I felt a ton of pressure to do everything "right" as a new mom, including maternity leave. I was going to lose the baby weight right away, figure out breastfeeding immediately, and develop the perfect routine for when I went back to work. Then I realized that when it comes to postpartum life things rarely go as planned. I also realized, thankfully, that when you think all is lost and your plan is a joke, there are a few signs you're kicking maternity leave straight in the ass that you can look for and that will give you the confidence you need (and deserve). Things that have nothing to do with how much weight you've lost or whether or not you have figured everything out right away. Honestly, I've been a mom for eight years and I still don't know what I'm doing half of the time.
For me, maternity leave is pretty bittersweet. On one hand, I was able to spend my days snuggling my baby and binge-watching Netflix, but on the other hand I was exhausted, hormonal, sore, sleep-deprived, and still trying to recover from childbirth while simultaneously learning to be a tiny human's mother. When I had older kids, I had to help them navigate their lives as new siblings, and don't even get me started on how my relationship with my partner changed.
Recovering from childbirth is no joke, and if you are fortunate enough to get maternity leave, you sometimes wonder if you are doing it the "right" way. I mean there's the celebrity mom who lost her baby weight moments after childbirth, your friend posting pictures of their seemingly perfect 6-week-old baby, who's already sleeping through the night and speaking French fluently, and an inbox full of emails from your boss, requiring your immediate attention. Not to mention seemingly Herculean tasks like ordering a copy of your baby's birth certificate and putting on pants.
I think everyone needs to stop expecting new moms to do anything other than recover during maternity leave. Seriously, if you manage to get a tenth of the things done you had planned for maternity leave, consider yourself a rock star. Slow and steady is the only way to make it as a new mom, so if you push pause a few times a day and look around, you might just see the following signs: all proof that you totally kick ass:
Your Baby Is Healthy & Happy
You only have two jobs during maternity leave — staying alive and keeping your baby alive. Everything else is icing on the cake. Mmmm cake.
If your baby is doing great, you are doing a great job. And if you or your baby need help to thrive, and you are getting that help, that's not a sign of weakness but of absolute strength. Awesome job.
You Ate Something Today
Did you eat something today? Right on. You totally deserve a high five. Growing and birthing babies is hard work, your body needs calories to heal, and if you are breastfeeding you need to eat so you can produce milk. If you haven't gotten around to eating today, all is not lost. Stock up on easy-to-eat snacks and if you are trapped under a sleeping baby, ask the delivery driver if they are willing to deliver to your living room. You never know.
You Managed To Get Some Sleep
Getting sleep is super important for your physical and mental health, but it's also super hard when you are recovering from childbirth. I mean, everyone says to "sleep when the baby sleeps," but I can't seem to figure out how to do that. Also, if I sleep when the baby sleeps, when will I get caught up on Game of Thrones?
So, if you've managed to get any sleep at all, count yourself lucky. You are totally rocking new motherhood.
You Listened To Your Body
I had to learn this one the hard way. Believe me, if you try to do too much, too soon, it will probably backfire. Don't listen to other moms, people trying to sell you a miracle fix, or that rude voice in the back of your head that tells says you're not good enough. Listen to your body. Ease back into exercise and take things slow. Your body will thank you.
You're Bonding With Your Baby
Maybe you fell in love with your baby instantly, or maybe you've taken your time falling in love with your baby slowly, with every snuggle and smile and as you figure things out. If the only thing you do during maternity leave is spend time bonding with your baby, you are totally doing enough.
You Are Taking Care Of Your Mental Health
Most new moms feel the baby blues after delivery. For some, including me, this sadness becomes all-encompassing and overwhelming. While it isn't easy, confronting your postpartum mental illness and getting help when you need it is so completely badass.
You Managed To Leave The House With Your Newborn
Leaving the house with a newborn is daunting. It seems to take an hour longer than you expect to get everyone ready, out the door, and loaded into the car. You'll probably still manage to forget something, the baby will have a blow out, or, if you are like me, you will find a way to get out of going entirely. I mean, that's why they have grocery delivery, right?
If you have successfully left the house with your newborn during your maternity leave, you are amazing. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. And if you haven't? There's always tomorrow.
You Took Your Baby To The Doctor
Taking your newborn out is bad enough, but taking your baby to the doctor is the worst. You not only have to be on time for their appointment, which is pretty impossible with a newborn, but your baby is likely to not enjoy riding in the car, waiting in the waiting room, and getting their vaccinations, either. They will cry, you will cry, and you are likely to return home feeling even more overwhelmed than before. If you've taken your baby to the doctor, way to go for taking care of their health. You are totally a hero.
Your Baby Is Wearing Clothes
When you're on maternity leave sometimes little things, like dressing your baby in cleans clothes, can feel like an accomplishment. This is why I'm grateful for footie pajamas. No one needs to know that my baby woke up like that.
Your secret is safe with me, too.
You Are Wearing Pants
Now, I am not saying that they have to be pre-pregnancy pants. (Girl, don't even attempt pre-pregnancy pants during maternity leave). They can totally be maternity pants, yoga pants, or a different size pair than you wore before you got pregnant, but if if you put on pants today, way to go, badass. You are totally kicking ass.