For so many months, the prospect of being on maternity leave glowed in the distance, bringing with it the promise of a new baby, and the exciting, but daunting concept of an extended break from my job. The idea, now, of going back to work, is a hard one to fathom, and though I am lucky enough to have a long time before that happens, I know the months will fly, and the fact that we have already had to start looking at nurseries (9 months in advance, seriously!) has brought it home that this current arrangement isn't a permanent one. So, I'm very conscious of making the most of this time, really appreciating how lucky I am to be able to be at home with my little boy, what a privilege it is.
But then, yesterday, I had an appointment, and when I mentioned to the nurse that I was on maternity leave, she said "Oh that's what I could do with, a holiday". It was a reflexive response, she didn't mean any harm by it, and she was really pleasant and chatty. I got on well with her, but the comment has stuck. It was said so quickly, such a throwaway remark that I didn't even respond before we'd moved on to the next point, and besides which, as she was about to do my smear, it wasn't really the right time to have a heated debate about the reality of maternity leave!
Maybe it's because it's been a particularly tough week. My little boy has had a cough, quite a bad one, the cough til he's sick all over himself, and me, and any surrounding surfaces type of cough. I have spent a lot of the last few days sat on the sofa, beneath a sleeping baby, which I agree sounds like bliss. But that sleeping baby kept waking, and crying, and looking at me with eyes that didn't understand why he was hurting, and a bottom lip quivering that I couldn't make better. He kept coughing himself awake overnight, we have had multiple outfit changes (him, me, The Husband) at all hours of the morning, and I have sung whole concerts in the darkness, standing, swaying with my eyes closed trying to soothe his eyes closed. My hand is constantly reaching for his forehead, hunting out the first signs of a temperature, and I am on a repeating cycle of holding him, soothing him, and feeding him, anything as long as I am there for him.
Yesterday, my parents called by and watched him so I could shower without the fear that he was coughing himself sick alone. They stayed while I had a drink and had something to eat. The day before, he would not be put down without crying so lunch was anything I could manage one handed, which turned out to be slices of ham straight from the fridge and biscuits which I stashed in my cardigan pocket. The Husband does bath time each night so I can have a quick rest, yet my ears are always searching for his cries.
Maybe its because the appointment was the first time I'd left the house in 2 days, the first time I'd not been in the same building as my baby for 3 days, and even that was to do a 20 minute run around the block, but it just stung a little. I knew what she meant, that having an extended break from the day job is what lots of people dream of. Honestly, I was excited about that too, and I still appreciate being able to break off from my career for a while yet know I can return to it. I know lots of people would be dealing with a poorly baby and trying to work full time (The Husband for one!). I know that in between the tears, the coughing, the outfit changes, trying to assess how much of a wet nappy is enough of a wet nappy, how much of a wheeze is too much of a wheeze, it is still bliss to sit holding him, snuggled under a blanket, the rise and fall of his chest against mine, his warm breath on my skin.
But this week particularly has not been a holiday. It has been sad, and tiring, and worrisome. And as I lay there last night, rehearsing what I should have said, trying to think up a pithy reply that would have been light hearted but made a point, I remembered something I read on an instagram post this week about sharing the rubbish stuff because usually someone out there understands, or is going through the same thing. So I started writing and thought this was probably a better way to vent than to have imaginary discussions.
As it is, we actually do have a holiday next week. The Husband is off work, and our parents booked a few days away for the three of us. Obviously it won't be a holiday from maternity leave, the parenting doesn't stop, but it will be lovely to do the parenting while someone else cooks the meals and makes the bed, and to have a few extra days as a family. And, when I was at the GPs today (making sure his wheeze wasn't too much of a wheeze) the nurse walked across the waiting room as I was leaving. She asked was everything OK, looked at my poorly, runny nosed baby and said he was gorgeous. I think from my scraped back hair, and weary eyes she could perhaps see that I wasn't having the easiest day, and she managed to make me feel better, as did the GP, by taking a little bit of time, and showing some kindness. And of course someone admiring my little boy always gives me that glow of maternal pride, so I left feeling much happier, and without any more one-sided conversations playing in my head!