Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Independence Day

Independence Day

You were three and a half weeks old when I drove away from you.  That makes it sound much more dramatic than it was.  I didn’t leave for good or sneak off like an unhinged mom who just couldn’t take it anymore. Your dad and I decided it would be good for all three of us if I took time by myself and he cared for you without me hovering.  I left you fed and content sleeping on his lap. I had nothing to worry about.

And I wasn’t worried.  But as I backed out of the driveway, surprising tears sprung.  I felt a physical tug in my uterus – your old apartment - as I slowly drove away from home. “You can do this.  This is good,” I tried to soothe myself.  I was disoriented on my own street.  I wanted to go back home to you but that wasn’t the deal.  I needed to be gone for an hour.

59 minutes to go.

I decided to go to the library and then the garden store, two places I knew well that were close enough to home so that if the SOS call came I could be back in 10 minutes. I expected that call to come.

From the library parking lot I called my own mother.

“Guess what I’m doing for the first time in 3 and a half weeks?  Spending time away from my daughter.” 

My mom’s response? “It’s not the first time in three and a half weeks, it’s the first time in ten months.“

Indeed. She understood.  For ten months you and I have been as intimately tied to each other as two people can be.  It should not have surprised me that even in a familiar parking lot five minutes from home, I felt completely lost without you.

I hung up with my mom, halfheartedly searched the stacks where the books all seemed like foreign objects, and checked out something by an author I remembered I used to like.  I drove to the garden store and called my mom again while I browsed perennials. She told me what kind to get.  We talked about the details of your young life. And then she told me of the death of someone I’d grown up with.  A skateboarding accident.  He was 35 years old with a wife and young child. 

I heard that news differently than I would have before.  I pictured your dad dying and I ached for the wife left to raise their child alone.  I imagined if I died and shuddered at the thought of you growing up without me.  I pictured the man’s parents and felt their grief in my gut.

To lose a child.  This is a new fear. It makes me want to never let you out of my sight.

Had the hour passed? Had I been gone long enough?

“I love you mom, I have to go.” 

“I love you too sweetie. You’re doing a good job.”

I hung up the call, paid for my plants and hurried home.  I imagined a scene of chaos.  You shrieking while your dad tried his darndest to shush and sway you.  Him at his wits end and me rushing in to save the day with that thing only I can give: milk.

Instead you were cashed out on the mint green boppy on his lap.  He was reading, the dog was sleeping.  All was calm.  I was both grateful and at a loss.  Didn’t you miss me?

“How was she?” 

“She was just fine.  She woke up a while back and cried so I gave her formula.”


We had talked about that option.  It was perfectly ok in the parenting pact for your dad to break open our emergency stash of formula and give you a bottle. We’d even gone over how to make it.  But I was crushed.  For your entire existence, except for that microscopic material that swam in from your dad, all the physical building blocks of your life came from me.  Now, you were sullied with enfamil.  No longer a breast milk virgin.  No longer solely my creation. You could survive without me.

This is how it goes from here on out.  We slowly unravel from each other. 

A goal of my parenting is to raise you to be an independent person. The tricky part is that means I will need to become an independent person too.  Rationally I know it is a good thing.

Still it felt good to take you in my arms, whisper “I love you” and feed you my milk.  

Still I hope that 40 years from now, you’ll call me to comfort you when you feel lost and afraid.

photo credit: _DSC2628 via photopin (license)

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