The lost maternity leave

Being pregnant in the middle of a lockdown was hard enough, but nothing compares to the harsh reality of raising a new-born baby at a time when I was barely allowed to leave the house.

Today was Thea’s first settling in session at nursery, in the blink of an eye my little new-born baby is off to nursery three days a week, starting in just two weeks’ time. She’s off to the same nursery that Jack went to and it’s a wonderful place. I’m really fortunate that we’ve got such a lovely nursery right on our doorstep, the staff have hardly changed so straight away asked how I was and how Jack is, plus Thea will be having the same key worker that Jack had; so really, I should be feeling totally at ease, but I’m far from it.

I’m angry that my maternity leave has had a dark cloud over it the whole time thanks to this pandemic. When Thea was born, we had to be careful about who we would allow in to the house, second guessing our decisions when it should be such a happy time and we shouldn’t even have to worry about restrictions and guidelines, there’s some family members that still haven’t had a cuddle with her yet. We couldn’t spend her first Christmas with our whole family like we had planned, then I had to spend 8 weeks juggling a baby and home-schooling a four-year-old! 

I’m upset that Thea has missed out on so much. Baby classes that I had signed up to were cancelled or switched to zoom, playdates simply weren’t allowed. I couldn’t even pop to someone’s house for a tea and have a little break while they enjoyed baby cuddles, the best I got was a walk in the freezing cold. I couldn’t even get my baby weighed because the clinics were deemed ‘not COVID safe’, she’s been weighed once since she was around 8 weeks old, and even that I had to persuade a health visitor that I was worried about her weight and it was up to them to decide if I could bring her in.   

I’m so nervous to start the parent-work juggle once again. I’m unbelievably fortunate that I work with an incredible team, but that doesn’t stop my anxious mind worrying that people are going to be frustrated when I have to do school runs and nursery pick-ups, or the days when I’ve got the children at home with me while Shane and I both try and work as well as parent. Yes, it’s going to mean longer working days for me and I’m ok with that, it’s just everything else in between. It’s the cooking, cleaning, keeping on top of homework, piano and karate classes, and making sure Thea doesn’t keep rolling under the blooming sofa, a trick that she likes to do at any given opportunity!

Am I throwing myself a little pity party? Yes. Do I feel like I deserve one? Absolutely. Some people tell me that I should be grateful for the quality time we’ve spent together, but to be honest there’s a big chunk of this maternity leave that was far from quality time, it’s was crying-on-a-daily-basis stressful because this isn’t what I asked for. I was pregnant before the word COVID-19 was in people’s vocabulary, it’s not as if I got pregnant in the middle of it all and hoped that it would be over by the time Thea arrived. It’s only now that I’ve been able to take Thea to baby groups and I’ve been able to enjoy playdates and trips out with friends and their little ones, and just as I’m finally being able to enjoy my time off, it’s time to go back to work.

I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling this way, and I know that in a in a month or two when I’m back in to the swing of the work-parenting juggle then I’ll feel much better, but until then I’ll probably find myself crying every time anyone mentions the word nursery! 

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