Written April, 2012
I just left my one-year-old baby for the first time. I’ve left her for a few hours before, even for a long date after she has gone to bed, but that’s it. So this five day trip from the middle of the country to the coast is going to be hard. Perhaps harder on me than on her, but who knows. It’s hard to tell with a baby. Hard to tell what their little brains are thinking. Certainly you can tell she’s sad if she’s crying, or mad if she’s throwing her bib at you when you try to give her another bite of peas. But you can’t really look inside and see what being left by her mommy, just after being weaned no less, does to my baby girl’s heart.
Maybe it’s not something I should dwell on; maybe I should just let it be what it is and make the best of whatever happens afterward. That sounds good…but that’s not really me. I like to dig, so that’s what I’ll do, and then maybe I’ll feel better about it. Or maybe I’ll fly home.
Sweet Baby Mae is actually, literally, should-be-in-the-book-of-facts, the most darling baby that ever lived. She smiles all the time, sings happily with her nose scrunched up in sincerity, says “hi” clear as day to everyone in the grocery store, and gives hugs freely with back-pats included. When she cries, you know something is very wrong. I love being around her.
As a mom of three I can certainly say that I could use a break from mothering for a few days. Time to sleep through the night, drink some tea and read the paper without being asked to read the comics aloud, or go to the bathroom whenever I wish without company. That sounds lovely. I do need a breather from the older two – one seven and one four. My constantly-talking, question-asking, repeat-button-on-the-cd-player-loving ones who tend to leave me exhausted by the end of the day. I don’t need a break from my baby, though. She says “hi” in the morning when I scoop her up from her crib, “ta-da” when I put the shades up, and her “Da-deee” is so clear and sweet and toothy I can’t even be bothered that it’s the wrong name. We’re completely in love, and I miss her already.
I know that part of my anxiety over leaving her is her disposition and utter cuteness, the lack of which is going to make me cry at least once while I’m gone. And another is hoping that I haven’t scarred her for life by taking off so abruptly, for what in baby years will feel like six months. But I think the deeper issue here is that she is my last. As far as we’re planning anyway, this is my last baby to be born of my body, to be nursed by me, to be rocked while I sing her goodnight as she looks up with her big blue eyes and sucks her thumb, smiling slightly at the corners. This is it. And now I’m missing five days.
Aha. My self-love strikes again. Really, this is a selfishness problem. If I rank my reasons for being sad to leave, my own feeling of loss is at the top. Love for my darling baby a close second. I disguised my self-centeredness even to me.
In light of this discovery I can rest a little easier about my trip. I can let myself be sad about missing her, knowing that she, likely, is back at home not really realizing I’m gone. Certainly not knowing I’ve flown so very far away, and am holding my brother’s four-month-old twin girls instead of her. And maybe in baby years it’s actually like twenty minutes? She does love her daddy – his is the one name she says . So after all this fuss about leaving Mae, I’ve worked through it a bit and feel much better. Despite my initial worries for Mae’s sake, apparently that’s what this was all about.