Yesterday, my baby and I were separated for fourteen hours. For the first time ever. (Well, for the first time post-NICU, but that’s a whole different story). She travelled three hours away to Memphis with her dad, uncle, and grandma. Sure, I could have gone...but, honestly, the thought of a long car ride with a toddler didn't sound especially appealing. And I know that she needs to cultivate those family relationships without Mama hovering so close by.
And I wanted a break. A long one. I haven’t slept an entire night in almost two years, we’re entering toddler-tude, and my entire days are always shaped by motherhood and my place in that role. Even when we were separated by the NICU, I was pumping every two hours and totally connected to my motherly duties. After she came home, “breaks” were nap times, heading off to work, or little snippets of time with friends and writing groups. But, an ALL DAY break, to do whatever I needed to do? Unheard of.
So, how did it go? It began with lazily laying in bed after kissing her goodbye. My cat wasted no time snuggling. I read a chapter in the super engrossing book I’m reading (Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng—do yourself a favor and check it out!) Then I sorted the ginormous pile of laundry I hadn't gone through since baby went mobile. I worked on my novel, blogged, and texted all the friends who’d forgotten about me--one of which actually had her car stuck in a stadium parking lot! After wandering through Target, PetSmart, and Babies R’ Us—getting teary-eyed at every little bald baby head I saw—I was dying for adult time. Or something to fill that giant silence. It had become the break I was sorry I ever wanted. I started at the sad little pile of inanimate toys with nobody playing with them. I obsessively checked Facebook and Instagram for any updates about my daughter, any little photo of her sweet smiling face (Yes, I totally cried during my break).
My Triple A card—thanks for the yearly Christmas present, Grandparents!—came to the rescue of my friend and her stranded car. We talked at her apartment, and waited an hour for our friendly tow-truck guy. We rewarded ourselves with greasy tacos and a margarita. That’s when I received the phone call from Tallulah’s grandmother—they were already home! And I was so callously sipping the most refreshing strawberry margarita I’d ever had! My friend and I scarfed our food, drove her back to her house—and I restrained my lead foot as best I could. My baby was home!
She squealed when she saw me. Held my face between her hands while she gave the most endearing little kisses. Leaned her soft, pudgy face on my shoulder. As cliche and cheesy as it sounds, I actually felt like this missing piece of myself was reattached. Her being away reminded me of those moments right after childbirth, where my body felt—and was literally—emptied.
Future separations will probably be easier, probably more productive. I’m sure I’ll know how to crunch my time again, rather than wandering around feeling almost too free. I’ll learn to appreciate that extended time for myself—whether it’s spent in super quiet solitude or with friends I rarely have time for. I’ll embrace both sides. It’s okay to be simultaneously relieved and heartbroken, to be exhausted and inspired. Motherhood is built on these complex binaries.
Moms, give yourself a break. Even if you decide you don’t want it, you need it.