by Carmella De Lucia
This week I returned to work after nine months of maternity leave.
As if the experience of becoming a mother wasn’t a huge shock to the system, coming back to work after this life changing event was every bit as core-shaking.
Last July when I waddled out of the office for the last time at 39 weeks pregnant, I had absolutely no idea the enormity of how much life was about to change. My job was one of the biggest things in my life and to go from full time career mode to full time mother in a matter of days took a lot of getting used to.
There are the inevitable questions that race through your head - will things still be the same when I come back? Will anyone miss me? Will I be welcomed back?
Maternity leave can be an extremely lonely and uncertain time for anyone who values their job as much as I do, and anyone who watched the recent BBC thriller The Replacement, about one woman’s experience of maternity leave, will understand that. (Luckily, my replacement was lovely and didn’t turn out to be a mentally disturbed psychopath).
I remember the night I returned from hospital with my beautiful baby girl, that day Theresa May had become the second female Prime Minister in the history of the UK.
I was itching to write an article for this page (Women 2day) and wanted to get out my laptop right then and there but soon realised, for the first time in six years, my services were not going to be needed at the Chronicle for almost a year.
Instead I was facing endless months of changing dirty nappies, painful breastfeeding and sleepless nights. What had I done?
“Your brain actually undergoes a physical transformation when you become a mother,” says Heather Wittenberg, PsyD, family psychologist and founder of BabyShrink.com. “What feels overwhelming right now will in time become second nature.”
“Mothers learn how to work smarter, not harder. So realize that your anxiety is normal for now, but have faith in yourself — you’ll figure it all out.”
Sure enough, as time went on, watching Homes Under the Hammer became the new norm for me, and I suddenly began to gain perspective and realise that I was not the same person I was when I left work, and actually - I would never be that same person again.
Years ago when I had imagined being on maternity leave, I had all these grand plans. I’d rediscover my love of reading and read a book a week while the baby napped peacefully. I’d start writing that novel that had always been in the back of my mind. And I’d spend my days having leisurely lunches with the other baby mums I’d met along the way.
Unfortunately I achieved only one of these - but it ended up being the most important one and I count myself very lucky to have made two amazing friends at ante natal classes. Our girls were all born within three days of each other and it’s given us a bond I feel sure will last for years to come.
If you are about to start maternity leave yourself, I truly recommend getting out and trying to meet mums in the same position as yourself. As well as giving you some company through the long days, it’s great swapping tips on baby stuff too.
Looking back at the past nine months, the time has gone so fast, and but when you’re in the misty sleep fuddled fog of the 4 month sleep regression the days can go on forever. It is now almost painful to leave my baby in the hands of someone else every day, but it is all part of the emotional rollercoaster that is being a parent, and I will readjust back into life at work, balanced with life at home.
If you’re in a similar position, I wish you the best of luck. It is a transition that most women have to go through and like anything, takes time to get used to. But we’ll get there. After all, we’ve done the hard part in creating a human life. Everything else is plain sailing.