FOUR MONTHS OF MATERNITY LEAVE ALREADY IS IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR AND EACH MONTH REPRESENTED A VERY DIFFERENT CHALLENGE!
If you have not heard of the so called "fourth trimester" is the first three months after your baby arrives. The idea goes that babies are actually born one trimester too early and this post-delivery period is a time of significant adjustment for both you and your baby as you bond and as your baby adjusts to the outside world (well, according to Dr. Harvey Karp who coined the term at least). I can certainly relate to how much of an adjustment everything has been. But, with Hudson now five months old, I have been most surprised by how different each month has been so far.
The one question I was asked more than anything during pregnancy was "Are you looking forward to being off work for a year?" True be told, no, I was not. I really love my job and it gave me a lot of anxiety and FOMO (fear of missing out) to think about being gone for so long. But, every parent told me how fast the time would fly by, and they were not wrong!
My husband and I debated about how to split the 12-month maternity leave time. I was really unsure about how long it would take me to recover physically and really feel like myself again, plus since I planned to breastfeed for the full year, I decided to take the full 12-months. We are keeping options open for baby number two though!
Here is my month by month play of my fourth trimester below.
One month in
Pretty much the only focus during this time was feeding the baby! I had a really tough time getting the hang of breastfeeding and at first I needed both my mother and my husband to help out with every feeding (no one ever told me nursing was a 2+ person job!). With each feeding taking almost 45-minutes and then having to feed again in another two hours, any free time was spent cat napping. Suffice to say, work really did not cross my mind (although I did send the team a birth announcement email). This month seriously felt like an entire year!
Two months in
After eight weeks I was finally breastfeeding without assistance (and no more nipple shield, woo hoo!). This was seriously the biggest personal accomplishment ever (even Beyonce agrees). Since I had a Caesarian delivery, the first six weeks I was really reliant on my husband to go anywhere because carrying the baby put too much strain on my body. But, I was going so stir crazy in the house and walking around the block with the stroller was not doing it anymore. The benefit was that during this time was that Hudson could tag along with us pretty much everywhere - we went out to celebrate my birthday and just brought him along in the stroller for dinner (where he slept soundly during three courses)
At this point, I really wanted to "make the most" of my maternity leave and accomplish something significant before heading back to work. I wrote a maternity leave bucket list, signed up for my final MBA class and looked into taking a few online classes. I was also creating daily to-do lists to feel productive (even if my tasks were "unload dishwasher" and "fold laundry").
Three months in
With a bit more independence and confidence taking my baby outside in the real world, I joined a stroller fitness class, met some new moms with babies around the same age as my son and participated in some local Mom's Group events (these Facebook Mom's groups are seriously a great resource and they are so organized!).
After going through some rough days and long nights with Hudson, I finally paid for my first android app. With a few recommendations I bought the Wonder Weeks app (for $3). The app has been SO EYE OPENING! It is based on a book and describes the "leaps" babies complete - these periods of intense cognitive development - from 4 weeks to 77 weeks - and it really helped me understand why my baby was suddenly so cranky, cuddly and clingy.
Four months in
At around 16-weeks my husband and I both looked at each other and realized how fast Hudson was changing. He was starting to roll over, was able to grasp items and toys were suddenly very fascinating. Our little baby already felt like a toddler!
This month also marked the start of the infamous 6pm deadline to be housebound. While I always respected this rule from my other mama friends, there was no way I could truly understand why. But, know I now. Because, when babies do not go to bed they scream at the top of their lungs until you put them to bed and no one, I mean no one, wants to be out at a restaurant with friends and go through that.
All in all
Before I embarked on leave, my manager offered to check-in with me a few times. We scheduled our first call right before the holidays and while I loved hearing the updates and changes from the team, the conversation was a great reminder that work will still be there in another eight months.
So, do I still miss work? The answer is yes, but now I am much more comfortable being left out of the loop and re-focusing my efforts. Every ounce of energy and attention I give Hudson is appreciated and reciprocated what feels like a million times over. And the fact that he can now respond to your cues makes being a mama so much more fun.
Right now, we are sleep training (which is going really well so far!) and getting ready to start solids next month. The high chair is officially built and ready to go. More to come!
Let me know your own "fourth trimester" experiences or share what I should be expecting over next few months!