Sand between your toes. Ocean breezes. Rejuvenating sunlight. Should you nap or drink a cocktail?
This is not maternity leave.
Like an idiot, I thought maternity leave would be a great time to reset. I welcomed the time to regain perspective on life as I gracefully transitioned to being a mom. Blissfully silent, meditative days with a precious new life. Time away from a screen. The opportunity to forget about time for months and to really reflect on what life's about. Maybe I'd start meditating daily. I've always wanted to do that.
That was not maternity leave either.
The first two months of maternity leave were the hardest two months of my life. They were like Hunger Games meets Divergent meets Inception but with a lot less action and a lot more depression.
I was held prisoner by a screaming newborn while my breasts leaked, my nipples bled, and my C-section scar ached. I had hot flashes and cold sweats. I couldn't leave the house. The pain medication made me constipated and I could feel (this is gross) a hot searing pain as the stitches held me together when I got out of bed or out of a chair.
I'd wake up to Mischa's screams as soon as I'd fall asleep and I had bouts of depression where I'd wake up paralyzed and too scared to be alone. I imagined this was how they'd torture prisoners-by beating them up, administering constant pain, and then keeping them awake until they go crazy.
While I didn't go crazy (thank you mindfulness), I did become a hint of a human being. I couldn't remember what time or day it was. I talked to a psychiatrist and forgot I called the previous week. I disappeared from my friends' lives and couldn't carry a conversation. I was the opposite of what I was before Mischa and I feared I'd never be the same.
It did get better. I was lucky enough to have a supportive partner, incredible parents and sisters, and wonderfully helpful in-laws. Additionally, I had HubSpot, a company that gave me three months (they now offer four) to recover. Despite all of that though, there are some glaring things I want to address as I see more women embark on the adventure of being a mother.
1. Having a baby (aka being gravely wounded and then tortured 24/7 for two months) is a big deal and companies need to give women enough time to physically and emotionally recover. At least four months.
2. Companies need to give new mothers' partners enough time to support their baby mamas. By giving partners short (or no) leave, companies are basically leaving new moms to fend for themselves during a really dark, difficult time. They're also perpetuating the sexist expectation that mothers should spend more time caring for their children.
3. Companies need to educate childless employees about why parental leave is necessary. I wish I had known more about what happens during the first few months of parental leave-both so I could prepare and so I could support my new parent coworkers.