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Maternity leave: experiences, routines & things we’ve found helpful

Min barsel har officielt nået sin ende, det er slet ikke til at forstå! Den sidste 1,5 måneds barsel tager Morten, sådan så jeg ligeså stille kan begynde at arbejde igen. Eller det vil sige, jeg har sådan set arbejdet stort set hele min barsel (pånær de første to måneder), men på et væsentligt lavere blus end før. Det er med meget blandede følelser at der er gået hul på barselsboblen så at sige, ihvertfald for mit vedkommende – men jeg har også glædet mig rigtig meget til, at kunne arbejde lidt mere og bare komme lidt mere ud igen. Og desuden er jeg jo så priviligeret, at netop fordi jeg er selvstændig så kan jeg tilrettelægge mine dage som jeg vil, og stadig tage det på Emilie’s præmisser så Morten og jeg kan aflaste hinanden den sidste tid af barslen, og også i det hele taget bare nyde tiden sammen som familie inden E starter i institution.

At blive forældre er uden tvivl det mest fantastiske vi nogensinde har pålagt os selv; det mest fantastiske og også noget af det hårdeste. I store træk har jeg nydt at være hjemme på barsel med Emilie, og jeg siger det igen – jeg anerkender 100% det privilegie det er, at kunne gå næsten et helt år hjemme med sin lille guldklump. Jeg har dog også følt mig enormt isoleret og ensom til tider, primært takket være corona. Alle reagerer forskelligt på at blive forældre, og jeg havde helt klart en (mild) efterfødselsreaktion som tog noget tid at bearbejde, og isolation fra omverdenen gjorde ikke opgaven nemmere. For slet ikke at tale om, at man føler sig fuldstændig fremmed i sin krop efter fødslen. Det kan være virkelig overvældende. Man kan tale om en mindre identitetskrise og det er helt normalt, dog skal man selvfølgelig tage det alvorligt og det er vigtigt at snakke med nogen om det, så det ikke udvikler sig til et mere alvorligt stadie.

Heldigvis åbnede de fleste ting op igen i starten af året, og i takt med at Emilie sover mindre om dagen og har brug for at blive aktiveret og stimuleret mere i det daglige, så har det været skønt at kunne fylde vores formiddage med diverse legeaftaler, svømning mv. Derfor tænkte jeg, at jeg ville dele nogle af vores daglige rutiner og barselserfaringer med jer i dagens indlæg, inklusiv nogle ting jeg selv ville ønske vi vidste på forhånd.

ENG.: My maternity leave has officially come to an end, I can’t believe it! Morten will be taking the rest of our leave which means I can slowly start getting back to work again. Well, I have sort of been working pretty much my entire maternity leave (except for the first two months), but in a significantly lower pace than before. I’ve got mixed emotions about the fact that the baby bubble has bursted so to speak, at least for my part – but I have also been really excited to get back to work and just be able to leave the house a bit more again. Because I’m self-employed I can plan my days pretty much how I want, so I’ll still be able to go through the days on Emilie’s terms so Morten and I can help each other through the rest of the leave and also in general just enjoy time together as a family before E starts in daycare. I’m so, so grateful for that.

Becoming a parent is without a doubt the most amazing thing we have ever imposed on ourselves; the most amazing and also the hardest thing. By and large, I have enjoyed being at home on maternity leave with Emilie, and I’ll say it again – I 100% acknowledge the privilege it is to be able to be home for almost a whole year on maternity leave, which is the terms we have in Denmark. However, I have also felt very isolated and lonely at times, mainly thanks to covid which made everything hard for all of us. Everyone reacts differently to becoming a parent, and I definitely had a (mild) postpartum reaction which took some time to process, and isolation from the outside world didn’t make the task easier. Not to mention that you feel like a complete stranger in your body after giving birth. It can be quite overwhelming. It’s like a minor identity crisis and it is perfectly normal, however, you must of course take it seriously and it is important you talk to someone about it so it doesn’t evolve into a more serious stage.

Fortunately, most things reopened after lockdown at the beginning of this year, and as Emilie sleeps less during the day and needs to be activated and stimulated more in daily life, it has been great to be able to fill our days with various playdates, swim classes, etc. So, I thought I would share some of our daily routines and some of my maternity leave experiences with you in today’s post, including a few things I wish we knew beforehand too.

Wonder weeks: baby leaps

Jeg er sikker på mange af jer kender udtrykket “tigerspring”, men faktisk var det først noget vi blev gjort opmærksomme på efter Emilie havde taget sit første spring. Det er så vidt jeg ved forholdsvis ny forskning, som du kan læse mere om HER. Helt kort har disse to Hollandske forskere i mere end 25 år studeret over 10.000 babyer og deres mentale udvikling, og det er dér udtrykket tigerspring stammer fra. Der er nemlig noget der tyder på, at disse spring sker på nogenlunde samme tidspunkt for alle babyer. Nogle babyer reagerer kraftigt på disse spring, andre gør ikke. Det er meget forskelligt. 

Hertil kan jeg anbefale app’en Vidunderlige Uger, som ud fra din terminsdato regner ud for dig, hvornår du ca. kan forvente disse 10 forskellige spring. Emilie har været enormt påvirket af det hver gang, og jeg er super imponeret over hvor præcis app’en har været. Hvad kan du bruge det til tænker du måske?

Well, nu kan babyer jo ikke bare sådan sættes i en kasse eller ind i en skala på den her måde (nogle gange kan det være helt andre ting der driller: tænder, maven, overtræthed mv.), og som forældre er éns intuition konstant på overarbejde, fordi baby jo ligesom ikke kan fortælle med ord hvad der er los. Men for os har det været rart at kunne forstå hende lidt bedre, hvilket app’en har været super behjælpelig med. Man bliver ekstra udfordret i løbet af springene, og man må væbne sig med mere tålmodighed end normalt. Emilie har reageret meget kraftigt på nogle af de her tigerspring, hun bliver meget sensitiv, indelukket, mut, omklamrende og ja, hun er bare slet ikke sig selv mens det står på. Især det allerførste spring – der havde vi hver eftermiddag, nærmest på klokkeslet, et festfyrværkeri af en skrigetur inden sengetid, nogle gange op mod en halv time af gangen og det var ret hårdt. Men, som med alle andre ting går det over og efterfølgende er det så fantastisk og livsbekræftende, at kunne se alle de nye færdigheder hun så har tilegnet sig. Så – DET GÅR OVER. Træk vejret dybt ned i maven, mind dig selv om at baby ikke kan gøre for det og sig det til dig selv igen og igen. At være bevidst om springene har hvertfald hjulpet lidt på tålmodigheden for os (man kan tilmed se hvornår det pågældende spring kan forventes at være “overstået”), og det hjælper dig som sagt som forælder til at forstå verden set gennem din babys øjne lidt bedre. Der sker så fantastisk meget med de små totter det første års tid.

ENG: I’m sure many of you are familiar with the term “baby leaps”, but it was only something we became aware of after Emilie had taken her first leap. This is, as far as I know, based on relatively new research which you can read more about HERE. In short, two Dutch scientists have been studying over 10,000 babies and their mental development for more than 25 years, and this is where the term baby leaps comes from. According to their research these leaps happen roughly at the same time for all babies. Some babies react strongly to them, others don’t. It’s very different.

For this, I can recommend the app Wonder Weeks, which based on your due date calculates when you can expect these 10 different leaps to happen. Emilie has been hugely affected by it every time and I am super impressed with how accurate the app has been. Why is this helpful, you might be wondering?

Well, firstly I know babies can’t be measured on a scale this way (sometimes it can be other things that are affecting your days: teething, irritable stomach, etc.), and as parents your intuition is working overtime constantly, because obviously baby can’t put into words what is going on. But for us, it has been helpful to be able to understand her a little bit better, hence why we’ve loved using the app. The days can be extra challenging during a mental leap, and you have to arm yourself with more patience than usual. Emilie has reacted very strongly to some of the leaps, she gets very sensitive, stuffy, quiet, clingy, and she’s just not herself at all while it’s going on. Especially the very first leap – every afternoon in two weeks almost like clockwork, we had a session of excessive crying before bedtime, sometimes up to half an hour at a time and it was quite hard to get through. But, as with all other things, it passes and it is so amazing and life-affirming to witness all the new skills she acquires when the leap is over. So – IT WILL PASS. Tak a deep breath and remind yourself that your little nugget can’t help it. Being aware of the leaps has given us a little more patience (you can even see when the leap can be expected to be “over”), and it helps you as a parent to understand the world seen through your baby’s eyes a little better . They just go through so, so much the first year.

Different routines for different phases

Kan du huske den søde tid, hvor baby sov op mod 3-4 timer ad gangen i dagtimerne? Little did we know, at det ikke varer ved 😉 Haha, ej forstå mig ret – jeg elsker Emilies vågentid, men især i starten var de her lange lure ret kærkomne, for man er simpelthen så træt og har bare brug for de her pauser i løbet af dagen. Enten til lige at ordne lidt praktisk eller ganske enkelt bare selv få sig en god lur og samle energi.

Igen så kan babyer, barsel og forældre ikke sættes i kasser, så det følgende er blot taget ud fra egen erfaring. Hvis dit liv ser anderledes ud er der hverken noget galt med dig eller din baby. Måske kan du bruge det til noget, måske ikke. Men når jeg ser tilbage på min barsel, så er det ret tydeligt for mig nu, hvor forskelligt vores daglige rutiner har set ud i takt med, at E er blevet ældre. Det giver pludselig meget bedre mening for mig, når folk dengang sagde “bare vent til du tror du har fundet en god rytme, så bliver det hele vendt op og ned igen.” Og selvom det ikke sker på én gang (og bare er pisse irriterende at få at vide ;-)), så er det sandt og det er egentlig bare dét jeg vil sige med det her. Der kommer gråzoner ind imellem hvor du tænker, wft, hvad sker der med vores rutiner; før havde vi fuldstændig styr på dem og nu har vi ingen! Men som med alt andet, så kommer det igen. Jeg kan ikke huske præcist hvor overgangene lå henne for os, men det var noget i den her retning:

1-3 måneder – sov op mod 18 timer i døgnet

3-6 måneder – sov op mod 16 timer i døgnet

6-9 måneder – sover ca. 14 timer i døgnet

… the rest is history, for E er i skrivende stund omkring 9 måneder men jeg gætter på, at når hun ved 10 måneders alderen lige så stille starter i institution, så ændrer vores rytme sig lidt igen.

Tag evt. et kig på det såkaldte søvnhjul, hvis du har brug for en guideline. Ikke som facit liste, men igen bare for at forstå hvorfor jeres rutiner ændrer sig i takt med at baby bliver ældre, og generelt sover mindre.

ENG.: Do you remember that time when baby slept up to 3-4 hours at a time during the day? Little did we know that it doesn’t last 😉 Haha, no all jokes aside – I love more than anything when Emilie is up and awake, but especially in the beginning, these long naps were quite welcome, because you’re so tired and you need these breaks for yourself during the day. Either to catch up on some practical stuff like doing the dishes or wash some clothes, or simply just get yourself a good nap and regain some energy.

Again, babies, maternity leave and parents can’t be measured on a scale, so the following is simply taken from our personal experience. If your life looks different, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you or your baby. Maybe it’s useful, maybe not. But when I look back on my maternity leave as a whole, it is quite clear to me now how our daily routines have been evolving as E has gotten older. It suddenly makes much better sense to me when people back then said “just wait until you think you’ve found a good everyday routine, it will all be turned upside down again eventually.” And even if it doesn’t happen at once (and is just really an annoying piece of information ;-)), it’s true and that’s really all I want to say with this. Sometimes you catch yourself thinking wft, what happened to our routines; it’s all a mess now! But as with everything else, they will come around again and some point. I don’t remember exactly where the transitions were for us, but it was something along these lines:

1-3 months –  E slept up to 18 hours a day

3-6 months –  E slept up to 16 hours a day

6-9 months – E sleeps approx. 14 hours a day

… the rest is history, because E is currently around 9 months and I guess when she slowly starts daycare our routines will change again.

Take a look at a so-called sleep chart if you need a guideline. Not as facts because all babies are different, but just to understand why your routines change as the baby gets older, and generally sleeps less during the day.

Daily activities & routines

Takket være corona var der desværre mange af de aktiviteter vi havde meldt os til under barslen, som blev udskudt. Det betød, at mange af dem kom til at ligge sådan lidt oveni hinanden, da Danmark igen begyndte at lukke op igen omkring feb/marts måned. Men faktisk var det ganske fint; for i takt med at Emilie er blevet ældre og mere klar til verden, så har det også krævet mere og mere at aktivere hende. Så efter jul havde vi aktiviteter næsten hver formiddag i hverdagene. Vi gik i mødregruppe,  til babysvømning, baby salmesang og baby motorik. Det lyder måske lidt voldsomt og det er bestemt ikke et must at gå til det hele, men igen – det var primært pga. corona at det hele ligesom faldt lidt sammen. Dog var aktiviteterne fordelt på hver sin dag, så det var ikke sådan at vi strøg rundt mellem det hele på én dag. Og det har faktisk været skønt at have lidt at se frem til de fleste formiddage om ugen, synes jeg. Jeg tror både E og jeg nåede et punkt ca. midt i barslen, hvor vi trængte til at komme noget mere ud og være omgivet af andre mennesker. Der er der jo igen forskel på børn (og forældre), men Emilie har virkelig nydt det og hun har simpelthen udviklet sig SÅ meget. Det har uden tvivl styrket hende og gjort hende mere klar til, at komme i institution til efteråret, at være omgivet af andre babyer og møde andre omgivelser end de trygge og vante rammer herhjemme. Ja, det har også styrket os som forældre for den sags skyld.

Med hensyn til barsel, så kan jeg huske vi syntes det var vildt overvældende at vurdere, hvordan vi ville fordele den mellem os. Der tror jeg man bliver klogere undervejs, for det kommer an på så mange ting. Og heldigvis kan man jo netop justere den undervejs, der er ikke noget der er set in stone. I Danmark er vi jo så priviligerede at vi har omkring et års betalt barsel, som man kan fordele mellem sig som forældre. Vi fordelte den sådan, at Morten var hjemme sammen med mig og Emilie de første to måneder. Det er vi begge super glade for, den dag i dag. Det er en KÆMPE omvæltning at gå fra 2 til 3, og det var bare rart at kunne tage tingene helt, helt stille og roligt, lære vores lille nye guldklump at kende og få en form for hverdag op at køre, inden Morten skulle tilbage på arbejde. Herefter var jeg selv de fleste dage, og der var det igen virkelig rart at have lidt aktiviteter at se frem til, for igen – så kan man altså godt føle sig lidt ensom og isoleret. Selv for en sensitiv person som mig, der ellers nyder sit eget selskab 😉 Og så tager Morten altså så de sidste to måneder af barslen nu her, så jeg ligeså stille kan komme igang med, at arbejde mere igen og så de to kan få noget tid sammen, bare dem. Både dét, men fordi jeg jo netop er selvstændig og kan arbejde når jeg vil og hvor jeg vil lige nu, så kan vi også bare nyde hinanden som familie den sidste tid af barslen. På den her måde kan jeg også lige så stille vænne mig til tanken om, at lige om lidt starter E i institution. Det bliver uden tvivl det hårdeste at starte indkøring, og skulle aflevere sit guld i hænderne på nogle andre i løbet af dagen. Vi har dog fundet et rigtig dejligt sted til hende, og vi føler os begge 100% trygge ved, at skulle aflevere hende dér. Det bliver så godt for hende. Men det kommer helt klart til at koste (især mig, tror jeg) tilvænning og sikkert også en del tårer i starten… 😉

ENG.: Thanks to covid, unfortunately, many of the activities we had signed up for during our maternity leave were postponed. This meant that when lockdown lifted, everything kind of happened at once. But this was actually quite alright because as Emilie becomes older and more ready for the world, it requires more and more to activate her during the day. She’s such an active and curious little girl (quite like her parents I’d say). So after Christmas, we had activities almost every morning on weekdays. We had our mother’s group, baby swim classes, baby hymn singing and baby gymnastics. It may sound a bit much and it is certainly not a must to attend all of these things, but again – it was mainly due to covid that it all kind of collapsed a bit. However, the activities were distributed on separates day, so we didn’t have tons to attend during one day only. And after all it was nice to have a little something to look forward to every morning, and to keep up with a routine a bit more this way. I think both E and I reached a point somewhere in the middle of my maternity leave, where we were both ready to get out of the house more and be surrounded by other people/babies. Again, babies are different (and so are parents) but Emilie has really enjoyed these activities and she has grown SO much. It has undoubtedly made her a lot stronger both physically and mentally and it feels like the’s more ready for daycare now. She’s become so used to being surrounded by other babies and she feels safe in other environments than home too. We as parents have definitely become stronger too.

As for maternity leave, we found it a bit overwhelming in the beginning to decide how we wanted to share it between us. But you get wiser along the way, because it depends on so many things. And luckily you can adjust it along the way, there is nothing set in stone, at least here in Denmark. In Denmark, we are so privileged that we have around a year of paid parental leave, which can be shared between you as parents. We distributed it so that Morten was at home with me and Emilie for the first two months. We are both super happy about that decision. Becoming parents is so huge, your entire world gets turned upside down, and it was nice to be able to take things slowly, get to know our little new family member and get some kind of everyday up and running before Morten had to go back to work. After that, I was alone with E most days and it was nice to have some activities for us  to look forward to, because again – you can end up feeling a little lonely and isolated if you spend every single day at home. Even for a sensitive person like me who usually enjoys her own company a lot 😉 And then now, Morten is home for the last two months of our leave, so I can slowly start working more again and so father and daughter can get some time together just the two of them. And then of course we can also just enjoy each other as a family during the summer, before Emilie starts in daycare. It’s without a doubt going to be the hardest part of the whole leave when she starts there I think, and having to hand over your heart, your whole world, to someone else during the day. That being said, we have found a really nice place for her and we both feel 100% safe that that’s where she’s going to spend some time during the days soon. It’s going to be so good for her. But it will definitely require some getting used to and probably also cost some tears in the beginning, especially from me… 😉

Go with the flow

Her til sidst vil jeg bare lige sige, at selvom guidelines og rutiner kan være interessante at kigge på, så er det vigtigste, at kigge på din familie, din hverdag og din baby. Hvis der er noget jeg har lært og hvis jeg må give ét lille bitte godt råd, så er det, at tage tingene som de kommer. Time for time (især på de hårde dage), og ellers nyde det dag for dag. Før man bliver forældre kan man kun gisne om, hvad det er man går ind til og det er selvsagt noget helt, helt andet når man først står i det. Den gode nyhed er, at du vokser med opgaven og du kommer helt sikkert til at overraske dig selv positivt flere gange undervejs. Du kommer sikkert også til at føle, at du ikke kan genkende dig selv til tider. Sådan har jeg hvertfald haft det, men det er altsammen en naturlig del af den omvæltning der sker, når man bliver forældre.

Som selvstændig på 4. år, så har det været svært for at mig at lære, at give slip på den her måde, som du bliver nødt til når du bliver forælder. At indse og slutte fred med, at man kan have nok så mange planer for dagen, ugen, måneden men at det i sidste ende nok kommer til, at se helt anderledes ud, for det er mere eller mindre baby der sætter dagsordenen. Og sådan skal det jo være, forstå mig ret! Men det tager noget tid at vænne sig til. I starten var det nemt nok, da E var helt lille og sov det meste af dagen. Er du gal vi kunne nå meget. Og jeg kan huske jeg ofte tænkte “det er da nemt nok, dét her”. Selvstændig på barsel,  hvor svært kan det være? Men som sagt, i takt med baby bliver ældre; så kræver han/hun altså også mere af dig. Hjemmet roder mere og planlægningen skrider ofte for tiden er bare knap. Og faktisk tror jeg, at det har været ganske sundt for mig at lære, at give lidt slip. Altså, jeg sætter stadig pris på et ryddeligt og rent hjem uden for meget junk man alligevel ikke får brugt, og jeg bruger lige lidt tid hver aften på, at rydde op og gøre hjemmet klar til en ny dag, inden jeg smider mig på sofaen. Sådan slapper jeg bare bedst af. Men som sagt har jeg lært at give lidt mere slip, og også slappe af i det uvisse. Og rodet, der unægteligt pryder især køkken og stue i løbet af dagen, det overlever jeg… 😉 Så igen, selv hvis du som jeg godt kan lide at have kontrollen og være forberedt på det meste, så lærer man at slappe lidt mere af, for der er så meget du slet ikke har kontrol over.

Og sådan er livet jo, ikke sandt? SÅ NYD DET. Det er en magisk tid at blive forældre, og jeg føler mig ganske enkelt så uendeligt heldig og taknemmelig <3

Husk på, jeg er ikke faglært på nogen af de her ting, det er bare mine erfaringer – husk altid at rådføre dig med din sundhedsplejerske eller andet fagpersonale hvis der er noget du er i tvivl om.

ENG.: Finally, I just want to say that while guidelines and routines can be interesting to look at, the most important thing is to look at your family, your everyday life, and your baby. If there is one thing I have learned and if I may share a piece of unsolicited advice with you guys, it is to go with the flow. Hour by hour (especially on the hard days), and otherwise take things and enjoy it all day by day. Before you become a parent, you can only imagine what it is you’re getting yourself into (so to speak lol) and it is of course completely, completely different once you’re actually in it. The good news is that you grow with the task and you will definitely surprise yourself positively several times along the way. You will probably also feel like a stranger to yourself sometimes too. At least that’s how I’ve sometimes felt, but it’s all a natural part of the upheaval that happens when you become a parent.

As I’ve been self-employed for nearly 4 years now, it has been difficult for me to learn, to let go the way you simply have to when you become parents. To realize and make peace with the fact that you may have plans for the day, the week, the month but that in the end it will probably look completely different, because it is baby who sets the agenda. And that’s absolutely how it should be, don’t get me wrong! It just takes some getting used to. In the beginning when E was still a newborn it was easy to get things done, because she slept through most of the day. Seriously, the things we sometimes managed to get ahead with while she took a nap was astonishing, haha. And I remember I often thought to myself, “well, this isn’t that hard”. Self-employed on maternity leave, how difficult can it be? But as I said, as baby gets older; he/she also demands more from you. Our home is more messy and our plans change all the time depending on our little girl. And in fact, I think it’s been quite healthy for me to learn, to let go a little bit more. I still appreciate a tidy and clean home without too much clutter laying around that you never use, and I spend a little time every evening when Emilie has been put to bed tidying up and getting the home ready for a new day before I throw myself on the couch . That’s just how I like ending the day, and being able to relax more afterwards too. But as I said, I have learned to let go more, and become more acquainted with the uncertain. And make peace with the mess that undeniably adorns especially the kitchen and living room during the day … 😉 If you’re like me and you like to be in control and be prepared for most things in life, becoming a parent will most likely teach you to relax a little more of, because there is so much you have no control over at all.

And that’s life, isn’t it? SO ENJOY IT. Becoming parents is such a magical time and I feel so very lucky and thankful <3

Remember, I am not skilled in any of these things, it’s just my experience – always remember to consult with your health care professional or other professionals if there is anything you are in doubt about.

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The Comments

  • Jane
    15. July 2021

    I’ll be 69 years old in a few more days, so I don’t need tips or encouragement about living with an infant, but I enjoyed reading this anyway. You did a great job of putting it together. It is realistic without being a downer or painting too rosy a picture. Congratulations on your beautiful child!

    • signeh24
      > Jane
      19. July 2021

      So happy to hear you enjoyed this after all, thanks for reading and for commenting!

      Love,
      Signe xx

  • Rebecca
    16. July 2021

    My baby turns 4 months old tomorrow and this is just what I needed to read. Thanks for your words!

    • signeh24
      > Rebecca
      19. July 2021

      Oh congratulations with the 4 months! <3 I'm glad this post came in handy for you!

      Love,
      Signe xx