Nora and I reading together, last night.
Yesterday was the last day of my maternity leave. Eleven weeks and five days ago, I left my job in the middle of the day to give birth to Nora. Since that time, I have enjoyed my longest absence from work since I started working at age seventeen. (That was a long time ago). I feel like I’m emerging from some alternate universe where I got paid for not working. Now that I am at the end of my leave and returning to work this morning, I have so many conflicting emotions.
On the one hand, I am so grateful for this gift of time. I know many women do not have the luxury of a nearly three month maternity leave. I cannot imagine having to return to work after only a few days or weeks after a birth. I would have been a physical and emotional mess. I am glad that I had the time to heal, to get to know her, and to (frankly) get bored.
On the other hand, I wonder if I had enough time. I’m struggling with this feeling that I had eleven and a half weeks with my daughter and I don’t know if I did enough. Did I create a strong enough bond with her? Did I get the house organized enough for her father to take over the daytime care? What, if anything, do I have to show for all of this time?
If I were at work, I could list my outcomes after a three month period. I accomplished X, Y and Z. At home, my milestones are more subjective and harder to see from this point. So, I thought that I would list everything I have done over the past eleven weeks, in order to really understand what happened during my leave:
- I gave birth to a healthy baby girl, which should be enough.
- I looked at the pictures from our birth dozens of times.
- I learned to sleep in short bursts, ten minutes here, forty-five minutes there. A luxurious two hours at night.
- I changed approximately 1,215 diapers, almost all of them cloth.
- I attended nine New Mamas’ classes, which was the saving grace of my maternity leave.
- I learned how to breastfeed at home, at New Mamas’ class, in front of friends and finally in public.
- I washed a lot of miniature clothes, which at first, is more fun than washing adult sized clothes.
- I wrote many thank you notes, to the nurses who helped deliver our baby, to our doula, our Lamaze instructor, and to all the people who gave us gifts.
- I watched four seasons of Cake Boss. (Really.)
- I read ten books.
- I learned how to wear my baby at home and out in the world, using a Moby wrap, Maya ring sling and an Ergo carrier, by watching hours of instructional videos online.
- I learned how to be out in the world with a baby who seems so small inside it.
- I helped her grow to almost double her weight.
- I learned to do everything one-handed, from typing to peeing.
- I learned to eat dinner in under ten minutes.
- I kissed her forehead approximately 1,500 times.
- I started exercising again, if sporadically.
- I watched and participated in many of Nora’s firsts: smile, coo, bath, trip outside of the house, doctor visit, vaccination, book, and projectile spit-up (yesterday!). There’s many more that I am probably missing in this list.
- I have seen her grow from a mostly sleeping baby to a baby who interacts with the world around her. She bats at toys, smiles at my husband and me, listens to board books in their entirety and looks forward to our little routines.
I am (and am not) looking forward to this latest transition in our lives. In a few minutes, when I am at my desk hanging up my six favorite portraits of her, I can reread this list and remind myself that I did enough. I will continue to do enough. I can be enough for my adult working life and the world my daughter is starting to explore.