Alternative Post Title: 7 Weeks
After I gave birth to Sweetie, I had 7 weeks maternity leave to bond with her and care for her. Actually, it was 6 weeks maternity leave, followed by one week of my personal vacation time. I wanted to spend as much time with Sweetie as I could while also leaving me some extra leeway days in case she, or I, needed them during the remaining 45 weeks of the year.
I loved that time with my new little Sweetie. Discovering her ways, establishing routines, learning the ropes of mommyhood, and coming to terms with the fact that, with babies, there are no regular routines. Nonetheless, Sweetie and I did great!
One thing I did quickly learn, though, was that life was now going to be led in 3-4 hour increments. No, babies aren't much for schedules. But newborns, thankfully, do tend to require only very few things - to nurse every few hours, have fresh diapers, and to sleep. Provide these basic needs at regular intervals and you and baby will get along just fine. And we did.
But Sweetie and I did more than just survive comfortably when she first came home. She and I bonded. She and I fell in love with each other. She was my Sweetie from the get-go, and I was her one and only Mommy - source of food, comfort and warmth. Together, we could conquer the world!
I remember one moment at the tale end of my leave. Sweetie and I were at my parents' house, but for some reason she and I were the only ones there. Sweetie began to cry, and I ran through the drill of deciphering her complaints.
No luck - she continued to wail on. And since I was alone, I couldn't hand her off to someone so she could be walked around the house (as we had learned she loved to do). I had to figure this out on my own.
I couldn't walk with her, but I stood up and rocked her in my arms, bouncing in place and singing a gentle song. And she cried. And I cried.
I remember the feeling so intensely - I cried because I was alone and not able to stop my daughter's cries on my own. I cried because I was frustrated and maybe even saddened that I was not physically able to do all that I wanted to do to help Sweetie calm down and feel better.
But I also cried because I knew that in only two more days, I would be back at work and I'd not be the one to comfort Sweetie and calm her cries and wails. I would be leaving her in the (very loving and capable) arms of another person. I'd not have this opportunity to ease her troubles again as I was trying to do in that moment.
Such conflicting feelings felt so simultaneously. Like a current carrying in the fresh, crisp ocean waves as it carries the sand-warmed waters out to sea.
And now - here I am at the tale end of another 7 weeks with Sweetie. This time, as part of my recovery from my hysterectomy surgery. I head on back to work tomorrow. And Sweetie is headed back to pre-school.
She and I have spent the last 7 weeks together - playing, learning, cuddling, and growing. I can't tell you the difference I see in Sweetie after these short weeks together! Her imaginitive play has skyrocketed. Her sypathetic and understanding nature has blossomed. Even her academic abilities have flourished, as she and I have worked together in her reading and math workbooks as well as piecing together her Map of the United States puzzle several times over.
Heck! Even her appetite for food has finally settled in her belly! So often this past week she's continually requested foods and eaten all (or nearly all) of the foods presented to her. I've even gotten her (mostly) off of chocolate milk! Wow! That's almost a miracle in and of itself!
I know I've said it before. And I apologize to my regular readers for once again gushing over my Sweetie. But I've really enjoyed these last several weeks with her. Just as when she was a newborn, Sweetie and I have bonded. But this time we've reconnected, strengthening our mother/daughter bond.
So here we are again - I'm happy to go back to work, happy to regularly get out of the house, to earn my full salary again, to communicate with adults and perform my job functions which challenge me and force me to learn and adjust everyday. And I'm happy to have Sweetie get back to school, to try her hand at 2 full days of school per week, to learn more academics and expand her mind as only school, and teachers, and regular playmates can do. I know it will be so good for her and that she will love it.
But I'm sad, too. Sad to end my extended time with Sweetie. Sad to "give her up" to somebody else. Sad that I won't be the one helping her sound out words, count numbers on her fingers, or quiz her on her U.S. states as we play puzzle together. Sad that I can no longer quietly eavesdrop on any number of Sweetie's imaginary birthday parties she holds for her stuffed animal friends. Sad not to be such a constant, present part of her everyday.
I don't know when, or if, Sweetie and I will have such an extended time together again. With my work and her impending formal education schedule looming large in the not far distance - these last weeks may very well be the last of it - at least for a good, long while.
But the currents will continue to roll in. There will always be new opportunities to be together, bond together, and love together.
I know I will some day become the mother of a teenaged daughter, and that scares me spitless. She may not even want to acknowledge my presence, let alone tell me about her day, share her stories and dreams, or (gasp!) exchange hugs and kisses.
It's hard for me to think about my Sweetie like that. A dwindling mother/daughter relationship like that. Regardless, I will work hard to make sure she always feels loved and open to communication with her Daddy and I.
But I will let her grow, let her change, let her become.
Right now I feel like Sweetie and I are riding the same current - ebbing and flowing, learning and growing together.
And some day - sooner than I'd like it to be, I'm sure - I know Sweetie will catch her own wave. She will inevitably have her rolling, wild waves crashing into the shore of her days. But she will also experience the gentle, lulling rock of the ocean of her life as well. Whatever the currents of life bring for Sweetie - it is hers to discover and learn to ride as smoothly as possible.
And I will roll behind her, wondering in awe at how magical she is, how much she's accomplished, and how well she goes with the flow.