This week, my maternity leave has officially started. If baby arrives on or close to its due date, this means four weeks of time to rest and get ready for the big day. The first time around, I really wondered what I’d do all those weeks – of course, I also didn’t have a toddler to look after back then. But after a few days, I really got into the routine of just having lots of time for myself and I even had my fingers crossed that Henrik wouldn’t arrive too early :-). We had also just bought our appartment and the lists of things I wanted to get ready were endless, so that time flew by. This time around, everything is pretty much ready and our house doesn’t need any major changes or cleaning. But I definitely think you need this time to get ready – physically as well as mentally. Giving birth is like running a marathon. With the difference that after the finishing line, there’s no time to rest, because your price is a little human being that needs all your attention.
When my maternity leave got closer, I often got the question what I was planning to do with my time. It totally makes sense to me that, especially to people who haven’t had a child and maternity leave (yet), it must be a mystery what you do with all that free time. I mean: you’re highly pregnant, so your options are kind of limited. Partying for days, backpacking, renovating your house, training for a marathon, booking a four week workshop to learn something new.. all options I’d consider for sure if I didn’t have this big bump attached to me! But, believe it or not, I know my days will feel well filled, with – amongst others – the following points on my pre-baby maternity leave agenda:
- Spend extra quality time with my toddler. Henrik will still be going to daycare two days a week during my leave, so I have the luxury of those days first to myself and then to spend with just one child. And for him it means less of a change in his life and that he won’t have to miss his friends and playing with them there all day. But next to that, we will have quite some extra time these coming weeks with just him and me. He’s so fun to be around, and I try to really take up all our cuddling, reading books and conversations together as I know I will have to split my attention so soon. I got warned by friends and I believe them: the first weeks, however busy with your newborn, you will miss that one-on-one time you had with your first child. After all, you have become a close team during the last years. Of course I’ll make sure I’ll have time just for him once we’re settled and the baby is less dependant. But for the first period, I am sure that his dad will become his favorite and I might struggle with that. So I better charge my “mommy’s boy Henrik batteries” as full as I can :-).
- Washing and ironing baby’s clothes, sheets, blankets and swaddles. Just as I was about to write this post, I had a conversation about this planned activity of mine with a Swiss girlfriend. She thought it was crazy that I’d actually iron all these things. I was surprised, as this is something I’ve definitely not come up with myself. Before my last maternity leave, it was something other mothers told me about. Like it was so clearly a thing you were supposed to do before baby arrived. And I actually enjoyed the task. After talking to my Swiss friend though, I believe it might have been an activity invented by the Dutch. In contrast to Holland, you don’t get paid leave before your due date in Switzerland. So it makes sense that here, where you basically have to be off for at least four weeks, mothers to be had to invent stuff to keep busy. And as absurd as it may sound: I think it’s not so much about the actual need of having all those tiny outfits ironed and folded up in neat piles, but it contributes to getting to the point where you feel ready for baby’s arrival. Big part of baby’s entrance and the impact it will have on your life feel surreal and are hard to imagine. Holding, ironing, organizing and folding those tiny baby clothes makes you pause for a moment, to think about the time to come, to imagine the little human that will wear those clothes you chose and bought with so much love and anticipation.
- Pamper myself. I know that I will be super busy in a few weeks, with a baby attached to most of the time. I’ll be glad if I’ve managed to get a shower at the end of the day. So the coming weeks, I’ll go to the hairdresser, get a pregnancy massage, get a facial and anything else in that range I can think of. I also got the sweet invitation to be treated to a manicure/pedicure and high tea day from one of my best friends who’ll also be on leave. It’s close to my due date (I mean: who doesn’t want to have perfect nails giving birth!), so baby better keeps to the due date so I can get pretty for its arrival 🙂
- Keep as fit as possible. As said earlier, giving birth is like running a marathon. And just like with a marathon, you’ll recover more quickly if you actually trained for it. Just as with my first pregnancy, I plan to visit my pregnancy fitness class, go for walks, cycle and go swimming just until the day this baby decides to makes its entrance. Of course this all depends on your health and how a pregnancy goes, and I can call myself lucky that so far I haven’t had any issued that kept me from staying physically active.
- Prepare for the actual birth. I am a head-person. I need books, theories and instruction manuals to read and memorize and get the feeling I know what I am doing. This also goes for giving birth. Of course, during the event itself, you just ‘go with the flow’ in the end. But the breathing instructions and exercises I got the last time during pregnancy yoga definitely gave me a guideline to hold on to. This time around, I also did a hypnobirthing course and it involves exercises and meditation sessions that you’re supposed to repeat until birth. I’m curious to see if it will help somehow, so I’ll give it a try as I heard lots of positive things about this method.
- Have coffee (or tea) with people: The last couple of weeks, I’ve slowed down and planned as little as possible. I was ill more often than ever and all the energy that was left was needed for the final things at work. Now I use the chance to see people I haven’t in a while, and that I might not see until baby is already a well known member of our family.