If you think of vacation as a time to rest, recharge, and rejuvenate, maternity leave is not the spa retreat for you. I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but it’s better for everyone if we get the facts straight. Look into the eyes of a woman who has given birth in the last six weeks. That is if you can find one. With Amazon, Netflix, and Instacart, there’s no reason to ever leave the house with a newborn.
1. Total exhaustion is the worst
Peer beyond her glasses (she can’t deal with contacts) and you will see a roadmap of angry red veins. Mom hasn’t slept more than three consecutive hours since the baby was born. The mauve circles under her eyes? Yes, she knows about concealer. No, she’s too exhausted to attend your wine and mini-facials party this weekend. Do you have an Olympic-sized pool of concealer she can splash around in? She would love that, except her doctor said no swimming until her episiotomy heals.
2. Hemorrhoids are insanely painful
While recovering from childbirth, you will not be able to fully take advantage of all the fun activities Destination Maternity has to offer. While episiotomies are no longer routine in U.S. hospitals, there is no dearth of physical ailments to stand between a new mom and her total enjoyment of her maternity leave.
Her hemorrhoids may make childbirth feel like a breeze, compared to the pain of taking a post-partum bowel movement. Or perhaps her perineum tore during labor. If she’s lucky, she’s recovering as nicely as she can be, with a few stitches in her lady bits. If she’s not, the stitches were botched or became infected. Then there are the tears that even stitches can’t completely fix. We’re talking about bladder and, in rare instances, stool incontinence.
3. Recovering from childbirth is a huge deal
And let’s not forget about all the other goblins threatening mom’s relaxation. While most women are familiar with the epidural, only a select few are acquainted with the rare but serious risks they carry, including debilitating headaches, severe back pain, bladder dysfunction, and prolonged leg weakness. C-sections bring their own risks, but even under the best of circumstances, plan on taking six weeks to recover from this major surgery. At this point, the unpaid “vacation” you’re guaranteed under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is half over. That is if your employer is required by law to hold your job during your leave. If you work for a small business, you risk having no job to come back to when your “vacation” is over.
4. Motherhood is actually not relaxing at all
If you think of vacation as a mental break, you will be punching your computer when you try, in vain, to give Hotel Maternity a negative star rating. Between sleep deprivation, altered brain chemistry and the fact that a human now depends on you for survival… good luck getting into that trashy novel you tossed in your beach tote.
Up to 20 percent of women experience postpartum depression and related disorders, like postpartum anxiety and postpartum psychosis. Meanwhile, that statistic is based on self-reports, so the number is probably higher. Signs and symptoms of postpartum mood disorders include but are not limited to feeling overwhelmed, guilty, anxious, or angry to the point of rage, fantasizing about running away, a compulsion to be busy, having no appetite, being unable to stop eating, insomnia, or barely being able to stay awake to complete basic tasks. And that’s just a sampler of the myriad selections available at the post-partum mood and anxiety disorder buffet. Are you ready to grab a plate yet?
If you relish your vacation as a time to pamper yourself, your trip to Maternity Leave is 100 percent guaranteed to disappoint. Because this little break is all about keeping your baby alive. Don’t let their small size fool you. Newborns can be really needy.
5. Feeding and changing the baby alone could be a full-time gig
Fun fact: Newborns need to eat every two to three hours. That’s assuming they’re formula-fed. Between the time you spend preparing the bottle, feeding the baby, burping the baby, and washing the bottle, you’re looking at a minimum of 30 minutes devoted to baby feeding, at least eight times a day. At minimum, that’s four hours per day. Also, formula is expensive and there is no all-inclusive option at the Maternity Resort.
Meanwhile, according to La Leche League International, the breastfed baby nurses up to 12 times a day for 20-45 minutes at a time. On the plus side, a nursing mom never needs to spend time washing and sterilizing her nipples. This is good because she probably can’t tolerate contact between her tender nipples and anything that is not depending on them for survival. New moms frequently experience cracking, chafing, bleeding, and scabbing of their nipples for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. And that’s when things are going well.
If you’re starting to feel like Maternity Leave is just the vacation for you, here’s another fun fact: a typical newborn poops 8-10 times a day. Your friends may be worried that you died since they never hear from you, so do them a favor and pop a postcard from Maternity Land in the mail between feedings and diaper changes.
If you prefer a staycation, six weeks of Maternity Leave might be right up your alley. You can expect to be staying home, staying exhausted, staying un-showered, and staying barely sane.