Glorious maternity leave 

A few people expressed a bit of surprise that I decided to take maternity leave relatively early (about a month before my due date), and would anxiously ask ‘But won’t you be bored? What will you do all day?’

Actually I couldn’t have been more grateful to have that time. It was such a luxury to have time to myself and at home to really get ready for the baby and to get the house sorted. I was also acutely aware that this was the last time I would have to myself for a fair while! Now she’s here I can see how true that instinct is, newborns are tiring and relentless as well as being totally adorable.

I spent the first few weeks getting the last bits in our house sorted – as we were decorating things had been unpacked then repacked and ended up all over the place. Before Fliss arrived everything was in its rightful place which makes home such a nicer and calmer place and has made it easier to keep things very vaguely tidy.

Batch cooking prep

The single best thing I did though was pre-baby batch cooking. This is one of those favourite pieces of advice for things you should do before baby arrives, and I can only second it as an amazing thing to do if you have time. By the time Fliss arrived we had 28 evening meals squirrelled away, as well as a few portions of soup and things for lunch. Having proper food to eat in the first few weeks was amazing as I have never in my life felt less like greasy and unhealthy takeaway (and usually I love greasy and unhealthy takeaway!) than when I was home from hospital, extremely tired and needing to recuperate quickly. We loved it so much that we’re carrying on trying to keep the freezer stocked by cooking a massive pot of something once a week. I’m sure there will be difficult weeks where having some homemade ready meals is a life saver again.

2015-10-05 19.00.57

There was also a glorious amount of lazing in the last few weeks pre-birth as the late pregnancy tiredness really kicked in. It was so much better settling down to less energetic pursuits like reading, watching films and knitting with the knowledge most of the to do list had already been ticked off. Life tends to be quite hectic for us – we have very few completely free weekends – so the luxury of unscheduled time was something that felt quite unusual and special. It almost seems halcyon now looking back at having time for as much sleep as I wanted and having my hands free all the time, and I’m sure I’m coping better with the distinct lack of those things now having had that period of complete rest and relaxation!

If I’d have worked for longer I would have been concerned I’d have been trying to do everything in a rush at the end, just when my body was telling me to put my feet up and rest myself to be as ready as possible for labour and a newborn. Having a decent amount of time to rest before a first baby just seems like a civilised thing to me. I was interested to note when I read in A Year of Living Danishly (Denmark is my current cultural inspiration as you may have picked up!) that it’s standard for maternity leave to start a month before the due date. Obviously it’s always a personal choice, but for me a month was perfect.

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5 thoughts on “Glorious maternity leave 

  1. I ended up getting signed off halfway through my pregnancy so didn’t have to make this decision – I would have worked as close to the due date as possible (honestly: to maximise money once the baby was here and time with her, should I end up going back to work) but I know that would not have been the best decision for my family. My physio and various midwives all told me they wished more women would/could finish earlier because it would wipe out most of the late pregnancy problems they have to support, that “there’s a reason you CAN take maternity leave so early – it’s because you should”. It’s such a shame that finances so often lead to women putting themselves under undue physical stress right when they need to relax.

    This is turning into quite the waffle, isn’t it? I’ll stop now.

    • The whole money/time thing is so tricky – I was lucky in that with the way our leave year fell I only started my official maternity leave about two weeks before due date so I wasn’t eating into the year too much as I had holiday to start with – I know that was lucky though! It almost needs to be two separate things I feel, pregnancy leave and maternity leave. I know pregnancy isn’t an illness but it does have medical implications whereas maternity leave is more about bonding/spending time with baby. It’s a shame your time got eaten into but at least it worked out best for your family.

  2. I’ve got cousins who live in America, where there’s no such thing as statutory maternity leave. My one cousin worked until she went into labour just so she could have the full THREE WEEKS leave her employer offered! Truly scary. I’m glad your experience of pre-baby leave was so positive (and totally agree that the Danes have it right!)

    • Then there are the medical costs of having a baby – I read somewhere it isn’t always covered by insurance as it counts as a lifestyle choice so you have to factor in paying for care as well. And then you have to pay for contraception as well – I had an American housemate who was totally bemused the pill was free when getting her first prescription over here. I was bemused it could be anything other than free! Really scares me we seem to be heading further away from the Scandinavian model and towards the US.

  3. Pingback: End of year reflections  | Home, make, be

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