Despite my protests that maternity leave isn't a holiday, I had planned to enjoy it. Maybe write a book, take more time for painting, cook everyday, get fit, lose all the baby weight, go to yoga, swim etc. etc. etc. Having worked in a job with demanding hours, maternity leave seemed to offer much more 'me-time.'
But on Monday I rejoin the world of work after 13 glorious months at home with the baby (who's basically an adult these days with 6 whole teeth!) and I can safely say I've achieved none of these. Maternity Leave hasn't been what I expected.
In fact none of it has.
1. Labour (well not strictly speaking, as I never went into labour. Honestly couldn't tell you what a labour pain feels like.)
Firstly, my scheduled two or three weeks of nesting, rest and relaxation at the start were rudely interrupted when after only five days off from work, Pearl pulled the plug and my waters broke. I knew something wasn't right because instead of squirming and kicking she'd been vibrating all evening. We were half awake in the early hours of Friday 23 June, listening to the Brexit vote results filtering in from various London boroughs. When it became apparent that the British had actually voted for Brexit, I wet myself.
Towards the end of the pregnancy, I was up every 30 minutes or so needing to get to the bathroom so I wasn't surprised. Just irritated. They were clean sheets. I got up, went to the loo and stood frozen to the bathroom floor as the fluid kept gushing. I phoned my Mum (it was 3.30 am but she'd told me to call anytime) and then Holles St. I was a couple of weeks out from the due date and everyone told me she'd be late so I wasn't expecting this.
Three days later she arrived. THREE DAYS! Three long sweaty days in the Holles St holding pen on an antibiotic drip, trying to read the paper while listening to other women screaming in agony, which ended with an unwanted epidural, a failed induction and ultimately an emergency C-section*.
And the itch!
I almost forgot. A reaction to the morphine left me with an all-over itch which deepened every hour. Nothing could scratch it. I couldn't even sleep. I was like a cat, arching and rubbing myself on bedposts and door frames, anything to ease the unbearable itch.
A nurse helped me have my first shower a day later when the epidural had worn off and the catheter was removed. Yep a catheter. And I nearly had to have another one put in when I realised out of the blue that I hadn't peed in two days which is apparently not good. Another nurse had to sit with me in the en-suite bathroom and coach me through going to bathroom. It was as if I had lost the muscles required but she told me they were still there; I just had to learn to reach them again.
I had to lift up my abdomen just to shower the scar. I gingerly felt my lower abdomen and asked her when the layers of wadding and gauze would be removed. She looked at me like I was mad and told me that there was no gauze. It was my own stretched, distorted skin and flab. I had lost all feeling in the area after the operation. It felt like I was poking at someone else. Zero sensation.
I've often thought that if men had C- sections, we'd hear a lot more about it. It's a serious operation. You are sliced open (usually awake) and stitched up afterwards only to be handed a tiny human and told to breastfeed it. And then to look after it for ever. The only pain relief was paracetamol and the occasional Difene. And when they wore off.....FUUUUUCCCKKK. That's the only way to describe the pain.
To spare you further details let me just say that I had pencilled in personal training to begin two weeks after the birth. I was going to a friend's wedding and I thought I was just going to bounce right back to normal! That was unrealistic. A section means no exercises and no driving for 6 weeks. So when paternity leave ends, you're stranded at home alone. Thank God for Dublin Bus! BTW I went to the wedding. I waddled around in a black sack dress, nude Louboutins and an obnoxiously large hat** and made the best of it.