Tomorrow I go back to work. Looking back over the past three months, some of it is a blur.
- You came earlier than we had planned and you came by surgery, which I had not wanted. You spent 36 hours in the NICU, which was difficult in a way I could not have imagined. I have so much new empathy for NICU parents now. You are warriors.
- My head hurt, and my stomach hurt, and my stitches hurt, and my breasts hurt, for days.
- I started to heal, but didn’t sleep for more than a few hours most nights, for days. Then weeks. Then months.
- I fed my baby from my own body, checking latches and swallows and diapers to make sure he was getting enough, and that I was doing enough.
- My husband went back to work and I faced long days alone with this new baby, a stranger, and my toddler. We figured out where he fit into our routine and where we had to change our plans to suit him. We brought to our favorite places in the park and our neighborhood, and he slept his way through it all only to tell us all about it later, usually at about 3:00 a.m.
- We had few visitors these first months, because of the pandemic and because of winter. But spring started to show its beautiful face, with walks among flowering parks and dinners on the front porch on warm afternoons.
Suddenly here we are, three months later, and tomorrow I go back to work. Looking back over the past twelve weeks, some of it stands out sharply in my memory.
- You looked like your big sister from the start. The same dark hair, furrowed brow, big round eyes and quickly growing cheeks.
- The first morning we were home, my husband brought home coffee and donuts and we all ate them together in our bed.
- One evening I was in too much pain to come downstairs, and my toddler said, “I feel sad.” She’d never voiced that feeling before, and I cried, too.
- The first day I had both kids to myself, their naps overlapped by eight minutes. I felt like a champion.
- We had video calls with family and friends daily, sharing glimpses of this new person we’d created. I was often shocked at the state of my hair or the bags under my eyes seen in the tiny video of myself, but I was too happy and proud to care.
- My son gained five pounds between his first two doctors’ appointments and we celebrated with drive through french fries. I’m just saying, that may be the key to producing good milk — kidding!
- While I beg him to sleep, I rock him in my arms and sing every line of every song from every Broadway show I can remember, of course including my starring role in Anything Goes in high school.
- When he’s hungry and crying, I feel his little body melt into mine as I pick him up. He knows it’s me and he feels at home in my arms.
- When he looks into my eyes and smiles for the first time, it’s the absolute best feeling in the world.
Maternity leave is no vacation. It’s a time to heal, recover, learn, adjust, and grow. There are parts you’ll barely remember once they are over, and there are moments you will cherish forever.
So tomorrow when I go back to work, I’m bringing all these moments within me. I’m returning a new person, inside and out.
I’ll be there in the morning. But for now, I have a baby to rock and some show tunes to sing.