Q&A: maternity leave question

I have no idea why this posted on the wrong site after appearing briefly in people's RSS feeds…. Grr, Typepad.

Thank you guys for the birthday wishes. I had an enjoyably fattening day!

Beth writes:

"My wife is six months pregnant with our first baby and we just
moved for her to take a great
new job. After a year and a half trying to get me pregnant, my wife got
pregnant instantly (yay!) but now our new baby is due, at the absolute
outside, two weeks before my wife hits the one year mark at her job. 
It's a nice company so they aren't pitching a fit about her taking
leave so soon after starting there but, because we won't have hit the
magic one year date, it will only be 60% paid for five weeks at best
(short-term disability) and most likely not paid at all though they are
willing to let her be out of the office for 12 weeks. I am scraping
together as much money as I can to cover us while my wife is home but
we have no idea how much leave she ought to take and her company would
like some kind of estimate. If you factor childcare issues out of the
discussion, (we had long planned for me to stay home and, in fact, I am
already
there; she got pregnant so soon after our move that I hadn't found a
new job yet and then it became clear I was no way going to get anything
for only nine months in a new place with no contacts) how much leave
have other people felt they wanted/needed? How much leave do you think
we might need? What factors proved important? Can you tell we are
flailing here?

If it is at all important to this estimate, my parents will be
coming to stay for at least two weeks after the baby is born and our
best friend will be living with us for the entire summer."

Wow. Congratulations on the quickly-achieved pregnancy for your wife!

My
advice is that she should take as much leave as she possibly can
without putting major financial strain on the family or derailing her
career.

It is impossible to express how difficult and
time-consuming it is to have a newborn, while also recovering from
pregnancy and childbirth. It's just physically exhausting, to start,
and then the whole first few weeks are pretty much a non-stop batch of
worry about everything from feeding to diaper changes to whether the
umbilical cord is healing well to what it means when the baby hiccups
to pacifiers to basically everything. While I know there are women who
have to do it, five weeks seems absolutely inhumane to me, and I would
do whatever I had to to get to 12 weeks at a minimum. (And yes, I know
there are some of you out there who did it on much less, but I'm
betting you'd have had an easier first year or two if you'd had more
time to catch your breath before having to do two jobs.)

Please
note that I think you are going to be fabulous with the baby, and that
I'm assuming your parents and best friend are going to be enormously
helpful with the baby. My concern here isn't really for the baby, since
it seems clear that s/he is going to be well cared-for by all of you.
My concern is for your wife, who really needs time to recover
physically and to get her confidence as a mom and have enough stability
before she starts burning the candle at both ends. It will help her to
have other adults around during her leave, as she'll actually be able
to catch naps and have other people do everything so all she has to do
is nurse and sleep and stay hydrated. But, again, there's no way to
describe how exhausting (physically and mentally and emotionally) those
first few months are. The more space you all together can figure out
how to give her, the less chance she'll have of getting so exhausted
that she falls into PPD.

Do you think her employer might be open
to the possibility of giving her her 12 weeks of FMLA time in chunks,
so that she could go back part-time starting at 9 or 10 weeks and not
start again full-time until 14 or 15 weeks?

What do the rest of
you say? How long did you get to take off? Was it enough to recover?
How long would you take ideally? (And yes, everyone at home with a
newborn secretly or not-so-secretly wishes they could just leave all
day at a certain point. Taking care of babies is HARD, y'all.)

93 thoughts on “Q&A: maternity leave question”

  1. I took 11.5 weeks. 6 was disability and 5.5 of FMLA time. 6 was not enough. It just wasn’t. I think I could have survived 10 weeks if I had too. Looking back on it, I wish I had taken the whole 18 weeks available too me, but I’m glad for the 11.5 that I did have.Something I would have your wife look into if she is breastfeeding is if there is a lactation room available. I didn’t do that beforehand and it caused a lot of anxiety for me until I actually came back and discovered we had one. It was needless worry on my part, and made coming back harder.

  2. Is this a job that would allow some telecommuting? I was able to do a little something by four weeks (not much, but I was also the only adult around by that point), but so much depends on how the delivery goes, the baby’s personality type (have your wife start chowing ground flaxseed now!).I hate to give in-a-perfect-world scenarios when those are clearly right out, but the longer you can stretch out a part-time schedule, the better.
    In any case, congratulations about the baby — yay babies!

  3. 12 weeks felt comfortable to me. I would not have been ready at 6 weeks, and I knew I wanted all that time. By the end of 12 weeks, though, I was starting to want the adult interaction and to get out of the house every day. My husband took off the first week with me.

  4. Congratulations on the soon to be born baby! And I’m sorry you weren’t able to get pregnant.It took me at least 6 weeks to recover from childbirth. I had a very easy labor/delivery, but it just wiped me out. I did tear pretty severly (so maybe the delivery wasn’t super easy) which impacted the recovery. I was really surprised at how long it took since my wife bounced back very quickly after the birth of our daugher. I really don’t think I could have gone back to work at 5 weeks.
    I went back at 13 weeks, and it was hard. Really, really hard. I would also take as much time as possible. If there is anyway she can swing working part of the time at home (while you are there to care for the baby), do that. Regardless, it’s going to suck going back, but it will get easier. And there are very nice parts of being at work, too.

  5. I took 12 weeks. My baby was still getting up twice a night and I had a fairly high stress job. The week after I went back I got shingles (most likely stress induced). 2.5 months after I went back I got laid off and I was upset but then almost instantly relieved. I totally agree with Moxie that your wife needs time to recover, the cumulative effect of giving birth, breastfeeding, going without sleep, then working and possibly pumping will catch up with her. Do everything you can so she can take as much time as possible. Those weeks will go by so quickly and I really doubt she will regret taking extra time but she may very well regret not taking enough.

  6. i agree with Moxie; take as much time as possible- which seems to affirm what you were already thinking.could your wife start back 1 day a week, and slowly edge her way back up to full time if she must?
    ideally: i think new Mommies should have 1 year off. that’s my $.02.

  7. I came back half-time after 10 weeks, then full-time 4 weeks later – basically “smearing out” the end of my 12 weeks a little but taking the same amount of leave. It would have been nice to have had longer, but it was OK.

  8. Oh, you guys… how do you do it? I have 50 weeks mat leave here in Canada, then the option for an additional 6 months leave of absence. I get 85% of my salary for 6 months and then employment insurance (not all jobs offer the salary top-up). And I just had to complete 600 hours before I was eligible to do it all over again. I am really being sincere, not smug… I can not imagine going back to work after 12 weeks. I was a mess! How do you all do it? I admire each of you hard working Yankee moms.

  9. Wow, I am stunned by how one can cope on so little maternity leave. And enormously impressed by those who go back to work after such a short time at home.I live in a country where you get 5 months paid (at 80%) and can stay at home till 12 months at 30%, and where you can actually stay at home till the child is 3 years old (12-24 months unpaid) and keep your job (or return to a ‘similar’job in the company). Even freelance workers like myslef have the above benefits (not the keep your job till the kid is 3 years old part of course).
    I started to work the odd hour when my first was 7 months. I wouldn’t have even considered re-starting work until I was at least into the solids stage. Anything less than 2 months would have just been non-negotiable. With my first, I didn’t even have my bearings until at least 3 months and then with PPD, I was just not in the right frame of mind to tackle a job and a new routine.

  10. I was lucky and my job offered me full pay for the 6 weeks of disability and 70% pay during the rest of the 6 weeks of FMLA and then due to the timing I was lucky that my first day back was the last day before a 10-day paid shutdown, so I got 13 1/2 weeks off and I needed every last minute. It was a good 6 weeks before I felt like I had my feet under me and I had a very easy labor and quick recovery. I know if I had to return to work at that point I would have lost it. Baby was going to daycare and if I had to take her there at 6 weeks I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to be the happy WOH mom that I was/am.That said, if my baby was staying home with a partner I think I would have been game to going back part-time around 9-10 weeks and trying to extend that FMLA as long as possible. Having another adult in the house over the summer is also great for Beth as she’ll have the adult interaction that so many SAHMs crave.

  11. Back in “the olden days” we didn’t get any paid leave and FMLA did not exist at all. We were expected back to work 6 weeks after giving birth, unless you had a C-section, in which case you were given a whole 8 weeks!! (Yeah, the old days were not the GOOD old days!)My data points: worked right up to delivery. Worked on a Wednesday, went into labor and gave birth early Friday morning. I went back to work when she was 8 weeks (no c-section, just not ready at 6 weeks.)
    For me it wasn’t too terribly difficult. I did not breast feed (totally my decision) which eliminated some logistics. Also, I had it good as regards babysitting. Her dad worked in retail, so had a day or two off during the week. The other days I had family and close friends to take care of her.
    Different era, different issues, different social expectations. This situation has a lot of variables. One question comes to mind — when they say they are willing for her to be out 12 weeks, does that include ALL time off (before and after birth?)
    Bottom line, take as much time as her employer will allow that you can afford. More is better! But do not fret if the time is less than optimum. This baby will be loved and well taken care of by both of you!
    Good luck, and congrats!

  12. I agree your wife should take as much time as she possible can, and returning part time at first would be ideal. I felt wonderful for the first two week of our son’s life. I think I was running around high from the endorphines after childbirth. Then I crashed. And I didn’t start to feel better from the crash until around 3 months. So 12 weeks would have been the absolute minimum amount of time I could imagine. I am also in Canada, so I had 12 months leave at 85% of my salary and then an additional 6 months unpaid leave. I really, really feel for new moms who want also to maintain their professional status in the United States. I feel like the ridiculously tiny amount of maternity leave granted in the States is one big kick in the ass to mothers everywhere. Anyhow, political rant aside, congratulations to both of you on your wife’s pregnancy – so very exciting!!!

  13. Hi – I had twins (full term so the premmie issues weren’t there for us) via C-section so I got 2 months. I was ready to go back at that point. I was in a bit of a fog at work the first couple of weeks but it was such a nice escape. I found out that I’m not so much an infant person – I loved my boys but I didn’t enjoy that phase so much. I love the toddler and up phase and wish I could have the time off now. I did not breast feed so that may have made going back earlier a lot easier (no pumping, etc.)So, I think if finances are really rough and you both will be stressing about that each extra day your wife is home, I’d say she could be okay to go back to work after the short leave. Having you home will totally help…
    Congrats and good luck with everything.

  14. I took 19 weeks paid leave. It was a combo of disability, state paid leave, and lots of hours of banked vacation hours. I had a very tough long labor and a c sec and those first weeks were harder than I realized. I wasn’t fit for work for a long time. And I returned the week Ds hit the 4 month sleep regression, from which we have still not recovered 4 months later. Yuck.Longer is better.

  15. I’m due with my first child in 5 weeks and I’ve arranged to take 14 weeks off – two weeks of vacation time and then 12 weeks of FMLA. I offered (and kind of wanted to–I’m not looking forward to the backlog once I get back) start coming back part time (a few hours a day, once or twice a week) after 10 weeks, but that didn’t fly.I’ve found that most people are shocked at the amount of time I’m taking–most of my friends with babies only took 6-8 weeks. My best friend is due 6 weeks after me and she’s only able to take 4 weeks total–and I couldn’t imagine that. I don’t see how she’s going to do it.

  16. I got 6 weeks at 60% pay and then took two weeks unpaid. I went back part-time (30 hours), and it was really hard. I had a tiny cubicle but had about 10 pictures of my daughter on my desk. I definitely would have appreciated more leave at the beginning.Now I’m working full-time but in a job that makes me happy, and my daughter is in a great daycare right downstairs. But I still feel guilty and miss her…I would no matter what.

  17. I took 17 weeks, and then went back part time (3 days a week). I still do 3 days a week and most the time I’m grateful for my arrangement. (There are some days I want to stay home more, but it’s not an option, so I try not to dwell on it… Unless he’s sick, which he is now big time, and I want to spend every minute with him. But I digress…) I too did not breastfeed for several reasons, but that made it easier I think.These days, I’m glad to be bringing home half the bacon while there’s still bacon to bring home!

  18. I went back after 8 weeks. I had a C-section, so that’s how long my disability lasted. I had to financially, as it was I was having to top off my disability checks with cash advances from a credit card just to pay our bills. And yes, it was hard. On one hand, looking back I would have extended it as long as I could if we could have afforded it. But I know that’s the me now, and not the me then, because I remember being really bored and craving adult conversation and wanting to go back to a job I absolutely hated rather than be at home which I also absolutely hated (had a little PPD.)So with a support team, I might have done a little better and lasted a little longer at home. I know i was better off on the days when my husband was home or my Mom came over. And for the record, before the birth I had been calculating how much money I needed to supplement my husband’s income in order for me to stay home, so it’s not that I’m career driven or anything – I had seriously thought I would want to stay home…and that just didn’t work well for me.

  19. I took 11.5 weeks and then went back part time for the first week so I was back full time by 13 weeks. I had my parents watching him for the first 2 months back so they brought him to me at lunch every day to nurse which made things much, much easier. It would have been a lot harder without that. It meant I only had to pump once a day and I got to see him for that extra 30 minutes a day which helped with the emotional adjustment. I would say I was pretty useless at work for another 2-3 months after going back though. Mostly due to brain fog from lack of sleep.I had a complication free vaginal birth but still didn’t feel physically recovered enough that I could hold it for more than a minute if I had to pee until about 10 weeks postpartum. So anything sooner than that would have been very, very hard for me. I can’t imagine running down the hall at work to the bathroom not sure if I’d make it on time. I don’t think everyone has that problem but I figured I’d mention it. the whole 6 weeks to recover from a vaginal birth thing did not apply to me for sure.

  20. @Laura, we Yankee moms do it because we have no other choice, unfortunately.I was working for a small-ish nonprofit with no formal maternity leave policy when I got pregnant and had just accepted a promotion. I couldn’t financially swing more than 3 months of maternity leave, and that seemed to be about the right amount of time to be away from a new position at work, as well. At six weeks past delivery (normal, vaginal birth with second degree tearing), I was still majorly exhausted and still had lochia that threatened to become hemorraghing if I did anything more strenuous than babycare and leisurely walking. At six weeks, babies are entering a major growth spurt and experiencing all kinds of cognitive leaps – my easy, mellow baby got kind of difficult at that point, and we were all very sleep deprived. I cannot IMAGINE having to go back to work at six weeks postpartum. Like other commenters said, though, by three months, I was craving more stimulation and adult activity and felt fairly ready to go back. I think 5 or even 6 months would have been perfect, but 3 months was doable.
    I was able to take my baby to work with me, work at 30 hours a week, and work from home 2-3 days a week as needed. I was lucky to have a very flexible situation.

  21. Eh, I took the full 12 weeks because it was all paid for (6 weeks disability and 6 weeks accrued sick leave). But honestly I would have been fine at 9-10ish weeks. Granted I had a very easy recovery from a c-section and a fairly mellow baby. My husband was laid off when my son was 3-4 weeks old and stayed home with him for the first 6 months. And I had an easy/short commute.However, I was able to work from home 1-2 days a week for the first 6 months which helped out a lot too. My workplace was fairly receptive to that, I think in part because they knew I had my spouse there to handle the bulk of the baby care duties while I was working from home. I think having a somewhat flexible schedule for the first 6-9 months is way more important than taking the full 12 weeks upfront. Of course, YMMV.

  22. Wow! This is my story! I am pregnant and am going to miss my 1 year mark at my job by 1 month! No one is upset at all and are very excited, but since I work at a state university, I technically work for the state gov’t…which means that there is no fudging in getting short term disability. I am going to have to take unpaid leave. Which SUCKS! I plan to take 8 weeks and am saving $500 a month in order to do so.My husband will get 5 weeks paid paternity leave, which will be very nice.
    Good luck!!

  23. I was in a sort-of similar situation in that my husband and I both took time off work/school, but I went back first. The first week was awesome, second and third were total hell, by week 4 we had our heads back above water again, but I think it took me until about week 8 before I was feeling ok. I didn’t go back to school until 6 months, but I think I would have been much better off going back sooner and having that structure in my life. I got really stuck in this rut of feeling like I was the mom, and so I should clearly be doing most of the work. Me going back to work actually made life easier for both of us because I relaxed and let my husband be in charge. His comment after my first day back “It is way easier with you gone, because I just get to do things my own way, and I know I’m earning myself a bit of a break when you get home”.Also, I spent a lot of time stressing out about how hard it was going to be once I went back, so the advice about going back part-time to begin with sounds excellent. It will probably depend a lot on your partner, and the job. If it is a low-stress environment where she feels happy & fulfilled, going back to work will probably be really easy. A stressful environment where she is going to have to work overtime, she’ll probably want to take as much time off as possible. I would probably look really carefully at your financial situation and take as much time off as you can afford, with as much part-time as you can get away with.
    Good luck & have fun 🙂

  24. I took two months off altogether with my first and then worked from home until she was 18 months old, at which point I went in part time (3 afternoons per week) until I had my second. With the second, I haven’t gone back to the office at all – but I was taking calls within a few days of giving birth (not the best decision ever, but it worked for us). Like so many others, I recommend taking as much time as possible. I can’t imagine having to go back to work full time at 6 weeks. I don’t think I was completely healed (bad tears) by then.

  25. I took 7 weeks paid vacation and sick time and then my non-paid FMLA. After that, I was on a non-paid leave of absence. I actually stayed home 11 months total, with some in frequent part time work from home (at my request).I had a c-section and don’t think I would have been ready to go back at 6 or 8 weeks. Maybe 10.
    I think it’s awesome that one of you will be able to be the SAHP. Your partner should take off as much as you can afford without financially straining your family too much.

  26. I don’t have time to read all the comments, but want to weigh in with how incredibly valuable I found a period of part time work at the end of my leave. I was able to take 3 months off, and go back half time for another month. In my opinion, the one month part time was as important as that last month off- and in fact, next time around I would seriously consider the arrangement one of my friends made, which was 2 months off, 2 months part time.Part time is great because it lets you transition back in gently. No matter how much time you take off, the return to work is a BIG change, and comes with a lot of challenges (pumping, getting enough water through out the day to avoid dehydration headaches, adjusting to being away from your baby….) The more gentle transition back in was great. I also thought it helped me keep my supply up, because I was only relying on the pump 3 days a week instead of 5.
    My personal bare minimum of full time out is 2 months. I was just getting coherent again at 6 weeks. By 2 months, I felt sort of human again. However, I did manage to leave my daughter for an entire day at the 6 week mark to go to a low key work related conference. That was valuable practice, too- it let me work out what it’d feel like at an event that required little of me, and which I could leave whenever I wanted.
    Good luck, and congratulations!

  27. I was a stay-at-home mom and still am, so I cannot comment on the going back to work part, but I will say *especially* if you are planning to BF, then as much time as possible. The extra getting up at night, the time to learn to pump, it all eats into your sleep. As I’m contemplating baby #2, I realize that I’ve blocked out or never stored a lot of the memories from V’s infancy. I know it was a lot of sitting on the couch feeding her. I’d say that 12 weeks is the bare minimum to start feeling okay, but the more time, the better.Oh, just like the PP who mentioned the bathroom issue, here my thing that no one really warned me about: the PP bleeding. I know that it’s different for everyone, but I had it for almost 12 weeks, and (sorry) the trickling would often wake me up at night, thus adding to my sleep fog. Just managing that (plus the stitches from my tear) would have been uncomfortable in a work environment. I’m pretty sure that by 12 weeks I could sit down and stand up without wincing.
    What really makes me sad is reading about those women in the US who think they are lucky to get a whole 14 or 16 weeks, when they’ve saved up vacation and used FMLA and then they got flex time, when a lot of the rest of the world gets a year or more.

  28. Congrats!I only had time to skim, so sorry if this is a repeat. I agree that she should take off as much time as possible without causing the financial situation to become uber-stressful.
    Two thoughts: first, breastfeeding can take a long while to get well-established. Even if there is a place at work where she can pump, having a good start is imperative.
    Second, (contrary to what some books imply) I wasn’t totally IN LOVE with my baby from day one. I loved her (mostly), I liked her (mostly), but she and I took a while to get used to each other. Then we took a while longer to really start to dig each other. Then we took a while longer to fall head-over-heels in love with each other. So a longer maternity leave lets that bonding happen naturally.
    I was lucky– as a teacher I was able to take one semester off (I had my baby right at the beginning of the new semester). I got one month at full pay and the rest at 50% pay. My husband was in graduate school at the time, but was able to TA for some extra money. I started back approximately 4.5 months after my daughter was born. I could have hacked it at 3 months, but I wouldn’t have wanted to. At 2 months or less the sleep deprivation would have made me largely useless at work.

  29. Someone may have already said this but I think it depends on the kind of work. With my first I went back to work teaching evening classes at about 12-14 weeks. I had had a difficult time recovering from the delivery and problems nursing at first so I was not at all ready before that. I was only gone about 5 or 6 hours at first and it was a good break and I love my work but on my way home I would sortof panic about not getting home to her quick it enough..that feeling, hard to explain, was the hardest for me. But my work was fun and not too stressful overall so it was nice to be back to it.I think if your wife loves her job, it is not too physically demanding, she is confident knowing you are home with the little one than 12 weeks is good. I agree with Moxie that if it can be arranged to be home say 9 or 10 weeks and then go part time for a couple more weeks that would be ideal.
    Congratulations!

  30. I took 14 weeks’ off the first time, and will take 16 weeks off this time. The last month of this leave will be 60% disability, the rest I had enough leave saved up for 100% paid.I think it’s difficult (read: impossible) to predict how your wife will react to the birth, how she’ll feel afterwards, whether the baby will have any complications, or just be a non-existant sleeper, like mine was.
    So. Take as much as you possibly can afford. I was mentally ready to be working again at 14 weeks, but physically I was just knackered.

  31. I had a c-section, so I wasn’t really cleared to do much of anything for 6 weeks after the birth. I went back at around 2 months (I had 3 months off but the kid was late, and I was teaching so the timing was tied to the school calendar as well as to the kid’s…)Physically I was fine at 2 months. (I was fine before the 6 weeks, really, although I was completely flattened for the first few.) Emotionally it was all kind of blindingly greyed-out for a while — didn’t realize how much at the time, didn’t catch on until much later.
    5 weeks seems to me that it would work *if* you really trust your childcare (which obviously is not a concern in this case) and *if* you really like your job and *if* there are no complications with either mother or kid. But those are some really big ifs.

  32. I was lucky to have 13 weeks of full pay maternity leave from my job. I couldn’t imagine going back before 12! My son had issues nursing and we didn’t even get into a real routine with it for 3 weeks. So, those first few weeks I was living on 30 minutes of sleep at a time and his eating routine (try to nurse, pump, eye dropper feed him the milk) would take 60-90 minutes. I was so relieved when he figured out how to nurse directly and the pump got put away.If I had to go back to work at 5 weeks, I’m not sure if I would have been able to breastfeed him. Having 13 weeks enabled us to get into a good breastfeeding rhythm and built my supply up enough to get us through the pumping at work situation. I am proud that my son has only had 1 ounce of formula his entire life and I was able to produce the all of his milk for his first year.
    In a perfect world, I would have just gone back to work last month (he’s 13 months old) or better yet still be home with him, but I am grateful for the three months we had. My husband is a work from home dad, so I think it’s awesome that you are planning to be a SAHM. It relieves so much of the guilt about going back to work.

  33. I took 12 weeks (only got 60% pay for first six weeks) and I wasn’t ready to go back AT ALL, however, my husband and I both worked full-time so we had to put our son in childcare, which was devastating after being with him all day. Especially since he didn’t take a bottle at all for 5 months and I had to nurse him at lunch in order for him to get fed.Your wife MAY have an easier time returning at 12 weeks (or sooner) simply b/c you’re going to be home with the baby.
    Moxie’s right, it’s very overwhelming at first but it sounds like you guys have great supports in place!
    Best wishes!

  34. I live in Canada, so was spoiled rotten and had a year off. I can say though, that by 6 weeks after the baby was born, we were all just sort of getting into the swing of things. Especially with breast feeding – I’m not sure if she plans to nurse the baby, but I would suggest more is better than less. And I would agree with Moxie that if she can go back starting part time it will help ease into things. Its great you’ll be home with the baby, but its a major event on a person’s body to give birth, so I would hope your wife is able to take as much time as possible. Its also really nice to be a threesome for a while when the new arrival shows up. You just can’t beat that time for bonding and becoming a family of three.

  35. I had 12 weeks off before I started teaching in the fall (May baby), and went back with a full courseload but only 3 days per week on campus. Fulltime job on a part-time schedule = lots of grading/emailing while nursing!I’d say it took at least 6 weeks to get the rhythm of life down, especially breastfeeding. And another 6 weeks before I felt like the baby was a remotely independent creature, rather than one of my own appendages. (They call it “the fourth trimester” for a reason.) If I had returned any sooner than 12 weeks, I swear it would have felt like amputating some part of myself. Only around 12 *months* did I start to feel comfortable with the baby being in a non-family daycare situation (still a home DCP, not a center).
    US maternity leave sucks.

  36. Congratulations to you both!14 weeks, 12 FMLA and two extra because it was the end of the year and they let me take off until the new year. Four paid weeks via saved vacation days, the rest unpaid.
    I agree that she should plan to take off as much time as you can afford – balance her need to be home and rest and recover and be with the baby with a workable financial situation. If it turns out she wants to go back before then – I’m sure her work would be fine with that.
    Having you home fulltime with her and the baby should really!! help those first few weeks and you guys might have one of those babies that sleep occasionally. 🙂 We didn’t and there was no way on earth that I could have gotten up and gone to work before the 12 week mark. Six weeks in and I was a mess. But by the time he was 14 weeks old it was actually nice to be able to have an excuse to take care of myself a little bit each day – shower, get dressed, eat – all the things that when I was taking care of the baby at home by myself never seemed to happen.
    And since the childcare situation is always a big issue for moms returning to work, I can’t think of a better place (for mom’s peace of mind) for baby to be than at home with a stay at home parent. So that should make the back to work transition easier, too.

  37. Congratulations on the upcoming baby!I had 6 weeks off full time (new job, little accumulated leave, not eligible for short-term disability or FMLA at that point) and took 8 weeks off half-time. I was able to advance myself sick leave to swing that much time off (@Claire–maybe this would work for you?). I really would have liked more time: at least 8 weeks off full-time or even 12. More if I could have gotten it without jeopardizing my job. I highly recommend returning part-time for at least a few weeks. I had twins, but I think more time is better no matter what. I was stunned at how almost stunned I felt after the delivery, nursing, night waking, and so on. Of course, everyone is different!
    But it’s hard no matter what. Every time there was a change in our schedule, we had to struggle for a week or two to adjust. It helps that my employer is alright with my having a bit of a flexible work schedule. I don’t get to the office until around 9, rather than 8 as I should. I work on some evenings or weekends (salary, not hourly), so it works out over time. Best of luck and enjoy!

  38. just being a data point, because i sincerely hope this won’t be your path.i went back at 4 weeks, because i had a c-section at 25 weeks and since the baby was in the nicu for the foreseeable future, i wanted to take the time off when he came home. i was fine at work even though it was a reasonably physical job (pacu nurse, moving patients & stretchers & all, on your feet a lot). really, i’ve had sunburns that hurt worse than my section & quit bleeding before i left the hospital. the pumping was a major annoyance, but i tried to frame it as time for the baby since i couldn’t be with him.
    it actually turned out that i resigned when he was coming home (at 7 1/2 mo), because moving in with my mama is what made sense then, and the job was 2 hours from here, but that was my thought process at the time.

  39. I took 12.5 weeks–6 weeks paid disability, 4 weeks banked vacation time (I give birth in Feb and had 2 weeks rolled over from the previous year that I had never taken because I was on bedrest for half the year), and the rest unpaid. I had a c-section, serious nursing problems, and what looking back I now realize was a mild case of PPD, and I only started to feel human again around 9-10 weeks. Definitely would not have been ready to go back at 6 weeks–and I had my husband home with me most of that time. 12 weeks was about right, I probably could have done with another month though.The advice to start part-time is excellent, but if you can’t do that, then try to make your first day back a Wednesday or Thursday. It makes the landing a little softer if you’re not going back for a whole week right away.

  40. I took 12 weeks unpaid; like the OP and her wife, I was in a new job and didn’t actually qualify for FMLA. But my company wisely let me take it anyway.My husband, however, had spent 10 years working in social services for lousy pay but with excellent benefits. So he took his -fully paid!- FMLA time after I went back to work. We had saved as much as we could while I was pregnant to cover the expenses during my leave… it was a bit tight, but I am so glad we did it. If I’d been in a better bargaining position, I would’ve taken off even more time. My daughter was a preemie – 6 weeks early – so she was only at 6 weeks adjusted age when I went back, and had only been home for about 10 weeks. I also had a slow recovery from the c-section, which didn’t help.
    So, my advice would really be for her to take as much leave as you guys can swing financially. Good luck – and congrats!

  41. One more thing to add… Your wife should save a little bit of her vacation time because she’ll most likely need a couple days after she goes back to work. Helps that you will be home but still things come up (i.e., if you get sick, she’ll need to take a day to help take care of the baby, etc.).

  42. I took 12 weeks, entirely unpaid. Finanically that was a really challenging decision for our family. However, I think 12 weeks should be a minimum required by law. It is so necessary for bonding, breastfeeding, sanity, sleep…the list could go on!I have had friends who took 8 weeks off full time, then eased back in part time for 4-6 more weeks. That worked well for them!

  43. Having read the comments now, one thing I’ll add- the other thing that helped with my transition was that I went back to work before she went to day care, so I got to split up those two stressors.My first month back, I was part time and my Hubby was part time. Then for another month, my parents watched her. So she went into day care at 5 months, at a point when I had two months of work under my belt. I think that helped.
    I do remember guilt/stress about day care at first, but that went away, and now (Pumpkin is almost 23 months old), I can’t imagine NOT having her in day care- she loves it. That feeling started coming at about 1 year, and has grown.

  44. I can’t read all the comments so I don’t know if this is a repeat, but I would strongly suggest a gradual phase-back to work (using some leave time to work part days or fewer days/week at first). This was hugely helpful to me in terms of overall adjustment (mine + baby’s), establishing a good nursing/pumping routine, having time to spend with new mom friends, etc.FTR I had 14 wks off, then 8 PT (then another year of 2 days/wk telecommuting) but I know I was extremely lucky to get any of that.

  45. I teach, so I ended up taking a semester off. It ended up that I had the summer + Fall semesters off, but that ended up being 13 weeks after her birth (born in September). I went back part time and that worked well for us. I would not have been ready to work much sooner. Maybe 10 weeks at the absolute earliest?One thing I wanted to mention is that your wife might not be able/want to work all the way up until her due date. I don’t know how moms who do that do it. I know she may have no choice, but she might want to start brainstorming more ways to get some rest in the last month or two. If she lives close enough, she could think about negotiating a longer lunch to be able to get a nap, or find a way to put her feet up in her office. At my DH’s work, the lactation/sick room has a couch, and occasionally pregnant co-workers use it to catch a quick nap.

  46. Dude – Have your wife arrange to take the maximum allowable amount of time off. She can always go back to work early, but it’s not so easy to extend leave once the workplace is expecting her to come back at a certain date. I took 12 weeks off, fully paid, and then had relatives fly in from out of state to take care of the wee one while I went back to work – it took us ages to find daycare.

  47. I’m in Canada, so I took 13 months (and was nowhere ready to go back, the latter half of my mat leave was fabulous). The first 6 weeks were sooo hard, and the sleep deprivation – I don’t think I could have functioned at work before the 4 month mark.

  48. I vote for going back part-time at first. And if your wife is planning to breastfeed/pump- definitely scope the scene out in advance.I took 14 weeks in full (only a small portion paid) and went back 3 days/week, which I continued for 1 1/2 years. After 14 weeks, I was starting to be ready for more adult interaction, but it was still EXHAUSTING to go back, do the day care shuffle, pump, etc. even for 3 days/wk.
    I really think 8-12 weeks is a minimum. I don’t know how people go back after less than that, but you do what you have to.
    Best of luck and congrats!

  49. Can you do some part-time work (temping) for the next few months to increase income? Some families need transitional nannies and you could do that and get some experience while you wait for your little one to arrive.If you have twins in MA you get 16 weeks, not 12. I’m very lucky in that the Big Firm legal world has the most generous leave policy. 18 weeks paid (and I had 2.5 weeks of unused vacation out of 4 weeks) plus another 8 weeks unpaid – so I got 6 months total.
    This is why women in the US don’t BF – I stopped in anticipation of returning to work (on Tuesday). I agree with other posters – the first 12 weeks Kicked My Ass. But now it is so heart-wrenching to leave. I might have handled it better when they were napping monsters (as in, not at all).

  50. I had a c-section, and I didn’t physically feel better from that til 3 weeks. I had help full-time for the first 2 weeks. Then we had feeding issues, and those were resolved successfully by 5 weeks. I felt human at about 8-9 weeks. Tired, but functional. Much better by 12 weeks.My job is somewhat complicated, and we had worked out the money part, so I just didn’t push it. I didn’t take a project til 9 months (self-employed). I had mild PPD, and looking back now, I don’t know if maybe I should have been working. I think it’s important to go with your gut.
    If she’s breastfeeding – a lot of sources recommend not even introducing a bottle til 4-6 weeks. If she’s going back at 5 weeks, chances are she’d be trying to pump to build a stash, and frankly, it’s rare to pump tons in the first few weeks, but some people get really discouraged from seeing a low output. Of course your kid’s stomach is the size of a marble at first, so you don’t need 5 ounces in a pumping session, but it can undermine people’s confidence and also add to any existing early soreness. I typically vote not to pump until you absolutely have to (and remember that once she’s back at work, she’ll be replacing missed feedings, not trying to squeeze out extra while feeding a baby full-time).
    I really can’t imagine going back sooner than 8 weeks, at minimum, and this is a time you don’t get back, so if you can swing it, shoot for as much as she can take. I like the idea of trying to see if she can go back part-time or work from home for a while.
    Congrats to you both!

  51. I took 5.5 weeks of maternity leave — I had 3 weeks of vacation/sick leave saved up, and my company gave me 2.5 weeks of paid mat. leave.What’s different about my situation is that my son came to work with me until he was about 4.5 months old. So when I went back to work, he came with me — I didn’t have to leave him. That was great! It wasn’t without challenges (having a baby in the office was distracting), but it worked really, really well for us. Now, I work in a very small office (only 3 other people are there, maximum), all of my co-workers are women, and it’s a very family-friendly place (most of the employees work from home, and flexible schedules are de rigeur since almost everyone has kids). My boss is amazing, and cut me a lot of slack as I got back into the swing of things.
    It was only possible because I had a really easy delivery and recovery, and because my son ate like a champ once he figure out the whole breastfeeding thing at 4 days old. It also only worked because of the type of work I do — all desk work, a small amount of phone work, and almost all my interaction is with therapists (so, when I said “I apologize if you hear any noise – I have my x-week-old baby here with me today” they were almost always at least sympathetic, and usually excited. And they liked that our company would allow me to do that.).
    So — I LOVED bringing my son with me when he was tiny, and would encourage your wife to ask her employer if she could try it. It’s not for everyone, or every office. And toward the end, it got harder — my son didn’t want to snuggle in the Moby Wrap all day, he wanted to be entertained! But it definitely made the transition easier for me.
    Good luck, and congratulations!

  52. I took 16 weeks off and those extra few weeks were really helpful (but I wish I could have had more). Easy recovery, but really difficult breastfeeding experience that left both my and my husband pretty traumatized.I thought I was going to be able to use my accumulated six weeks of paid leave (vacation and sick leave) after my 6 weeks of disability leave, but they wouldn’t let me. The two timeframes ran concurrent, so I didn’t get to use any of my disability insurance at all!
    And, in deciding to take that extra 4 weeks off (even though it’s allowed by Oregon law), meant that we had to pay COBRA for our health insurance over $1000 a month in addition to not getting paid.
    So it was a hardship. And even going going back at 16 weeks meant that I was in a fog for a long time as my son wasn’t a great sleeper and I was suffering from PPD.
    So I vote for the longer the break the better. Even with a SAHM and other support, it’s hard to work and have a newborn (not to mention the pumping and worry).
    Wish we had the same benefits our friends in Sweden and Canada have!!!

  53. I haven’t read any of the responses yet… I don’t know the minimum time you’d want to take off. For me the minimum was 6 months. I couldn’t have gone back before then. and in the end, I didn’t go back at all… but I also didn’t have my husband to stay home. That would have made a difference I think.Anyway, back to the money issue with her staying home…. Why can’t this husband get a job for 9 months? Couldn’t he do soemthing fun like work at Starbucks or a bookstore or something even if he’s just making $8 an hour for 9 months and storing it all away for “time off money” for his wife?
    I think I’d be pissed if my husband was sitting around at home not working for 9 months and then telling me I was going to have to go right back to work after having a baby.

  54. with my first I did not qualify for FMLA and had to return at 6 weeks. It was heartwrenchingly awful. I cried for weeks while pumping and working and I worked for a terrible company who tried to limit my pump time and lunch time.My second I went back at 10 weeks. All my FMLA was unpaid so I was broke and needed to go back. Physically I felt ready. Mentally I was a mess but not as bad as the first time.
    Good Luck!!!!!
    Any advice take as much time after the baby and as little as before the baby comes. I found that I was just anxious for the baby to come and time off would of made me crazy.
    Congrats.

  55. you know, just sign her up to take the maximum they’ll “let” her take, and then if she wants to go back earlier, she can. That way, you don’t ahve to make any sort of real decision until you know what you’re facing.But really, get a short term job now to save some money.

  56. I agree completely with Moxie and others- take off as much time as she can. Going back gradually is also a fantastic idea. I went back part time at 12 weeks and it felt OK. The main thing is pumping absolutely sucks, so going back part-time you’re not stuck with the sudden prospect of having to pump all the time.

  57. A lot of people are telling you how hard going back to work is- and I don’t disagree. However, I want to tell you that I found going back to work when I did (as I said early, PT after 12 weeks, pretty much FT after 16 weeks) to be a positive experience overall. Also, I exclusively breastfed for almost 6 months, and am just winding down the breastfeeding now at 23 months. I pumped until about 17 months. I never had much trouble with pumping, and in fact liked how it guaranteed me some quiet time during the day to catch up on emails or read work-related articles.I also have a baby who was a pretty bad sleeper. I actually found it easier to go to work on little sleep than to take care of an infant. Hubby and I had a rule during our month of split schedule that the person staying home the next day was the one who got priority on sleep.
    I think the going back to work experience is very personal, and depends on a lot of variables, some of which are completely out of your control (e.g., whether your baby has colic). It will be difficult, but it might not be bad.

  58. I was in a similar boat. Missed the 1 year mark (and 8 weeks fully paid maternity leave) by a few weeks. I got 80% pay disability for 6 weeks and used 2 weeks vacation to get 8 weeks.I wish I had taken 12 weeks. I ended up coming back to work the first week in December – a crazy busy time at work plus the personal stuff associated with Christmas about put me over the edge. I was also dealing with a nasty case of thrush which didn’t allow me to store up a breastmilk “stash,” which added more stress to the situation.
    That said, even those of us who are more suited to working than staying home have a hard adjustment back into the work world. I really underestimated how difficult it would be to transition to working full-time and having a newborn at home.

  59. I had twins, and I cut back my hours for the last 2 months or so of my pregnancy, so that started cutting into my 12 weeks of FMLA. Once the babies arrived, I planned (with my boss’s approval) to take 6 months off. I forget now how much time I got 60% paid via short term disability insurance — I believe it was only 6 weeks. I ended up going back after 5.5 months a) because my boss asked me nicely b) at that point, I was READY to start using my brain for non-mommy things again and c) that’s about when our savings and budgeting started to thin out a bit.I’d say it took 3 solid months to feel semi-human again, and another month after that to be able to get the girls and myself out of the house before 9am dressed and clean.
    For me, 5.5 months was just right with twins. I started back at maybe 25 hours/week, and after a full year I’m up to maybe 35 hours/week. Well, until last week at least, when my position was eliminated.
    So now, with the girls 19 months old, I’m facing going back to work full time and freaking the eff out. YMMV.

  60. I took off four months, most of which was paid, and then went back three days a week for the first three weeks and four days a week thereafter. I was scared about going back, but once I started realized I was relieved and glad to have the independence of being babyfree for a portion of the day. That being said, I wouldn’t have wanted to take less time, though I think three months would have been doable–especially if my partner were home with her. Physically, I had a pretty fast recovery after a vaginal birth with only a tiny internal tear–I basically felt fine after a week or two–but they are really little at first, and it would be hard to imagine making breastfeeding work, etc.

  61. Hello, as has been said, everyone’s experience is so individual. For me, it took me about six weeks for my body to start to feel just a little bit normal. Perhaps more of a factor for me was my total inability to be separated from my baby at all until he was three months old (and then I could manage about half an hour before I started to feel very physically and emotionally bad). I don’t know if this is a common experience or not. Anyhow, I felt able to start working again one day a week when he was seven months old and moved up to three days a week when he 18 months. My job was casual so I had no security and no paid leave at all but my partner had a full time job. We made a lot of financial sacrifices but felt that we could be poor for what is a relatively short period of time while enjoying/coping with our son’s first year. Now that he’s a bit older I love love love my days at work and appreciate even more the time that we have together.

  62. Congratulations, Beth!I had a c-section and some complications (pre-eclampsia) and at 12 weeks, was STILL not feeling like myself. I was working freelance at the time, so I maxed out my maternity leave, took all the disability leave my union would allow and then went on unemployment for 3 weeks before going back to work. Total, I was off 16 weeks. It was what I needed to get over the exhaustion and to physically heal. There was no one except my husbad, me and one friend to take care of our baby, and my husband went back to work when our son was 4 weeks old (God bless FMLA–he was able to take the entire first month off!). I agree with Moxie that having other adults there to do the majority of the baby handling in the first couple of weeks will be super important for your wife’s well-being and healing.
    Good luck! Wishing you two a healthy delivery and a beautiful baby!

  63. I took all 12 weeks of FMLA time, and let me tell you, I needed it. I was adjusting to parenthood and recovering from a surprise (though not emergency) c-section, and I didn’t start feeling close to fine until my daughter started sleeping through the night (seven to eight hours the day she turned six weeks old, miracle of miracles!). I spent the rest of the time trying to prep myself mentally to be a working mom while my husband stayed home with our baby. So I agree that your wife should take as much time as she can without putting her job in jeopardy, and if she feels up to going back earlier, make that decision at that time. It was very hard for me to swallow the idea of leaving my daughter. It might be for your wife, too.Best of luck to all of you!

  64. I started a new job while pregnant, so got the same deal – 6 weeks of short term disability. I had a dreadful pregnancy, a hard delivery, and a number of postpartum complications, which made going back after 6 weeks (which was a financial necessity as I am the breadwinner in our relationship, and since the pregnancy wasn’t planned, no real savings in anticipation of this) pretty horrible. Fortunately, I had two weeks of vacation time saved up and so I spread it out over a month and was able to work part time from weeks 7-10, then went back full time at 11 weeks.I was unable to breastfeed – I struggled and struggled to make it happen, but going back to work at six week was the final blow and any milk I had disappeared.
    It really really sucked. I would have killed for 12 or more weeks off.

  65. I was lucky. I was able to take 20 weeks (8 short-term disability because of C-section) and then 12 FMLA. My husband was unemployed at the time, so we were both home. I cannot imagine having to go back to work at 6 weeks. I went back P/T (24 hrs initially, now 30) and I think I would want that much time again if I have another one. I would also love for my DH to be able to take an extended amount of time off (although, I’d prefer he be on leave than unemployed again 😉 Taking that time ate into our savings, but we were fortunate enough to have them to be able to do this. So I would echo what many have said in earlier posts … take as much leave as you can afford and if your wife can then go back P/T or work from home at all, take advantage of that.Oh, and congratulations!

  66. IMHO, there really isn’t such a thing as “too much” maternity leave. Canada has it right! 😉 And Moxie was so right about there being no way to fully understand just how totally frickin’ exhausting the first few months are… until you survive them. I really think motherhood takes some of us by total surprise & sets us on a new course entirely. I was pretty positive I’d be itching to get back to work right away. But once I had my little son, and we had that precious newborn time together with a “return date” looming over our heads, I realized that I didn’t ever want it to end, and that I’d never be able to go back full-time.My former employer’s policy for a mother giving birth or a parent adopting a baby was pretty much unlimited prenatal time off w/ dr’s note for the former (ST or LT disability), plus 12 weeks fully paid postpartum/post-adoption, plus an additional 8 weeks unpaid postpartum/post-adoption, plus any paid vacation time available. Paternity/Domestic Partner Leave, however, was only 6 weeks paid, 2 weeks unpaid. (Word to the wise – at my former co., Adoption Leave was a much more favorable policy than regular old Partner Leave… yes, it pays to know your policies and be sure to elect the one that gives you the most time off!)
    I took a total of 22 weeks leave: 3 weeks prenatal (had high blood pressure but still felt great, and DS was late), and 19 weeks postpartum. I had my son in the last quarter of the year, which meant my maternity leave went into January, effectively giving me 2 years’ worth of vacation time to use, plus I had already had a ton of vacation days saved up, so my leave was fully paid. Then I used those additional unpaid weeks to do a maternity leave phase-back plan, where I worked 3 days/week for about 4 months at a reduced salary (once the additional unpaid weeks ran out), until I eventually quit to be a WAHM in an entirely different field. DH only took a few days off initially, then when I finally had to go back to work he took 2 weeks vacation to be home with DS. He worked at an old boys club type of place that unfortunately had a very hostile attitude about paternity leave – but we knew that in advance, and chose our strategy accordingly.
    Thanks to both the genetic lottery and the wonders of perineal massage, I had an easy vaginal delivery and recovered super quickly. Physically, I could have gone back literally the same week. However, I wasn’t fully ready mentally & emotionally to go back until 16 weeks postpartum if I had to (I somehow remember the very day I realized this).
    I always advise my friends (who are foolish enough to ask me) to avoid putting ANY postpartum plans in stone until they actually have the baby, have gotten through the first few weeks, and can assess how they’re truly feeling about things. You just never know how long it’ll take to heal and feel like yourself again, not to mention if baby needs to be in the NICU, which is unlikely of course. I realize though that silly employers actually think they need these concrete plans from us before baby comes… boo!
    For Beth, I heartily agree with everyone who has recommended your wife tell her employer she’ll take the full 12 weeks, then wait to see if she really needs it. Who knows? She could feel ready to be back after like 10 weeks – or not. It’s a really personal thing, and I strongly feel you need first to actually experience it before you’ll truly know.
    Moxie almost got the last part right: it’s everyone at home with a TODDLER who secretly or not-so-secretly wishes they could just leave all day at a certain point! Makes the newborn energy-suck look like a cakewalk! 😉 Good luck!

  67. We seriously looked into moving to Canada when I was pregnant. I mean – the US administration at that time + inhumane US parental-leave policies = Vancouver was a serious possibility.But – we stayed. Family’s all here. I was half-time freelance, half-time 20 hr/week cushy state-university-support-type job (benefits!), half-time grad student. (I know, that’s three halves.) I got my MFA while pregnant, cut out the freelance a month before due date, and planned to work at the half-time gig until due date then take 4 months, going back to the half-time gig then. (My husband was self-employed at the time so we needed the benefits.)
    what happened: Got put on bedrest a month before due date. C-section a week before due date. Instant baby-love, brutal colic, spirited kid, no sleep. Pumped pumped pumped. Kid knocked bottle across the room at three months. Got part-time share care at 4 months; baby still WOULD NOT take bottle. Arranged to work from home until bottle situation resolved. Hahaha. Then 2 weeks of me crying in home office, baby crying in living room. Said f*** it and quit job.
    I was SO not ready. Physically? Sure – easiest c-section recovery ever. Emotionally? No way.
    Ate $1200/month (!) in COBRA costs for 18 mos. Worked half-time preelance and nursed on demand. Gave away pump. Husband eventually took (decent but onsite) job and quit lucrative freelancing, because we needed the benefits. Now he’s full-time, I’m half-time freelance, paying down debt. Kid happy; great part-time nanny. Still not sleeping much, but basically happy. We know we’re lucky to have the income and flexibility we have.
    No regrets, less cash. Still thinking about Canada.

  68. As a US government employee, one does not get a lick of maternity leave. Not one day. If you deliver or adopt a baby, you must use accrued sick and annual leave (or a combination). If you haven’t been on the job for years and years, chances are you dont have much if any leave accrued, so you can go on FMLA (unpaid) leave for up to 12 weeks.I went into preterm labor, and ended up on bedrest for 11 weeks, followed by my daughter’s birth by c-section. I wanted to take a minimum of 3 months off after she was born, so I got an extension (supervisor’s choice to approve) of FMLA. Not everyone has supportive supervisors, so I guess I was lucky to retain my job, even though I went unpaid 6 MONTHS! Yes, it was my supervisor’s discretion whether I should be allowed to stay home even one week post-csection, because bedrest had eaten up all of my FMLA leave.
    I agree with you – 8 weeks minimum (longer if there is any possible way). I hated returning to work when mine was 3 months old. Luckily I was able to continue breastfeeding for 1.5 years due to tremendous lactation support, but I sure could have used assurances about my job security, and pay would have been nice as well.

  69. Another Canadian here. I’m 8 months in to my 12 month mat leave. And I took my 4 weeks of vacation before my due date (which I highly recommend, if anyone has that option).For me, 12 weeks was the absolute minimum to feel like I was physically strong enough / feeling OK to contemplate adding something else on my plate. (And my pregnancy was, relatively speaking, easy). The first 8 weeks are HARD (esp. weeks 6-8 when they’re at their fussiest). And we had/have an easy baby.
    Also what threw me for a loop was the toll that sleep deprivation would take. I BF and did all the night wakings (since he just wanted to eat, & we didn’t want to bottle feed before at least 8 weeks). It’s a lot to manage in the beginning. Especially when it goes on day after day.
    Emotionally I don’t think I would have been good in going back to work any earlier than 6 months. Of course, I would have managed if I had to. But I’ve found that it’s taken me about 8 months to get used to life with an infant and to start to feel confident that I can handle what’s thrown my way. (Of course, there’s peaks & valleys in the confidence thing).
    And so, I’m really looking forward to these last 4 months as fun time with my little guy. Sleep regressions still kick me in the ass though. (Case in point, my massage therapist told me this a.m., after feeling pressure points on my head, that I was tired. Um, yeah.) But it’s easier to recover now as the multiple wakings nights aren’t usually for several nights or weeks on end.
    I’ve got a lot of drive in my career, but I must say that I love being off with my little guy and am finding it hard to wrap my head around the fact that in 4 short months, he’ll be going off to daycare (well, assuming we can find daycare, but that’s a whole other story).

  70. I don’t have time to read all the comments here, and I can’t really comment from experience anyway, since I’m lucky enough to live in Germany, where you get 8 weeks compulsory leave after the birth (and 6 before) in which you are by no means allowed to work, followed by 12 months at 67% of your previous salary, and assuming you’re on a permanent contract, your employer has to give your job back after 3 years at home… But anyway, my little boy is now 10 months old, and I have to say that the first 2-3 months of his life are pretty much a blur. A pregnant friend was asking me how Toby slept at the beginning the other day, and I had to admit that I don’t really remember. The first 6 weeks were nothing but survival (have baby and I both eaten today? Then it was a success) and even after that, it was still pretty hard, and I really can’t imagine having to work in those 8-12 weeks…

  71. I took ten weeks (which was basically 8 weeks disability, plus 2 week paid parental leave) and then went back part time (3 days a week) for another ten weeks (stretched out my four weeks of vacation). So I didn’t take any unpaid time. I agree with some of the other comments that the slow return to work is best. My husband was home the other two days a week while I worked part time and the transition back to work was much better than I expected (although the transition to full time was harder). For me, it was so so worth it to go back early so I could do the part time bit for awhile.I guess in an ideal world I would have stayed home for an extra couple of weeks, and then the part-time would have dragged on for….I don’t know. Forever? I loved working part time.

  72. hush, I think I got it wrong and you almost got it right–It’s staying home with a 3 1/2-year-old that makes you want to leave all day. At least toddlers still take naps… ;)I don’t know how you women who had to go back so soon made it through! It just shows that women can do whatever we have to.

  73. I have to add to Stephs comment. Not only are there no maternity leave benefits if you work for the federal government (it is exactly what she described). If you live in Maryland there are no state short term disability benefits to help you get through.

  74. I’m in Canada so I took almost all of the 50 weeks. I’m from the States, though, so I’m especially grateful because I’m so aware that that isn’t the reality for a lot of the people I grew up with.I can’t give advice other than what Moxie said — as much time as you can without stretching yourself too thin financially. Personally I think anything less than a year is inhumane (unless the mom wants to go back, of course) and I wish the States would figure that out and give you guys a much needed break!

  75. I took four months with the first and about a week or so less than that with the second. In both cases, the decision was financial – we compromised by using some of our savings without running through them all. In both cases, I felt we’d made the right compromise.The funny thing is that before my first baby was born I was quite upset at the idea of only having four months, and wished I could have at least six. When I actually went back at the four-month mark I was surprised by how great it felt to be out of the house and doing something other than babycare. 3 – 4 months is, for me, enough time to get over the birth and enjoy time with the baby, but not so much that I go stir crazy at home. In your situation, I would definitely try for the full 12 weeks, and a bit more if possible.

  76. On working up to the due date – both of my kids were about a week early, and I worked the day before they were born. Both summer babies, in the south, and my work was so much better air-conditioned than home that it was a blessing to work! Also I am the kind of person who would go mad sitting at home waiting for a baby to come along (you may vary).With Casper, I took 3 weeks accrued sick/vacation, 3 weeks paid parental leave (a policy implemented a month before I gave birth, yay!) and 6 unpaid FMLA weeks. mr. flea went back to work after less than a week and I was home alone most of the time – that sucked. I think the transition to parenthood would have been much easier with support. For me, recovering from (vaginal) birth and breastfeeding issues were pretty easy to cope with, but the emotional world-shattering fallout and sleep-deprivation (Casper was up every 2 hours at night until past 9 months) were tough. I was VERY glad to go back when I did, so much so that I chose to back with Dillo sooner – at 8 weeks. (there were also financial reasons – with Casper in day care I couldn’t afford to take unpaid leave). I transitioned back to work slowly with Dillo, which was great – 2 weeks at 20 hours, 2 weeks at 30, then 2 months at 30 hours in/10 hours at home. With both kids, having care in our house when they were infants (paid caregivers + grad school mr. flea) was a key to my happiness and comfort at going back. Dillo went into daycare first, at 5.5 months, and I was worried about that, but he was a very placid baby and Casper was already at the same place.

  77. Late to the party but just wanted to add:1) Yes, your wife should take all the time she possibly can.
    2) There is no predicting how your wife will feel and what ‘kind’ of baby you might have. Yes, it is generally tiring, but you might get lucky and have a laid back baby who nurses well, sleeps well, and doesn’t need to be walked up and down the hall in the wee hours. I didn’t find the newborn stage too hard…everyone’s circumstances are different. For what it’s worth, I had an ‘average’ (not fantastic, not horrendous) labour and delivery and breastfed exclusively. Still at home with him (22 months).
    You’ll be okay no matter what happens.

  78. Oh I wish the US would get its act in gear here. No one should have to go back after 4 weeks (4 weeks!!!) let alone 12. You are still an utter mess at this point, at least I was. And you are just at the stage of starting to get things together, and then you have to go and leave your infant, who is just starting to be interesting. It’s very very tough. I took 8 months – 5 on full pay, 3 on statutory maternity pay in the UK (£100 a week). I worked a bit (4ish hours a week) on and off from about 6 months, with one period of a bit more activity around 2 mnths in when I had a specific task I had to do – I used to do phone calls while I was breastfeeding.So my advice is to do whatever it takes to stay home as long as you can, for yourself and for the baby. And to get lots of help, either way. I know it’s really tough financially, but it’s worth it if you can swing it at all.

  79. Congrats!I am in a similar position, actually – I was already 7 months pregnant when I started this job, so my leave is 6 weeks disability, but I am allowed to take non-paid time up to 12 weeks, so that’s what I am doing. Basically, with my first pregnancy, I realized that I was barely functional at 2 months (physically still enh and mentally slow), and at 4 months, I was actually functional. And 3 months is when I started having decent sleep – not great, but not bleary. So you need at least 12 weeks, I think. I am planning on 12 weeks off, and then working out part-time or telecommuting options for 3 more weeks before going back to the office. If that’s an option, financially, think about that.

  80. Another Canadian chiming in here. I took a full year off with my daughter and I plan to take another year off when #2 arrives. Besides breastfeeding issues with my daughter, which weren’t resolved until she was about 8 weeks old, I found I wasn’t really enjoying motherhood until she was about 5 months old. If I’d gone back to work, I would’ve missed the beginning of the fun!

  81. I was in a similar situation – I got pregnant four weeks after starting a new job!! DOH!! So, I didn’t even qualify for FMLA – and my company wasn’t willing to let me stay out of the office without pay. How sad is this – I was actually excited to have a scheduled c-section, because it meant that I would get two more weeks of short-term disability leave.When it was all said and done, I took 8.5 weeks off – 2.5 weeks at full pay, the rest at 60%. Money wise, it was fine. When you have a newborn, it’s not like you’re going anywhere and whooping it up. Time wise, it was actually enough for me. I mean, would I have liked to stay home longer? Sure. But I’m one of the lucky ones who has a baby that, for the most part, loves to sleep (don’t hate) so I was able to function at work fairly well. It helps that I enjoy my job and trust my babysitter, too.
    Good luck and congrats!

  82. I took around 14 weeks. That amount worked out really well for me. I did have a C section, and was only really starting to feel ok at the 6 week mark. I could have gone back if I’d had to, but I am so glad I had another 8 weeks. It is overwhelming at first and it does take time to get your feet back under you and to hit your stride mom-wise. I know a lot of women who have had success with going back part time for a while also. Ultimately, Moxie put it best (per usual 🙂 ), take as much as you can afford and want.Congratulations!

  83. I echo the others that say at least 12 weeks, if you can manage it. That’s how much I took and I wished for more but in hindsight I think it was about right. Any less would have been too little, I think.Congratulations!!!

  84. Another Canadian – I also took the full year we are allowed here, although I don’t think I needed that much. At around 5 months I distinctly recall wanting to go back to work. With my next I plan to take 6 months, to limit the financial impact of taking the time off, and the impact on my career. It’s funny, around here people think it’s crazy to WANT to take less time off than the fully year – but compared to the US, 6 months seems a positive luxury.

  85. Well, take as much as she can, but don’t worry too much if it’s not that much. ::shrug:: I had to go back part-time after two weeks with my son, full-time at 4 weeks. It wasn’t ideal, but you do what you have to do.The bond between my son and I is just fine, and we all survived intact. Take as much as she can, but you guys will be just fine regardless. 🙂

  86. I went back at 8 weeks after both kids – first time it was completely fine (not a “relief” but fine and comfortable). Second time was tougher but also doable. It was tougher because spending those 8 weeks with a young toddler and my newborn gave me very little chance to recover from my c-section (not to mention bonding with the newborn). It was fine though; a financial necessity that ended up working out on the family side as well.

  87. We are South African expats in Singapore and I love Moxie’s site – thanks! I had to go back to work after 12 weeks.My 2 cents is that we are all different and may experience the motherhood/work issue in different ways. I am a financial consultant, professional, mid-thirties. I thought it would be a breeze – pop out the kid, breastfeed it, go back to work, meet deadlines, no problem. Ho-hum. I cried, Pinocchio-style (i.e. tears shooting sideways from the eyes, mouth squared and lips quivering) for the first 3 days every time we left home. I had to express milk in the stationery room, next to the vacuum cleaner. It sucked! (No pun intended) So after four weeks I asked my boss for a part time position but he was not keen. So I resigned (this was so not me, pre-baby) and found a two day-a-week job. Less money but more time with baby. I’m apprehensive (OK, to be honest, I’m scared) about not having my own income, although the husband is not worried at all.
    So if possible, try to get as much time off as you can. And be prepared for the emotions and the changing priorities – I’m sure not everyone feels the same, but it krept up on me and the tears were a surprise, even to me! Good luck and congratulations.

  88. I am a teacher. My school offers 6 weeks paid leave and up to 12 weeks unpaid leave. However, I lucked out and delivered my daughter 16 weeks before school let out for the summer, so I was able to negotiate unpaid leave up to summer break. I got paid a prorated summer salary (the percentage I had worked of the school year) and started the new school year on my daughter’s 6 month birthday.My husband and I looked at each other the night before I would have had to go back after 12 weeks and shook our heads in amazement. None of us were ready after 12 weeks. I was barely ready after 6 months, and we have the most wonderful daycare situation you can imagine. But I know that we humans are adept at sucking it up and dealing with whatever reality we are forced to live.
    I think 6 months is minimum. I am soooooooooooooooo grateful for the way things worked out for my family. But thinking about a second child is scary. My delivery was really ideally timed — by accident. Not much chance of that happening twice.
    We used to live in Germany, and our German friends are horrified by the idea of a 6 week maternity leave.

  89. Helen writes: “If she’s breastfeeding – a lot of sources recommend not even introducing a bottle til 4-6 weeks. If she’s going back at 5 weeks, chances are she’d be trying to pump to build a stash, and frankly, it’s rare to pump tons in the first few weeks, but some people get really discouraged from seeing a low output.”This was soooo not my experience. This one was in the NICU for a week due to lung immaturity (I had a C-section at 37 weeks for placenta previa), so I started pumping within hours of his birth. My records show that within the first month, I pumped 11 liters of milk, while the baby drank 4.5 liters in bottles and/or gavage feeds during the same time. I pumped 2.5 liters in the first *week*, and my milk didn’t come in until day 4.
    That stash is saving my bacon now, and is the only reason I didn’t have to introduce formula shortly after returning to work – I seldom actually pump as much in a day as he drinks. I’m hoping to stretch the stash out to the one-year mark, and it still looks feasible to do so.
    Now, I did have lots of pumping experience going in (this is my second baby, and I pumped for the first up to about 13 months). But after comparing the two experiences, I’m skeptical about advice to new mothers not to pump, especially if they know they’ll be going back to work. It’s important to manage the pumping so that the baby is getting enough hindmilk, since you’re basically artificially maintaining a big oversupply, but if you can do that, I think it’s beneficial to start pumping while your body is still figuring out how much milk it’s ultimately going to have to produce.

  90. I took 12 weeks, then worked from home 3 days a week, in the office 2 (my husband’s a SAHD, lucky me, so no day care transition). I took a few meetings during my maternity leave, and that was ok. Started pumping around 8 weeks (and felt that was too late — I was very worried about having enough milk stocked up).If you’re in the U.S. (at least in MA), be forewarned: I thought I’d be in great shape ’cause my son was born 12/23, which meant all kinds of public holidays (christmas, new year’s, MLK jr, presidents’ day) to extend my leave. BUT NO! Those holidays all got counted in the 12 weeks and my STD (which is only 6 weeks, but the first is sick leave, so it’s really 5 weeks – SUCK).
    I used vacation time for the 6 weeks that weren’t STD (carried over from the year before, plus the new year). Fortunately, my boss is a wonderful, understanding, fabulous person with a young child, so she was flexible around anything that could be flexed (like working from home).
    Also, my doctor wouldn’t sign off that I was supposed to be induced one day and they delayed it ’til the next for tests. Instead, he only wrote that I was induced the following day. So I took an additional, unexpected sick day (which did NOT count toward the mandatory week) in the beginning of my leave.
    And getting paid the STD was a huge PITA too.
    Babies = wonderful. Bureaucracy = Teh Suck
    Take as much time off as you can afford. For STD, temporarily discontinue your 401K deductions to optimize your cash.

  91. I have 15 sick days that I can take for maternity leave, then I MUST go back in order to pay my mortgage.It will be rough. I am having a c-section.
    Luckily, I felt good on day 14 of my previous c-section. I read about people complaining about 6 weeks. Six weeks would be a luxury to me!!!!!

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