I remember in the last few weeks of my pregnancy, it took every ounce of my strength to drag myself to work every morning, between being sleep deprived and having pain in every joint that was capable of feeling pain. I hung in there because my maternity leave was finite and I wanted to spend every moment of it with my baby. So that meant coming in to work until the bitter end.
But it turned out I wasn't the most miserable person around. In fact, it never even occurred to me that there might be people out there who were actually jealous of me and my thirty-pound belly.
I discovered the truth one evening, while I was sitting in the office I shared with my swingin' single male co-resident. We were complaining about our workload and suddenly he blurted out:
"I wish I were pregnant."
I had never been so shocked. Immediately, a range of angry replies ran through my head: What part of pregnancy would you like? Would you like to carry 30 extra pounds around with you everywhere you go? Would you like to have to wake up 10 times a night to pee? Or would you just like to go through a painful labor possible ending in a major abdominal surgery? What part of being pregnant appeals to you the most??
I didn't say any of that though. My reply was, "You don't really mean that."
He quickly said, "You're right, I don't."
Of course, what he really meant was that he wanted to have a six week maternity leave. Except what he really meant was that he wanted six weeks in Bermuda.
To many people who have never cared for a newborn before, maternity leave seems like just that: a vacation. And those who cover for you when you're gone get resentful that they have to work harder so that you get a six week vacation, while all they get is a measly 3-4 weeks.
Comments like the above fed into the extreme guilt I had surrounding my maternity leave. When I came back to work, I was afraid to even talk to anyone for months because I assumed all the other residents hated me for getting a "paid vacation".
And even though it's been over a year since I returned from leave, I still haven't completely left those feelings behind.