I was a hot mess during maternity leave. I had no idea what I was doing, and had a list of things I thought I needed to do that were just not realistic. I felt like a failure. Later, I realized that maternity leave is about recovery. I learned a few things that helped me kick maternity leave in the butt the next time around, too. In my conversations with other parents, I learned that nearly everyone has at least one maternity leave hack that got them through postpartum life.
Mine were pretty simple: lowering my expectations, taking care of myself, stocking up on plenty of snacks and Coke Zero, and Zoloft. No, I'm not joking. Once I got over the stigma of needing an antidepressant for my postpartum depression, my life became so much better. It was like the clouds had lifted, and I could see rainbows for the first time in forever.
My friends had similar advice, including keeping water and easy to prepare foods handy, getting support and help when you need it, trying to leave the house once a day, and cutting yourself some major slack. After all, your body just grew and birthed a human being. Postpartum recovery is no joke, and sometimes it takes some planning, creativity, medical help, good friends, and lots of Netflix to make it through.
If you are getting ready to have a baby, here are some hacks that'll help you rock your maternity leave and make it through the dreaded fourth trimester like a boss.
"Make a point to leave the house at least once a day. Staying cooped up just makes your mental state worse. Whether it be just stepping out to get the mail or going for a walk around a mall (my fave, because I'm not a big shopper, so literally all I do is walk in an air conditioned environment), just try to make a point to get out and take a breath."
"When the baby throws up, pees, or poops in your bed, just put a towel over it."
"Get a big water bottle and keep it with you. You'll always be thirsty when the baby falls asleep, and you can't move."
"Stock up on the frozen pads before you leave the hospital. Your lady bits will hurt, and they are the most brilliant things ever made."
"With twins, keep them on the same schedule. If one wakes in the night to eat, feed the other, and change them both."
"If your milk is coming in, wear a terrycloth shirt/dress (beach cover) around the house, instead of constantly having to change breast pads."
"Planning something for me during the time [my son] would take his long nap in the afternoon. Even if it was something small, like paint my toenails or eating a treat I'd purchased. Doing one thing during the day just for me was super helpful. Also, every night after dinner my husband would take the baby and the dog for a long walk. During this time I showered and just relaxed by myself, read, or watched a favorite TV show. I was refreshed and ready to go for bedtime routine when they got back."
"Having a bouncy seat that fit in the bathroom, combined with a clear plastic shower curtain so baby could see me while I showered."
"I unfollowed all of my coworkers on Facebook. I wanted to forget about work completely."
"Depends are the best thing for that first flow. No need to be doing any more laundry than you absolutely have to, plus they're way comfy! LOL."
"Get an extra long phone charging cable. My first slept on me a lot of the time and watching that battery dwindle with a long nap underway was just the worst feeling."
"We joined the YMCA, because they had drop-in child care while I worked out. Or, you know, read the paper, watched a little TV while walking on a treadmill, sat in the steam room, and took a long, hot shower, without anyone bugging me. Honestly it saved my sanity when I had an infant and a 2.5-year-old. It was also an excellent excuse to leave the house."
"Some people questioned it, but I continued to send my toddler to daycare five days per week during my leave."
"When I was on maternity leave with my third, who was born at the end of May, we went on vacation. My husband had two weeks of parental leave from work so we used a few days and went to the beach. While money can be tight on parental leave, it was a great way to spend quality time with everyone and just veg out. We didn't eat into our already limited vacation time, we weren't contending with school schedules. It was just relaxing. Side note, going to the beach with a 2-month-old is not as daunting as it sounds. I checked with her doctor about sunblock and sun exposure prior to leaving."
"I gave myself as many options as possible ahead of time for different things. For food, we had freezer crockpot meals, some other freezer meals for baking, and some really easy canned/boxed meals which were super helpful. For my own sanity, I put Kindle books on hold through the library and found a ton of free ones through Amazon, and downloaded a bunch of games, and bookmarked movies/shows on Netflix. I ended up not really liking reading, because it was too hard to focus during maternity leave, though it's usually my favorite pastime, and I was glad to have already chosen a ton of entertainment options."
"Going back to work, because my colleagues don't usually cry or poop their pants. Usually."
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