Today was the day.
A few days ago I packed up the pack n play that has cozied up to our bed after Eli outgrew his bassinet. I folded it up and tucked it in his closet and looked at the way our room opened up, suddenly much, much bigger and more empty that I ever remembered. I felt something and the best word I could use to describe it is the Glennon Doyle Melton coined word, brutiful. Brutal and beautiful.
He sleeps in his own room now. It physically hurts. Like a hole in my chest gaping wide open not being right next to him. At the same time I feel a little space open up in my head, a little breathing room, a little sigh of relief. I actually danced around our room the first night. No more need to tip-toe. I swung my arms over my head and spun in circles while my husband laughed at me.
As I let him go in teeny tiny ways, I come home to myself a little more. The sorrow I feel of being separate from him is matched almost equally by the joy, the freedom of feeling like me again.
This mothering stuff, it guts me and fills me up and guts me again. It is so hard, and saying “hard” gives it zero justice. It is soul-crushing, for me, at times. I know in my heart of hearts that staying home with babies is not a perfect match for my temperament. I also know in my heart of hearts that one of the greatest gifts of my lifetime is staying home with my babies. Something that simultaneously makes me want to rip my hair out and literally fall to my knees in gratitude for being able to do.
My first baby. Today was the day.
Today was the day I walked her to the door of her first classroom. I held her little hand and hugged her long, skinny limbs which have lost any trace of baby fat. Her backpack is the same size as her, basically. Today was the day I walked out the door and left her, for the first time in her life, with anyone who isn’t blood related to her. Today was the day I promised her I would come back, and I left her.
I left my baby today.
I recognize that this will come across melodramatic to some. Just a couple hours a day a handful of days each week, yet this is a whole new world to me. My world was her, every day, all day for 3 and a half years. I am proud and excited and relieved and terrified and heartbroken all in one.
The long goodbye, the slow letting go starts now, breaking itself into smaller, more manageable portions so I don’t completely self-combust.
We are six months past the day our family was completed with the birth of our son, and over the past couple weeks I have recognized the sense that slowly but surely, things are getting there. Easier. I can’t remember with any certainty the last time I wore him in a baby carrier. That damn baby carrier that we both basically lived in. I can’t even remember the last time.
I can’t remember the last time I paced the carpet in our bedroom, wearing it down with my steady, bouncing, exhausted steps, my arms burning with the weight of him, my ears ringing with his cries. I can’t remember the last time I prayed and prayed and prayed he would stay asleep as I transferred him snoozing in my arms to the boppy pillow next to me, holding my breath, bargaining my soul for him to just. Stay. Asleep.
Its as if we crossed a line and suddenly everything was different. Those “last” days may have only been a month or two ago but it feels almost like I invented them.
And years ago I remember hearing the word “preschool” and thinking that was lightyears away.
And here we are.
I am becoming that woman I could hardly stand, telling you it all goes so fast.
Those days are mind-numbingly, soul-crushingly slow. But those years – good GOD, those years are a blink of the eye.
Last night a friend asked as we stood back watching our kids, “are you ready for this?” and my throat caught so suddenly and unexpectedly I could hardly breathe for a minute. I stuttered out a response fast as I could, terrified I would burst into tears right there.
And we read a little poem right before bed and sprinkled magic confetti under her pillow and I sobbed like a baby.
And today I put on my brave face and my “it’s totally ok and fun and fine” face and “it’s just a normal day” face and my “you’re going to love this” face. And her daddy and I kissed her and said have fun and I’ll be back in just a little bit to pick you up and I love you. I love you, sweetheart. And she distractedly said I love you too mommy and daddy and then she turned her little head away from our gaze and towards this new world and I knew that was our cue.
And I walked back up those steps and didn’t turn around because I couldn’t. My heart couldn’t take it.
When I picked her up a few hours later she cried because she didn’t want to leave. When I asked her if she missed me her whole face lit up and she exclaimed with surprise and accomplishment – “I didn’t, mommy!! I didn’t!!”
I smiled up at the rearview mirror and tried to catch her eye, but she was gazing out the window, kicking her legs happily.