Around two years ago, I waddled slowly out of the local pub where myself and colleagues were having a goodbye drink, hailed a black taxi cab and went home to start my maternity leave. It was one of the most joyous feelings ever despite each step feeling like I have a sharp nail stabbing into my right hip and possibly thinking i needed the loo. No, definitely REALLY NEEDING THE LOO. I had agreed with to work from home a couple of times a week but had still been working quite in those hours. The journeys into work had been boring and long as I opted to get two buses rather than try and navigate the rush hour Tube which didn’t always end up with me getting a seat.
I’m not sure I have really made this point enough so early on in this post, but I was MASSIVE. HUMONGOUS. VOLUMINOUS. I would spend evenings just staring at the bump in the mirror, fascinated with how swollen I looked. I wasn’t just a bit fat anymore but well and truly pregnant and there was a baby in there and I would be pushing it out really soon. The fact that I had to work and travel during this time made it really hard to focus full time on this fact and so my maternity leave was very anticipated and looked forward to. I had planned to have around 2/3 weeks to myself before baby arrived. Here are the coping strategies that I applied waiting out those final few weeks and hopefully might help you if you’re now waiting the big day out:
Go Back to Bed
My husband worked solid weekends during this point as it was almost Christmas time and the boom period for the event industry, so I during the first couple of days of my leave I had the house and the cats to myself. The first thing I did was go to back to bed and have a long, lovely deep sleep. Getting up for work in December is hard because it’s so dark, but to do so after having countless sleepless nights in which I would wake up because my entire side had gone numb, or burny heartburn would jolt me awake or because I had to get up for the SEVENTH time to have a wee that wouldn’t even fill an egg cup hadn’t made for restful nights. I slept very well that first weekend let me tell you!
Pick a Box Set and Commit to It
Having worked up to 60 hours weeks in my job, to go to doing nothing was really hard. I would continue to check Skype or have a peek at my emails to see if there was anything anyone needed after my handover. There was not (as first…) As much as I liked sleeping, it could get a little painful laying down all of the time, so I decided to pick a box set on Netflix and commit to it. Something I had always wanted to watch in a row but never quote made the but when I looked at the list. House became a natural choice for me as it appealed to my inner doctor that I had become after Googling countless ‘is this normal’ articles during my 37 weeks.
When you watch a non-stop marathon of a series, do you also start to dream about the episodes and the characters? I would often fall asleep during the day while watching and dream about the episodes because my subconscious could hear them. It was a weird place to be in but strangely comforting especially after 3 seasons in 4 days. I was even able to predict the outcome of episodes they were that formulaic. There’s also enough episodes to cater for the odd pregnancy or birth story and if you don’t want to get yourself all paranoid, avoid S01 E18 ‘Babies and Bathwater‘. After THAT episode, I Googled EVERY sydrome and condition mentioned and Josh had to prise my phone my my hands when he got home from work because I was, all wide eyed and panicked.
Stay Away From Online Forums
I had made friends with other mums-to-be on the BabyCentre forum, which had been my go-to place for reading about how others in the same situation as me were doing. When you join, you are automatically added to a board in which everyone is giving birth in the same month as you and from around OCTOBER people started to drop off and then post ‘Welcoming blah blah born with love blah blah, labour was amazing etc etc’ which is not really what you want to be reading despite that fact that you all spend months together (virtually) pretty much saying the same things over and over: “OH MY GOD OH MY GOD WHAT’S HAPPENING IS IT HAPPENING TO YOU TO ARGH BABY BABY BAY” – or words to that effect. It a very strange thing to stop becoming a group a women to become a group of mothers. I would advise staying away from any online forum you’re part of during these last days because it will CONSUME YOU. The pregnancy hormones will instill a feeling of jealousy like you’ve never imagined every time you see someone announce their birth before yours and even though you’ve still got two weeks of baking to do before you’re own due date, the very fact that you can’t see your feet and you’re swigging from a bottle of Gaviscon means that you really want to stop being preganant quite soon.
Raspberry Tea, Curry, Sex – Whatever Works for You eh?
The ‘not being pregnant’ thing played on my mind very much during this time and before I dumped the online forums, I started to obsess over the old tricks to encourage the baby to arrive earlier. Raspberry tea is thought to contain stuff to help strengthen the muscles of your uterus and so is good to help you prepare for labour but online discussions assume it helps start labour. Nothing you Google during this time will result in one true answer and so you’ll see results suggesting to drink raspberry tea non-stop, drink it only in the mornings, drink it while eating a hot curry or eat hot curry after sex and then have some raspberry tea. One woman (and I hope to god she was a troll) posted the best question I have ever seen on a baby forum: “Should I put ginger biscuits up my bum to help induce labour?” It had got that crazy people. That crazy.
What I found worked for me might not work for you but here’s my top tip: let your body tell YOU when it’s ready and walk. Walk A LOT…and bounce on that yoga ball every night. That’s pretty much everything you can do at that stage.
Nest and Nest Some More
Of course, I hovered around what we were loosely calling ‘the nursery’ (a.k.a. the room that the unbuilt cot was in, leaning against the wall) and folded clothes that I had bought again and again. I even toyed with ironing them at one point (HA! Like I’ve ever done that since!!) and I often waddled down the road to Mothercare and pawed over the tiny outfits and even bought a few. You know that you don’t need more than babygrows and vests at this stage but you want it all. TINY JEGGINGS, TINY CARDIGANS. It will all make your heart burst when you see it and you’ll even cry because you cry at EVERYTHING AT THE MOMENT. Welcome to the nesting stage! I got to put a Christmas tree and decorations up, wrap presents and fawn over what to write in Christmas cards and if you’re due around the same time right now, I would suggest that you do the same. It saved me a hell of a lot of money in the long run and the wrapped presents all looked like they had stepped out of the pages of a Kirsty Alsop magazine feature. Of course, Amazon prime became my biggest friend during this time, so I didn’t actually have to go out and get the goods, they all came to me and I got to fit in another episode or three of House.
Get Ready to Not be Ready
I had my bag packed ready for the hospital. It sat by the front door looking all smug that it had been ready so early. However, and I’ll talk about this in another post, I didn’t really need that much in it and if I had my time again, I would have packed more food and less faffy things. However the process of getting the bag ready helped me to cope with the fundamental truth of what the next few weeks would bring: a new baby. It had been all WOW! PREGNANCY YOU GUYS up until this point and not really having many friends who had kids already, I didn’t really have enough reference points to know what labour or having a newborn would be like. My mum was amazing at imparting advice and I would call her up daily during this period to reassure me that my numb side wasn’t an indication that my arm would fall off or panicking that one boob was massive while the other one was EXTREMELY MASSIVE.
One thing I couldn’t really imagine was what the baby’s face would look like or what the labour would feel like. I spent hours laying in bath, listening to a meditation CD trying to visualise labour and her face after I had given birth, but the image remained fuzzy. It felt like a strange new world was imminent and one in which I could plan for but I really had no clue about. What would labour really feel like? Would I cope? How would I know what to do? In the end I went back to bed and enjoyed the time off. I started to embrace the feeling and am grateful to have the memories of that that time where I wondered and questioned because it meant that when she did arrive, I was so utterly surprised and amazed. Life changed so much after I met her for the first time.
I hope you enjoyed this post. Just don’t Google stuff during this time people. Good luck 🙂