When I read about the brouhaha surrounding the plans for the new (and pregnant) CEO of Yahoo!, Marissa Mayer, to work right through her maternity leave, my first reaction wasn’t “Wow, way to go! Chalk up one for all working moms!” Nor did I think, “Crap. She just set the women’s movement back 20 years.” Nope. I simply thought, “It’s got to be her first kid.”
Sure enough, I was right. It is the 37-year-old executive’s first child.
So how did I guess it? Because I also said something similar when I was pregnant for the first time. One big difference though—I was expecting twins.
During those blissfully ignorant first few weeks of my pregnancy, I honestly believed as though little in my life would change after I gave birth. Yes, I actually thought that twins would be easy to care for. After all, I was capable. I was super organized. Plus, don’t all babies sleep a lot? Something like 18 hours a day. That leaves plenty of time, right? I was truly puzzled when other moms finding out that I was having twins would ask, “Will you have help?”
Call it my “prenatal fantasy.” After one miscarriage and more than a year of trying, I was ecstatic just to be pregnant. I pictured cooing babies. I thought of that delicious new-baby smell. I planned their nursery with enthusiasm. Three-hour crying jags, colic, projectile poop, spit-up, sore nipples—none of that ever entered my mind. No one warned me. It was 1995. The Internet was new, and blogging? What’s that?
Little did I know that with twins, their 18 hours of sleep would come in fits and starts. And at different times from each other. Usually during the day, rarely at night when instead I’d walk into their nursery to find them staring up at me with those big baby eyes and willing me to play with them until dawn.
I think I started to wake up from my fantasy somewhere in my fourth month of pregnancy, about the time I finally found a few books on the subject of birthing and raising twins. (“The exhaustion and constant care of the multiples mean that sex is often pushed aside for longer than it is after singleton birth.” —Having Twins) Or, maybe I got clued in around month six when I’d literally hobble into the grocery store and someone would smile and say for umpteenth time, “Any day now?”
“No! It’s not any day. Far from it lady! I have twelve flippin’ weeks to go!”
I was clearly getting crabby. These babies were big, taking over my body and I officially couldn’t sleep any longer. Nothing made me comfortable. Nothing. I couldn’t breathe but, boy, could I eat gaining 65 pounds for my effort. I developed a pregnancy rash all over my hippo-sized baby bumped that itched like crazy.
Get these babies out of me!
And just like that—poof!—I woke from my fantasy and saw my future. I got on the phone and dialed my mother-in-law (sadly, my mother had passed), my best friends, my coworkers and asked for help.
And help they gave me. They arrived the day my husband had to return to work. They came with food. They did my laundry. They cleaned my house. They rocked my babies so that I could shower or finally sleep. I couldn’t have done it without them. Not only did I take my allotted eight weeks of maternity leave but I managed to negotiate an additional four more! And I needed every last one of them. Every. Last. One.
So I smile when I think about Marissa Mayer’s sweet, innocent statement, “My maternity leave will be a few weeks long and I’ll work throughout it.” Let her have her prenatal fantasy. She’ll learn. We all do.