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.
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.
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.