Diary of a busy practitioner, juggling work and family somewhere in England. This week: coping with maternity leave

As one of my colleagues prepares to go on maternity leave, I wanted to give her some advice. But then, who am I to give advice on an experience that is so different for everyone? Instead, here is my advice to my 2012 self. 


The twinges you get as you are driving home on your last day of work will be nothing. The French consider pregnancy to last 41 weeks, not 40, and to be honest you are still going to be pregnant for about another 100 weeks after that.

You can’t make the baby come sooner. You might succeed (by walking long distances) in getting your waters to break but this doesn’t mean you will naturally thereafter go into labour. You will just go into limbo.

It will hurt quite a lot. But all the pain is temporary. Except the haemorrhoids. You will be stuck with them. For ever.

You will come the closest you have ever come to death. You will feel like death, you will tell your partner you want to die, and if it wasn’t for the NHS and the quick thinking of a midwife when you have a postpartum haemorrhage, you would have died. You won’t need all the snacks your mum brought, and while on the subject of food do NOT go to the hospital canteen and eat a big curry just before you are to be induced. That would be a bad idea.

Women either find breastfeeding difficult or easy. You are going to find it difficult and then the little blighter is going to come out in a rash when you give her formula. You are going to try to persevere with the breastfeeding but will be worried sick about the wretched child not putting on any weight. Don’t worry, she is going to be fine. Definitely don’t sneak in to closed baby clinics, turn on the lights and the electronic scales and weigh her every day. This would be insane behaviour. When she is seven you are going to look at her and wonder if you should cut down her carbs.

She is going to quickly get over the little reaction to formula and you are going to bottle feed her. No one cares that you are doing this. The people at the next table at the M&S cafe are not judging you, they are getting on with their own lives.

You are going to get more cards and presents than you have ever seen in your life. You are going to be given 27 party dresses in the size 3-6 months. Babies of that age do not need that many party dresses. In fact they don’t need any party dresses. You will love that one friend who brought chocolate and wine instead.

You will watch a lot of Cheers as your brain can only cope with light, 20 minute bursts of entertainment. Don’t buy an exercise DVD, babies object to you doing things like that. Just lay off the M&S Extremely Chocolately biscuits.

Your husband will be as obsessed as you with this bundle, and will start carrying a minimum of £50 cash and tucking his shirt in at all times, because that’s what dads do.

You can survive on maternity pay. You can also survive on a part time salary so don’t say you will go back full time. The beastly baby will have stopped sleeping by then.

Don’t volunteer to come in for the monthly department meetings during your maternity leave. You are not going to feel like it when the time comes. Your career will be waiting for you when you get back. If it isn’t, your future does not lie with that firm and those individuals.

All you will care about is the fact you have created, from scratch, the most beautiful baby ever to have lived. You will love her more than anyone has ever loved anyone. She will be so delicious-looking you will often worry that you will sink your teeth into her leg whilst her dad isn’t looking. You will feel sad for every other person in the world that they are not as happy as you. Enjoy it while it lasts because as soon as she learns to talk you’re in for it.