I must admit that I had unrealistic expectations about postpartum life. I thought I'd bounce back to my pre-pregnancy self and live some perfect fantasy life where I would frequent the outside world, proudly showing off my prodigy. I didn't envision being bored or more tired than I could ever imagine. I didn't realize "dressing up" meant changing my spit-up covered shirt and scraping my hair into a ponytail. I definitely didn't know I wasn't alone in my thoughts and feelings. So when I asked moms to share the toughest part of maternity leave for them, I was somewhat relieved. Even if we make different parenting decisions, have different pregnancies, and take care of very different babies, there are some mom experiences that are simply universal. No one is an island entire unto themselves. Phew!
Now, don't get me wrong: I was very lucky and grateful and privileged to be able to enjoy six months of maternity leave before having to go back to work. That time at home with my newborn was crucial for a variety of reasons, including but certainly not limited to: healing from childbirth, bonding with my baby, and allowing my relationship with my husband to settle into parenthood. Having said that, the entire experience was, well, kind of disappointing. Thanks to unrealistic expectations and situations portrayed in the media, what I thought maternity leave was like versus reality was entirely, undoubtably, and painfully different. Adjusting to new-mom life proved to be more difficult than I could've imagined, and I was thrown for a loop.
So instead of venturing off into the world and showing off my baby, I worried about money and the future and felt like I wasn't contributing to the family. Sometimes it would get to 5:00 p.m. and I would feel like I hadn't achieved a whole lot. I felt anxious and unproductive, even though I was healing and keeping a baby alive. In other words, I wasn't kind to myself, when I absolutely should have been. After all, I was nurturing a demanding, helpless human life. During my maternity leave, that should have been enough.
So if you are currently on maternity leave and wondering where all the postpartum unicorns and rainbows are, you're not alone. Trust me and, well, the following moms: this sh*t is hard, you guys. Be kind to yourselves.