Thoughts on Maternity Leave
Our little guy is 3 months old today! It’s hard to believe how much he’s grown and overcome, especially considering this time 3 months ago we didn’t know if he’d live through the day or not. We are thankful every single moment for him- even when he’s crying!
My maternity leave ended up being longer than anticipated since my son arrived 4 weeks early. I am lucky to work in a state that provides some paid maternity leave so between sick time and temporary disability/caregiver leave, my leave will clock in at 16 weeks. I go back to work in September so I still have a few more weeks to soak up cuddles and smiles. I am incredibly fortunate that even when I return to work, I will be working a mostly part-time schedule in the office and working from home on other days. We’re also beyond grateful that my mother is willing and able to care for our little guy in our home, saving us daycare costs and letting Gray’s immune system get stronger before he’s out with other babies.
I took my son to meet my coworkers last week and one of them ( a childless man) asked me the other day if my maternity leave was restful, to which of course, I laughed. Sure there were days when we didn’t leave the house and I went from pajamas to lounge clothes to pajamas, but each day of caring for a tiny human with medical issues is definitely not restful. He’s a great baby and so much of his early month of life was filled with tears and stress that even his most crazy crying fit didn’t seem all that bad. But he’s a little human learning something new every single day– I can’t even wrap my head around that or not being able to verbalize beyond crying if something itches or is uncomfortable. All that “normal” baby stuff topped with a brain and body that is healing from trauma is a lot for anyone, let alone a tiny human!
My leave has been filled with doctor’s appointments and visiting nurses which has been a bit of blessing because so many people have been keeping their eyes on him. It should be mandatory that every new mother gets a visit or two from a nurse, especially in those first few weeks you’re home and have no clue what to do. We went through a baby boot camp crash course in the NICU in baby care, getting Gray on a schedule, and so on. I don’t know how people do this without a partner, family, or friends around. It really takes a huge village to support.
I cannot imagine Gray would have had the care he received if we didn’t have amazing private insurance – with the exception of my care and a few of his x-rays, everything has been covered because we met our deductible pretty quickly. If we had to pay out of pocket, Gray’s treatments alone are already above $25,000. it makes me sick to my stomach to think a little baby would get transferred to a lesser facility or be denied care because of insurance or a parent’s inability to pay out of pocket.
One thing I will say about maternity leave is that it didn’t provide me the clarity about life and career that I thought it would. Yes, being away from work so abruptly and taking care of my new human definitely showed us what our values are and that our current jobs are just part of the routine at this point. But in terms of getting a feeling that tells me what “I want to be this when I grow up,” I think the only thing I’ve learned is family and health are all that really matters– they are non-negotiable to me now. Finding something that respects and understand that– and values it too– are going to be most important, no matter what the job title is. I don’t want long hours, weekends, or something that’s not going to allow me to be at a doctor’s appointment, or in the future, a school play. So for now, until we know more about Gray’s health now and in future, I’ll likely be staying put in my current role. It doesn’t feel like I’m giving up on doing what I want for my life, but it does feel like I’m putting my son and our family first which is ultimately the right thing for us all at this moment.