Ode to Maternity Leave

Oh, maternity leave. Sweet maternity leave. How I love thee.

I really enjoyed my four-month maternity leave after having Baby Caroline. It was very different than my other maternity leaves. Leave after Campbell was born was oh-so-calm (in retrospect…at the time, of course, I was trying to figure out how to care for a baby and it didn’t always feel calm). Leave after Thomas was born was crazy – going through all the emotions his diagnoses brought on, lots of doctor visits, lots of learning, lots of time spent trying to get my bearings…it’s really all kind of a blur.

My leave with Caroline also was crazy but for much different reasons. Let me tell ya, having three kids under 5 is intense! Wonderful, but intense.

In my typical style, I created a huge to-do list including all sorts of projects to complete while on leave. Paint an outdoor table/chairs set? Go through our storage closets which include boxes of stuff that have yet to be unpacked from when we moved into this house 3.5 years ago? Plant perennials? I’m laughing as I type this. What is wrong with me???? I had obviously forgotten that the ENTIRE reason you have a maternity leave is to care for a brand-new baby who needs round-the-clock attention. So, basically nothing on that silly list got done, but I accomplished a ton while I was off work. Here’s a little recap. Also, I went through the photos on my phone recently and noticed I had a bunch of fun ones that help sum up my leave. They follow.

Recovered from child birth. I think it takes a long time to really, truly feel like yourself again after having a baby. Truth be told, I’ve been all moody and weird even recently…and Caroline is five months old. Pregnancy and child birth jack your hormones up. Am I right? In particular, the first two months after child birth are hard on your body. You’ve got to give yourself a break and take some time to rest and recover.

Adjusted to having not two, but three babies. Or, started to adjust. I’m not sure I’ve got this one figured out quite yet. Having three young children is nuts. People who say having three is no different than having two because you are already used to multitasking – they are crazy. It’s three times the work, for sure. Someone is always needing a diaper change, to be fed, to be cuddled, to be put down for a nap, to get some attention from mama. Having three littles is exactly what we wanted, and I wouldn’t change a thing…but it’s hard work.

Established a relationship with the newest little Raphael. I took the time to establish a bond with Campbell and Thomas, and it was very important to me to do the same with Caroline. I knew that once my leave was up, it would be hard for me to find time to be with just Caroline, and I think babies and their mamas need lots of time for just the two of them to get to know each other. For me, breastfeeding is a natural way to establish an extremely strong physical and emotional connection. While Campbell and Thomas were at school, I spent lots of time feeding Caroline, holding her during naps, and answering her every beck and call. Those few quiet hours at home alone were really the only times I could respond to her every need, so I spoiled her rotten. Babies deserve to be spoiled, you know.

Picked up older kids early from preschool. We dropped the after care at preschool while I was on leave, so Campbell and Thomas got out every day at 3 p.m. I loved having them home early, and I think they really enjoyed the extra time at home, too. When I am working, we are on the go so much that it was nice for the kids to do simple things like play in their rooms, swing on the playset outside, watch a movie…all in the middle of the afternoon. We also had fun enjoying afternoon pool time when the weather was warm. {Can winter please hurry on out of here so we can open our pool up again?}

Established the concept of “Girls’ Days.” I’ve learned that once you have three kids, you sometimes can’t take all of them on outings without it 1) being a complete disaster, or 2) taking away from someone’s fun experience. As my oldest, Campbell should have the opportunity every now and then to enjoy activities just for her without the distractions of both a toddler and a baby. So, there were several days when we took Thomas to school (he has therapies at school multiple times per week anyway, and I don’t like for him to miss those), and Campbell, Caroline, my mother, and I would set out for a “Girl’s Day.” Campbell ate this up. We shopped, we went to lunch, we even went to Disney On Ice: Princesses and Heroes {in the middle of the day…on a Friday…weird!}.

Participated in therapies. Thomas has five to six therapy sessions each week (combination of speech, feeding, physical and occupational). Many of them he receives at school. I went to as many of the sessions as possible. I like to be a part of them so I can get tips from the therapists on ways I can replicate what they are doing at home.

Visited Saddle Up. This place is awesome…and who knew there was such a thing as therapeutic horseback riding? When Thomas was born, I had multiple people tell me to look into Saddle Up and to get him on the long wait list as soon as possible. At the time, I couldn’t even think about something like this. There were much more important matters at hand related to Thomas, so this fell by the wayside. But, I didn’t forget about all those recommendations. So glad I visited to learn more about it. Thomas is on the wait list now. They think he’ll be able to start in about three years. If he likes it, it seems like it would be a great (and fun!) way to supplement any other therapies he might be getting to keep his muscles strong. Think about the core and hip strength it takes to ride a horse.

Worked on beefing up my boy. Thomas is a little guy, and it’s hard to get weight on him. I have been focused on his weight gain pretty much since the day he was born. For quite a few months, he had been hovering around 20 pounds. Thomas can’t quite handle finger foods yet – he’s still eating pureed food. This is due to his hypotonia, which is a lack of muscle tone that is characteristic of Down syndrome. This limits the sorts of foods he’s eating. Also, he’s grown into a very active fella – always on the move. These two things combined meant I couldn’t get weight on him no matter how much I seemed to be feeding him. While I was on leave, I met with his pediatrician, a nutritionist and his feeding therapist to assess his weight and his food/calorie intake. We put together a plan to beef him up. I’ve been pureeing table foods rather than giving him the packaged baby foods to get more fat and calories in him (and to provide him with more variety in flavor/spice). I’ve been adding butter and olive oil to his food. For example, I’ve been feeding him oatmeal every morning with a healthy slab of butter thrown in. His new favorite snack is banana mashed with some whole milk and about a tablespoon of peanut butter. The results have been great. At his last weight check, Thomas was up to 23+ pounds. Woo hoo!

Went to our first University of Tennessee football game as a family. Oh, yes. We did this. And, we actually had a really great time. We set low expectations for the experience and far exceeded them. We took the kids to Calhoun’s on the river (a Knoxville staple) the night before the game to meet up with some friends. The weather on game day was beautiful. We tailgated a little bit with some friends and took advantage of a kids’ area on campus (bounce house, obstacle course, etc.) before heading to Neyland Stadium to watch the pre-game activities. We made it all the way through the third quarter. Thomas was enamored by everything and really watched the game. Campbell didn’t particularly care about any of it. In fact, her favorite part of the entire trip was staying in the hotel. {I love how kids take such pleasure in the little things.} We made some memories and had lots of fun.

Celebrated Campbell’s 5th birthday. I feel like someone should have warned me that the 5th birthday is such a milestone. It’s the first birthday Campbell has had when I’ve looked at her and not seen any traces of a baby. She’s all girl now. I’m very proud of this little girl and enjoyed celebrating her birthday at a party at our home with her friends and our family.

I am so thankful for the time I had during this maternity leave. Lucky girl, I am.

Poolside with Baby Caroline

Poolside with Baby Caroline

Afternoon pool time

Afternoon pool time

Pooltime #selife with Campbell

Pooltime #selfie with Campbell

Afternoon movie snuggles with my boy

Afternoon movie snuggles with my boy

Quiet baby snuggles while big kids were at school

Quiet baby snuggles while big kids were at school

Practicing tummy time (not a fan)

Practicing tummy time (not a fan)

Thomas says "touchdown" in his Peyton Manning jersey

Thomas says “touchdown” in his Peyton Manning jersey

"Girl's Day" lunch date with Campbell

“Girl’s Day” lunch date with Campbell

Lots of beautiful walks were had while on leave

Lots of beautiful walks were had while on leave

I actually get to look at this scenery while walking the trails that I can hit right outside my front door.

I actually get to look at this scenery while walking the trails that I can hit right outside my front door.

Campbell joined me on her bike for a few of my walks

Campbell joined me on her bike for a few of my walks.

Bike ride/walk #selfie

Bike ride/walk #selfie

Thomas with some of his ground table food

Thomas with some of his pureed table food

We skipped school here and there and stayed in our jammies. Sometime, they even matched.

We skipped school here and there and stayed in our jammies. Sometimes, they even matched.

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3 thoughts on “Ode to Maternity Leave

  1. I am enjoying your blog so much Mary Ruth. It is such a privilege to read about your special family. After reading your blog, I feel like I just left a lunch date with an old friend :) It’s food for my soul while I am on maternity leave. Much love, Maury

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