Dear Maternity Leave,
By: Louise S.
Originally posted here
I can’t believe it’s been one whole year since we met.
And what a year it’s been. We’ve been through so much together in such a short space of time. I’ve loved you, cherished you. I’ve hated and cursed you. Sometimes, I just wanted us to call it a day; to go back to being normal for a bit…to go to work and have a minute to breathe or just bloody wee.
When I first caught sight of you, I thought you were beautiful. You seemed so free and full of hope and expectation. That was when I was still pregnant with George, though. When I was still bloated and puffy from baby, fat and water and exhausted from weight and hormones. You offered me freedom from all of the discomfort and sheer depletion of work. You looked so gorgeous, with your inspirational promises; so fresh and exciting. We were about to go on a trip of a lifetime together.
I thought I was in love with you. When we first started out together, I was tired from the activity of the daily grind and I just needed a break. A moment’s rest.
That’s what you said, wasn’t it? That you’d give me some time?
No, you’re right. You fulfilled your promise. You said you would give me time: by that you didn’t mean ‘time out’. You weren’t offering me a holiday. Relaxation wasn’t on the cards.
But what you were giving me was a much more amazing gift: the gift of precious moments with my beautiful babies.
When you came along, I waited and waited for the joy and excitement to come. But George was lazy and cosy, and so I soon got fed up of waiting around. I got bored. I was still tired. Overdue, massive, aching. And I was still working: cooking, cleaning, lugging around a 19 month old toddler.
It was at that point I realised I wasn’t in love with you at all. I was just in love with the idea of you. It became obvious that our relationship wasn’t going to be easy. You’re quite a complex sort, aren’t you? All I love you, I love you, I love you but then you get a bit nasty. But that’s not the real you, I know that really. You just let it happen now and again.
Do you remember when George finally came along?! He was all ginger and funny-looking, but I just wanted to cuddle him forever and eat him up. He was so happy and loving from the moment he was born and I adored him with every molecule of the whole wide world.
It was you that gave me the time and opportunity to snuggle him up and give him a proper welcome to our lovely little family. For that, I am grateful to you to the moon and back and all around all of the planets.
But all the love in the universe can’t stop the practicalities of feeding and juggling the love of two. It all got too difficult too quickly.
You and bloody Winter were in cahoots, I’m sure.
George was feeding every two hours in the night. I got really poorly, and then the stupid Winter bugs moved in. One after the other, sickness after virus. You tried to make me choose, didn’t you? Which one? Which baby will you go to first? The one who’s screaming because their tummy is tiny and they need feeding again or the older one who’s crying and throwing up all over the bed and calling for their mummy? You kept taunting me, you nasty old bugger: whichever baby you go to first is going to think you love them the most. You could be so cruel.
You gave me time, but never enough time. I couldn’t help them both in the same instant. I cried and begged Ant to please, please let me go back to work. I’m ill and tired and I can’t do this.
It wasn’t fair, Maternity Leave. You didn’t give me much of a chance at all. But I won because I’m a bloody mother. And we’ll do everything for our babies.
As the Winter thawed and the spring bought the milder weather and new life, we got through it, didn’t we? We left the misery and pain of the cold behind and settled into our new family. We played in the sunshine and got to know each other properly. Tantrums and all.
When you bought the summer, it all became so much brighter. George started crawling and Livvy became witty and sweet natured.
Today they play and fight with each other. There is laughter and tears. They love me, their mummy with everything. Sometimes, they look at me like a celebrity when I walk into the room. Other times they shout and thrown things at me. Sometimes it makes me laugh. Sometimes I’m so tired I want to cry. But there’s so much love and fun and silliness. I’m lucky enough to be able to call that my life.
You haven’t seen George walking yet, have you, Maternity Leave? But then, nor have I. I think that may be the first milestone of his that we will be away for. Because that’s the amazing thing you do. You allow me to be there. Without you, I am all too often absent.
You don’t offer the best salary, though. It’s not bad, but I need more to live. You haven’t paid me for about three months now. And you don’t like sleep. Or wine. But that was all part of the bargain. It doesn’t really bother me, anyway. I’ve had the time of my life.
Maternity Leave, I’ve loved you and hated you. It’s been quite the journey. But I know you aren’t real life. You’re a limbo period. An important part of my development. Like a Continuing Professional Development course: usually harder, but much more rewarding.
We won’t meet again and for that, I have a myriad of feelings. But I thank you for the precious time you have given me with my fabulous children.
We’ve had a blast.
George and Livvy’s mum xx