How I Survived Maternity Leave
Okay, so the title is a little misleading. I LOVED being on mat-leave. Well, okay maybe not at first. The first few weeks after having a baby for me as a new mom were HARD. Happy and joyous yes, but also really painful, and draining, and just plain hard both physically and mentally. But, there were a few pretty key things that I can attribute my sense of well-being during mat-leave to and I’ll list them for ya here!
1. Find a community
I recently watched that Tina Fey movie, where she’s a reporter in Kabul, Afghanistan. There’s a part where the reporter-community called it “living in the Ka-bubble” when referring to the discombobulated sense of reality of being a “first world” reporter living in war-torn Kabul — it’s not real life it’s the Ka-bubble, they said. Well, I’ll call mat-leave “living in Ma-bubble“. There is nothing like being suddenly plucked from your daily work/life routine and being plopped straight into motherhood… quite literally overnight!
Truly humbling. But also very much REAL LIFE.
Being in Ma-bubble, you’ve got to find other people to experience it with. And not just your old friends and family. For me the difference came when I met other new moms in my “cohort”. So when Bobo pooped 5 times in one day, I didn’t feel like a maniac asking them how many times their babies pooped that day too. And finding like-minded moms with babies it was easy to send a text and say, “Hey, wanna go to mom & baby bootcamp tomorrow?”
Find go-to moms. The Sisterhood of the Ma-bubble.
Finding the right community of moms for me first started when I stumbled into an Ontario Early Years Bridgeway Center. I signed up for all the workshops and was there EVERY DAY. Meeting and chatting with other moms helped me find out about other mom & baby things to do and mostly it helped me find other moms that I could “grow up” with for the year. It was something I had no idea I needed, but now that I look back on it, this community of imperfect, real moms was the most crucial piece of the puzzle of surviving the year-or-so of living in Ma-bubble.
2. Be committed to solving your stresses
Seriously, if you’re stressed about baby’s sleep (or lack thereof), or how to bathe them, or how to get them in and out of the carseat — or whatever it is! — please do yourself a favour and prioritize finding a solution to the issue. I’m not saying you’ll find a solution right away — or at all sometimes even. But if you make it something actionable in your day it will give you something to tackle and that in itself is something to be proud of. 🙂
For me it was breastfeeding. Oh yes, the age-old question “Is my baby getting enough milk?”. Because he was such a little guy and weight gain was slow, slow going and because it felt like he was just always on the boob, this question plagued me like no other. So every week I put it on my list to visit a lactation consultant, go to a workshop, sit in at a Breastfeeding Cafe, or drop-in at a baby-carrier meet-up, you name it I was there. Just talking to other moms and experts and trying to learn what I could about it all.
I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes there is no solution. But committing to do something about it gave me the confidence to know that I was doing my best for Bobo and that’s what mattered.
3. Plan your week
Ultimately for me, the common thread in this whole list came down to getting myself some new outfits (things that fit my newly warped and now still ever-changing body), doing my hair (at least a little), slapping on some make-up and GETTING MY BUTT OUT THE DOOR. Even though it was -30 degrees in January and little Bobo was barely a month old… getting out the door with him forced me to interact with people and to spend time with my little guy in the real world. When you’re cooped up at home it’s awfully easy to fall into a rut when the nursing sessions are 15- going on 45-minutes long. 😐
Once I found things to do, I’d line up my week with Mother Gooses, Mom & Baby Fitness classes, Stars and Strollers movies, outings to museums, or to visit friends and family.
Every day in my calendar had to have something in it. Not to mention it did a great job of helping me build a sense of regularity and routine for Bobo. Meal/nurse, then outing/activity, then nap, then meal/nurse, then activity… and on and on. (I’m still constantly planning my days around his nap times… does that habit ever go away?)
My Mat-Leave Resources
So there you have it. My top three notes for how I survived mat-leave and here is my bullet list of the specific resources, workshops, activities, what-have-you, that I used this year. Many are local resources but I’m sure if you do a little digging you could find relevant activites and resources in your area too.
- Bridgeway Centre Ontario Early Years – Such an amazing resource for new moms. Like I said there was a time when I was here almost everyday at a workshop or in a class or just dropping in to let Bobo play and burn off some energy before naptime.
- Fitness by the Lake & Power Yoga Canada Mississauga – I decided early on to prioritize getting my body back to feeling like myself and I couldn’t have done it without the completely welcoming atmosphere at the mom & baby classes at these two studios. Enough said.
- Peel Public Health Clinic Lactation Consultants – Very knowledgeable and helpful nurses here, even if it’s just a quick weigh-in or question drop by or make an appointment.
- Stars & Strollers – I love to watch movies so I was pretty disappointed that I wasn’t able to go watch the new Star Wars when it came out being that I had to stay home with my very newborn! So imagine my delight when I discovered that I could bring him along to a daytime showing just for moms and their babes?! Before Bobo was moving I think I saw 5 or 6 movies at Cineplex!
- Parent & Tot Swimming, Mississauga Community Centres – The Clarkson Community Centre has a therapeutic pool and the drop-ins are a few times a week for under $5! I went every week for a while… soothing warm water for mom and baby builds confidence being in the water too. Win-win.
- Mississauga Library Family Time – During the school year these family storytimes are great for infants, toddlers, and pre-schoolers. In the summer, the programme is more geared towards school-going kiddos.
- Halton-Peel Baby Wearers – A great baby wearing resource with meet-ups about once a month or so where you can go try on different types of carriers and wraps and see what works for you and your baby.
- World of My Baby (WOMB) – A studio/clinic dedicated to all things pre and post natal.
- Hooray for Play – An indoor playroom where you and your kids can hang out and play with all the kid toys for the day. It would be a good space for birthday parties.
- Museums/Aquariums etc. – Nothing like making a trip to the city and playing tourist. There are so many things that I enjoyed doing in Toronto that I just never had time for before because weekdays were work-days and weekends were just too busy.
- Babylicious – You know Summerlicious and Winterlicious in Toronto, right? Well PC put on a Babylicious last year to promote their Organic baby food. Three-course prix-fix meal for mom/dad and baby? Sign me up… again! Well, if they do it again, that is.
- Children’s Discovery Centre – This was at a temporary location last year. But I hope they find permanent digs soon, cuz I want to go back! And Bobo does too!
- The Official Port Credit Mocha Moms & Mocha Muscles – Last but not least, these are Facebook groups for local moms. I’m not one for joining many FB groups, but a friend recommended it and whaddaya know, now I’m on the admin team! We plan events and gatherings for moms to grab a coffee and meet-up. During the summer time the coffee meet-ups and presentations by experts give way to “field-trip” style outings all over the city. Lots of fun and so educational too. (The Mocha Muscles group is specifically about joining in fitness challenges to stay motivated and keep healthy.) Join these amazing groups if you’re in the Port Credit area and if you’re not in the area find or make your own groups!
Once you start to scratch the surface there are so, so many resources out there it’s just a matter of getting your foot out the door and exploring a little bit with your little squish-baby. 🙂