You created and carried a tiny human inside of you for nine months. You brought them into the world when it was finally time. You lay still for the doctors and nurses while they sutured you up and checked on you over...and over...and over! Finally, you were able to bring your little one home.
Now what? You and this little person stare at each other day in, day out, enamoured with (or maybe a little wary of) one another, so what else can you do on your maternity leave to make the most of your "time off"?
Bond with Bubs
Ah, newborns, they're so tiny and squishy and dependent on you. It's said so often, but enjoy it while it lasts! You won't be on maternity leave forever, so enjoy the snuggles while you've got them on tap. Talk to them, read books to them, sing to them and engage with them while they're awake (which is frequently, for some mums!). Stare at them while they sleep if you don't feel like napping, map every inch of their perfect little face and their tiny delicate body. Get to know this person you've created, even if you can't have a two-way conversation yet...or at least an understandable one!
Leave work at work
Some mums find switching off once they've started maternity leave easy, while others may as well have brought the whole office home with them! If you're working right up until your due date, then start including relevant coworkers into your emails and projects a few weeks before you're scheduled to leave so that they can have a firm grasp of what they'll be needing to do while you're gone. Leave helpful instructions for significant parts of your role if you can, to avoid unnecessary work communications while you're recovering - that time is yours and Baby's time! If you have a few blissful, work-free days or weeks to spare before the baby comes, try to make it as relaxing as possible! Book a spa day, binge that Netflix series you've heard about, have a lazy lunch at your favourite cafe, or just enjoy getting to shower alone while you can. Create memories and feelings you can look back on when you're elbows-deep in your seventh nappy change of the morning.
Create a routine of some sort
Join a "Wriggle and Rhyme" class each week or head out for an afternoon walk around the neighbourhood each day. The main thing is to try and get into a pattern or routine that you can look forward to and one that encourages you to get out of the house. It can be terrifying leaving home with your baby for the first time, but it'll get easier. By introducing your baby to various faces and places, you'll help them gain confidence in the world around them and feel more comfortable with new experiences as they grow and learn. As always, be sure to follow the instructions from your health professional regarding when you can safely take your new baby out into the world.
Catch up with friends and family
If you're the type of mum who is a social butterfly, you might find maternity leave is the perfect time to catch up with those friends and family whose schedules may have previously clashed with yours when you were working. Brunch was made for catch-ups and days off, so head out to your local cafe or park and enjoy reconnecting with people you might have lost touch with or strengthen the relationships you already have. You've got this perfect new creation to share; let your loved ones meet them and fall in love with them too!
Join a coffee group!
Making new friends as an adult can be a bit daunting. We're not all extroverted and outgoing enough to simply walk up to someone and say, "Hey there, I've just had a baby and would love a friend so that I don't lose my mind from baby talk and nappy changes 24/7, will you hang out with me?". That's where coffee groups come in! If you attended antenatal classes, you might have connected with someone there, or else have a look on Facebook for local coffee groups or groups for mothers expecting around the same time as you. These mamas know what you're going through and can show you the understanding and support you might be missing from your friends who don't have kids. They'll also know what it feels like to have to cancel plans last minute because Bubs fell asleep right before you were meant to leave the house!
Everything your baby does is new and wonderful, so why not capture that! Our previous blog, "DIY Baby Photoshoot Ideas", could provide you with some inspiration on taking adorable photos of Bubs to show to the world. You went through the effort of getting them here, so take all the photos you want! Make the most of the time you have with them, and give yourself something you can look back on when/if you decide to go back to work or if you ever need a pick-me-up on a rough day. Plus, this gives you an excuse to cycle through all of the adorable outfits they have before they grow out of them. It's a win-win!
Take it easy
Thought you'd be baking sweet treats and creating home-cooked meals with market-bought organic fruits and vegetables? Haven't looked at anything besides an UberEats menu for four weeks now? Don't worry about it, Mama! You deserve to take care of yourself right now, and if that means reducing the stress a little by creating less work for yourself or your partner, so be it. Hire that cleaner, order those takeaways, cancel that gym membership if you want to. Motherhood is a hugely demanding job, so don't feel disappointed or like you've failed if you don't end up doing some (or many!) of the things you thought you would be doing on maternity leave. If your achievement of the day is you managing to have a five-minute shower, then well done! If you managed to brush your hair, congratulations! Oh, you brushed your teeth too? Superstar! Nobody is expecting you to have it all sorted so soon, so be kind to yourself. You're doing a fantastic job.