By: Katherine VanHenley
Reading about maternity leave in the United States makes me sad on a couple levels. One, because most of what you read is how inadequate maternity leave is here. Two because that’s usually all it is, reading over and over about how ridiculously short it is. And if you’re a mother who has no choice but to take a short maternity leave, it makes you feel pretty crappy about yourself and your impending motherhood.
Expecting and new mothers are in a variety of different positions economically and career-wise and their realities regarding maternity leave also vary widely. Some new moms can take six months off and some can take six days off. Some mothers have financial and emotional support in the form of a loving partner, some mothers are single and struggling to put food in the fridge. And once the reality of maternity leave really sinks in, then there’s the reality of the cost of daycare (which can literally make you throw up a little if you live in downtown Seattle), but I’ll save that for another time.
If you’re expecting and anticipating a short maternity leave, there are certain considerations you should take as you’re planning your registry or getting your home ready for baby. You want to maximize the amount of closeness you have with your baby before you have to leave them for extended periods each day.
I pretty much said “Yup, not doing that” when it came time to make a registry list for my baby shower. My friends and partner both completed the lists and I gave almost zero input. Mostly because I really couldn’t be bothered to sit there and sort through hundreds of items to decide what I needed (when, as a first time mother, I knew I was completely ignorant). Now, with my second pregnancy, I’d still have to be hogtied before I’d sit down to make a baby registry list.
However, if I did, these would be the things on the list. I kept in mind maximizing time with baby and reducing stress when you only have days or a few weeks to spend with them after they’re born.
1. Breast Pump
I only started pumping when my daughter was 4 weeks old and I’d returned to work. You want to begin pumping as soon as you can and store the milk. This means when they’re just a few days old. It’s harder for working moms to nurse as long as they might want to because when there’s not a feeding baby right there, you just start to produce less and less. Pumping as soon as possible is a good idea because it gets you used to the routine and you’ll have a whole stockpile of extra milk.
2. Post-Partum Supplies
Why are baby showers so cutesy when they really should be about more experienced mothers’ tales of caution and horror regarding what happens to your body post-baby? I don’t know. I do know that the next baby shower I attend, I’ll be the one going into TMI territory. Personal stories about tearing, stiches, weird nipples, strange smells should have a place in between all the baby shower games. Post-partum supplies include large disposable or cloth pads, witch hazel pads, pain-relievers, a squirt bottle and ice packs. Taking good care of yourself post-partum is important and extra-important for moms who are heading back to work even before they’ve gone for their first post-partum checkup.
3. Baby wrap/carrier
Out of all my baby supplies, I loved my Moby-wrap the best. Once I strapped her in, she was usually off to sleep in just a few minutes. I could also feed her in the wrap and use my free hands to do chores or take pictures. You can also opt to go skin to skin with the wrap. Maximizing the skin to skin contact with your little one during a short maternity improves the wellbeing of both mother and newborn baby. Your body temperature, breathing and heart rate all help regulate the baby’s and can lend to a more peaceful atmosphere at home before you need to head off to work again.
4. Frozen Meals or Meal Delivery
Listen, instead of the million onesies and receiving blankets you really don’t need, ask for people to bring you meals to freeze or to order you delivery from local restaurants. I know you’re supermom and everything but there are going to be plenty of nights, weeks and years where you’ll be the one doing all the meal prep. Especially if you’re taking a short maternity leave, people will assume you’ve already got everything together and will probably be less likely to offer help. In reality, you’re an emotional wreck on the inside wondering how you’re going to pull this off. Save your sanity during this precious time with baby and provide some direction to friends and relatives who want to give you useful gifts.
5. Cleaning service
This is another thing you usually don’t find on a registry, but with a variety of affordable services available online these days, it’s not hard to point your loved ones to a site where they can book someone to help you with the housework. Even if it’s just dishes or mopping your floor, that small amount of weight off your shoulders will seem huge when you’re an exhausted new mom. Check out Care.com or Handy. Gift cards are available for purchase through Merry Maids.com.