On the Anxiety of Leaving My Kid for the First Time (and How Much I’ve Grown Since Then)

All right, I did it.

I not only survived my first week back at work post-maternity leave but I also somehow managed to get through the days without a single tear.

True, it was a short week: I purposely asked that my return date be a Thursday to ensure as easy of a transition as possible. And, while I was physically present, I honestly can’t say that my mind was operating the way that it should have been — speaking coherently in a business meeting is proving to be a lot more difficult than I anticipated…

But I’m cutting myself some slack. And I’m outwardly admitting: Yes, I’m human, and I’ve spent the past nearly six months of my life operating in a way that’s drastically different from working in an office environment, so this transition is probably going to be a bit challenging.

And, thankfully, I’m surrounded by so many work colleagues that not only hear what I’m saying but are also supportive.

So, on this Sunday evening, I’m not feeling as horrible as you think I would be — and that lack of dread has made me reflect on the first time I left Tadashi…

He was a few weeks old. It was a hot summer day in Dublin, Reggie and I were both on maternity leave, and I was deep in the throes of a particularly bad bout of baby blues. My older sister had recently moved to the apartment complex across the street, and she (and the rest of my family) knew that I was going through a tough time, mentally and emotionally. I had not left Tadashi’s side at all since coming home from the hospital.

In an effort to help me feel better (and to encourage some pampering), my sister invited me to join her for a manicure and a pedicure at the salon down the street. She had already made an appointment, and she offered to pick me up and drive me. I’d barely be gone an hour.

Reggie was encouraging. He felt comfortable taking care of Tadashi on his own for a bit; he even had some expressed breast milk on hand because this was a time when I was furiously pumping in order to increase my milk production. Go, have some fun, he told me. We’ll be just fine here for a little while.

I eventually went, but the act of getting out the door was torturous. I annoyed Reggie with the never-ending Are you sure’s and I can stay’s. Even while at the nail salon, I never felt like I could fully relax: my conversations with my sister kept turning to Tadashi, and my mind kept wandering back to our two-bedroom apartment. I couldn’t help but hope if Tadashi was doing okay, and I was itching to return home as quickly as possible.

My next few outings were just as stressful. I fretted incessantly before a scheduled haircut. I cried before my first postpartum workout.

I would never have imagined that I would feel fairly okay about returning to work regularly.

I definitely attribute my comfort to a few things. First, Reggie being on leave and serving as Tadashi’s primary caretaker makes it a lot easier to leave in the morning: I don’t have to worry as much because I know Tadashi’s with his daddy. Second, having means of communication like text messaging and FaceTime assures me that I can quickly see Tadashi’s face if I really get to a point where I miss him terribly. And, finally, like I mentioned earlier, I’m giving myself permission to feel what I need to feel without shaming myself. And that lack of guilty is so freeing.

So I’m not saying that I no longer miss Tadashi when I’m at work — because I do. But I at least feel comfortable enough with my mental and emotional well-being that I can enjoy my day.

Plus, the time away from my baby boy (no matter how tough it is) makes the moment I reunite with him so much sweeter.


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