARD.

And it scared the shit out of me- hell, it still does.  Some days I still can’t fathom how it feels to look at her and be staring right into my own heart. And at that moment then all I could think about was that I was going to have to leave her soon.  Time had already flown so fast that I knew it’d keep going full throttle.  Eight weeks would be gone in no time and I couldn’t imagine leaving her, this tiny dictator.

This is where I get into some business, namely: the finances.

  • We could not have sustained living the way we were accustomed with 2/3rds of my salary.  So even if I’d been given more than the allotted 6 weeks, we’d have been struggling.
  • No one actually ever mentions that on top of not getting fully paid for that time you also incur a hell of a lot of medical bills! You know what’s not inexpensive? Having a baby.
  • We were (are) insanely lucky that breastfeeding worked, and that cloth diapers were in the cards for us.  We have still hardly spent any money on our child, and that is not the case for many people.  What I’m getting at is that for the majority, the upkeep of a baby is very expensive.  Pair that with the bills and the decrease in salary and it equals a lot of stress, and a bit of debt.

This is where I get into some other business, namely: the baby.

  • Six or even eight weeks is nothing.  Nada.  No go.  Zero.
  • Breastfeeding takes to get right.  And that’s if you get it at all!!
  • Oh, you’re going back to work? Oh you don’t want to be a stay-at-home-mom? You know SAHM’s are proven to have happier children.  I mean if you’re going back to work you should at least keep breastfeeding exclusively.  You’ll need at least 2 weeks of milk stored in the freezer when you go back to work so you should start pumping immediately even though you can barely get enough for your baby to be satisfied and even then you’re so exhausted when they are you can’t think of pumping.  You should probably make sure she’s ok with other people, too.  Make sure she gets enough face time with others, but also make sure she’s not getting exposed to people too quickly.  Has she been vaccinated? Have the people you’ve been exposing her to been vaccinated? Wait, can she take a bottle if she’s breastfed? You better make sure she likes the bottle.  Make sure also to sterilize all bottle parts after every use.  But make sure she doesn’t like the bottle too much because she might stop breastfeeding and you may as well just feed her pureed McDonald’s if that’s the case. She hasn’t established a good napping routine yet? Have you tried crying it out? If you do you’re a monster.  What about a pacifier, does that help? Just make sure she doesn’t like the pacifier too much because that’s a hard habit to break.  Wait, if you’re going back to work who’s taking care of the baby?? You better not take it to daycare, they might abuse the kid.  The kid will grow up thinking the daycare provider is it’s mom! Oh you’re getting a nanny? You must be rich.  You might as well just cut back and stay home.  Oh you’re staying home?? Your daughter will never learn the value of working if her own mother stays home and lets a MAN provide for her!
  • I have no strength left for another bullet point.

More, later.