24 October 2013

Maternity leave 'to do' lists

Last night I went to a 'class' designed to prepare me for the realities of becoming a Mum again. I smiled, nodded and rolled my eyes in all the right places but ultimately I didn't feel like I needed 'preparing'. I felt exactly the same first time around. Something about being pregnant fills me with a wonderful (naive) optimism. Maybe the blood that should be powering my brain is too busy in my womb but my pregnancy mantra is "this baby is going to be a doddle". 

Two years ago I was a newly married, pregnant, paediatric nurse, full of confidence and excitement about becoming a Mum. I 'knew' babies and reassured everyone around me that I understood how it might be 'tiring' or 'emotional', but essentially I felt maternity leave was just that, a long period of time off work in which I got to play with my very own, very cute (and not poorly) baby. Like annual leave, but with more cuddles. I even had a list of things I would do whilst on maternity leave (which, by the way would only be 8 or 9 months because I was going to 'miss working' so much!!!).

Here I am in early labour, eating blue ice lollies and taking funny photos.  I'm probably saying: "This is going to be a doddle"

Here is my 'maternity to do' list first time round:

1. Do my dissertation

While I was pregnant first time I was deluded enough to believe that during the baby's naps (which would be regular and at least a few hours long) I would lock myself away in the office (spare room) and diligently complete my masters in children's nursing. I had started it during pregnancy, got all the files, post-its, highlighters, ordered 'How to write your dissertation' by Nurse Brains from Amazon and had written a detailed action plan including such phrases as "As I will be giving birth during this month, I have allowed an extra 2 weeks for this chapter". Clearly, all I needed was a fortnight to get used to being a Mum and I would jump right back in to it. Being the realistic and sensible woman that I was, I knew it might take me slightly longer than the nurses without babies so I signed up for a 2 year programme. The deadline was set for when my baby would be 18 months old. A lifetime away. It's just a big essay, I'd get it done in half the time. 

The baby is now coming up to 18 months old. He will in fact be precisely that old on the day his little brother is due to be born. I'm proud to say that in that 'lifetime' I have not even opened 'How to write your dissertation' and the post-its, highlighters and files remain pristinely preserved beneath a layer of dust in the spare room. 

You see the clear folder on top of the large green one on the 2nd shelf? That's my dissertation.

2. Paint.

A year before Boy1 was born and a few weeks after we had got married my husband bought me a lovely wooden case of oil paints and brushes for my birthday. I was thrilled as we had spent a large portion of our somewhat rainy honeymoon curled up in front of a fire in a little Irish cottage watching a charming programme in which an old man taught the viewers to paint with oils. I am far from artistic and have absolutely no talent in the area but I loved trying to paint and soon developed my own 'style'. (Draw outlines of stuff in pencil - fill in the line with bright colours). Boy1's bedroom is littered with bold animal silhouettes, like 'kangaroo in purple' and 'some butterflies on green' which I lovingly created for him and which he has definitely glanced at on at least 3 occasions. Once, he even pointed to the oddly peppermint green stegosaurus and said 'dada!', which I think meant 'great dinosaur painting Mum!'. 

I'm equally proud to say that boy2's room will be littered with home painted, lovingly crafted animal pictures too. They will be the exact same ones that are currently in boy1's room because my beautiful wooden oil painting set is also carefully preserved under approximately 18 months worth of dust in the spare room. 

Peppermint Dinosaur on the wall in the nursery, ready to wow Boy2.

3. Learn Spanish

This one was added to the list when boy1 started to spend more than 5 minutes at a time not breastfeeding, around 5 months after he was born. We had booked a holiday to Spain before he was even born, secure in the knowledge that by 5 months old he would be a predictable, easy going travel companion. As it turned out, surprisingly, he was. A few weeks before the trip we had discovered a way to make him sleep during the day (yes, that does imply, correctly, that prior to this he did NOT sleep during the day). Our new regime involved him being wrapped in a particular pramsuit (known as "the polar bear") and pushed in his buggy until he slept. At which point he had to be left outside to finish his nap as any change in temperature/ambience/background noise/smell would wake him. 
During these ridiculous and numerous 'nap walks' (before, during and after our holiday) I listened to a brilliant set of audiobooks and learnt Spanish. I loved it, my brain felt more alive than it had done since before I was pregnant and I was bound to be fluent by the end of the year.

I would love to conclude this blog by spouting off (in Spanish) that this is the only thing I managed to stick at whilst raising boy1, but unfortunately he stopped being a feeding/sleeping machine and got really, really fun at about 8 months. I no longer had to traipse around the park practising my Spanish verbs 3 times a day and the area of my brain devoted to learning language is now filled with boy1's favourite nursery rhymes, songs and his ever expanding vocabulary of different words which sounds a bit like 'dada'.

Yep, that's my baby, asleep, in the snow.  

As I embark on maternity 'leave' for the second time, I have written myself a new list. This time I plan to take a whole year off so my list is a bit more ambitious:

1. Have a nap.

I honestly intend to take at least one nap during the day in boy2's first year of life. 

2. Get my haircut.

Again, just one time. I think I will be able to manage an afternoon without either boy to go and get my haircut. I'm no fool though, I know this won't be humanly possible before boy2 is at least 9 months old. 

3. Write some more blogs.

One thing I do seem to have had time to do is update my facebook  status several times a day with comments about how bizarre/disgusting/dull/charming life as a Mum can be. As most of my facebook friends are childless drunks (no offence - I'm insanely jealous of your carefree lives) I think they get a bit bored of me. Maybe I can save up all the funny things I want to say on facebook and put them on here instead. Maybe I'll get really good at it and write a couple of new blogs a week. I think that's realistic isn't it? After all, raising 2 boys is going to be a doddle!


  1. Childless Drunk Here - I love this blog Lamos. It makes me want to learn Spanish and buy post its.

    1. Thanks Amy. That's exactly the response I was hoping to evoke.