I’m sitting here in my brown leather rocker on a Tuesday morning. The house is quiet except for The Today Show quietly playing in the background and the squeak of my chair as I glide back and forth. My coffee, which has long been cold, sits on the side table next to me, forgotten. The dog snores softly on the couch across the room.
And I gaze at the sweetest face in the world, my five-week-old daughter.
This has been my life around 7:00 a.m. for the past five weeks, since coming home from the hospital with my third baby girl. Unlike my other experiences with maternity leave, this one has flown by.
Six days from now, I won’t be doing this anymore. I’ll be back in the real world, back in my office, resuming my life as a working mother. Only this time, I’ll be a working mother of a newborn in addition to a three year old and almost-two year old.
The panic is setting in.
Now, I need to point out that I love my job. The timing of my baby’s birth happened to fall during my company’s busiest time of the year, and I was so absorbed in all things work that towards the end of my pregnancy, I figured I’d only take four weeks off and get back in the saddle as soon as possible.
“You can’t do that,” a co-worker told me. “That’s not fair to your baby. You know, you won’t get that time back.”
At that moment, I dismissed her comments (as I’m pretty sure we were working on a project with a tight deadline). Then, my first week home with my baby, I wanted to go back in time and smack myself.
I ended up taking six weeks off, which expires in six days. And while I’m ready to get back into the swing of things professionally, I’m also experiencing pangs of dread, guilt, and sadness as I come to terms with the fact that I won’t be with my baby 24 hours a day.
I’m having the same fears that many moms have when they return to work. Will she take a bottle okay, since we found our groove with nursing? Will she miss me? Will she think the nanny is her mommy and not recognize me when I get home at night?
I know, that last one is a little irrational, but probably a common concern among working mothers, especially in those early days of returning to work when someone other than you is caring for your baby.
As a sentimental person, I tend to get hung up on milestones. Especially now, with my third child. For example, today is the last Tuesday of my maternity leave. The last Tuesday I’ll get to cuddle my sweet baby and spend hours soaking in every detail. The last Tuesday I’ll doze off with her on my chest as we try to recover from zero sleep the night before.
The last Tuesday, just us.
Actually, it’s the last Tuesday of my LAST maternity leave. Oh, the finality of it all.
I’m sure once I get back to the office and settle into my new routine as a working mom of three, I’ll be ok. Right?
Next, I’ll deal with the last Wednesday. The last Thursday and Friday. The last weekend. And finally, the last day of my last maternity leave.
But for now, I’m absorbing her and trying with all of my might to permanently etch her little face into my brain so I never forget the past six weeks of cuddling, nursing, not sleeping, and crying together.
My co-worker was right. I won’t get this time back.
I’m ready to get my life back. But I’m going to miss this.
This time next Tuesday, my days will be very different.
Love your babies hard, Mamas, as I know you do. Enjoy that precious time you have with your newborn, because it really flies. And before you know it, you’ll be on your last Tuesday. And you might be like me, watching your own tears drip onto the face of your sleeping baby, wishing you could freeze time, just for a little while.