The End of a Maternity Leave

Blue skies. Sunlight dappling through trees. My toddlers, with dirty feet and bare legs. Sliced carrots and hummus, polystyrene cups of ‘yaya’ – nothing fancy, but enough. Armfuls of baby, my grey shadow curled at my feet. This is the maternity leave that I have been waiting for, the two weeks’ hiatus from reality.

In the weeks leading up to the girls’ birth this consumed my thoughts. I could almost feel it: the warmth of the sun on my closed eyelids, the tickle of the occasional ant running over my leg. The sweet taste of the raspberries, the watermelon. Adult conversation: a chance to catch up with Kirsty, to laugh with her again. Toddler babble: exploring their expanding vocabularies, matching words to concepts – “Say ‘buttercup’, say ‘cloud’, say ‘cucumber, please‘.”

_DSC0547 _DSC0683 _DSC0549 _DSC0558 _DSC0565 _DSC0604 _DSC0613 _DSC0569 _DSC0624 _DSC0627 _DSC0638 _DSC0686 _DSC0710 _DSC0716 _DSC0737 _DSC0742 _DSC0750 _DSC0755bw _DSC0756 _DSC0766 _DSC0784

I wanted this so badly. The first consecutive two weeks spent with my toddlers since returning to work after their birth, a chance to know the little ones before donning office heels and kissing them goodbye. Whilst the other women in my ‘due month’ group monitored their temperatures, I watched the weather forecast and willed them to wait for the sun.

Of course having newborn twins isn’t easy, don’t misunderstand me, and newborn twins plus toddler twins are almost enough to turn anybody grey, but these are the memories that I want to treasure forever, that I want to look back on when I am old and feeble and my grandchildren can hardly believe that I was ever a mother, that ever we rocked our babies like they rock their babies and fed them stretched out in a meadow full of overgrown grass. When my toddler boys and my tiny girls are quite big and they sit out in the garden to argue into the night and we retire to bed early, both glad and a little wistful to give them that freedom, I want to remember that we had these moments, these hazy sunlit days where my eyes met hers over a cacophony of child and we felt so pleased, so unspeakably proud, to call them all ours.

I know that I’m not a ‘natural mother’ in the way that she is, even though I grew them and birthed them and her role started out so differently. I know that this morning I tried to fake it for the visiting midwives and when the baby urinated down my dress I very nearly dropped her, and that even though they grew under my heartbeat somehow it’s on her chest that they comfort the most easily. I know that I can’t vocalise these sentiments aloud, that I’m too British to use words like ‘love’ and ‘happy’ as though to voice it would be to tempt fate, or to offend those who don’t have what we have right now. I know that I’m more likely to refer to them as ‘little sods’ and to complain about a sleepless night than to tell a friend how happy they make me, how they captivate me.

But they do. And these moments are so beautiful to me. I want to hold on to this gorgeous, warm afternoon so badly, to pull it out of my pocket sometimes when I am in the office missing my babies and wondering if they are missing me. It’s not something to take for granted, a job that I adore and colleagues who make me glad to find myself on the Underground every morning. When I think of my job I am so grateful, so excited to be a part of the team. I love what we do, I love the energy and the way that we all feed off of each other and suddenly it is dark and we are all still in the office. But god – on Monday I shall be back in the office and my babies will be growing up without me again. And it is going to go so fast.

Months ago, somebody told me to stop being so selfish, to stay home and feed my babies. You find these trolls on the internet, people who say inflammatory things with no consideration for other people’s circumstances, for how their words might find a soft place to pierce. They don’t think about how their words might not hurt at the time but could still fester, could start to sting months down the line. At the time I didn’t bother explaining that going to work was how I feed my babies, that for every comfortable stay-at-home mum feeding her babies there must be somebody like me behind the scenes, going to work. It didn’t seem worth it. I was confident in my choices, proud to be able to provide my family with nice things. And that troll? I don’t even remember her name.

But that’s not to say that my heart won’t feel bruised when I close that door on Monday morning. When I miss that first smile, that first word. When I feed them myself for the last time and I hear those words in my head, stop being selfish. I’ve been trying to remind myself that it’s not just for my own benefit that I go to work, that we all need for me to be the working parent in this family. But it’s hard when you can’t explain that to the toddlers who are wearing your shoes and sobbing at the door, it’s hard when you can’t explain to the baby that loves to breastfeed that you won’t be there for that in the morning, that your supply is going to plummet and perhaps you won’t be able to feed at night either. It’s just hard. Sometimes the right thing to do isn’t the easiest thing to do, even when you love it too.

Sometimes you need blue skies and to stay up past bedtime to have a picnic in a meadow. Sometimes you need to fortify yourself on bright memories, to store them for the drought like a camel in the desert.

I am going to miss them so much.

Share:

9 Comments

  1. Shivie P
    August 13, 2016 / 2:26 pm

    Ignore horrible people. Being a parent is about doing your very best, whether it’s being the stay at home one, the part-time work & part-time home one or working full time to pay for a good life for your family one. Don’t be hard on yourself or let others judge. Both you & Kirsty in your own different ways are amazing parents. How you find the time to write your amazing blog is wow! Enjoy your family & also going back to work.

  2. Laura
    August 13, 2016 / 3:02 pm

    These are gorgeous photos! I think you are very brave and strong to be going back to work so soon after giving birth. It’s not like you’ve just had two weeks holiday and you’re going back to the office missing the sun and sangria. You’ve given birth! Brought new life into the world; beautiful little girls. But the reality is, to keep your family warm, clothed, fed…the endless list…someone needs to go out and earn a living. I was lucky that I was able to do the 9 months mat leave both times but my husband had to go back to work after 2 weeks leave in order for me to do this. That didn’t mean he didn’t love them or want to be them. You do what you have to do. And only you know what works best for you and your family – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You are amazing!

  3. Donna
    August 14, 2016 / 3:20 pm

    I don’t know if I have said congratulations yet, the last two weeks have been a blur of holiday and the return mess to sort out of washing etc. So congratulations – you have four beautiful children.
    I have no idea how you do what you do but you are right, some people stay at home and some work. For your family, this is the way life is and it is not for anyone else to judge. You are doing what you can to bring up your family, to support them and to help them thrive. Monday will be hard for you, I’ll be thinking of you, and I know that a lot of other people will be too. Roll on next weekend. Hugs x

  4. Colette
    August 15, 2016 / 12:02 am

    Sending you lots of love for tomorrow morning lady. I know it will be hard for you x

  5. My Two Mums - Kirsty
    August 15, 2016 / 2:31 pm

    I know it is going to be hard and those trolls words will sit behind your shoulder as you walk out the door, but what you do for your family is what works. You have created 4 little humans that will look back and see what you did for them to achieve.

    I know it will not make it easier, but you are doing something you feel is the best and isn’t that all we want for our children?

  6. Carie @ Space for the Butterflies
    August 16, 2016 / 5:50 am

    It’s exactly that, for even one parent to stay at home, the other one has to be working, and however wonderful the job, it’s never without sacrifices. From one working mum to another I know how hard that first day back feels and I hope it went well x

  7. Wave to Mummy
    August 19, 2016 / 3:15 pm

    Yes, oh I have thought about that too. That for every stay-at-home parent, there is always someone working or earning, or someone that has earned and worked well before. So what is the point about judging those that do work to provide for their families? You find this vitriol from certain type of people, and they really aren’t worth bothering about.

    It is tough, good luck with it all! And the physical aspect as well, not just mental. Childbirth takes it out on you.

  8. Bex @ The Mummy Adventure
    August 20, 2016 / 10:20 pm

    You are an amazing mama, those twins (all four of them) are lucky to have parents like you and Kirsty xx

  9. April 10, 2017 / 7:46 am

    How did the birth go in the end? I’ve been trying to find it and got caught up reading all your posts! Love you guys x

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *