Dear Maternity Leave


{This piece was written pre-pandemic. While daily life looks different than it did back in February, the sentiment of this post still hits home to those of us who have experienced the end of maternity leave.}

Dear Maternity Leave | Central Mass MomDear Maternity Leave,

This is my last day of maternity leave and I have been dreading this day for weeks. I have been crying at the thought of leaving my son to return to the office. I’ve been worried that he will forget me or imagining the milestones that I will miss. My first day away from my baby is only hours away. As I rock my son to sleep, it hit me how much I should be thankful for instead of feeling sad.

My tears have changed from sadness to gratitude.

I’m grateful that I brought a healthy baby home. Many face difficult paths in order to have their child and many families never get to bring their child home. For this I am thankful.

Those early weeks were hard. Very hard. They were filled with the physical toll of birth, fluctuating hormones, hours spent pumping, and days with too little sleep. But they are a distant memory now. A whole lifetime has passed since those first days as a mom. In these short months, I have gone from barely leaving the house to being out all day running errands with my baby in tow.

I am grateful for this season of life that showed me how strong I am and that the storms will pass.

I was able to go to a new mom’s meetup. It was so nice meeting moms with babies the same age as my son. We got coffee and sat talking about our babies and their schedules and shared advice from people in the same stage. I am thankful for these women and their friendship.

“He’ll never be this little ever again.”

I witnessed my son change from what I lovingly call the “potato phase” to seeing his first smile, first giggle, and other milestones. I’ve learned how to comfort his cries and I have been there to watch him grow. Obsessed with staring at his sweet face, feeling the rise and fall of his breath, and hearing those little newborn squeaks. One day, I was feeling guilty about holding him for naps and not trying to put him down. My husband told me, “he’ll never be this little ever again.” When I heard those words, I was reminded that someday my son won’t fit so snugly in my arms. Soon he will not want to cuddle up with me when he’s tired. In that small sentence, it hit me – just hold him. I am thankful to have these memories of holding my baby while he was so small.

My house is a mess and it’s nearing February and our Christmas bins haven’t made it up to the attic yet. The spare room didn’t get organized and I didn’t hang the decorations in the nursery as I thought I would. My house wasn’t sparkling clean the whole time and we got take out for dinner more than I’d like to admit. I’m thankful for a safe space to call home and raise my child in.

I am lucky to return to work with a promotion there waiting for me. Fortunately, I didn’t have to worry about the cost of being out of work like many families do. I’m grateful to live in a state that has prioritized paid maternity leave and this will soon change. I am angry that maternity leave in America is flawed, and that so many don’t have enough or any time at home after having a baby.

These months have been grueling and long, but also beautiful and short.

This gift is not lost on me. I will return to work tomorrow, ready to get back in the routine I once had. It will be different in many ways, but I am different in many ways. I’ve grown into my role as a mother and am thankful to now add “working” to that title. My tears have changed from sadness to gratitude. I am ready to walk into that office with a thankful heart and framed photo of my child to put on my desk.

Thank you, maternity leave.


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