Maternity leave – what to do before baby

maternity leave before baby

I started my maternity leave at 35 weeks pregnant. Baby’s expected due date was 8th November, and I finished work at the end of September.

People kept on saying, “But don’t you want your maternity leave after baby’s here?” If I take a year, does it really matter, in the grand scheme of things, if I go back when she’s 10 months or 11 months or a year old?

I made the decision for a few reasons, really.

Firstly, I was born at 38 weeks. I have a few family members who’ve gone earlier than that. I didn’t know if that was a trend that would continue with my own baby. Maybe she’d arrive at 36 weeks. (Spoiler: she didn’t.)

I had a lot I wanted to do before baby arrived. The house needed sorting out. I needed to wash all her clothes, sort her room, sort our room, so much to do. And I wanted some time to myself. Selfish, maybe. But I was about to give myself over to another person for a very long time. It didn’t seem like much to ask to have a bit of time to myself, where I could sit and watch TV or read a book or write or do something fun before going through labour and then raising a child. I wanted to say goodbye to this well-beloved and carefree phase of my life before starting a new, much anticipated, one. It wasn’t like I wanted weeks of hedonism, but I wanted some time to relax.

Finally, I was tired. Work was feeling more difficult each day. Sitting behind a desk was tough. Making it through the day without needing a nap was increasingly hard. I felt like I wasn’t giving 100 per cent and that was different for me. I pride myself on my hard work, and I felt like I wasn’t doing enough.

But now I’ve been on leave for over a month and still no baby. It feels a bit odd, to be honest! I’ve worked all my life, and it’s really strange to know that there’s no deadlines to meet right now.

What am I doing on maternity leave?

My daily routine goes a bit like:

  • Doze for a bit after husband has gone to work.
  • Get up, feed rabbits, shower, get dressed.
  • Watch a bit of TV.
  • Spend some time on Twitter, Facebook, this blog, playing Solitaire, WhatsApping friends and family.
  • Have lunch.
  • Play with rabbits.
  • Do some cleaning and tidying, or other chores.
  • Read or write or blog a bit.
  • Husband comes home.
  • Get tea ready for us both.
  • Watch a bit of TV together or read.
  • Have a bath.
  • Play with rabbits.
  • Go to bed.

It’s obviously very variable, but it goes surprisingly quickly!

At least once a week, I generally go out to lunch with my mum, and we go for a wander round the shops.

I’m also going to Sainsbury’s and Aldi more often than usual – one thing that’s nice is not feeling the pressure to do a “big shop”. If I forget anything, I can just pop in another time to get something. Although I do admit that I hope my last visit to Sainsbury’s will be my last for a little while – I think I’ll do some online shopping for a while now. Walking round the shop is getting pretty tough.

Keeping on top of cleaning and tidying is getting harder, as I can’t reach into the washing machine any more, for example, or unload the dishwasher. So I’m having to wait for my husband to get home to do those things. But I still can do most of the vacuuming, clean the bathrooms, do the kitchen surfaces, etc.

There are a few things I still want to get done before baby arrives. I’d like to stock up on toiletries etc a little more, so I fancy a trip to the Body Shop. I want to make up some more lotions and potions so that baby can have nappy rash cream, I can have some nice moisturiser, we can have nice bath stuff, etc.

It’s been really nice to have this freedom over the past few weeks. It was especially good when Barbara was so sick recently. I didn’t have to worry about taking holiday from work or going in late – I could just take her to the vet and be ready whenever she needed me.

I think I’ll still probably be ready to go back to work next year, though!

How early did you go on leave before baby? Did it feel right to you?

Maternity clothes don’t have to cost the earth!

maternity clothes

Now that I’m nearly at the end of my pregnancy, I feel I can talk with authority about maternity clothes.

I’ve survived nearly nine months of gestation, and have been wearing these things since probably about week ten. I was very bloated from about week seven onwards, and was definitely into maternity trousers at least by the second trimester.

Where did I buy maternity clothes?

eBay. eBay eBay eBay. Seriously. This is where I got most of my maternity clothes. I’m a fairly standard size, which helps (size 10 pre-pregnancy and 5’3).

I ended up with an amazing maternity wardrobe, lots of brands like Seraphine and Jojo Maman Bebe, but paid full price for none of it.

My favourite maternity outfit was a black and white striped Seraphine jersey dress that honestly I’ll probably wear later on too as it’s not stretched out and is lovely and loose.

I had some things that were great and some that were less great, but I didn’t care so much about the stuff that didn’t work out if I didn’t spend so much on it!

The only things I bought new were some jeans (Amazon and H&M), a jersey dress (Lidl!), a work skirt (Mothercare), two pairs of yoga pants (Mothercare), a couple of shirts (H&M and New Look) and bras (M&S).

What did I end up needing?

I have relied on:

  • Maternity jersey dresses x 2
  • Maternity sundresses x 2 (it was a very hot summer and I could maybe have done with another)
  • Maternity jeans
  • Maternity yoga pants x 2 (but could easily have got away with one!)
  • Maternity maxi skirt (not an essential but so good in the summer!)
  • Maternity pencil skirt
  • Maternity shirts x 4
  • Well-fitting bras x 2 (at a time – get new ones at least every trimester!)

That’s probably all I absolutely needed – and if I were more on top of washing, I could probably have coped with less!

You don’t need maternity everything.

I have not bought a single pair of maternity knickers, for example. My usual M&S midis work just fine. I’ve got some in sizes 12 and 14 for those days where I’m feeling a bit larger (and in black for after the birth!), but I’m generally still wearing my usual pre-pregnancy pants.

Maternity leggings, it turns out, are hideously uncomfortable on me. So I bought some larger non maternity jeggings from Asda George and just push them down under the bump. They only cost £8!

I’m continuing to wear my old long stretchy H&M vests – they fit over the bump just fine, and I pair them with a button-down shirt (again, non-maternity). I can keep the shirt mostly open, and it’ll be a good outfit to repeat later on when I’m feeding.

Here are some example outfits: none of these tops are maternity.

maternity clothes

What did I not use?

The aforementioned maternity leggings. I bought a two-pack from New Look very early on, but it turns out that I’m not so comfortable in massively over the bump things. I don’t know if I just have a weirdly shaped bump, but they don’t stay up properly. Then, as they progress downwards, they dig in painfully!

The same went for maternity tights. I ended up going bare-legged, which was fine most of the time as I was largely pregnant over summer.

I’m wearing maternity/nursing bras now, but didn’t start until the third trimester. Until then, I just wore non-underwired bras. Debenhams have a great selection, and I don’t think I spent more than about £10 on any one, thanks to the Blue Cross sale.

What else to consider?

Shoes! My feet haven’t swollen up too much, but there was no way I could wear heels past the first trimester.

I spent the summer living in my beautiful Birkenstocks, even to work. They’re obviously not maternity specific; I wore them pre-pregnancy and I’ll be wearing them later on too.

Now that I’m on maternity leave, it’s Skechers all the way. I need something I can just slip on, because I can’t bend down to actually get to my feet any more!

Also, socks. I never considered this before, but my ankles have swollen a bit and most socks dig in. Also, my feet are much sweatier than they used to be. I’m pretty much exclusively wearing bamboo socks right now. TK Maxx usually have a good range!

Totting it all up, I think I probably spent about £200 on maternity-specific clothes. I could have gone cheaper, honestly, but I’ve been working throughout my pregnancy, we’ve had invitations to three weddings, and I admit I went a bit overboard before I worked out what really worked for me.

Surviving pregnancy – my surprise essentials

surviving pregnancy

I always hoped that I’d be one of those glowing, delightfully happy pregnant women. Not so much. My goal for most of the past eight months has just been surviving pregnancy, to be honest.

I have days where I think, oh, I’m enjoying this. Then the following day I wake up and am waddling, my back hurts and I hate everyone. You might have heard my complaints about it already. Oops.

And there are a few things that have made my life a lot easier and actually contributed to my surviving pregnancy (almost!) the whole way through! It’s a real mixture of actions and physical objects that meant I kept my physical and mental health mostly intact. I still feel rather overwhelmed, but I’ll get there, I’m sure!

Clothes that fit

They don’t have to be maternity clothes, but there was a day in March or April that I suddenly realised none of my current clothes fit me anymore. I cried. A lot.

The worst part was that I knew it was too early for it to be baby weight, so it was just bloat. I felt fat and frumpy and blargh. I feel like I was in that “pregnant or fat” stage for a long time, to be honest – longer than a lot of women. When I finished work at nearly 35 weeks, I had some people say to me that they hadn’t realised I was pregnant!

I’d advise getting yourself some maternity clothes before you actually need them. So much better than having to get them in a panic!

I’ve had an interesting journey with maternity clothes throughout this pregnancy, and I think I’ll do a longer post on them soon.

A dishwasher

We had a dishwasher before, but it was old. How old? Who knows? It was here when we bought the house a couple of years ago, so could very well have been new when the house was built in 2000-ish. And while dishwashers are great, when they don’t work, they are so very, very frustrating. We’d end up running it multiple times, refusing to give in and just wash up by hand because, well, we have a dishwasher. It might as well work for a living!

But all that meant was that we’d have most of our crockery and cutlery out of commission for a couple of days while we engaged in a battle of wills with an aged, decrepit appliance. To be honest, no one won in that situation.

So, yeah. I decided over the summer that our pregnancy treat would be the oh-so-romantic gift of a new dishwasher, and suddenly surviving pregnancy got a lot easier.

We’ve not got it hardwired in yet, but it’s wonderful. Just knowing that we don’t have to think about whether the crockery and cutlery will be clean is a huge weight off my mind.

Although I’m now getting to the stage where I can’t actually fill it or empty it because I can’t bend down!

A nice soft throw

We did get a lovely big pregnancy pillow, but I was pregnant over the summer. It was a ridiculously warm summer. There was no way I’d be surviving pregnancy if I’d used that comfortable monster throughout!

However, I really needed something extra at night. When I’m lying on my side, I need something between my legs, and I also needed something in front of my super sensitive chest. I ended up rolling up a soft fleecy throw and using that. It’s much smaller and lighter than the pregnancy pillow and it means I don’t wake up so horribly sweaty every morning!

A big handbag

It sounds counter-intuitive. Surely I should be looking for a tiny little bag so I’m not tempted to carry lots and hurt myself? But on the other hand, I have my green notes and they’re pretty huge.

I’ve carried them everywhere with me since I was 16 weeks when I was in a bump in the car. Having to go home to get my notes before going to the hospital was a bit of a worry to me, so I just decided to keep them with me permanently ever since then. My closest colleagues, husband and parents know that they’re in my bag in case of an emergency.

I have been making an effort to keep the rest of the bag nice and light though!

Comfort food

I felt so sick at first, for the first four months or so. I could barely eat, and finding anything that got nutrients into me was the most important thing.

So I stopped worrying about eating “properly” (sorry, all the lovely books I’d bought on pregnancy nutrition – I don’t think I’ve opened any of them since about 5 weeks!) and just started eating. For the first 16 weeks or so, I ate one crisp sandwich and one cheese sandwich a day, sometimes with a Fab ice lolly afterwards. That’s it. I lost a lot of weight but baby and I are both still here and still doing well, which is what matters!

Midway through the second trimester, my mum and I went out for lunch and I had a cheese and tomato toastie at Costa. It was the first bit of food I’d enjoyed in months and it felt wonderful. I felt for the first time I wasn’t just surviving pregnancy; it felt again like I could start living.

Simple games

On a similar note, I’d get home from work at that point and basically collapse on the bed. At 5.30 it was far too early to sleep, but I needed something I could do while lying down. I went back to playing Neopets (yep, it still exists!), and played a lot of Solitaire and Mahjong. I didn’t really have to think about any of them, but it gave me something to distract myself from the sickness.

So that’s mostly what worked for me. What about you?

9 months pregnant: a ticking bomb!

9 months pregnant

So, as you may have heard, I’m 9 months pregnant. Really, really pregnant. The kind of pregnant where people stop me in Tesco and tell me I look like I’m about to pop. (Or, conversely, “You don’t look very far along at all! You must have your dates mixed up!” There’s no pleasing some people.)

It’s a really weird feeling.

9 months pregnant – the good

I’m enjoying pregnancy a lot at this point. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve had a difficult time at various points during the pregnancy. And I don’t think you’re meant to enjoy being 9 months pregnant. But it finally feels like I’m getting good at this!

I like the shape of my body. I may never do pregnancy again, and I’m enjoying not sucking my stomach in. It’s expected that I have a huge belly at this point and that’s very liberating. Okay, I don’t have many clothes that fit any more, but the ones that do are very comfortable!

Now that I’m on maternity leave, I feel pretty well rested and that makes a huge difference. It also means that I have a lot less stress in my life.

I love feeling the baby move. It’s like we have this connection that no one else does, and all that will change after the birth. Baby will belong to other people as well, then. I love that right now, I’m the one that knows the most about her. I’m the one that knows exactly what she likes and doesn’t like.

We sit and listen to a lot of Disney music on Spotify right now. She loves the Moana and Frozen soundtracks and wiggles around like mad.

If my husband sits down next to me, she scoots herself over to be near him, which I absolutely love.

Every night, I have a bath and just watch my belly move. I never really liked baths before, but in the last month or so, my feelings have really changed. I’d have three a day if it wouldn’t push our water bills through the roof! Fancy baths, too – I’m getting the candles and the lavender oil and the bath salts out.

9 months pregnant – the bad

I feel like a ticking time bomb. That’s a very odd feeling.

Every time I make plans with someone (pretty much just my mum or the midwife, I admit), I’m prefacing it with “If I’m not having a baby then.” It’s so weird to know that baby could just show up at any point!

I’m overanalysing every tiny twinge I feel. And oh, are there twinges! Like clockwork, every night, after tea. Suddenly I’m ridiculously uncomfortable, thinking, yep, this will happen tonight. Then I get in the bath and it stops. This morning I was up at about 4.30am thinking, something is happening. By 5am, all calm again. Right now, I’m feeling incredibly comfortable, so who knows. Calm before the storm, maybe?

Every time I wave my husband off to work or when he pops out to the pub or wherever, I’m very aware that I could be summoning him back midway through the day so we can go to the hospital.

I’m a planner, so this limbo feeling is rather odd!

9 months pregnant – the ugly

I know I said I’m really liking my body, but my belly button is kind of gross! It’s obviously turned inside out by now, but it’s got a weird little brown stump in there. I’m not going to share a picture because, well, ew. But yeah. Pretty ugly.

How did you find being 9 months pregnant? Am I the only crazy one who’s enjoying it?

 

The health visitor – what to expect?

health visitor

I know that health visitor systems vary by area. But in the run up to our first visit, I was eagerly looking for information on what might happen, so I thought I’d share this.

We’re at 37 weeks pregnant right now. Baby is head down and 3/5 engaged – yes, that means I’m waddling delightfully.

37 weeks, in our area, is also where you get your first health visitor meeting. The midwife lets the health visitor know that you’re expecting (she did ask my permission for this – I’m not sure if I could have declined) and then the wheels are in motion.

In some areas, I know that you don’t meet your health visitor until you’re discharged from the midwife. That’s usually when baby is a couple of weeks old. That’s when we officially switch to being under their care too, but they like to meet with mums (and dads!) to be before the baby is born. That way, it’s not a stranger coming round to peer at your newborn and ask loads of questions.

Ann, our health visitor, wrote to us at about 35 weeks, and we had our first meeting with her on Tuesday. I was 37 weeks on the dot – what good timekeeping!

How did we prepare for the health visitor?

Before she came round, I admit I was a bit nervous. You hear some horror stories, don’t you? People peering into your fridge and noticing that you’ve got some out-of-date grapes, asking all kinds of questions about your relationship and your childhood, judging your housekeeping…

I was particularly worried about the rabbits, to be honest. Although I’ve had nothing but positive responses from the midwife about having house rabbits, I know that some people still think they’re an oddity. I was worried that she was going to want to see them or judge us based on having them. And I always worry that the house might smell of rabbits – I had some nice autumnal candles burning just in case!

My husband and I did a lot of cleaning in the days before she came round! We literally even pulled the oven out to clean behind it. I think I’m finally being hit by the “nesting” bug right now. It was really good, actually, to have that slight apprehension, as it meant that we had a bit of a “deadline”. We told ourselves that the kitchen/bedroom/study/etc. had to be immaculate by the 17th. And we made it!

I also made sure we had milk, tea and coffee and some nice biscuits. What can I say, food is very important to this preggo!

So the house looked amazing(ish), the fridge was stocked and we were ready.

What happened at the first visit?

It wasn’t a house inspection at all! She didn’t even look behind my oven! Actually, she didn’t even go into the kitchen. She came in, we went into the living room (she didn’t want a drink) and had a nice little chat. That was it!

She asked us a few questions, mostly to check that she had all our details down correctly. What was our phone number, how did we spell our names, what were our dates of birth, that sort of thing. She also asked what we both did for a living, how much maternity leave I’m planning to take, whether we own our house and who lives with us.

Lots of talk about baby, obviously – how has pregnancy been so far, which hospital are we hoping to deliver at, was baby planned, etc. Do we have family or a support network locally, and do we have friends with children? Basically, is this the first time we’ve ever seen a baby and are we going to be completely on our own?

We talked about our hopes to breastfeed, and she told us about the breastfeeding support that’s on offer in our area – reassuring to know about!

It was just a really nice visit. I didn’t learn anything new, really, but it was good to meet her, discover I liked her, and know that we’re on the right track with everything. I didn’t feel judged at all.

What happens next?

Well, I get to go away and have a baby! Baby and I will stay under the midwife’s care for the first 11-15 days or so, and then we’ll be discharged to the health visitor. She’ll give us a call and arrange a time to come round that works for all of us.

Apparently the first post-baby meeting is quite a long one, with lots of paperwork and filling in baby’s red book.

From then on, we’ll see her for well baby clinics, weigh ins, etc. She’ll be a point of contact until baby is old enough to go to school. I can’t think that far ahead yet!

So that’s our happy experience so far. What have your health visitor experiences been like?