I went back to work on Thursday.
The days and weeks leading up to it were tough. I was so worried about Bennett's ability to nap in the crib, so there were many frustrating days spent trying to get him down (then try getting him back down, and again, and again) in his crib. Although on my last day of maternity leave I held him in my arms for a long nap, just because. I remember there came a time where I realized that June couldn't nap in my arms...because she was too big or because she simply didn't want to. I don't know when that time came, or when it's going to come with Bennett. I was just feeling very dramatic and wanted to hold him for what felt like the last nap ever.
Drop off was okay. The teacher went to pick him up out of his car seat, which spared me from having to physically hand him over. I actually thought I was doing great - I was too busy rushing around the room making sure I'd filled out everything and placed everything in the right place. Then it was time for me to go.
I looked at my little baby, probably my last little baby, and was overcome with sadness at walking away from him. He wasn't crying, he was just laying against the teacher's shoulder with his common somewhat surprised expression on his face. And I was saying goodbye to my sweet, slow days with my baby. The days where he would smile big open smiles at me for thirty minutes straight. From here on out, the days will quicken and fill with work and hustle and morning routines. (See that?! How quickly I forget the frustrating moments and quickly dip into nostalgia and mommy amnesia! My maternity leave was surely all honey and rainbows!)
I cried and asked if I could give him one more kiss. I leaned in, realized I was absurdly close to a grown woman I hardly knew and hadn't brushed my teeth yet, but gave Bennett two kisses anyway.
In the parking lot, another teacher found me making my ugly cry face and gave me a giant, warm cushy hug. She promised me that it would be fine and it would get easier. But part of the problem is that I don't want it to get easier, do you know what I mean? I don't want to be desensitized to missing my baby.
And yet, it was nice. It was nice to get home and pour a cup of coffee and realize that I would get to drink it while it was still hot. It was nice to hear my colleagues welcome me back and tell me how glad they were that I was back in the game. (My inbox of 800 emails was not so nice.) It was nice to be asked about an issue, to give an answer and hear, "I hadn't considered that. Good point." (Not that I wasn't making good points to Bennett on my maternity leave. He's just not into giving praise yet.) I guess I'm saying that it was nice to be back in the adult realm, and I don't think that makes me a terrible mother to admit.
That doesn't mean that I didn't sprint out of the house at 5 PM to get to my kids. Bennett's first day was okay. He didn't eat much and was therefore pretty cranky. Seven different teachers came up to me and said, "I got to hold him today!" Which to me meant, "He was fussing and someone had to hold him at all times." He took a few short naps.
He did much better on Friday, still napping only in small amounts but at least he drank full bottles. I was so relieved, and instead of having a hungry and tired baby at pickup, I had a baby who smiled and cooed at me.
It's a new season of life, and another short season is behind us.
I'm just hoping, desperately hoping, that we can find balance. That I can still feel close to Bennett, give him some one-on-one time, even if he won't get as much as June did. That we can be happy and fulfilled and nurtured. But that's what everyone is hoping for, isn't it?