So today marks the start of my final week of work before Maternity Leave round 2. In fact, today is my last day in the office. My last commute. The last time I will see many of my colleagues for over a year. That’s a long time! But I am so ready to stop. I am ready for a physical break (Little H will still be at nursery 3 days / week – whoop!) and to start mentally preparing myself for what is to come. I am ready to have some time which is just mine for (theoretically) a few weeks before I surrender myself to another small human for a while.
It feels different this time round. Before Little H was born, I had absolutely no idea what was coming and for anyone, most especially a control freak like me, that’s a scary thing. I did all the practical stuff – hospital bag, clothes etc – but I didn’t really face into the approaching birth and what motherhood would mean. Perhaps that’s not even really possible for a first-time parent but I probably could have done more. This time though, I’ve been round the loop already and have a happy and healthy three year old to remind me that I can do it. Of course that same 3 year old will give me a new set of challenges alongside a newborn; but having spent the last 3 years adapting and adjusting as she’s grown, I know our latest addition will just be another way we need to adapt and grow.
Leaving work last time was hard. Whilst I was physically quite broken in my first pregnancy (evil Pelvic Girdle Pain which thus far I have managed, through a lot of diligence and routine exercise, managed to hold at bay for pregnancy 2) it was such a foreign experience surrendering all my work and responsibility. For over a decade I had worked hard at building and growing my career. Yet for the first time I was very wary that I would now ‘fall behind’ some direct peers and may be putting further progression at risk. I have always worked in a male dominated field but this was the first time I felt very conscious of my gender – I felt very exposed being a pregnant woman who was rapidly less physical able to do her job and imminently leaving to focus on traditional ‘women duties’.
This time, I don’t feel that. I have experienced the wonder of a year with my new child. I have appreciated the benefits of time out from my career. I have come back and become better at my job (even on reduced hours) than I was before. I know that I can do that again. There will always be compromises and, yes, my progression has slowed. Although that’s because I have fewer working days to build experience, not because I’m now a mother. Compared to many I have been fortunate in my work.
The only difference this time round has been ‘The Fear’. I have written before about the eternal worry that comes with parenting. I have found this hit hard and early with baby 2. During my first pregnancy I was aware of the ‘high profile’ risks (early miscarriage etc) but not to the wide range of problems that can happen. Most of these are really uncommon but yet my anxious mind has latched onto everything. There was the day that Little H woke with insanely red cheeks, I feared she had slap cheek and couldn’t confirm my rubella immunity so trekked to the hospital for an impromptu blood test. There was the day I found out a former friend of mine had lost her first child in utero due to complications at 35 weeks – something no parent should ever have to go through. I am constantly keeping my new paranoia in check, trying not to blow every little thing out of proportion. Trying not to dash to hospital when I haven’t felt the baby move for 10 minutes!
I don’t want Little H’s sibling to be born into a world of worry. There are always going to be risks but I am determined to put them in their place and just focus on the things I can control. I am hoping that having some proper time for me will help with that. So as soon as that out of office is set at the end of this week, I am going to use the time to switch off my brain and enjoy the last few weeks of this pregnancy whilst life happens around me!