I started crying about going back to work a week after you were born, and that was a full 7 months before I had to return. By the grace of your due date and the arrival of summer vacation and some other incredible factors, I knew I would be able to spend almost the first 8 months of your life at home with you. As I have watched other friends head back after must shorter leaves, I promised myself I would relish the moments at home with you.
I snuggled you. I bathed you. I sang to you. I played with you. I winced as you screamed your way through tummy-time. I laughed at your changing table antics. I fought to feed you and held you tight as much as I could. I battled my way through PPA. But mostly, I tried to train myself to push away the outside world and focus on you, and while I was not always successful, I tried. I put you first, and I embraced my new role as mom. I sorted laundry while you slept or played in your crib. I washed enough dishes to feel sane in the kitchen. I walked with you, took you on crazy outings, and read to you.
As the pages of the calendar seemed to turn and drop away like in a cartoon that shows time passing too quickly, I watched my leave wind down to weeks and then days. I tried my hardest to worry about one day at a time, as I have always been one who worries more about the anticipation of something only to find that things were better than I could have imagined. How could that possibly be the case, though, with leaving you at daycare?
We tried to start things early, and were lucky that you could warm in for a few days before I truly went back to work. So many of those summer days were spent in tears as you slept on my chest; I felt like I was abandoning you to a stranger (I wasn't). I felt like the world might burst at the thought of being away from you (it didn't). It crushed me to think of being away from you for 9 hours straight. I'd done several hour stretches to practice. For both of us. But the thought of doing 9 hours, day after day, seemed to destroy me. I didn't think I could ever survive.
You cried that first day at daycare, but not as much as I did. You had a hard time adjusting to a room with big and little kids, as summer vacation wound down and the big kids prepared to return to school. And that first day, when your dad and I dropped you off, I cried most of the way home, and counted the minutes until I could justify picking you up again. I knew you were safe. I knew we'd be ok. Mostly, I just missed you. To not scoop you up and snuggle you or giggle with you on command seemed devastating.
I went back to work. The days were long; I had my students to focus on, so that helped pass the time. I did not buckle under the tears or find myself pulling out my hair in grief as I had imagined. Okay, as I had imagined many times. It is not, actually, as bad as I had envisioned it. You had a couple of weeks where you struggled to adjust, and we made the decision to have you at daycare part time and home part time with your grandparents. Every day I revel in how lucky we are that that is even an option. I know you are well cared for, at daycare and at home. I know you are loved. But mostly, I miss you. I think of you off and on all day, and while it is not in the crippling, universe-ending painful way I thought it would be, I just miss you. I miss your giggle. I miss the way you cock your head to the side and lean over to get someone's attention. I miss your newest trick - baby kisses - the sloppy, drool-y love fest that you've just started in the last week.
I just miss you the most. I don't worry, like I thought I would, about your safety, because I know you are safe. I do not worry that you are happy, because I know you are. I see the photos and the videos throughout the day of you exploring and having fun. And I know that yes, it would be better, in many ways, if I could be home with you all day, every day. But I also know that being back at work is good for me, and reclaiming part of myself that I was proud of before you is just as important as being with you all day. I hunger for weekends and greedily count the days until school vacations. I rush home as many days as possible after my students have left because i just miss you, and I can't wait to walk in the door and see your goofy, wonderful two-toothed smile.
I hope that you are stronger, more independent, and trusting because of the time you spend with the people who care for you when your dad and I are at work. I know that I will miss many moments. I hope that I do not miss too many. But mostly, I just miss you, little boy, and count the seconds until I have you in my arms again.