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Q&A: How to Cope with Maternity Leave Blues

Cooped Up

Q. It's January, and I'm cooped up in the house with a newborn. I'm trying to enjoy my maternity leave, but once my husband leaves for work, I just feel so sad. I'll be working this summer when the baby is more fun and the weather is warmer. Please cheer me up!

A. Wanna talk to someone who's been there, felt that? This is me, raising my hand! When I had my first son, I took a 12-week maternity leave that covered most of November, all of December, and most of January. In New York City. During a particularly snowy winter. For the first couple of weeks, I was feeling very glum. Getting the baby and myself out of the house seemed like so much work. And it was. You know the drill: You get the baby all wrapped up in his bunting and strapped in the car seat, and...giant poopie. By the time you unwrap, change, and rewrap, guess what? Baby's hungry. Sigh. Maybe you'll get out tomorrow.

Once, my son and I spent nearly the whole morning and early afternoon nursing (him) and crying (both of us). A close friend, who had given birth a few months before I did, called in the middle of this awful day. Hearing my teary voice, she told me, firmly, to stick my baby in a front carrier, put on a big pair of sunglasses to hide my puffy eyes, and get out there. So that's my cheer-you-up advice: Get out today. Do whatever you have to and get out of the house today. Fresh air and sunshine, even weak winter sunshine, will do both of you a world of good. After that walk, even though our afternoon would return to that cooped-up gloomy feeling, I was in a better frame of mind. We settled in to nurse and watch the Food Network. Soon, a daily walk became my stay-sane strategy. I got very good at doing the bundling quickly and very adept at steering my stroller through New York street slush.

One more note here: Don't assume that moms of summer babies have it so much easier. Newborn care is hard and tedious, whether or not the sun is shining, and maternity leave is both fleeting and -- let's admit it -- kind of boring. Plus, taking a newborn out in the sweltering heat is no picnic either. Just think, when spring and summer roll around, you'll be arriving home to a more fun baby and longer, lighter days, and you can go for those walks postwork.

Copyright © 2008. Used with permission from the February 2008 issue of American Baby magazine.