A Tale of Two Maternity Leaves

It's an understatement to say it's been a minute since I last posted (six months ago, to be exact). Between Montana winter, pregnancy, and the pandemic -- a particularly deadly combination which made every week feel like a year -- I've since had my second child and moved from San Francisco/Bozeman to the Beehive State. I can barely remember what life was like last time I sat down to write.


My baby girl -- I'm giving her the nickname Marzipan to go along with my soon-to-be 3-year-old son Schnitzel -- arrived in March with thankfully little drama other than needing to be baited out with drugs. Apparently she got the memo that Bozeman spring weather leaves a lot to be desired. I expected full-blown chaos with two littles, but it's actually been remarkably manageable. I am, however, even more thankful for the silver linings of the pandemic, as a husband who is still WFH and family nearby for the first two months of Marzipan's life have been a major boon to little ol' moi.


As I head into the final weeks of this maternity leave [cue hyperventilating into a paper bag], I can't help but reflect on how different it's been compared to my first one.


The days go by so much faster. With Schnitzel, one of the biggest challenges was figuring out what to do with him (and myself) all day, day after day. I went on long walks, did mommy-and-me workout classes, and binge watched countless trashy shows. Though Schnitzel and I had a lot of fun just the two of us, I was always so pumped for when my husband got home and I could talk to someone who used actual words instead of grunts and coos. Now I have a toddler jabbering in my ear non-stop, numerous adults in the house (WFH husband, part-time nanny, grandparents, etc.), and pretty much non-stop action. I definitely don't feel the isolation I did at times on my first maternity leave, but the days are flying by much faster than I would prefer. As my dad always says - tradeoffs.


What baby?! This exuberant toddler seems to demand most of my attention. Also, cement truck!!


I'm less upset by what my body just went through and breastfeeding isn't as onerous. Let me be clear - the first two days of recovery in the hospital were still rough and breastfeeding was still a hot mess (this time with a nasty tongue tie!) But in contrast to last time, I haven't spent my maternity leave trying to come to terms with the trauma my body just went through. In some ways this recovery has been easier since Marzipan weighed 2 lbs less than Schnitzel (thanks, girlfriend!), however I've still had some annoying issues to deal with. I think my more positive attitude comes from knowing that most things do get better with time, saggy boobs aside. Speaking of which, after the aforementioned bumpy start, breastfeeding is not crushing my soul this time. It's still not my favorite activity, but it's tolerable. And at least Marzipan is more appreciative of my efforts.


I don't overanalyze every single decision. I almost get the giggles when I think about my first-time mom brain frantically thinking through every scenario and agonizing over the right thing to do. Should Schnitzel nap now or in 30 minutes? In his crib or carseat? Should I feed him before we leave the house even though it's only been 2 hours since the last feeding? Or bottle or breastfeed on the go? Paci or no? Oh, young grasshopper. While a little strategy can certainly help, babies can be quite the little tricksters and overthinking every move is a pretty big waste of precious mental energy. I now spend about 5 seconds on each decision and just hope for the best. I think the results have been about the same.


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No time to overanalyze like my 90's hero, Cher.


I value my time differently.

Despite my innate desire to be industrious, I don't feel completely useless if I haven't crossed anything off of my ever-growing to-do list at the end of the day. Yes, I still want/need to get sh*t done, but this time around I view spending time with Schnitzel and Marzipan as one of my top priorities. As trite as it sounds, it's because I now fully comprehend just how fast the time goes. I am actually being paid to spend time caring for and bonding with my children - what an incredible luxury! So what if I haven't achieved all of the overly ambitious personal goals I had for maternity leave? They can wait, but my Marzipan won't be a baby forever and my Schnitzel will be starting pre-school soon [cue waterworks].


All in all, this maternity leave has been a decidedly different though equally as profound period of my life. And in that vein, some things haven't been that different. Babies are truly magical creatures who can surprise and delight you whether they are your first or your fifth. It's amazing how many baby quirks -- ahem, dramatic stretching and sighing -- I have forgotten even though it's only been a couple years since Schnitzel was a baby. Like last time, I've also been laser focused on making sure I am in good mental and physical state. That includes getting enough sleep, exercise, me-time, and time with my husband. Basically, I am adhering to the principles I described in my book No Drama First-Time Mama: A Practical Guide to Living Your Best Life as a New Mother and they've been working well for me again despite Marzipan being a different sort of baby (read: higher maintenance with a 100 decibel cry) than Schnitzel. And the last similarity of this maternity leave to the last? I don't want it to end. Aww.


Hope all the other moms of coronials/baby Zoomers/COVID kids are making the most of this weird and wonderful time!