Maternity Leave: Healing, bonding & balance
Published 1:53 am Wednesday, April 5, 2023
I’ve lived a lifetime in the past seven weeks since my baby entered the world late at night on Valentine’s Day. At the same time, it feels like time has passed in the blink of an eye. Time moves fast in the newspaper business, where you are always looking ahead to the next edition. Being a first-time mom brings new meaning to the phrase, “the days are long but the weeks are short.”
I feel transformed. I was never a singer or a dancer. Now I spend my days singing to Emilia, spinning and swaying around the kitchen as she looks up at me with curious blue eyes. She’s a serious baby who hasn’t quite found her smile yet, but I feel her love for me in the way her little hands hug my shoulder and how her cries soften as soon as she hears my voice. I see her personality coming out with her love for car rides and the way she happily kicks her feet and swings her arms when she sees her toys. She’s moving into three-month clothes and no longer looks like the delicate newborn we brought home.
I thought it would be difficult to step away from L’OBSERVATEUR for my maternity leave. I was finishing a feature story about a local woman who paints Blessed Mary statues at 10:30 p.m. two days past my due date, knowing I could be heading to the hospital any moment. (Not taking that time to sleep was something I regretted when I was called in for an induction an hour later, and I regretted it even more almost 24 hours after that when I was two hours into pushing and overwhelmed by exhaustion.)
I’ve learned the importance of rest. I was frustrated on the days when just folding a load of laundry felt like an act of Congress between taking care of a newborn and trying to make sure I was also eating and showering. Now I understand that maternity leave isn’t just about bonding with a new baby; it’s necessary for the mother to take time to heal and start feeling like a person again. I was living in a sleep-deprived haze from a few hours before I delivered to about three weeks postpartum. Thankfully, now I am feeling energized and capable, and Emilia surprised me when she started sleeping through the night much sooner than expected. And yet, I recognize six weeks is the bare minimum for maternity leave because babies this age are still so needy, and daycare options for newborns are limited in the River Parishes.
New parents truly need a village, whether it comes in the form of supportive family or community resources to ease the transition. I’ve been able to lean on my parents and my in-laws for help. I’ve found a lot of comfort from joining an online due date group of new moms. It feels a lot less lonely being awake in the middle of the night, plugged into an electric pump to express milk, when you realize thousands of women are in the same position. I’m unsure if we have any similar resources offered in-person within our community. While Ochsner provides links to educational articles for mom and baby, it’s not the same as talking to a new parent who is experiencing all of the emotions that you are.
As I transition back into my role as news editor, I am thankful to all who stepped up in my absence to keep L’OBSERVATEUR running on schedule, just as it has for the past 110 years. I’m especially thankful to our general manager, Christine Browning, for stepping out of her comfort zone to produce more editorial content, and to all of the contributors who have submitted press releases, photos and other news items in recent weeks. The high school journalists with Riverside Academy’s Rebel Express have had an important role in sharing our community’s news. The foundation has been laid for me to ease back into my usual workload.
I pray the community will be patient with me as I find my new normal, balancing my responsibility to share news with my responsibility to my family. I’m excited to get back into the swing of things with a new perspective that will guide not only my writing, but also my interactions with others who have shared in this universal experience of new parenthood.
Brooke R. Cantrelle is news editor for L’OBSERVATEUR. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.