I've done a lot of things that I would consider to be difficult and even painful. I completed law school, I endured 2.5 days of essay writing for the bar exam (and passed!), I ran a half marathon in the snow with an admirable finish time and placement, I recovered from two c-sections, I've thrown out my back, and I've read The Grapes of Wrath (and I only skipped a little bit of the descriptive parts).
But as August 1st looms near, I can't help but think I'm about to face the MOST difficult challenge yet. I'm going to have to leave my baby and return to work.
When I had Jacob, I was in law school. I took a semester off and returned to school when he was about 4 months old. But, due to creative class scheduling, I was only really gone from him for 2 days out of the week when he was a baby. This time, I'm jumping right in to a 40 hour work schedule. When I think about going back to work in the abstract, I can convince myself that it will be fine and that I will love being back in the Land of Adults.
But when I really stop and think about it, I suddenly lose the ability to breathe. When I count the hours each day that I will be apart from Ryan, my eyes water and my heart sinks. For the past 3 months, I've been Ryan's primary care giver, snuggler, feeder, entertainer, consoler. He's been my little buddy and an extension of my own self for that same amount of time. Sure, I've left him in the caring and capable hands of family for several hours at a time. But I've never been away from him with any regularity (aside from an hour at Childwatch 3-4 times a week).
When I go to work, I won't be able to catch his eyes and watch his face crack wide open in a gummy grin. I won't be able to pick him up and snuggle him when I need a baby hug. I won't know what he is doing or what he needs at any given moment. He won't be the center of my focus. I'm really, really going to miss his nearness, his presence, his need for me, our symbiotic existence.
Tonight, I rocked Ryan to sleep in our cool, dark room. I, just barely, made out our reflection in the closet mirror. I saw my image swaying back and forth with two little baby legs sticking out from my side where I had Ryan snuggled up against me. I looked down at his fluttering eyelids, his calm cherub face, and his tiny little fingers tightly cluthing my shirt. At that moment, I felt like I had the whole world in my hands.
My eyes gazed back up at the closet door again, this time towards the part of my closet that houses my work outfits-- a part of my closet that has been gathering dust for over 3 months. It hit me that soon I would be trading Ryan in for 9.5 hours a day in exchange for those clothes and all they represent. In a few short weeks, I will have to transform completely. I will say goodbye to my yoga pants, my unkept hair, my messy house, my Jacob and my Ryan, and I will walk through the doors of my office polished, kidless, and caffeinated, pretending to be 100% the professional that I need to be. From where I am now, I can't even fathom how that transformation is going to happen.
When Ryan's breathing became rythmic, I set him down in his bassinet. I then collapsed onto my bed, from the weight of all my thoughts, and lay face up on top of my comforter. How am I going to leave him? How? Warm tears streamed down the sides of my face and pooled in my ears.
This is exactly why it is so scary and vulnerable to love. Because once you love, nothing hurts more than separation.