The End of a Beautiful Summer

October 8, 2009

Nothing says, “summer is over” more than falling snow. Today is October 8th, and it is snowing. I know, not a huge shocker, but still those rapidly falling bits of sky carry more significance for me today. It is our first snow, which means that summer is now just a memory. Goodbye summer and goodbye maternity leave. Tomorrow is my last day of maternity leave and Tuesday, after (a wonderfully-timed federal holiday on Monday), I will be returning to work.

How can this be? My eight pound baby girl just came home just yesterday from the hospital. Wait, that was June– and in the blink of an (often bloodshot) eye, my daughter is three and a half months old. I set up my maternity leave so that Bryce would be four months upon my return to work. That would have been the case, except that my little babe decided to spend an extra eight days on the inside. So, just shy of her four-month birthday, Bryce will begin daycare and I will return to work.

The reality that our time together –just the two of us– was coming to its end sunk in about three weeks ago. And, while we typically don’t stack our days with lots of activity, I have been especially thoughtful about not planning anything during this last week together. We have spent our days at home, getting in solid naps (Bryce) and lounging together on the floor smiling up at the red bird, ladybug and psychedelic fish in her play gym when awake. I’ve been more mindful of turning off the television, checking email later, and truly being present with Bryce. I know that these months together are something we’ll never have again, and I have done everything I can to slow down time.

Funny, I can vividly remember thinking and actually wishing for time to speed up earlier this summer during the haze of newbornness. “Please,” I remember thinking, “can’t we just skip past this part and get to the one year birthday?” Being careful of what you wish for has never been more true. I wish I could travel back to those weeks and whisper in my own ear, “This too shall pass. Hold on to these days.” For now here we are, and here I am with little bits of my heart breaking off over these next few days as I prepare to send my child to daycare and into caring hands that, while fantastic and experienced, are ultimately not mine.

I remember dropping off Clare for her first day of daycare and leaving the building in tears. I remember thinking, “How will they know what she needs? How long will she have to cry? Will she get the sleep she needs? Am I a terrible mother for not staying home with her?” Fortunately, her smile upon seeing me at pick-up was antidote enough for me to get past those initial worries, but the guilt I felt about returning to work is something not so easily shaken. I’m not going to get into the whole stay-at-home vs. working mother debate, because it’s just too emotional of a topic and there doesn’t seem to be any right answer. What works for one family will not for another. I just know that even though I like working outside the house, and don’t think I’d be very good at being home with my children 24/7 (for either them or me), I will always carry with me the working-mothers’ guilt–and that sucks.

This time around has been so different in so many ways. For one, I know that this will be my last baby, and therefore, my last maternity leave. I also know that being able to spend this much quality time with just Bryce is a luxury. From this point on, big sister Clare will be with us, and her toddler energy is enough to fill an entire room, not leaving much space for quiet baby games and discoveries. Balancing the needs of both girls is, and will continue to be, a challenge. But what has been so nice about these past (almost) four months together is that I have really enjoyed it. Being home with Clare on maternity leave was filled with new-motherdom, doubts, questions, anxieties and insecurities as to whether or not I was “doing it right.” This time, I know more, and I am more self-confident, so I’ve been able to really relax.

Returning to work brings with it a whole new set of concerns such as: figuring out how to get everyone ready and out the door each morning, putting dinner on the table inside an hour of returning home each night, finding the time at work to pump enough milk each day for Bryce at daycare, being able to spend some amount of quality time with each of my daughters before kissing them goodnight, and connecting with my husband each day on something more than child-related issues.  I am bracing myself for this first month back and hoping that we all come through it with nothing more than minor flesh wounds.

Bryce has been such an easy baby to be with and I am so grateful for that. These last few weeks she has found her voice and the squealing and “singing” that she does amazes us almost as much as it does her. When we put her down for naps during the day, she often sings to herself for a few minutes before quieting down and drifting off to sleep. It’s amazing. She has also found her feet in the last week and likes to curl up into the happy-baby position when she can get a good grip on her toes. We have also reached a wonderful (for me) milestone in that Bryce is no longer nursing at night. We are all sleeping through the night now and what’s surprised us both is how painless the process seemed to be. Though, that’s been a common theme with Bryce– whenever we are about to tweak something (i.e. stop swaddling) with her, we have typically held our collective breath expecting huge reactions or push-back and it never comes. She’s a good little bugger and we are super lucky. Hopefully she will adapt as quickly and effortlessly to being at daycare, too.

Hands down, I know it will be harder for me on Tuesday then it will be for Bryce. I love you, little girl.


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