Why My Maternity Leave Isn’t A Freaking Vacation

by Joelle Wisler
Originally Published: 
maternity leave with newborn
SolStock / iStock

I am not hard to please. I don’t need fancy restaurants or spa days or luxurious accommodations to feel like I’m on a vacation. But describing my maternity leave as a vacation is going so far into the land of clueless that I’m not sure you will be able to find your way back.

If you have just grown an entire human being inside of your body and then it rudely exits and begins to cry for three months, you should not be further insulted by someone calling that three months of trying to keep that crying newborn alive, again, with your body, a freaking vacation.

Let me break it down for you:

1. The Sleep

Vacation: Waking up naturally with the sun high in the sky and smiling sleepily at your partner. Spending a lazy morning deciding what self-indulgent thing you want to do that day.

NOT vacation: Waking up every one to three hours to feed a baby piranha with the sucking power of a Dyson V6. Whimpering as you see your mangled self in the bathroom mirror and thinking that you might die soon if you don’t get to close your eyes.

2. The Boobs

Vacation: Your boobs are happy on vacation. Part of them may even get to see the sun while you lie on the warm sand, shading your eyes with one hand, peering over your happy, swimsuit-clad boobs into the lovely horizon.

NOT vacation: Your boobs are very very sad on maternity leave, whether you decide to breastfeed or not. They get swollen and sore and cracked and sore and humungous and sore. And if you get mastitis (which I did—twice), well, then you get to place that live baby piranha on your infected, red, horror-show of a boob even more.

3. The Drinks

Vacation: Whatever you want, whenever you want.

NOT vacation: A tub-sized portion of water every day so that you are able to produce enough milk to keep your baby human alive. You will never want to see water again.

4. The Companions

Vacation: Hopefully a loving partner or friends who are just as excited to be there as you are.

NOT vacation: A tiny, hollering, baby who isn’t real sure about planet Earth yet.

5. The Scenery

Vacation: You walk around saying things like, “I can’t believe I’m here!”

NOT vacation: You still walk around saying, “I can’t believe I’m here!” But you are probably crying because “here” is your bedroom and you haven’t left it all day, and you are starving and cold and the baby is awake again, and you aren’t even sure that intelligent life exists anymore.

6. The Bodily Functions

Vacation: You deal with your own, that’s it.

NOT vacation: You deal with your own, but it’s pretty much like caring for a frightening alien-being that you’ve never seen before. You also deal with a brand new baby body that often doesn’t even know how to eat food or digest food or poop out food without it being a major life-altering event.

7. The Emotions

Vacation: You are most likely very happy. You may shed a tear upon leaving.

NOT vacation: You will probably cry for three hours straight while cleaning your home in an obsession-induced rampage one day while your partner looks on helplessly wondering if you are OK, and no, you are not OK and nothing is OK and it may never be OK again.

8. The Self-Image

Vacation: Who knows? Who cares? You are on vacation.

NOT vacation: I remember freaking out on the lady at the maternity shirt store because clearly I had already had the baby and I should not be feeling like Moby Dick anymore. And then I proceeded to buy the most expensive, drapey, extra-large, nursing shirt that they had and refused to wear anything else for the next 12 weeks.

9. The Food

Vacation: Delicious food paired with even more delicious drinks.

NOT vacation: You don’t even know where the kitchen is. And you are afraid to eat normal things like broccoli and chocolate cake because the baby has never had those things, and if they get a tummy ache, it’s another sleepless night. If your baby starts crying, you question everything: dairy, caffeine, citrus, peanuts, wheat. It’s the opposite of fun.

10. The Sex

Vacation: Yes, please.

NOT vacation: If you come near me, I may castrate you myself.

Babies are wonderful in their own sweet, soft, newborn way, but they are most definitely not a vacation. Let’s just all agree on that.

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