So, I’m ready.
Okay, maybe I’m not really ready but I’m just going to do it. I’m just going to talk about it.
About how I’m starting back at work on Monday.
People told me how fast time would go by. Even before Little Bee was born, the number one thing I heard from people with kids was, “time just FLIES!” Followed promptly by, “be sure to enjoy EVERY minute, because you’ll be back to work before you know it!”
Yes, I could definitely feel time after I had her. It was suddenly tactile, something I could hold in my arms in the form of my baby girl. In the beginning though, it didn’t feel fast. In those early moments, where she would be screaming at 3am, and I would be bouncing on the exercise ball in the dark, holding her close while she wailed, time barely moved. Those seconds in those minutes in those hours in those days… they crept by like a slow-moving river.
But somewhere along the way, the dam burst. At some point over the last thirteen months, the river that is Little Bee’s life became too big to be contained and is now rushing by, and nothing can stop it.
It is a glorious thing to behold – life moving and growing and learning and exploding – just the strongest force known to man. My daughter, crashing through all the milestones with an iron fist, is my greatest achievement. My greatest victory. My greatest creation, and I have been honoured to sit here in our warm little home, and watch it unfold over every waking second of our days.
And now. After MONTHS of avoiding it, of putting it to the side and ignoring it – that my river was still moving, too – I’m finally getting myself ready to go back to work.
And all those days of dancing to silly songs, taking her to the park, hearing her first words, witnessing her first steps, feeding her, cuddling her, nursing her, watching her sleep, they feel like they’re coming to an end, in a way. This precious time that I’ve had with her, these delicate days, are they going to fade into the background? Are they going to drift away with the current?
The logical, practical side of my brain keeps telling me that, “Beth, this is good for her. She is going to learn all sorts of wonderful social skills and make friends and learn how to share and become a perfectly well-rounded individual who will go on to rule the world or invent an amazing vaccine or become a teacher.” But then that other side, the loud, sobbing, overly-emotional dramatic side, the side that has CONSUMED me throughout various times in my life, shouts over the other, “but, Beth! She is going to miss you so much! She is going to run and fall and bump her head and cry out for you and you won’t be there, so someone else will have to comfort her! She is going to take naps, and when she wakes up you won’t be there to rock with her and make her giggle and sing your wake-up song! She will call for you and cry until she shakes and her hair will get caught in her tears and she will just say it over and over again, ‘Mama, mama, mama!'”
Oh my God. That stupid voice.
So now I sit here, while she naps, wondering whether I did enough to maximize this split second of our lives. Did I hug her enough? Let her sleep on me enough? Kiss her and twirl her and laugh with her enough? Was there enough playtime together? Enough exploring together? Did we spend enough time together as a family?
Will she remember any of this? One day, years from now, will she smell Cheerios and be whisked back to sitting in her high chair, eating her third bowl of the day because that’s all she would allow me to feed her? Will she hear our morning song playing on a radio and go back to the times when her Dad and I would dance around her crib to it as she was waking up? Will she smell my face cream in a store, on a friend, on a stranger in a bar, and remember how I used to hold her so close to my skin for so many hours, that she would smell like it, too?
I don’t know. I won’t know for a long time, if ever. She might end up holding those memories so dear, that she will want to keep them to herself, just like so many memories I have of her.
To all those Mamas out there who were excited and happy to go back to work – I applaud you. I envy you. I wish it could be that easy for me. And to all you Mamas who are going back and feeling just as shitty about it as I am: you are not alone. Yes, it can feel like a very bad breakup – no one else in the world could possibly feel the pain and heartache you’re going through. But so many women battle with it, fight back against it, resist it… until they can’t anymore.
Okay. So. I’m about to get back on my boat. About to float downstream to where I came from thirteen months ago.
But at least… at least I will have those memories. My daughter laughing, dancing, learning, playing. Walking, falling, crying, sleeping. I’ll have those to get me through my work, until I can be with her again at the end of the day.