Last week marked my first week back at work. Although AO and Mollybear and I had gone to a work conference two weeks ago, I was fully unprepared for how I would feel on that Sunday before the Monday marking the end of maternity leave. Holy wow. I feel terrible for never really listening to the women who had told me it was hard for them. Although I don’t think I was particularly judgmental about their feelings, I fully admit that I didn’t pay much attention to them and I’m sure I was less than sensitive. On Sunday, I had a few mini-breakdowns, characterized by crying and snuggling closer with Bear. I must have kissed her and sniffed her (I can’t help it – I admit I love her little formula-head smell) a million times. AO is now home with Bear until Labor Day, for which I am more grateful than I can say. I think, though, that watching my sadness made him worry that I was somehow concerned about how he and Bear would fare together. When he said something that made me realize he was feeling that way, I told him, ‘Posh. It’s not you, it’s me.’ And that could not have been more true. I wasn’t worried about how the two of them would do; I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to handle being away from my Monster for 9 or so hours every day, five days a week. I mean, good God, who devised this system? She was inside me for 39 weeks and then she was in my arms or in my eyesight for the bulk of every day for 15 weeks and then BAM! ‘See ya, Bear. I hope you remember me! If not, I wish you well. It’s been real.’ It seemed to me like a cruel and unusual plan.
But Monday morning came and I left and I drove off to work. I parked the car, took a deep breath and took the elevator up to the seventh floor. As the elevator doors opened, I saw the smiling faces of two of my co-workers, both moms to three wee ones each. They looked at me, smiled, cocked their heads and said, “Hi! Oh, how are you?” It was both so welcoming and so empathetic, knowing. My eyes started to water as I uttered the obligatory, ‘Fine.’ And then one of them started to tear up. And then I smiled a real smile. I felt understood and not judged. I felt kindness and compassion. And then I suddenly felt like I could totally handle this whole thing. It won’t be easy, I thought, but I have smart, kind women all around me and I have a great support system. I am extraordinary lucky.
I came home at the end of the day, parking the car and racing into the house. There was Bear, on AO’s lap. She looked at me as if she didn’t even notice I’d been gone. She seemed to know my face. And she smiled.