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struggling with maternity leave- what should I do?

(52 Posts)
Ohlalala Fri 10-Jun-16 16:30:32

Hi everyone,

Apologies for the long post....

My daughter is 12 weeks old now and I can safely say I have hated all of my maternity leave so far. She is a high needs baby who needs to be in my arms most of the time (she refuses the sling, baby carrier, won't get swaddled,etc) and has cried for most of her life since birth (from colic and silent reflux)- I don't think I have watched TV once without subtitles so far, not that watching TV is a common occurrence! I must admit she is getting better with much less crying and increasingly spending more time on playmats, bouncy seat,etc but I still appear very ill suited for being a stay-at-home mum. To give you an idea, I started maternity leave 4 weeks before her birth and disliked it as well - I was too big to do anything I normally do as I am usually out and about most of the time. MT just seems very antithetic to my character. Now, I know maternity leave is not about me but about my baby but regardless how hard I try, I find it very difficult to be positive in front of her. I feel miserable most of the time and do cry a lot. I don't think it is PND as I would instantly be back to my usual self if I went back to my former life (I make it sound as if I don't love her but I really really do and I am actually really worried I am letting her down). Anyhow, I have tried to get out as much as possible for walks (a little hit and miss as she can cry a lot, forcing me to go home), to children centres (not my cup of tea so far with either mothers I have very little in common with or sanctimonious mothers with perfect babies making me feel even more terrible about myself),etc and nothing has worked. I am therefore half tempted to go back to work early (at the moment, my ML is due to last a year). My employer has been really supportive and would be willing to take me back earlier than the usual 8-week period. The reasoning is that hopefully I would be happier and back to my usual self and would therefore be able to meet the emotional needs of my daughter better as I don't think I am doing a good job of it at all. However she is still very young.... What do you think would be better for her: a less present , yet happier mum, or a more present but sadder mum? Also I was hoping to exclusively breastfeed for 6 months and if I went back to work I would have to stop doing so as I have been really struggling to express milk....

Thanks for any advice!

NewIdeasToday Fri 10-Jun-16 16:45:10

It's a shame you're not enjoying your maternity leave. But I wouldn't be in too much of a rush to get back to work either - partly because working when you have a young baby, night feeds etc is really tough. Also it's hard to get childcare for too young a baby.

How about a compromise like planning to go back at six months? That would give you some time to organise childcare and hopefully then enjoy what remains of your maternity leave without feeling that it's never ending.

I made some great friends through NCT - not at all sanctimonious but very open about the joys and challenges of being a mum. Have you tried those? Or any other ways of meeting new friends ever baby swimming classes now your baby is a bit older?

You haven't mentioned if you have any support. Do you have a partner or mum who could give you some time off so you don't feel like 'just' a mum?

NewIdeasToday Fri 10-Jun-16 16:46:25

Sorry - when I said 'have you tried those' I meant have you tried NCT coffee mornings for a change?

AsthmaAndAutism Fri 10-Jun-16 16:50:18

Just a thought, not sure if you've tried it yet, but have you considered bottle feeding?
Since you're thinking of returning to work and stopping breast feeding anyway, it might help your baby be a bit more settled (since you said you're having trouble expressing)
Sorry if that's useless advice, but sometimes the most angry of babies are simply hungry or not feeling fulfilled by BF alone.

I completely understand the want to return to work, I made it until my LO one was 4 months before I went back. I do really regret it, but that's just me and the fact he has been diagnosed with complex needs, meaning I had to leave work 12 months later anyway!

Have you thought about who would provide childcare and how you would afford it? Realistically, my childcare meant I was working for less than half of what I should be earning. Care for small babies is often more expensive than older ones sad

Definitely agree though, happy Mum over sad/anxious Mum any day! Just make sure you've thought about all the options. Have you spoken with your Health Visitor or a Start Right organisation? Sometimes they can be a huge help when new Mums are feeling like this smileflowers

Diddlydokey Fri 10-Jun-16 16:55:51

I felt the same. I was off for 6 months and felt awful that I didn't enjoy it. I like my job, I'm good at it and know what I'm doing. I don't care for the anxiety ridden role of baby carer.

Would your partner consider shared parental leave? In hindsight dh would have done well at home for a year.

Fwiw, I love being a mum now and don't yearn for my old life like I did in the early months. It's just a shock to the system

Lules Fri 10-Jun-16 16:56:14

If you want to go back go back BUT it really does get easier and more enjoyable when they get a bit older. I felt like this a bit when mine was younger but now he's 8 months and doing loads of stuff (and sleeping better) I'm going to be sad when I go back

Lules Fri 10-Jun-16 16:58:45

Also - do you have time to go out by yourself with friends and not be a mother? That makes a huge difference, although I appreciate that's hard if you're BF

Ohlalala Fri 10-Jun-16 17:43:38

Thanks for the replies so far!

I have a very supportive husband but he works shifts and long hours (which he can't cut down) so I am on my own most of the time. I have no family around to speak of. I do have friends but it's always a little uncomfortable going into public spaces with a crying baby and I feel guilty putting my friends through this too much.

Also I can't leave her for long since I bf and she won't take the bottle. My husband tries and have her for one whole hour straight after a feed every day so I can have some time off, by myself to go out for a run or something but I wouldn't go longer than that lest she gets hungry again.

Everyone says it does get better but so far I have felt it's gone worse- probably due to the toll of 12 weeks of crying and sleep deprivation and an inability to take proper time off and perspective, which is why I thought ending my ML earlier may be an option. I do recognise though I may be rushing through things and may be missing out on the more fun 6-12 months period...

I had never thought she may not get enough from BF. She has been putting on weight really well and thought her physical needs are met. My HV never voiced any concerns. Do you think it may explain some of the crying? On the rare occasions I managed to express milk, my husband tried to bottle feed her but she wasn't too impressed. Is it a sign she'll never fully accept a bottle or is it down to practice?

Ohlalala Fri 10-Jun-16 17:53:11

The closest NCT is a 45 minute drive away - not sure I can face such a long outing just yet

Ohlalala Fri 10-Jun-16 18:18:56

As for shared parental leave, I don't know if my husband's company would be too keen on it...

Itscurtainsforyou Fri 10-Jun-16 18:29:12

I feel for you op, the first 12 weeks were the hardest. I also had a very shouty baby. I tried cranial osteopathy (not sure if it worked or not), colief in milk, everything I could think of.

For some reason once we got past the 12 week mark things did seem to improve. By the time I went back to work at 6 months (for financial reasons) it was so much better.

I also think breastfeeding is all-consuming and that can definitely act to contribute to how you're feeling (IME).

What I wish I'd done was switch to formula sooner, get some a/do from the GP and find some way to have a bit more time away from baby to help you feel more like you.

Are there any children's centres/sure start/parent-child groups near you? It might help you to get out and be with other people who are going through similar.

DropYourSword Fri 10-Jun-16 18:30:53

I could have written your OP! (except I really don't want to go back to work - getting no sleep here!).

Has anything been done about the reflux? My baby has been suffering with this too, it was eased quite a lot with infant gaviscon and he's just been started on a medication called Omeprazole.

How is the feeding going going - are you getting sore or damaged nipples? I ask because this can feed into the reflux / colic issue. My DS had a small posterior tongue tie which was snipped this morning, which will also hopefully help. See if there's a tongue tie specialist near you that could assess your DD.

It doesn't mean you don't love them, but boy is it hard work when they cry ALL. THE. TIME! I haven't enjoyed these first few weeks because I feel like such a failure, especially when everyone tells you it gets better, and the other mums in the mums group are sharing their experiences and it's nothing like your own. I was so sad when they were talking about recognising patterns and play time with their babies, because all I was doing was wrestling feeding and attempting to settle, on a total of 3 hours sleep a night (when my partner took him). Sleep when they sleep they say, ha! Only works if they actually sleep in the first place!

FWIW I don't know if going back to work will help, if you're not sleeping you won't perform particularly well there and so that's another thing to feel crap about.

You have my every sympathy, hope things get better for you flowers

SusanAndBinkyRideForth Fri 10-Jun-16 18:37:00

Does she have any other symptoms? Have you considered cows milk protein intolerance?

I have every sympathy Op. Dd1 was similarly a relentless crier, and it is soul destroying to never be able to keep your baby happy. She also never bloody slept for more than 45 minutes at a time until she was 14 months, and then it was 2 hourly stretches until.she was 3.
I went back to work to get a break from her, horrible as that may sound.
In her case it turned out to be cows milk protein intolerance combined with sensory overload - she is now very obviously ASD and easily gets overwhelmed by sensory input. So all the sensory stuff/baby massage/ tactile play stuff I was doing just made her worse!
Some babies are just bloody hard work! You need to stay sane as well. Dd2 was completely different + (although also never slept)grin

spacefrog35 Fri 10-Jun-16 18:38:24

Your husbands employer doesn't have to 'like' the idea of shared parental leave, if he's eligible then it is his legal right. There may be a problem with not having notified in time though, have a look here

Miffyandme Fri 10-Jun-16 18:49:48

Ah, you poor thing. First months of a first baby are a total shock to the system.
Hopefully you might feel better for "voicing" it here.
I would say that from my experience your baby's cry does not sound nearly so loud to others as it does to you! So don't worry about that when out and about. Everyone has been there with a crying baby.
Also have a look here - I'm not sure which section it's in though - for a thread on "high needs babies" and have a look at the Dr Sears stuff on them too.
Be kind to yourself. flowers

Ohlalala Fri 10-Jun-16 18:59:32

Thanks everyone for your kind posts.
She is being treated for reflux - she's on Ranutidine which has helped (Gaviscon worked but ended up making her constipated, which made her cry). I feel reflux is under control but she still suffers from trapped wind. We have tried the usual drops (Gripe Water,etc) but none have worked. Someone made a good point about latching - so far each time a midwife or HV observed me they said the latching was good. However the other day I got to thinking about the advice I got during the breastfeeding class I attended that taught us the baby had to get a big mouthful of breast and I am not sure mine does it very well. I'll try and attend a breastfeeding group and get some advice from there.

I cut out dairy some time ago, as well as other foods that are supposed to be bad for reflux and/or wind, so hopefully there is nothing in my diet triggering anything bad for her. I do think that my limited diet is taking its toll on me though - I have basically cut out everything I normally eat so I can't even cheer up through food!

As far as parental leave is concerned, I have a feeling my husband is also reluctant to do it and I can't blame him. He's witnessed how it's affected me, and he's quite similar to me so we may just be moving the problem somewhere else if he takes on the big bulk of the looking after.

DropYourSword Sat 11-Jun-16 00:53:34

Think it's a great idea to look into the breastfeeding. Are there any lactation consultants you could see. My latch 'looks' good from the outside and my technique was fine but it still wasn't right due to his mouth structure. If they aren't latched well they will take in extra air, meaning they are windier etc.

HolisticMama13 Sat 11-Jun-16 01:00:50

You're doing great whatever!!!

Where abouts are you in the U.K.?

MumOnACornishFarm Sat 11-Jun-16 01:28:08

This is a tricky one, and I'm concious that any advice might come across as judging so hopefully this is taken in the way it's intended.
Firstly, I am sure you're doing a far better job than you're giving yourself credit for. These tiny people turn our lives upside down, and 12 weeks is still pretty early days. However, I also know how much of a marathon 12 gruelling weeks with a high needs baby can be! I am not in any way dismissing what you're going through.
If I was you I would not rush back. Once your little one starts to settle it will be so much easier and so much more fun for you. My DS had terrible reflux (not silent) so much so that there were many, many days when we could not go out at all as we were both constantly covered in sick (sorry, TMI). His reflux settled from 5 months with early weaning and things started to become fantastic. His sleep got better and better, and I no longer had to carry him in a sling for 18 hours straight!
You also don't know for certain that you will be back to your old self once you're back at work. Even if you love your job you're likely to feel some mixed emotions about being away from such a young baby for quite a lot of time. I landed a new dream job towards the end of my ML when DS was 9 months and I lasted 3 days. I simply could not cope with being apart from him for 50 hours a week (full time + commute time). He cried when I left him at nursery and cried again as soon as he saw me when I collected him.
So yes, if work does get you back to your 'old self' you may feel more emotionally equipped to support your DC, but you're also likely to be even more tired, and have some complex emotions including, potentially, a bit of guilt. Sorry.
I would also be careful about dismissing any possibility that you're suffering from PND. It can be very difficult to spot it in yourself, because you're too close to it and depression can cloud our perspective. If you have had depression at any other time in your life it's possible that you'll spot it more easily (I had PND and I knew). Have you spoken to your partner about how you're feeling? What do they think based on what they have observed? I would be instantly worried about PND to hear anyone saying they feel miserable most of the time. I think it's worth talking to your HV (if you've got a good one) or your GP. If you are suffering with PND, there are plenty of options including non-medical therapies.
Ultimately I agree that a happy mum makes a happy baby. But I would be very cautious about thinking that returning to work so soon, with such a young and high needs baby, is the way to make you feel happy again.
I really hope that things ease for you soon OP. It is such a tough and confusing time, but you will get through this, whatever you decide to do about work. flowers

waterrat Sat 11-Jun-16 06:16:15

Op you have a high needs baby and you are coping with a really difficult situat ion.

I also found it very dull on maternity leave and I had fairly easy although non sleeping babies.

What I suggest is that you get some childcare but don't immediately go back to work. I had two mornings each week.when my babies were ar a lovely childminder ..from about 5 months. I'm freelance so I needed the mental space to get bavk to work. But I massively improved my mental wellbeing. I was working by 9 months both times and im very very glad I was.

Yes it is hard and tiring wor king with a but honestly it was much.much better to me to have a balanced life than ve with my child all the time.

Essentially I love my job and needed the balance. People are right to say it isn't easy to work when tired but hey .men manage it don't they !

I'm a bit unsympathetic to your husband who doesn't want yo take any leave. You are reallt struggling here and need some input from him.

Honestly it will completely change for you when your baby gets older. . I found from 8 months a transformation. But I still loved working part time as well as loving my growing child. Parenting is a long game and there is no need to idealised or romanticise the baby years

Nobody thinks it strange that men can work and be good parents. All I would say is that part time work is better balance ....and you will be tired.

Why don't you start meeting some local childminders or nannies and aim at first to get yourself some time away from your crying baby so you can rest and think more clearly.

And yes from my experience I did vastly enjoy parenting more once I was working part time.

Watchingdallas Sat 11-Jun-16 06:27:36

To the pp who said BF may not be satisfying baby - God, please op get professional advice before you make decisions based on things like these. Baby is gaining weight well? Yes? This means baby is getting plenty of calories. Giving baby formula based on no physical indicators for the need of formula (weight gain well, dirty and wet nappies) - for what reason on earth?!

And never feel bad about returning to work. I have returned at 6 ml the to my very fulfilling career and believe me, one more day at home would have tipped me into depression. It wasn't me. I'm back to research writing lecturing delivering talks and mentoring research students - baby and DH currently with me on a conference of mine in Asia - and I am happy and back in my network leading my projects and my little bubs is doing so well. And I am continuing to breastfeed morning and evening. So it's doable.

Horses for courses but I just wanted to put across the story of this horse for this course smile

Luckystar1 Sat 11-Jun-16 06:39:26

I think you should give this thread a read. You will see it does get better!

Good luck, I'm a SAHM (I was a solicitor in the City before) believe me, there have been MANY days I'd take the stress of that over being at home!

MagicalMrsMistoffelees Sat 11-Jun-16 07:31:37

Listening to constant crying from a baby and a lack of sleep can render you zombie-like. It is hard to think straight, memory is impacted and perspective becomes skewed. In other words, don't underestimate the effect that the crying and lack of sleep will be having on you physically and emotionally.

Your baby is only 12 weeks old. The last three months will have seemed interminable because of the crying and clinginess but really it's only a short amount of time. You have done BRILLIANTLY to have made it through this period. You think you're not a natural stay-at-home mum but give yourself a break - not many people could get through what you have without climbing the walls; I would be on my knees!

But do consider carefully your plan to end maternity leave early and return to work. I've always worked full time and juggled that with being a mum of three so my advice is to bear in mind the following:

-who would look after her if you went back to work? Would you really feel comfortable leaving a 'high-needs' baby in a nursery or with a childminder?

-how would you cope with a working day when your sleep is so disturbed?

-the hardest part is behind you! It will only get better from here on in. Once she is rolling, sitting, crawling, cruising - which isn't far off! - things will change beyond all recognition.

-have you thought about going back to the GP? Has she been diagnosed correctly? I have had no experience personally but I have read good things about cranial-oestopaths that you could try.

-if you've found expressing hard and she won't take a bottle anyway, then she really needs you there for breastfeeding. You are half way through the EBF stage already! In a few months you will introduce solids and the BF will reduce.

-it sounds like you're missing adult conversation. Could you invite a friend or two around to your house for a take-away one evening when your husband's there? That way you get the conversation without the stress of going out.

-if you want to go out with your baby, do it! Don't let her crying put you off! A walk everyday really helped me feel better, especially in the summer months.

Good luck whatever you decide! flowers

stilllovingmysleep Sat 11-Jun-16 07:48:38

I'm so sorry to hear you're struggling OP and I agree with the others, the worst part is behind you.

I want to echo some of the suggestions and add some more:
--prioritise getting some time off even if it's 2 blocks of 3 hours each week. Get a babysitter for those hours and just use them for yourself eg to go for a coffee / a walk / see a friend / visit a bookstore / whatever you want. It's really important to have that little bit of time to yourself

--I know this is controversial on MN but if it were me I would be looking to introduce a bottle asap. At the very least to do mixed feeding. The extensive changes you've made to your diet plus the endless nature (and in your case not enjoyable) of bf means that this contributes for sure to your situation. I don't accept that a baby 'doesn't take a bottle', you need to persist. Some consistent bottle feeding would mean that the babysitter I mentioned above could help you and that your DH could also do more. Don't buy the pro bf fanaticism that's so popular. If you're enjoying it of course it's fine but if it's taking such a toll then do reconsider.

In my experience a happy enough mother (as happy as possible with such a young baby) who can respond to and enjoy her baby is much much MUCH more important to the baby's development than whether the milk is breast or formula or whether there's a babysitter here and there. I would encourage to accept that yes it's a very very hard period for all new mothers but at the same time to be proactive in finding ways that work for you and your family so that you can enjoy your baby more, which is after all what babies thrive on (=their parents' delight in them).

QuiteLikely5 Sat 11-Jun-16 07:54:27

Have you considered bottle feeding??

Have you considered giving warm peppermint water to help soothe babies tummy/digestive system??

Yyy to going back to work earlier than a year

Your baby is miserable too when she is crying so much but I really don't think there's enough solutions in this day and age. Screaming is usually caused by the food they are taking and the effect of it on the digestive system.

My first was high needs and I was driven to distraction. Was she itchy? Did she have a broken bone? Yes sounds crazy but I was desperate to know why she cried constantly well except if I paced up and down the room with her, forget eating, my weight plummeted I literally couldn't do anything, my morning bath was the only time I left her in her bouncer and boy did she scream! I had to be clean though if nothing else!!!

I suppose that the hairdryer was the only time she was quiet!

Every trip out had me a quivering wreck, she would scream and be bright red, so I changed her carrycot over to the other part of the push chair very swiftly, outward facing so that helped a little!!!

Anyway this was years ago but I still remember the trauma of it all!!

She's still a pain but in a different way!!! grin

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