Lessons from Maternity Leave

I’ve been on maternity leave since Dec. 21 when Xavier decided to make his appearance 3 weeks early!  I feel like I have learned a whole new way of life since then, and I have learned more about myself, parenthood, and life than I ever thought possible in such a short amount of time.  Here are some lessons that I will take away:

  1. Being a new parent is NOT for the faint of heart. Corey and I have had some very difficult conversations, moments, and tear-filled times.  We’ve been more frustrated than I’ve ever known us to be, more confused, and more challenged than ever before.  It’s very hard when you want so badly to fix something, like a crying baby, but coming to the realization that babies sometimes just cry for no reason, and the only thing to do is wait it out and find things that soothe him in the meantime.
  2. Being a parent will break your heart.  The other day I was attempting to clip my son’s tiny fingernails when all the sudden I realized that he was bleeding a little bit from his finger- I had missed his finger nail!  He started screaming, and I started crying and apologizing profusely.  Of course, 3 minutes later, it was as if nothing had happened to him.  Of course, the next day or so I had to overcome my fear and successfully clipped them, with all fingers accounted for…  Then, Corey and I took him to get his 2 month shots this past week, and I didn’t think that we were going to make it out of there with a dry eye between the 3 of us.  I can’t imagine how we are going to handle the many things that will surely cause our child pain in this life.  We will have to toughen up I suppose.  Being a parent will do that.  But I’m sure it never gets any easier.
  3.  Being a new parent is isolating.  There have been times when Corey and I have talked about feeling guilty for not being better friends to our friends who have had new babies.  I definitely feel like I need to write a letter of apology to every friend who has had a baby and tell them how sorry I am for not being there for them or offering to bring food, my presence, or simply a listening ear or phone call.  Some people think that new parents need time and space from other people. For me, this was certainly not the case.  I found myself wanting more people to check in, wanting more people to come over, and more people to just ask how we were doing and who expected an honest response.  We need our friends now more than ever.  There have been some very lonely days.
  4. Being a new parent is at the same time joyful and mournful.  There are times that we have mourned the way that things used to be- when we could just pick up and go anywhere and do anything on any given day.  There are times when we miss sleeping in and being able to eat dinner together at the same time and place.  It’s very hard to let go of the way life used to be.  But there are also times when I look at our baby and I’m filled with joy and wonder at the fact that we created him and he is part of our world.  He’s starting to smile at us now, too, and that certainly helps!
  5. Breastfeeding is HARD.  No one tells you how hard it is.  My goal is 6 months.  It HAS gotten easier, but I HAVE wanted to give up on multiple occasion.  I didn’t believe anyone who told me that it would get easier, and to be honest, I didn’t want to believe them, but here we are still going strong.  And I’m tired.  So very tired.  (But thanks to breastfeeding, I’m only a few pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight!  That’s motivation for you!)
  6. I actually DO have maternal instincts.   I honestly never imagined that I would know instinctively what to do with a baby.  I was terrified about the strangest things, like how will I know when or how to pick him up?  How will I carry him?  How will I know when it’s time to change his diaper?  How do I change a diaper, by the way?  How will I give my baby a bath?  How will I know when he’s sleepy?  Hungry?  Will I break him?  Drop him?  What do I do with my hands?  🙂  Once he came into the picture, I didn’t so much ponder these questions.  Instead, I somehow knew what to do.  And if I didn’t, I learned quickly.  I feel like I’ve discovered a whole new side to myself- a (gasp!) maternal side.
  7. Maternity leave is wonderful, but being a working mom is where it’s at (for me)  Being on maternity leave has taught me important lessons about being a mom, but it has also confirmed that I am meant to be more than just “mom.”  I’m ready to go back to my work as a minister, back to my congregation, back to the life of writing sermons, caring for people, mentoring, and being a part of the connectional system.  I look forward to seeing colleagues and having a life outside of my home.  As much as I love my little boy, I need to remind myself that I am many things.  “Mom” is now a huge part of who I am, but it’s not the only part.
  8. We will eventually need time to work on our marriage.  Having a baby changes everything!  Corey and I have been ships passing in the night between feedings, diaper changes, and taking care of baby.  At some point, hopefully soon, we will need to set aside time to reconnect and remind each other that before baby, it was just the two of us.  We will need to have normal conversations, good food at the same table, and time to be more than “mommy and daddy.”
  9. I’ve learned a new kind of love.  Maternity leave has given me time to focus on my child and to begin to understand the kind of love between parents and children.  It’s a painful, yet beautiful kind of love.  You really know what it means to love something so much that it hurts.  Yet at times I will say that with this love comes a bit of resentment, guilt, and constantly wondering if I am enough, if I’m doing enough, if I’m capable enough for this journey of motherhood.  But in the end, it all comes back to love.  It is a powerful thing.  Never underestimate it.
  10. I’m thankful: thankful for the gift of maternity leave, thankful for the gift of this time, thankful for the support we have received from family and friends, thankful for a supportive husband, thankful for a healthy baby, thankful for good medical care, thankful for a warm and safe home in which to care for a child, thankful for the gift of life and love.  We have so much to be thankful for.1927754_10101177501194987_6770053540581399007_n
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