My last official day of maternity leave

Today is my last official day of maternity leave.

This week has been a week of reflection and, ultimately, judgment.  What should I have done differently?  Do I have any regrets?  Am I meant to be a stay-at-home-mom after all?  Is my baby ready to enter the big, bad world?  Am I?

I can’t believe how much has transpired in a single year.  This time last year I was bed-ridden after a tumultuous c-section, still reeling from too much medication, sleep deprived, overwhelmed and scared.  Meanwhile, I had a fragile newborn who depended on me for her very existence.  I wasn’t prepared for a slow recovery and sleepless nights.  My whole world had changed and I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through.

There were times when Tess would repeatedly wake in the middle of the night and I would break down beside her crib in a fit of desperation.  I wasn’t prepared for the demands of an infant.  Without me she couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t move.  Though making her laugh was wondrous, her cries were heart wrenching.  People told me to enjoy this time, but I was too overwhelmed and frantic to take them seriously.

There were times when I wanted to go back to work.  I’d sneak into the office to feel out the environment and subtly imply a premature return.  I’d visit as many colleagues as possible, consoled by repeated assertions that I was missed in my workplace.  Then I’d wait for my husband to come home from work and suggest a role reversal with a series of “what ifs…”

But then there were times when I felt like I was flying.  Our first swim together.  Our first bike ride together.  Tess’ first trip to the cottage.  Her first spoonful of food.  Her baptism.  Her first birthday.  Watching her with my husband and realizing she has the best father in the world.

With each passing day, motherhood became just a little bit easier.  I would understand one more of her little cues, and she one of mine.  We have both become more in tune to each other’s needs, more tolerant of compromise.  And if I ever doubt my decisions or my actions over the past year I look at Tess for affirmation.  She is an inquisitive, active, beautiful and content little girl.  She is perfect.  If I did anything wrong, it sure doesn’t show.

Yesterday I held Tess in my arms and cried.  Somehow she knew this was the end of an era as she held on tight and cried along with me.  I asked for a sign: some indication that we were ready to enter this next phase in our lives.  Then, an hour later, she walked her first steps.

We made it through the year together.  And though I am overwhelmed by a sense of conclusion I take solace in the knowledge that this is just the prelude to greater things.

Andrea, as you await the arrival of your little girl this week all at once I am elated for you, nervous for you, jealous of you.  May your maternity leave be every bit as satisfying.