As moms across the country unite in outrage against the ridiculous Meghann Foye New York Post article suggesting that women (and men) should be able to have the "perks" of maternity leave without having kids, I have to weigh in with my two cents. It is an absolutely absurd notion to suggest that maternity leave is a time to reflect on one's life and find themselves. This author responds quite well with what these so-called "perks" would look like, sans kids. Maternity leave is NOT a 3 month vacation. Although it was the best time of my life getting to meet and bond with my daughter, it was also the most challenging time physically, emotionally, and financially.
Sure, everyone is aware of the cliche challenges of having a newborn... Sleepless nights, sore nipples, inability to function like a normal human being. But we really lack the education and preparation for the physical aftermath of giving birth. Even as an OB Nurse, I was completely unprepared for the recovery period. First of all, I had been lying to my patients saying that breastfeeding shouldn't hurt if the latch is correct. Well, even if your latch is beautiful and you are doing everything right, there is going to be pain maybe even for the first two weeks until your nipples adjust to the almost constant feedings. And engorgement is no joke either. I quickly realized I needed to sleep on a bed of towels lest there be milk everywhere seeping into my mattress. To venture down south of the breasts, there is pretty significant cramping as the uterus contracts back down, not to mention the period-like bleeding for up to six weeks (or more). If one is extra lucky, they might be completely incontinent of urine for a week or two, like me. There's a high chance of perineal tears which are quite painful depending on the location and degree, coupled with the mental anguish of knowing your hoo-ha has been permanently disfigured. Then hemorrhoids? 'Nuff said. Then if you get a free moment to take a gander in the mirror, you realize that the cute little baby bump has deflated into a squishy fupa and you can't even exercise yet to help get rid of it. Throw in a concoction of postpartum hormones and you've really got yourself a party. I don't have personal experience with C-section recovery but I know it has its own set of "perks" being that it is major abdominal surgery.
Nothing bonds a husband and wife more than having a baby together, but it can also be quite excruciating on a marriage. You have at least a six week span where sex is downright not allowed, longer if sex weirded you out toward the end of your pregnancy, and even longer if you can't wrap your mind around something going in where that eight and a half pound watermelon came out. Sex really wasn't even a thought for me as my time was completely consumed caring for and falling in love with this tiny angel. But of course that makes for an unhealthy situation, frustration, and resentment. Add to that the fact that your husband knows he is no longer the center of your universe and sadly can sometimes become an afterthought. It creates quite a marital predicament, one that I hope to avoid this second time around.
Lastly, maternity leave can be quite stressful financially. Unfortunately our country is one of the worst as far as maternity and paternity leave benefits and while you may be guaranteed 12 weeks off through FMLA (if you meet the criteria), these are not required to be paid. Some companies offer paid time off, but many do not. I expended my six week 70% disability leave because I was out of work prior to delivering so there was a huge chunk of my leave where we were struggling to survive off of one income which we had not prepared ahead of time to do. Subsequently, the financial burden became too much that I ended up going back to work a week early.
So no Meghann, Maternity Leave is NOT a 3 month vacation or time to find yourself, unless your vacations consist of significant physical pain, emotional stress, and counting every penny. While it is an incredible period that I cherished and greatly look forward to this time, I would be lying if I said it was going to be easy. This time the financial strain may not be there, but I will be chasing a two year old while recovering so it will be anything but a cakewalk. Now that I've sufficiently scared anyone considering having babies, I'll chalk this "Me-Ternity Leave" concept up to ignorance and the warped feminism that has taken over our country.