This Monday signifies a big day for me, the day that I return to work downtown after a 16 month maternity leave. It’s a difficult transition and one that is causing anxiety and some tears (mostly from me). This time feels different than when I returned to work after having Cubby.
The past 16 months have been so challenging and overwhelming for me; trying to get Squeakers to eat, trying to get her to crawl and stand, endless medical appointments, and attempting to wean her off of breastfeeding. There have been numerous times over the past 16 months that I have not been proud of. Times where my anxiety was out of control not knowing what was wrong with her or if anything was even wrong with her. Times where I have been a wreck and have been paralyzed not knowing what to feed her and when to feed her. Times when I have been utterly exhausted and drained when she was constantly waking up at night and not napping regularly during the day. But then there were times of constant snuggling and cuddling, times of big smiles and squealing laughter, times of hearing her say mama for the first time and pointing to me. Also times of giggling when I tickled her tummy, times of pure delight in the bathtub when playing with new toys, or times of rocking and kissing her little nose when I tried to put her down for a nap. My eyes are tearing up as I write this knowing that in one day my time to spend with Squeakers will diminish to only 1.5 hours each weekday.
Many thoughts are running through my mind; will she remember me, will she still reach out her arms towards me when I come in a room, will she miss me, will she take her first steps while I am at work? For some reason, this time around it is gut wrenching thinking of being away from her. We have been enmeshed and inseparable for 16 months. The longest that I have been away from her has been 4 to 5 hours, with the exception of this week where I tried to stay out of the house for 8 hours a day in preparation for my return back to work. I know that many people have commented that I baby her too much or that she is too attached to me. Secretly, I think that it is the other way around, I am so attached to her. After the loss of Baby Strawberry, and trying so hard to get pregnant this time around, I held onto her a little tighter, a little longer, a little stronger. I know this. I also know that space and distance will be good for us. She will do better and eat better when I am not around, and I will be able to feel like I have some space to breathe. It’s for the better, I know. But it still doesn’t take away the ache that I feel in my heart.
I will never forget Cubby’s reaction after I returned to work when she stopped reaching out for me and stopped coming to me for cuddles and support. It was like I was a completely different person to her as I was gone for most of the day. It really hurt at first, and then became the norm for me. But then it felt good to be away for the day and have some time to myself and come home and be more attentive and appreciative of her, instead of being an exhausted worn out mom.
I know that it is for the better. After all, I love my job and my manager. My job is everything that I have ever wanted, but knowing that I will not get home until about 5:45 pm and Squeakers gets tired by 6 pm and is in bed by 7 pm, does not leave much time for interaction with her. It is causing me a lot of mommy guilt and wondering if I am making the right decision to return back. I know that it is the right decision at this time. In the meantime, preparations for my return have been endless. I have been meal planning, grocery shopping, organizing the girls’ clothing and orienting our live out nanny. Although she is so great, it has been difficult to relinquish control and hand over the reigns to someone else. I am getting better at this.
The lessons that I have learned on this maternity leave with Squeakers have been numerous.
- You cannot control everything. The harder you try, the more push back you will get. In the end, only you will suffer.
- Children are here to teach you something. It is good to take a step back and look at the lessons.
- Enjoy the first year with your child as it goes by so quickly and the snuggles and cuddles are priceless.
- Every child is different. Just because your first child ate all of their food and walked at 11 months, it doesn’t mean that your second child will follow this same path.
- Start sleep training early. Trust me, it is really difficult to sleep train a little one who is older and is able to sit up.
- Enjoy every day. Each day is a new day full of wonder. Your little one will learn something new or do something new each day.
So Monday morning bright and early I am off to the GO station to head downtown Toronto to my office. I am wondering how Squeakers will react. Usually I breast feed her at 6 am and then we go back to sleep and cuddle until about 7:30 am or 8 am. I wonder what she will do when I get out of bed abruptly and start getting ready for work at 6 am. I think that she will cry. I think that I will cry. I will probably spend the first day looking at the clock and counting down the hours until I head home. It will take me a while to get used to this new schedule and new routine. Children are very resilient so I know that she will be fine. I hope that she still remembers me and reaches out to me when I come home. I know that I will be rushing home with open arms.