This week is my last week of maternity leave and it turned out to be very different to what I imagined it to be (without even taking into account a global pandemic). Before Rudy arrived, I imagine that my year would be spent reading (while the baby slept), learning (while the baby slept), sewing (while the baby slept) and planning my next career move alongside caring for a baby. Turns out I’ve managed to read a total of maybe three books, learnt how to sit under a sleeping baby for up to three hours with hand cramp and I’ve sewn half a pair of trousers for him. In the last week, it has really hit me how much of a failure I feel as this year comes to an end. I’m constantly battling with feeling like I’m not doing enough and Rudy isn’t doing enough. I’m not teaching him enough, I’m not providing him with enough, that he’s not making enough progress. I’ve been watching as other women spend their maternity leave starting their own companies and achieving goals all the while looking amazing and their babies are solving puzzles, cleaning up and making smoothies at 11 months old. Some days I don’t even brush my teeth, let alone my hair.
The thing is, Rudy is an incredibly easy baby so I’m really struggling with where I’ve gone wrong. He’s always happy, he’s super resilient and easy going. He barely cried after the fourth trimester (and even then it was mostly angry yelling) and has only started to recently out of frustration at wanting to talk and be mobile but it only lasts about ten seconds before he’s smiling again. Obviously, I’ve struggled with his sleep for a long time but it could have been worse and it’s now slowly improving.
I read the books and felt prepared for the newborn phase. I felt, to some degree, like I knew what I was doing. I found it relatively easy to meet his needs and we started to get into a lovely routine of coffee dates with new friends, baby classes and long walks while he slept in his pram. He’s 11 months old today and I feel completely unprepared and have no idea what I’m doing. We’re stuck in the house most days and none of his toys hold his attention so I’m constantly trying to figure out what he would like to play with (turns out it’s a metal whisk and a wooden spoon). He hasn’t been held or touched by anyone else in three months and when I took him into a shop last week for the first time since the beginning of March, he looked terrified.
Being on maternity leave during lockdown has left me feeling like my whole life has been on hold, like I’m waiting for something to happen but it hasn’t. Watching Rudy grow during this time has been such a joy and a privilege but the feelings of guilt and doubt keep threatening to swallow me whole.