415 days. A little over 59 weeks. That is how long, from the day I found out I was pregnant, to the end of last week, that I spent pretty much 24/7 with my newborn son. 415 days. Nine months of carrying him inside of me wherever I went, and five precious, but all too short months of maternity leave, during which we were only separated a handful of times. But that all ended last week as I went back to work full time.
I always knew that I wanted to be a working mother. I have worked hard to get where I am and I enjoy my job. But I never would have guessed how difficult it would be to walk out that door on Monday morning, knowing that day would be the longest period of time that I had been separated from my son and it was just the first of many many days like that to come.
Like many women I am sure, I never fully understood the depth of the bond between a mother and her child until I became a mother myself. I feel like our relationship was forged through a baptism of fire. A tough pregnancy. A difficult and somewhat traumatic labour. That first night in the hospital after he was born and all the visitors went home and he and I were left alone together, both exhausted and scared by our new reality. Those early frustrating days of breastfeeding, where we spent hours together trying to get the hang of it. Those precious, quiet moments in the wee hours of the morning when he snuggled beside me feeding and it felt like we were the only two people in the world, a brief respite from the daily chaos.
Surviving these experiences together – the good, the bad and the ugly – has resulted in a special bond. Sure, other people were witnesses to and participants in this journey – my husband of course was with us every step of the way – but only my baby and I were really down in the trenches together. I have never slept so little, or been peed on so much, but I have relished every little moment, every smile, every cuddle. Our relationship could be described as co-dependent. Sure, he needs me for survival, but I need him too.
So walking back into that office on Monday, back into my pre-baby life, was a strange sensation. I suddenly went from too many conversations about poo and endless renditions of “Old McDonald had a Farm”, to talking about data analytics, conflict analysis and departmental restructures. Everything seemed strangely familiar and yet, it felt like everyone was speaking a foreign language. It is like I have lived two separate lives in parallel universes, my pre-baby life, and my life as a mother, and for the first time these lives are coming into contact with each other.
I am not yet sure how the “work me” and the “Mum me” will co-exist, whether it will be a harmonious relationship or whether there will be constant clashes. Added to that is helping my husband navigate his new role of stay-at-home father, a role for which he has few contemporaries, let alone role models. We aren’t doing things the traditional way and I am sure there will be bumps in the road along the way, not least because we live in a foreign country with no family nearby. At the end of the day, I just hope that one day my little boy will understand why I couldn’t be with him everyday and will be proud of his Mama.