So, an exciting parcel arrived this week in the form of a stuffed lion. “A bit random” one may say but actually this lion is created using clothes of Sophie’s that she wore during her first few days of life.
It couldn’t have come at a better time, beginning and end, as today marks my last official day of Maternity Leave. (I do have a few weeks of holiday still before returning to the workplace, but for the purposes of this, let’s say it’s the end!)
Last February, I waddled out of a hospital as an employee. Naïve, excited, slightly scared and looking forward to these ‘weeks’ of rest and relaxation ahead of me prior to my ‘little bundle of joy’ arriving. Well… 11 days later I returned to the same place of employment, this time as a patient. Sophie, very much like me, felt on time was late and so arrived unexpectedly, several weeks ahead of schedule. I held a very tiny, 6lb7oz, little baby girl in my arms. What a gift and what a privilege.
Now, I don’t quite know what I thought would happen after the birth, the one NHS antenatal class I managed to make (being in labour during the second one) only ran through the delivery process itself. My challenge at the baby shower was to put a nappy, vest and babygro on a moving doll whilst blindfolded (imitating the night). It was a disaster and I joked about it the – I didn’t realise how true to form this would be later on and how this was a valuable skill I would acquire.
By having Sophie I accessed the world of motherhood. Little did I know that I would find solace and comfort in eBay during the wee hours, that suddenly every hiccough, sneeze, gurgle, smile and outfit would be so aptly documented and that I could always justify chocolate (in my case, Milky Way) any time of day or night!
After several weeks, the ability to get out of a dressing gown before noon became a possibility and I wandered out to baby groups and activities. These were amazing, such a variety of fun things to do and meeting other like-minded people in the hazy blur that comes with being a new mother. On several of these, I also managed to drink a complete hot cup of tea – what an achievement.
Once the summer was over and Joe returned back to work after 5 weeks of family time (one of the perks of teaching), Sophie reached the 6 month mark and the trusty Ikea highchair was bought, more Tommee Tippee items appeared in the cupboards and I became great friends with the local greengrocer for normal and more unusual fruit and vegetables. Suddenly mango was being offered in glory to a young food explorer.
As other mums may empathise, I became fixated with salt, growing to obsess about the milligrams in each food item being served! But this time provided so much joy, watching Sophie’s face crease up with first tastes of sweet kiwi to a bemusement and love of broccoli and outstretched hands once satsumas were removed from the fruit bowl.
During my time off, the house has been slowly transformed from a relaxed family home to a glorified nursery. Rugs were replaced with alphabet mats, candles were removed to allow wooden toys in their place and doorframes were fitted with bouncers. Our study became the nursery and the bathroom is overflowing with plastic ducks, foam mirrors and jugs. Lately, you have to vault the stair-gates blocking an exit from the upstairs or fiddle around with the complicated release system; definitely child proofed!
But now the end of this special time is coming. Would I change anything from the past year? No. Am I looking forward to what is to come? Yes. Will it be easy? I don’t think so. But here’s to another year – year 2 beginning and year 1 ending.