Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Mama Talk: Mat Leave

The other day, I came downstairs and John had placed our baby on his playmat sitting in an upright position, where he (the baby, not John) played with the dangling toys he'd only previously looked up at while lying down. John was in the kitchen making tea.

I freaked.

"How long has he been sitting like that?" I asked. "How could you leave him like that? What if he falls?"

John shrugged. "He's been sitting like that since I put him there 15 minutes ago. And it doesn't matter if he falls - there's padding all around him," he pointed out, gesturing at his strategically placed pillows around the (already padded) playmat.

I approached the baby cautiously with my arms open, ready to catch him at any sign of toppling. He smiled a big, gummy grin and stuck a maraca in his mouth (his latest obsession) - still happily sitting with his legs splayed out in front of him.

I suppose I freaked because it's the first time I've seen him sitting unsupported like that, without the safety of a garish inflatable play nest around him, or my hands poised behind the small of his back - millimeters away, in case he fell over (which he did in music class last week, missing the mats and hitting his head on the wooden floor instead - which made me feel like a terrible mother).

I suppose I freaked because we're interviewing nannies for when I return to work in January and almost nine months have passed since he was born and how did that happen?

I suppose I freaked because - although we've enjoyed a fair of blue skies and sunny days despite it being mid-October - the chill in the air and the encroaching darkness is bringing me back to the dim memory of those cold, dark days I experienced at the beginning of his life, when I was discharged from the hospital without him.

Because my maternity leave hasn't felt like a "leave" at all. More like an arrival.

Like a train pulling into a station, these nine months have felt like the arrival into motherhood I have long been (impatiently) waiting for.

And so, I find the term "leave" so fascinating. Although technically, yes, I've taken a "leave" from my day job, I haven't been absent; I've been present in every single other aspect of my life.

I've been right here.

So, when friends ask, "How do you feel about going back to work?" I'm not really sure what to say. The truth is, I'm excited and looking forward to it, and I know that our baby will be in good hands with whoever we hire, but the real answer is ... mixed.

It's not leaving him behind that I struggle with, but rather, leaving these moments behind: the moment when nursing became enjoyable and one of my favorite bonding experiences with my baby; the moment when he sat up for the first time, completely unsupported and without toppling over; the moment he tried a satsuma segment and found it hilariously icky.

To savor these moments is not enough; it's that I have an inability to let them go.

I have loved every moment of my maternity leave - even the scary, dark, and uncertain ones. I've steered this ship through a storm, and I'll see it through many more.

But for now, I just want to soak up every cuddle, every feed, and every music class.

A - I'm so lucky to be your mama.

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