Childbirth has always been my biggest fear. For some reason, I knew what an episiotomy was in the fourth grade, and I now imagine myself sprawled on a metal table, out of options and forced to have one. This thought makes my body physically ache. I deal with the anxiety of my approaching birth and the heaviness of soon being responsible for another life through nonstop, frenetic Type-A planning.
Preparation takes many forms during my pregnancy. I watch Ricki Lake’s The Business of Being Born so many times that my husband threatens to cancel our Netflix subscription. I pack, unpack, repack, and edit the packing of hospital bags more times than I’ll admit out loud (six). My smallest bag with labor “necessities” is stocked with essential oils, labor socks, a heating pad, a tennis ball for pressure points, snacks, and labor lollipops. (None of which I use, by the way.)
At work, I have a full transition plan with key contact lists and timeline charts to make sure all projects are covered. The perfect daycare is selected long before my due date. There are cubbies with nametags and daily themes like crazy hair day and favorite sports team. My husband and I visit the infant room where several babies are stretched out for tummy time on colorful mats as they coo and smile at each other. In the next room, the one-year-olds sit contently around a table eating their lunches and babbling together.
As the daycare tour comes to an end, I rest my hands on my small bump and look down at my son. He’s kicking inside and I decide it’s because he hears laughter from the kids playing with bubbles nearby. Standing in front of me is his future teacher, an older woman who has a sparkle in her eye and a clipboard in her hand. She has a no-nonsense demeanor but gushes every time a baby wakes up from a nap ready to be held. I can tell she’s a good snuggler.
Tears well up in my eyes, and I think how silly it is to be crying on a tour before my baby has even been born. They’re probably wondering what kind of a scene I’ll make the first day I have to actually drop him off. Can they kick us out of the program even after accepting our deposit check?
The teacher senses the fragility of my emotions. She reaches out and gently pats my arm.
“Honey, remember this, we’re all mommas ourselves. Every teacher here. We’re going to love that baby like he’s our own.”
Maternity leave has become a foggy memory. Every morning, I hand my son over to his other momma. His Monday to Friday Momma. And she’s incredible. I’m not jealous of her. But I’m … something.
On paper, she is exactly what I want for my son. Her warm, welcoming presence each day feels calming and nurturing. She teaches him things I hadn’t thought to try and diagnoses a little red spot on his lip before I even think to Google Hand, Foot & Mouth. Some days, I even exhale a breath of relief as I hand my baby to her, knowing she will figure out a way to finally get him on a regular nap schedule or have a technique to limit the number of blowouts and outfit changes.
She will gently suggest when it’s time to try solid food for the first time after my son inquisitively studies the other babies as they explore new tastes and textures on their trays. When I arrive on Monday morning, shoulders slumped in defeat as I admit to succumbing to a backsliding weekend of baby bottles and rice cereal, she’ll let out a cheerful “No problem! Solid foods just take some time!”
She’s perfect. I love his Monday to Friday Momma. He loves his Monday to Friday Momma.
Each workday ends with the same rhythm. “Send” is clicked on a few final emails and I walk briskly to my car. The traffic creeps along, and my heel taps eagerly to the beat of the music playing on the radio. I count the minutes until my commute is halfway over, marked by our daycare. The familiar feeling of Christmas-morning anticipation begins as I turn into the parking lot. But instead of a pink Barbie camper, I get a baby. My baby.
I peer in the glass door to his daycare room and watch my son’s tiny arms reach, longing to be picked up as his daycare teacher moves around the room busy with end-of-day tasks. His eyes lock with hers as he lets out a pleading whimper. She scoops him up into her arms, soothing him as he studies her face then rests his head against her shoulder. He looks up at her in a way that he has only looked at me, staring deeply into her eyes and earnestly studying her expression. They both smile at each other, a knowing grin.
My eyes dart away, as if I’ve intruded on an intimate moment that was meant just for them. I take a deep breath and reach for the handle to open the door to the infant room, a cheerful smile plastered on my face.
“How was everyone’s day?” I chirp.
Hearing my voice, my son lifts his head and his eyes start dancing as he shimmies out of her arms to the floor and makes his way to my legs.
I pull him up and against my chest. He lifts his hand. Suddenly he moves it up and down, a smile spreading across his face as he looks around.
“Oh my goodness!” I squeal. “You’re waving! That’s it!” I squeeze him and bounce up and down with giddiness.
“I’ve been practicing with him for a while,” I ramble as I squeeze him. “I see other babies waving hi and bye, some even younger than him, but he hasn’t seemed interested in communication before.”
My eyes cut to the side, and I silently read her expression. This milestone is new just to me. She’s seen him doing it for a while now. Days, maybe even weeks.
We turn to leave and I thank her for everything today as I open the door. I draw him close to my face, planting kisses on his cheeks and inhaling his scent to search for clues about how he spent his day.
Unfazed, he gazes into the distance and starts wiggling excitedly in my arms as he sees cars driving around us in the parking lot. I strap him into his seat and stare out at the line of traffic building up in front of us. We wait our turn to pull out and merge into the sea of cars.
Numbers start involuntarily streaming into my mind. 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. That’s nine and a half hours apart each day. Multiply each hour by 60 minutes. 570 minutes apart.
Compare that to 45 minutes together in the morning while my husband and I are flying around the house yelling out logistical plans and 60ish minutes at night where we fit in a few minutes of playtime then dinner, bath, and bedtime. And that’s a good day. Not a day where one of us has an early morning meeting or an evening when bedtime gets moved up because naptimes were scarce.
“I don’t know why you torture yourself counting the minutes like that,” my husband gently says. “You love what you do, he loves where he is. You’re making a difference—at work and at home. And that’s going to influence the man he becomes.”
I force myself to look past the scheduled minutes of today and tomorrow and the day after that.
Preparation looks much different now. It’s gray and ambiguous, not a linear checklist of to-do’s. I once imagined that I would effortlessly jump back into work while my son embarked on a new journey with interactive learning. The thought of art projects and baby friends seemed like an idyllic childhood.
It didn’t occur to me that I would watch him linger in his teacher’s arms even after I walk in the classroom door. Or that I would hear a new word at home that someone else had taught him. Feelings of gratitude and excitement swirl around inside, mixing with a sense of loss at my absence during these milestones.
Through it all, I marvel at the specialness of having a school momma in my son’s life and our blended approach to parenting. There is someone else who loves him, cherishes him, and looks forward to seeing him each morning. Someone else who finds herself saying “I miss that baby!” when extended periods of time go by. It’s a little easier on my heart to trust the way he’s loved and cared for in my absence. They say raising a child takes a village, and I’m grateful to have this other momma in mine.
Guest post written by Amanda Brown. Amanda works full time in marketing and media. Nearly a decade ago, she married the love of her life and they now have one toddler son and two cats. The Browns live in Raleigh, NC, where the sunshine and sweet tea are plentiful. You can connect with Amanda on Instagram.
Photo by Abi Porter.
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