I hated maternity leave. I worked up until I was 38.5 weeks pregnant and then I finally gave in and took time off due to late pregnancy fatigue. Jack was quite overdue, so my leave ended up being quite a bit longer than I had planned (those extra 11 days seemed like forever). While I waited for signs of impending labor, signs that did not come, I e-mailed my co-workers nearly every day to get work news; most of them would tell me nothing except, “Enjoy your time off!” I checked my work email from home, responding when I could. I would have gladly taken things home with me if I did not have a temp at work that was easily keeping up on the workload by herself.
Being around other people is vital to my mental health. That is something I’ve learned to understand and respect about myself as I’ve grown older and as I’ve learned how to manage and avoid depression. In isolation I drive myself crazy with my constantly racing thoughts; work related projects energize me and give my mind a direction and my thoughts a purpose. Maternity leave was like being strapped into a straight jacket and locked in a white cell for days on end – I could not wait to get out.
The first two weeks after Jack was born were difficult for me, full of nursing troubles, cat naps, and getting exercise to ward off the baby blues. We had some visitors, including Joe’s parents, to break up the days. Joe went back to work two weeks after Jack was born, the same day his parents returned to Wisconsin, and except for brief visits from family and friends, I was left alone with my newborn. By the time Jack was a month old, everyone I knew had returned to their regularly scheduled life. I quickly went stir-crazy.
I see this happening with other new moms and yet I’m helpless in the face of their loneliness. I still have no notion as to how to avoid the isolation of the post partum time. Looking back now, returning to work when Jack was 6 weeks old seems really early but I remember all too well how those days dragged on while I waited for Joe to get home and take over. There was nothing to keep me sane except for the breastfeeding support group that I attended for two hours each week. I loved that group for getting me out of the house, but I made no friends there. I returned home after the session every week only slightly less lonely.
I did not have a child so that I could stick him in daycare for someone else to raise, yet I cannot be a stay-at-home parent, as I have neither the money nor the mental capacity to withstand it. Perhaps in a different time or place, I could have done it. Because in my view, not only does it take a village to raise a child, but it takes a tightly-knit community to support parents.
By the way, it’s national delurk day! Please leave a comment to let me know you’re out there. It doesn’t have to be related to this post, but I’d love to hear your thoughts if you have something to add!