It took 10 weeks and 5 days after my daughter’s birth to get to D-Day. Two-and-a-half months of perfect days and perfectly imperfect nights, snuggling, cooing, feeling the sunshine on our skin and the coziness under our blankets. Getting to know each other. Figuring it all out, this new life and new adventure. Easing into some semblance of a routine — if you can even use that word within a mile of “newborn.”
And then it was D-Day. Daycare Day. The day that would pop our blissful bubble and send us both tumbling over the edge. The day that would hold the single greatest number of tears thus far, for baby and mama. The day that I would curse living in such a pathetic country for working mothers. The day. Right?
I braced myself, hard. And I did the stuff you’re supposed to do. We scheduled our start for the middle of a week, for just a couple hours, to ease in. I packed everything my little girl could possibly need, or want or not realize she wants. I didn’t schedule anything for myself, just in case I needed to execute a swift rescue.
After dragging out our departure from home even longer than what’s already necessary to get a tiny human out the door, we did it. We got there. We went in. And then I took a deep breath and handed my sweet, curious, tiny girl over to a warm, loving woman who knew a lot more than I do about taking care of babies and walked out the door.
I waited for the waterworks — but you know what? They never came. For the first time in 75 days, I was free! I could hop a plane to Tahiti! Get a pedicure! At least take a normal-length shower!
But with my newfound freedom, I cranked out some serious work at a coffee shop a block away. With my phone’s ringer on max volume, mind you, but I didn’t obsessively look at it. I didn’t wonder what my daughter was doing. I didn’t call daycare to check on her, even though they said I could. Honestly — brutally honestly — I didn’t even miss her. I jumped into my work, and I felt like I was back. Like my brain still worked. Like I could still think about things that weren’t when a baby last ate or whether I’d already restocked the diaper bag. And it was awesome.
Pickup time arrived before I knew it, and as I walked the block back to daycare, I felt one part awesome and nine parts guilty for surviving. It wasn’t supposed to go like this, I thought. It was supposed to be heartbreaking and devastating and tragic, and I was supposed to return puffy-eyed and miserable…but instead I felt FANTASTIC. Clearly I have no soul.
I peeked into the room so I could see my little critter before she’d see me. There she was, sitting happily in a swing, curiously looking around, between another happy baby and their teacher. Like she was a big girl now and didn’t need me anyway.
I got closer and said her name. She turned toward me and flashed the most fabulous gummy smile I have ever seen — and those sneaky tears that had been holding out on me all day came in full force.
As I pulled her into my chest and cried into her fuzzy scalp, I realized our bond that had been so solely physical morphed into something much more complex — the ability for us to be beautifully dependent and independent at the same time, not to tolerate separation, but to appreciate it and to absolutely verify the presence of a soul (whew!).
I grabbed her diaper bag, helped her wave goodbye and opened the door. See you tomorrow, I said, and home we went.