16 In The blog

To my pregnant self: 5 big things you’ll learn on mat leave

A year ago today I had spent the morning rolling around like a hippo in the toddler end of the local lido, avoiding the heat and trying to de-swell my massive ankles. That icepop-guzzling-heavily-pregnant me had no idea what the next year would bring. Well, of course I had some idea. Everyone tells you: sleep, cinema trips, new wine bars – little; nappies, tears, giggles – lots. But looking back I was so focused on getting through the labour and  getting a healthy baby out the other side of it, that I hadn’t thought much more about the realities of anything beyond that. Least of all how I would feel and what I would learn about myself in the process.

Little did I know it would turn out to be the most utterly wonderful, utterly transformative and utterly challenging year of my life, in so many more ways than I can express. As the year comes to an end and I find myself once more at my desk, with B in nursery, I feel fundamentally changed. So now I’m pulling a Marty McFly and writing back to that pregnant hippo with a few highlights of what she’ll find out about herself. The beauty of time is you can never know what lies around the corner.

1. You’ve haven’t just got a year.

Maternity leave. A seemingly never-ending stretch of time ahead of you just to look after your baby. Think of the things you could do in that time without work. Think of how sorted you’ll be by the time you go back. You’ll have it ALL figured out. Sorry love, I hate to break it to you, but you won’t. But that is so ok it’s not true. Don’t panic – just relax and enjoy your time. A baby is for life, not just maternity leave. The first year is just a construct, a period of time defined by society and the government as sufficient to get yourself sorted and to have motherhood nailed. But it’s not the end – if you haven’t finished the nursery decor, if you haven’t made your career plan, that’s ok. If the baby still isn’t sleeping through, or is still taking ten naps, it doesn’t matter. You have more than a year and life is not defined by a work contract.  You are someone’s mummy now, and the learning never stops.

2. Your story will happen the way it happens.

Only you can live your story, and only you will experience it in the moment. You will hear countless tales from friends, family, fellow mums, passers-by about their story. This may make you feel like your happiness is just something everyone else feels, that your tiredness is something you should just get on with, that you should be doing things in some way differently. But the thing is, anyone else telling you anything about their story is telling it to you in hindsight. They have a magic retrospectoscope which allows them to encapsulate in a sentence, a word, their weeks of sleepless nights, their breastfeeding journey, their labour. They are telling their story with a beginning, a middle and an end. They have an artistic licence to craft a finished article. You, on the other hand, you are living your story. You are in it. One day you too will have a story to tell, but right now you are creating it. If it is fun, enjoy it. If it is hard, live it, have faith that it will pass. Above all, trust yourself.

3. Your love will grow.

When you look back at photos of your uni freshers week or first weeks of school, you forget that at the time they were taken, you didn’t know those people that well. You didn’t have any memories with them. But as they grow into lifelong friendships, we imprint fondness on to those memories because of the journey we’ve had together since. It’s the same with your baby. You won’t know her at first. You will know her in a primitive sense, but you won’t really know her. This will come in time. Your love will grow. It will grow as her personality grows. It will grow as day by day you will make memories, some good, some less fun. It will grow as your friendship builds, and the smiles get more frequent, and as you look back with the retrospectoscope (yep, you get one too) you’ll imprint the early memories with your knowledge of her now. So it will feel as if you’ve always known. But at first you might not – you don’t know her yet and that’s ok. Don’t panic. It will grow.

4. You’ll go bonkers at some point but you’ll get through.

Whatever this year throws at you, you will cope. You are strong. You will make mistakes, you will get obsessed with tiny details that matter to you, you will be exhausted, but you will cope. You are strong. At 3am, on the fifth day of the fifth week of teething, after five months of refluxy screaming, you will lose it. But you will get through. You are strong. Because there will also be giggles – so many giggles. And cuddles. And kisses. And fun. Lots of fun.

5. You will be amazed at what you learn to do one-handed.

Ahem. Buttering toast. That’s what you’ll learn. You are WINNING.

Now put your feet up, rest and enjoy those ice pops. A little bird tells me it might be a long labour…


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  • Reply
    July 6, 2016 at 9:58 pm

    Another brilliant post! God I wish I’d listened when people had told me to sleep while I could….I miss sleep! x

  • Reply
    July 7, 2016 at 2:59 pm

    Loved this. I wish someone had told me number 3 before I had Piglet. It never ceases to amaze me how he was already his own little person when he was born and I had to take time to get to know him. #StayClassyMama

  • Reply
    July 7, 2016 at 4:31 pm

    Great advice! My babies are 3 and 5 and their “nurseries” still aren’t complete! #StayClassyMama

  • Reply
    Sharon Rivers
    July 7, 2016 at 4:46 pm

    This is brill! If your pregnant self could have read this, do you think you might have done anything differently? Hope it’s going well being back at work, I am dreading going back!

    • Reply
      July 7, 2016 at 5:01 pm

      Good question! Worried less, told myself off less – but then I needed to go through that to come out the other side and find what I’m writing about and working towards now, helping other mummies in the same situation. So I guess also, no, maybe I wouldn’t. 🙂 x

  • Reply
    July 7, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    Ha ha! I cannot butter toast while holding the baby. Nor can I do much now he can grab everything and lurch out of my hands… But this is a brilliant post, and full of wisdom. #BloggerClubUK

    • Reply
      July 7, 2016 at 7:41 pm

      Thanks Naomi! I amaze myself with the toast but out of tough times are heroes born! 😉 So glad you found it helpful! x

      • Reply
        July 7, 2016 at 7:44 pm

        I actually think it’s the kind of thing Mumsnet bloggers might like – I’ll tweet them x

  • Reply
    July 7, 2016 at 7:45 pm

    Ah thanks Naomi that’d be great! I’d like to think so. Very kind of you 🙂 I’m new to Mumsnet, despite doing this for a few months now. Let me know if I can reciprocate x

  • Reply
    Mouse, Moo and Me Too
    July 8, 2016 at 10:07 am

    This is brilliant! Most awful discovery I’ve made? You can wipe a poo bum of a toddler with one hand while still breastfeeding a baby with the other arm. Yep. This is my life. #stayclassymama

    • Reply
      July 8, 2016 at 12:24 pm

      SKILLS! nice 🙂 Thanks for getting in touch! x

  • Reply
    July 10, 2016 at 12:02 pm

    Great advice and I think you have to experience it to ever understand it! You can read every pregnancy book and every baby manual and you’ll never even come close to understanding until you make it through that first year! Great post! #fortheloveofBLOG

  • Reply
    July 10, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    Oh I truly love this. And coming from someone who is STILL learning almost four years on. It really does never stop. I don’t think it ever will. Thank you for sharing. #fortheloveofBLOG

  • Reply
    July 10, 2016 at 7:20 pm

    I love this post – it’s so true and I’m still learning it all as I go along….you’re right, it’s not just a year of maternity and I try to enjoy and appreciate the time with my little one. #fortheloveofBLOG

  • Reply
    The Mum Project
    July 14, 2016 at 3:22 pm

    Completely agree with number three, the love just keeps on growing. I didn’t realize that meeting my son was going to be like a first date, awkward, scary and exciting all at the same time! Also number 1, I wish I had waited to go back to work I don’t know why I was so eager, I miss my son every day now. I love this post so much, thank you for the advice and sharing with #StayClassyMama!

  • Reply
    The Pramshed
    July 15, 2016 at 7:54 am

    Fab post lovely, my maternity leave finisher two weeks ago, baby is in nursery and I’m back in nursery. It was one of the hardest and best years of my life. In the beginning it felt like an eternity, but it has gone so quickly. I had a huge to do list in the beginning and honestly I haven’t completed half of it, but I did set up a blog. It’s nice now to be able to drink a cup of tea and go to the loo in peace. Thanks so much for linking up at #fortheloveofBLOG. Claire x

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