I hurled my winter jacket at the mirror in the bathroom, and made a furious grunting sound. I wanted to shatter that mirror to pieces. In the daycare bathroom, I already felt like my baby was leaving me, and at my own behest. My belly was growing, at 6 months pregnant. I breathed in and out to calm myself, before taking that daycare tour and putting my unborn baby’s name on its waitlist. (Two years later, I still haven’t received a call back.)
Beyond the stress and difficulty of answering the question, “Who will take care of my baby when I go back to work?”, the real question for me was, “Why can’t I care for my baby?” At least, for a little while and not just a few months? In the daycare bathroom, I was enraged at having to ask this question and experience this loss before even knowing my newborn baby.
When my unpaid family medical leave ended, I had convinced myself that I should return to work full-time. I listened to all the voices in my head and on the street. I heard that we need the income. It’s what everyone is doing. If everyone is working and being a mother at the same time, I can do this too. How hard can this really be? It’s what’s best for the family. This is society today. I’m a feminist and should work, and use my talents.
As I worked in the office day after day, my colleagues noted how I slowly got quieter and quieter, and I sank into myself. I began breast pumping religiously 4 times a day. But with increasingly limited time and mounting stress, I stopped pumping and breastfeeding sooner than I had wanted. I missed my son’s first crawl and first steps. My efforts at securing a part-time position at work had floundered. I had that heavy feeling I get when I’m deeply certain something is over but I’m still in it. I finally listened to my own voice: This isn’t right. This isn’t me. I don’t want to miss this time. I want more than just being home for dinner with my infant son.
Four months ago, when my son was 17 months-old, in what felt both abrupt and a long-time coming, I left work and began staying at home with my son.
This past week, my son and I were outside in the backyard as dusk dimmed the sky early one autumn evening. For the first time, he looked up, pointed to the moon and said with only the enthusiasm of a toddler experiencing the cosmos for the first time, “Moon!” My excitement matched his.
As he finds his place in this world, I’m so content to hear his voice and the strength to hear mine too. He won’t discover the moon everyday, but that’s just the point. And that’s my voice speaking.