Last Monday was my first day back at work after twelve weeks home with Miss Nellie. I officially became a working mom. We’d set the plan for this day well in advance – my mom flew in from California the night before and planned to stay for two weeks watching Nellie at home while I adjusted to being back at work. This little two weeks of Grandma-care would help me adjust to being back at work before we dove into the working + daycare routine. Our plan was a good one, but as with most plans you have good intentions, and then there’s reality.
The night before my first day back I felt surprisingly ok. I didn’t cry, I wasn’t freaking out, more so I was just overwhelmed thinking of how many different bags and contraptions I had to prep the night before. The biggest concern I had was adjusting to pumping at work. Monday morning I woke before Nellie, got myself ready, and around 7am I sat on the bed knowing I needed to wake Nellie up so I could feed her and head out the door. As that reality hit me, so did the feelings I had been holding back. Waking her up meant me saying goodbye was very very near. My first time ever away from her for more than an hour or so.
As I nursed her I silently stroked her head and tears fell down my face. I whispered over and over that I loved her, her dad loved her and her grandmother loved her and she’d have a wonderful day with grandma and soon mommy would be home to snuggle her. When she was done we snuggled and she made her perfect little baby faces, and no matter how I tried the tears kept coming. I kissed her cheeks and left mascara smudges on her face. Reluctantly I handed her to my mother.
Just as I’d expected, as I gathered my things the tears came hard. Adam hugs me and tells me he loves me and that the day will be over before I know it, and I walk to my car. I felt miserable.
But as I drove further away from the house, as I settled in with my podcast and my coffee my sadness faded. They would be ok. I would be ok.
In the end, Monday was as terrible as I’d feared. Nellie was NOT ok with the transition, she refused a bottle, screamed at my mother almost non-stop, fought naps and was generally a little terrorist. By 2pm when I checked in with my mom the call went like this:
[Nellie screaming in the background]
How’s it going?
Has Nellie eaten yet?
Should I come home?
And so I did. With tears in my eyes for the 400th time that day (funny thing – every time a mom at the office who’s had a kid in the last year or so saw me they’d start crying before I even did. Seeing me in my fragile state was like a PTSD flashback to that first day they left their little one to return to work), I told my boss I needed to go home and take care of my baby. It felt like the longest drive of my life.
When I walked in the door Nellie was sleeping, but my mom looked like she’d been through the ringer. They had survived, but it had been a knockdown drag out fight. If my mom had drank I’m sure she immediately would have poured herself a shot of whiskey.
When Nellie woke from her nap I was there to welcome her, feed her, hug her and tell her sweet red swollen eyes that it was going to be ok, mamma’s here. After their hard hard day my little peanut passed out at 6pm and slept through till 7am. The day had simply taken too much out of her. That night I sat on the bed with Adam and I cried. I cried and cried and cried about how hard today had been for my tiny baby. How confused and upset the transition had been and how poorly we’d set my mom up for success. Adam tried to comfort me but my heart was broken. My little girl had had such a terrible day.
The next day my mom and I were ready for battle. For screaming and fighting the bottle and general struggles across the board. Me? I was ready to come home at a moment’s notice to relieve them from each other.
And then Nellie took her first bottle. And took a nap. And played on her play mat. And made faces at my mom. And it was ok. They were ok. We all took a big deep breath. It was going to be ok.
Since that first day things have settled in. My mom and Nellie figured out a routine, how to work with one another, and although Nellie’s had some fussy days where she’s less than fun to be around, they’ve never even come close to that first day. We’ve been to Nellie’s daycare orientation and I was reminded why we chose this location. Confident in my decision. And just this morning Nellie had her first two hour session at daycare. When I handed my tiny baby over this morning to the daycare staff I felt my heart tighten and the tears well in my eyes. But as we watched in the window as the other babies came over to check out their new clan member I knew she would be ok. Two hours later she was back in our arms. Tired and probably a little confused, but no worse for wear.
Tomorrow she’ll go for three hours, on Friday for four, and on Tuesday it will be the real deal. My little baby will head to her first day at daycare. I imagine it will be rough. She’ll still struggle for a while to adjust to these new people, this new nap routine, this new environment, but once she does I think we’re going to be ok.
Eventually here we’ll find our routine, we’ll have a new normal and we’ll power through.