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When I am on Maternity Leave...

Updated: May 15

I will sit at home, staring bleary-eyed at the dirty dishes and piles of laundry, wondering if I have time for a nap and some housework and maybe even a hot drink or just housework and a nap, or just a hot drink and some housework or maybe just a quick check of my phone for a bit of adult company…and too late, the baby is awake again and the hot drink and the housework and the nap…well, never mind.


It’s not quite the full redecoration of the house and decluttering of the “junk” cupboard and French classes and finally reading that stack of books by your bedside or doing the rounds of the local cafés to show your baby off to admiring onlookers you had imagined. Or scrap that last bit, I know people mean well, but why does having a baby mean you end up a complete stranger magnet?! Of course my baby is indeed the most beautiful ever born, but don’t they know I’m too tired to talk and I have just thirty-six seconds to grab something in the shop before the baby starts wailing!


Or maybe it’s hard to even get out of the house because you have one of those babies who won’t nap in a buggy, so if you do go out, they stare around getting more and more wide-eyed, then red in the face before starting to scream out all the sensory overload and you flee home in embarrassment.


Or perhaps your baby will nap in the buggy, but only for half an hour at a time which means if you do go out, you have to have a military plan in place for getting to your destination before they wake up and want feeding somewhere awkward like on a packed Luas or in the back of the car you are only half sure you are not too tired to drive.


Or your baby will nap for hours during the day and screams like mad if you dare wake them, but then they are calling for you every two hours all night and you are now desperate for them to sleep in the day so you can catch a nap yourself. A vicious circle.


Suddenly, you have gone from organising all your own time and activities to planning everything around the physical needs of someone who cannot even tell you what it is they need. At times it can feel like a helpless and hopeless endeavour and as if you are the only person who does not know what to do. Not true. Every baby who enters the world has unique rhythms and preferences and every caregiver is stumbling around trying to figure them out.


Or perhaps you are now completely in your element as a mother, your baby sleeps all night and spends all their time smiling at people and evacuating their bowels on schedule. Fair play! Long may it last (or at least until the next developmental phase…)


However well it is going for you right now, for most of the day, you might be doing this all on your own with no other adult to talk to. And even if you do get hold of someone to talk to, all you want to talk about is how much sleep the baby had, how much sleep you had and how they pooed and how they cried and how red the nappy rash is and is it normal? And when will I get my life back? And how can I get my life back when I don’t feel ready to leave this perfect tiny human. And, and, and, slowly, slowly over the months and years you get your answers and become a mum.


Motherhood is unlike any other relationship. You are handed a small person in hospital and if you are lucky you will get that rush of hormones that makes you fall in love straight away, or you might find the love has to build as you get to know your baby. Either way, your baby is born a stranger to you and you have to get to know them like anyone else. But the older they get and the more you know them, the further they move away from you. The end goal of your relationship is for them to separate from you.


First they leave your body. Then they stop wanting to be held so much and they toddle away from you, running across the room, across the park and then! Then they are separate from you for more and more hours of the day in crèche, preschool, primary school, secondary school and just when you have some idea of who they are and the adult they are becoming, they leave home. And if they say goodbye and want to leave you – congratulations! You have succeeded in your relationship.


So forget the dirty dishes and the laundry. Just for now. Come along to a Chatterparrot baby sign class to spend time with other parents and caregivers who are happy to share their tales of nappies and night-time nightmares. Enjoy some songs with your baby while they still love nothing more than to cuddle with you and hear your voice. And once you start using baby sign, you never know, they might just tell you what they need after all.


Classes start again in the first week of March both online and in-person (Belarmine Community Centre, Dublin 18). Parenting is full of ups and downs. Let Chatterparrot be one of your ups! Our baby sign and music classes are for all kinds of mothers, fathers, childminders and babies to have some fun singing and signing together before (or even during!) the next nappy change. I hope to see you very soon!


Visit www.chatterparrot.ie/book-online to book now.


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