Hello world! It’s me! It’s been awhile… [hugs, kiss each cheek, where were we. Ah. Yes. That part.]
I have a lot to catch up on, so I’ll try to make it snappy and hopefully be able to keep up again.
Let’s start with going back to work and dropping Will off at daycare for the first time.
Time: a week before returning to work.
Scene: my bedroom.
What am I going to do?!? All my old clothes fit except for my work pants! Damn synthetic-fibers-that-have-no-give!
I hurry to my go-to resource for work attire and purchase two pairs of pants that fit. I refuse to buy any more than that. I will get back into my old pants. Buying new clothes is money out of Bubbalooshki’s college fund, so I’ll squeeze myself in one way or another. Pronto. (The college fund thing is just what I tell myself to avoid the truth – there is no college fund at this point in the story.)
I pay for my pants and reflect on the 55 pounds that I gained while pregnant. I had about 10 left to lose, and it was causing me to panic. What if I never went back to my old self? That wouldn’t be a huge problem really, but I can’t deny that the thought of being stuck 10 pounds heavier than my old self was somewhat depressing. I remind myself how lucky I am to have lost most of it so fast, and head home to plan my first week’s outfits.
Now, the old me didn’t plan outfits. At all. The old me would wake up 30 minutes before it was time to leave, grab a few garments that seemed to match – some from the closet, some from that basket over there (always sniff first, before wearing clothes from the “basket over there”), some from the dryer downstairs – the dryer that I typically run about eight times to “iron” my clothes, vowing each time that I’ll fold the load. The old me was a rush-out-the-door-cussing-and-swearing girl who could have sworn she was five minutes ahead of schedule, until she forgot her phone upstairs, and “NIIIIICK! WHERE ARE MY GODDAMN KEYS!!!???”
The new me couldn’t do that anymore.
I jot down a list of things I must remember for my first day of work and mentally run through the plan over and over in my head while meticulously laying out all items necessary for departure.
Wake up at 5:30 am. Two hours should be plenty of time to get ready and deal with any unexpected occurrences. Don’t forget the breast pump. Have the daycare bottles ready and labeled. Don’t forget your lunch. Set the coffee maker. Is there gas in the car? I wonder if he’ll be too hot if I put socks on him. I bet socks are required at daycare. Set out socks that match. Do I have socks that match that onesie?
The day arrives. I wake up super early as planned. I don’t even feel tired. I’m sort of already half awake when my alarm goes off. Bubbalooshki Bear is already waking up. I see his gummy smile when I look down at his sleepy eyes just opening to meet mine. That smile makes me wonder why dentures exist. Gummy smiles are the best. I feel a burst of energy and experience a “happy moment” of pure joy and gratitude that he is in my life now. It sucks to leave him today, but the thought of picking him up after work to see how he did on his first day of “school” is thrilling to me.
Thankfully, Nick is dropping him off on the first day. Crying jag avoided. Phew. I kiss my little bear goodbye and head off, coffee in hand and in plenty of time to arrive early (for once in my life). It feels great.
Where are the tears? Why am I not a complete mess?
I arrive at work. It’s surreal. At the same time, it’s as if nothing changed. I catch up with everyone, and, well, get back to work.
4:30. Time to pick him up.
Then, it hits me. I feel a visceral urge to freaking RUN out the door. To get to him as fast as I can. I’ve been without him for eight hours. My heart begins to race, and I speed around the curves of the court where I work, tiny Prius engine whining, tailgating recklessly, and wanting the slow person driving in front of me to literally die and get out of my way. I’ve left him. A whole day with complete strangers. He’s been with me every single moment of every single day, and we just dropped him off with people who look, sound, and smell different. I wonder what he must be thinking of us.
I make it to the daycare, and try to be calm and cool as I stroll innocently through the door. My demeanor says, “Heeeey, ‘sup.” My brain is screaming, “GIVE ME MY BABY YOU MONSTERS!!!”
I head to the infant room and see what seems like a hundred bald little heads and striped onesies. I walk in, and don’t see him. I start to panic as my eyes dart from baby to baby, until the caregiver nods toward the floor and points with her eyes as she rocks and feeds another baby.
I spot him. He is swaddled in a little swing on the floor just bawling his eyes out. Alone. Abandoned. Scared out of his wits. I rush over and bend down to hold him and tell him it’s ok. He sees me, and for a fleeting moment his fear seems to take away any recognition of who I am. It passes quickly, and is replaced by a fresh wave of whaling, and a look that, I swear, says, “Are you fucking kidding me, Mommy?”
We head home, both of us a little shaken from our time apart from one another. I tell Nick all about it when he gets home. By that time Bubbalooshki and I had calmed down and snuggled away our anxiety. Telling our story to Nick gives me a chance to talk out what happened – to remind myself that at daycare he can’t be held by someone all five hours that he’s there. That the daycare providers are not aloof, they are just calm – as they should be. He was safe and secure when I picked him up. He’ll get to know the caregivers, and so will we. When I review these things, it gives me strength for the next day.
Somehow, we repeat our process and go back again the second day. This time, when I pick him up, I look in and see him smiling up at “Miss Martha” who has him laying in her lap and is engaging him in what looks like a very lively conversation. I smile too. We go home a little less stressed than we did the day before.
Three months later (can you believe he’s going on 7 months?), I pick him up. I look in the window and see him sitting up all by himself on the play mat, hangin’ with some pals and Miss Martha. I walk in and he gives me his grin, which is still gummy as ever. We love the daycare. We’ve gotten to know everyone, and Bear seems to love the gals there. He never bats an eye when I hand him off to one of his ladies, and he’s as familiar with them as he is with grandparents, and he’s no longer the new kid on the block. He was the youngest baby there for awhile. Now, I’d say he’s a Sophomore or thereabouts.
I won’t say it’s easy now. Some days are so easy, I don’t even think about it. But on occasion, I glance in the rearview mirror on our commute to daycare and see his little face staring out the window of the car, taking it all in. Learning. Thinking. Listening to our music. Some days when I see him back there in his seat, I remember that day when we brought him home. How small he was in that big seat! I remember crying the whole way home and vowing to never go back to work. I think about what a shame it is that I couldn’t keep that vow, but how lucky I am to have a job that is able to help support us, and so I try to squish that thought from my head and just feel grateful. Those are the days it’s hard to leave him.
Some days are too busy for profound thoughts. But when my mind is quiet and I see him for who he is right now, in this moment – those are the days I leave him with a lump in my throat that I typically have to drive around the block once or twice to get rid of before I walk into work. I don’t know if that will ever go away, really. Honestly, I hope it never does.