I’m going back to work in a couple of weeks. It’s so much harder than I thought it would be. I don’t know if you’re ready. I don’t know if I’m ready. But I know I’m not the only mother who’s ever had to deal with this.
In the beginning, I worried that I wasn’t enjoying motherhood as much as I was supposed to. I thought having a baby would produce all these hormones that would magically make me love you and fully embrace motherhood. It didn’t really happen like that.
I loved you immediately, yes. And I was going to do whatever it was you needed from me. You were happy and strong but also small and so very needy. It was a huge adjustment for me. I had to change everything. I wasn’t prepared to be so desperately needed every hour of every day.
Breastfeeding was a challenge for both of us. We struggled clumsily along those first few weeks rarely bothering to even wear clothes as they just got in the way. I was lucky to get a 10-minute break while someone else held you before you’d get hungry again. I was tethered to you and could never seem to get very far before you needed me again. It was overwhelming.
Babywearing seemed like a helpful solution, but the learning curve was steep. I tied us both up in knots. It took a lot of practice and wasn’t the immediate game changer I’d hoped.
I couldn’t put you down for naps; you needed to sleep in my arms. And while sometimes the snuggles were nice, other times I looked on with envy as those around me simply got to get up and do whatever they wanted while I was confined to a rocking chair.
I found it really hard to enjoy motherhood while healing from birth and still trying to take care of myself.
Slowly, I adapted. I learned to live with the short windows I got between feedings. I eventually figured out babywearing and ways to take you everywhere with me. I figured out cloth diapers, and how to dress you, feed you and bathe you without as much awkwardness. I found ways to still do things for myself so I could stay sane and give you the love and attention you needed.
I learned that we both sleep much better when we’re snuggled up together, so we went to full-time co-sleeping and never looked back.
We learned and adapted and grew together. Somewhere along the way, I realized that I could have so much fun adventuring with you by my side.
We’re rarely apart, you and I. We’ve vacationed together, hiked together, gone for coffee dates, dog walks, and so much more. We’ve both changed so much, and we’ve grown so much closer than I could have imagined.
A year ago you were growing inside me, and despite how close we were then, it was hard for me to feel a bond with someone I’d never met. It’s so different now that you’re here.
What a strange thing, this motherhood. To be so violently thrown into something so all-encompassing. It begins with the struggle of pregnancy: the anxiety of wondering if you’re doing enough, the constant worry of losing the precious life inside you. You watch your body slowly morph into something foreign while suffering the aches and pains and inconveniences required to bring forth life. You endure the messy, traumatic, terrifying, yet beautiful thing that is childbirth and then are suddenly responsible for keeping a small infant alive and well. You’re needed constantly, all day, every day.
I told myself it’s all temporary and that you would grow and become more independent and soon I’d have time for myself again. There were so many mental battles along the way to finally become okay with that and to even embrace it. I learned to love it, to actually need that closeness with you, only to realize that all too quickly, it’s starting to slip away.
Now after all this time growing closer comes the first step in a long series of moments I have to slowly learn to let go. Of course, me going back to work doesn’t mean the end of breastfeeding or nighttime snuggles or having fun together. But it does mean there will be a little less time for it.
And as time goes on, you’ll want to nurse and snuggle a little less. One day you’ll want your own bed, your own space. One day you’ll be too big for me to wear you. Eventually, you’ll want to go running off on your own. Oh, we’ll still find time to be together. I look forward to making so many memories with you as you grow, learn and become capable of so much more. But I don’t look forward to having to learn how to spend time apart.
Today it’s me going back to work, tomorrow it will be kindergarten, then sleepovers with friends, and eventually saying goodbye as you become an independent adult striking out on your own.
My heart is hurting but it’s also so full. This journey is scary at times, inconvenient, difficult, exhausting, but also beautiful, endlessly entertaining, and full of love and surprises. I know we still have many nights of snuggles ahead of us before I have to worry about the next chapter.
I’ve got to go out and help support our family and while you’re too young to understand that, know that I’ll continue to hold you, snuggle you, wear you, and nap with you whenever I can.
And part of me knows that my job as a mother isn’t really to smother you with all the kisses and cuddles you could ever want. As much as I love that part, I think my real job is to be here when you need me, but also to learn how to step back sometimes and watch you explore this big beautiful world on your own.
I’m not completely sure how to be okay with that, but we’ve got time to figure it out.