What to Expect When You’re Expecting Maternity Leave to be a Vacation

What to Expect When You’re Expecting Maternity Leave to be a Vacation

By Pam Moore of Whatevs….

If you think of vacation as a time to rest, recharge, and rejuvenate, maternity leave is not the spa retreat for you. Having had two kids of my own, I speak from experience. But I totally get why, if you’ve never taken your own maternity leave, it would look like an ah-mazing way to spend three months.  I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but it’s better for everyone if we get the facts straight. Look into the eyes of a woman who has given birth in the last six weeks. That is, if you can find one. Most don’t bother leaving the fun-a-palooza that is being home alone with a newborn.

Peer beyond her glasses (she can’t deal with contacts), and you will see a road map of angry red veins. Mom’s not stoned, though she might like to be. She hasn’t slept more than three consecutive hours since the baby was born. The mauve circles under her eyes? Yes, she knows about concealer. No, she’s too exhausted to attend your wine and mini-facials party this weekend. Do you have an Olympic-sized pool of concealer she can splash around in? She would love that, except her doctor said no swimming until her episiotomy heals.

While recovering from childbirth, you will not be able to fully take advantage of all the fun activities Destination Maternity has to offer. While episiotomies are no longer routine in U.S. hospitals, there is no dearth of physical ailments to stand between a new mom and her total enjoyment of her maternity leave.

Her hemorrhoids may make childbirth feel like a breeze compared to the pain of taking a postpartum shit. Or perhaps her perineum tore during labor. If she’s lucky, she’s recovering as nicely as she can with a few stitches in her lady bits. If she’s not, the stitches were botched or became infected. Then there are the tears that even stitches can’t completely fix. We’re talking about bladder and, in rare instances, stool incontinence.

And let’s not forget about all the other goblins threatening mom’s relaxation. While most women are familiar with the epidural, only a select few are acquainted with the rare but serious risks they carry, including debilitating headaches, severe back pain, bladder dysfunction, and prolonged leg weakness. C-sections bring their own risks, but even under the best of circumstances, plan on taking six weeks to recover from this major surgery. At this point, the unpaid “vacation” you’re guaranteed under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is half over. That is, if your employer is required by law to hold your job during your leave. If you work for a small business, you risk having no job to come back to when your “vacation” is over.

If you think of vacation as a mental break, you will be punching your computer when you try, in vain, to give Hotel Maternity a negative star rating. Between sleep deprivation, altered brain chemistry and the fact that a human now depends on you for survival, good luck getting into that trashy novel you tossed in your beach tote.

Up to 20% of women experience postpartum depression and related disorders, like postpartum anxiety and postpartum psychosis. Meanwhile, that statistic is based on self-reports, so the number is probably higher. Signs and symptoms of postpartum mood disorders include, but are not limited to, feeling overwhelmed, guilty, anxious, or angry to the point of rage, fantasizing about running away, a compulsion to be busy, having no appetite, being unable to stop eating, insomnia, or barely being able to stay awake to complete basic tasks. And that’s just a sample of the myriad selections available at the post-partum mood and anxiety disorder buffet. Are you ready to grab a plate yet?

If you relish your vacation as a time to pamper yourself, your trip to Maternity Leave is 100% guaranteed to disappoint. Because this little break is all about keeping your baby alive. Don’t let their small size fool you. Newborns are really frickin’ needy.

Fun fact: Newborns need to eat every two to three hours. That’s assuming they’re formula fed. Between the time you spend preparing the bottle, feeding the baby, burping the baby, and washing the bottle, you’re looking at a minimum of thirty minutes devoted to baby feeding at least eight times a day. At minimum, that’s four hours per day. Also, formula is expensive, and there is no all-inclusive option at the Maternity Resort.

Meanwhile, the breastfed baby nurses up to twelve times a day for 20-45 minutes at a time. On the plus side, a nursing mom never needs to spend time washing and sterilizing her nipples. This is good because she probably can’t tolerate contact between her tender nipples and anything that is not depending on them for survival. New moms frequently experience cracking, chafing, bleeding, and scabbing of their nipples for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. And that’s when things are going well.

If you’re starting to feel like Maternity Leave is just the vacation for you, here’s another fun fact: A typical newborn poops eight to ten times a day. Your friends may be worried that you died since they never hear from you, so do them a favor and pop a postcard from Maternity Land in the mail between feedings and diaper changes.

If you prefer your vacation to be a time to slow down, to be mindful, to just really be in the moment, this is not the vacation for you. You have to become a multi-tasker when you have a baby. I’m not talking about daydreaming about fulfilling your potential as a human being on this earth while simultaneously journaling, sipping an Americano, and texting. I mean taking a dump while nursing a baby. I mean eating your cold breakfast while balancing a newborn on your lap and microwaving your coffee two dozen times between the hours of way-too-early o’clock and noon while bouncing that same baby on your hip. I mean watching a movie while whipping out your boob every 20 minutes and trying to sit so that the couch won’t annoy your coochie, which just pushed out that baby.

If you prefer a staycation, six weeks of Maternity Leave might be right up your alley. You can expect to be staying home, staying exhausted, staying un-showered, and staying barely sane for the duration of it.

Sounds fun, right?


About the Author

Pam Moore is a writer, speaker, runner, and a mother.  The author of There’s No Room For Fear in a Burley Trailer, she dreams of completing her To Do list, qualifying for the Boston Marathon, and sleeping in. She blogs about parenting, fitness, and life in Boulder, Colo. at Whatevs…. Come hang out with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.