The moment suddenly seemed to come out of nowhere when I would have to hand my baby over to a complete stranger for the first time since he was born. I had known for months that I would be returning to work eventually, but the reality of it just didn’t set in at all. I had meetings over coffee with my manager, numerous viewings of my son’s nursery, financial (yay!) discussions with my partner about how we would budget, and yet, during none of this did I picture the moment when I would have to turn my back on my son and essentially abandon him in a completely alien environment.
That feeling is not something I want to go through regularly…but oh…I have to.
Again and again and again.
Not just now, when he’s a baby and I have to work, but forever.
It suddenly dawned on me that I would have to ‘let him go’ in so many ways, at so many times, for the rest of my life. I have spent nearly ten months with him merely feet away from me, save for the odd day that he went out with his dad. When he’s cried, I’ve been there to comfort him. When he’s needed food, I’ve fed him. I’ve dressed him, washed him, cuddled him and built up this sanctuary of ‘mum’. I have created this bubble long before he was born…safely tucked up in my womb, and then transferred into my arms.
I’ve been his world…until now.
So when I took him in for his first full day away from me and happily handed them his little backpack, I felt fine. I almost felt excited about heading off to work to have some much needed ‘adult time’, and then the nursery nurse held out her arms and my whole body had to fight the internal urge to grasp him tighter. It was this physical reaction to not want to let go. It felt like going against every maternal bone in my body to simply hand my baby to someone strange. Of course, all of this lasted milliseconds as I handed him over immediately.
The instant he was in someone else’s arms, the crying began. I could feel the lump in my throat getting larger and I had to fight the tears threatening to spill, if only for his sake. Getting out of there quickly was important for him, but it felt cruel and wrong to walk away from my son who was clearly saying ‘Where are you going? Take me with you!’
I now understand the term ‘pulling at heartstrings’ in the most real sense. I cried as I got back into the car, next to my partner, and of course he reassured me of the ‘whys’ and the positives but it wasn’t about needing to feel better.
It was about accepting that I felt sad and guilty and hurt.
I was a mother after all and it was inevitable and normal. So often, we want to get rid of the negative feelings because they are uncomfortable or painful, but it is important to allow them and let yourself be sad or angry or whatever else for those moments.
On his second day, I called the nursery from work and he was doing much better, smiling and playing. I couldn’t help smiling with that knowledge and I understood then, that when he is happy…I am happy, whether he is in my arms or far away…and that’s what matters.
I will be letting my son go for many years to come…