Today you are ten weeks and two days old, and today is the last day of my maternity leave. As I mentally prepare to head back to work – taking care of other people’s sick children – I feel compelled to reflect on our time together.
I had this beautiful, serene labor pictured in my head. Your actual delivery was very different. That story involved more people and complications that I can’t remember them all. I had to choose between forceps or C-Section to bring you into this world, and I opted for the forceps. After two days of contractions and five hours of pushing, I was NOT adding a C-section recovery if I had another option! At 4:04am you made your entrance. Your cry was the most beautiful cry I’d ever heard. I was spent and losing a lot of blood, therefore it took everything I had left just to stay awake. I wanted so badly to put you to breast and touch you, but I could barely keep my eyes open. The forceps left a bruised reminder on your left cheek and ribcage.
Guilt set in whenever I looked at the marks–maybe it would’ve been better for you if I had the C-section. I gave you to your dad and watched him receive that first intent gaze I’d dreamt of. It was still a beautiful moment, just not what I had pictured. You were taken to the NICU for an IV, antibiotics, labs, warming, and a slew of other tests. I didn’t want any of that for you; it was my first middle finger from parenthood – you never really get an acceptable level of control or reassurance. The first symptoms of motherhood are an unrelenting questioning of your decisions, regret, and emotionally-crippling guilt mixed with intermittent panic.
Week one was spent in the hospital, your father and I taking turns staying with you. We never left your side. Week two, your father was still home saving my sanity, since breastfeeding and pumping can be torture. We tried really hard to remind each other to eat and that life beyond you and TV existed. You and Dad bonded watching The 2014 World Cup. The rest of the time you were pretty much in my arms while I read books out loud or listened to RadioLab. Massive amounts of coffee may have been involved. Being the night-shift nurse I am outside of mommydom, your tiny body was already accustomed to caffeine (sorry about that).
Truth be told, you have been an easy baby. I expected the worst: 24/7 colic, screeching/screaming at all hours waking me up in a panic, indecipherable cries without solace, blowout diapers, and never wanting to be set down. None of that actually happened. It was like clockwork almost from day one. You’d wake up every three hours to eat, change, and then fell right back to sleep. Now, it’s just one or two times per night; you seem to thrive on routine. You have very predictable and consistent communication, which makes crying infrequent and short-lived. You’re independent and happy to go with the flow. You’re okay in the Mamaroo and you’re happy in the Ergo. You don’t mind hanging with dad and you snuggle with my friends when they want a baby fix.
Having this time with you was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had, and somehow SO different from working with babies in the hospital. You made me nervous about every little thing – your breathing, your heart, your color, your habits – everything. I was so nervous that I’d miss something major, and that’s not allowed when you’re a nurse! I feel a heavy responsibility to be a mom and a nurse to you, and anything less than perfection is my failure. To be honest, I highly doubt my ability to return to work and be more than just physically present. To your dad, it will be a much anticipated day: your first Hawkeye game. Sadly, I will miss it, and working-mom guilt sets in.
Already, you’re a more amazing son than I ever imagined possible! Watching you explore and be curious is instinctively entertaining. The way you stop crying when I simply walk in the room or pick you up gives me the greatest joy and sense of accomplishment. I never fathomed that something as simple as my presence could have such an effect. You are overwhelmingly perfect, and the concept that you might not have been possible makes me hold you that much closer. Your steel blue eyes, blonde hair, fair skin, long, slender body, slightly misshapen head (you insist on sleeping facing right no matter what we do), calm demeanor, expressive face, inquisitive nature, and sensitivity fascinate me to no end.
I am returning to work as if nothing has changed, but I’m nowhere close to the person I was just ten weeks before. The thought of missing any moment stings. You are the reason I don’t sleep, or eat, or shower every day…and you couldn’t make me happier. My hair is messy, as is my bed and my life currently, but you, my dear, are perfect and I don’t care about the rest of it.
(A title I’ve wanted for too long) Mom