With shoulders clenched, heart racing, and breath held, I walked down the driveway toward my car. It’s OK, I told myself. He'll be fine. I'm only leaving for an hour. As wrong as it felt, I willed myself into the car and drove away from the baby who just a few months ago still lived inside me. Every cell in my body was screaming, "GO BACK! DON’T LEAVE!"
Logically, I knew going out to get my nails done fell under the category of a good decision. My son was safe at home with his father, not some random person who had never cared for a baby before. I'd just breastfed him. I left a bottle on standby for my husband to use just in case. And I'd probably be back before my precious child woke from sleeping soundly in his daddy's arms.
Still, fear pulsed through my veins.
What if he thinks I'm never coming back?
What if he won't take the bottle?
I'm not a new mom. This is my fourth baby. Yet anxiety threatened to take all the fun out of my much-needed postpartum "me time." Which, incidentally, my husband had to force me to "enjoy." And rightly so. After more than 12 weeks of being on baby duty with my son in my arms, without so much as a break to check the mail, my patience was admittedly running thin. If I didn't get a moment without someone sucking my nipples dry, fastening me into a straightjacket might be a reasonable next step.
But I still didn't feel ready to leave my baby. Not even close.
Leading up to the appointment, my belly filled with dread. I got ready slowly, as if I was preparing myself to be tortured by a dentist rather than pampered and made to feel almost human – from the knees down – by a nail technician. It's strange. Going on a date with George Clooney wouldn't even interest me, unless my son could come along. Since his birth, heck, since I found out I was pregnant, I've thought of almost nothing else aside from his wellbeing. So how am I supposed to go back to my normal life like I haven't just recently been through the most radical, consciousness-changing experience known to woman?
My visceral aversion to separating seems like a check-engine light on a car dashboard telling me something is wrong, but I'm not exactly sure what. My biggest concern is my baby's needs won't be met in quite the right way if I'm not there. Sure, my husband knows how to change a diaper and insert the nipple of a bottle into a baby's mouth. But he doesn't do it like me. He can't shush exactly like me. He can't do the horse lips sound that always makes my guy smile. Even though I know my baby has to form a relationship with people other than me, um, does he really? And if he does, can't I be there, too?
Call me controlling, but I swear my fears come from a place of love. I love him so damn much, I'm having trouble putting anything else first, even for a moment. As I write this, I see how unhealthy that sounds. I know I'm allowed to have time for myself. I know that I matter; that my relationship with my husband matters, as does my relationship with many other important people in my life. I'm simply finding it hard to loosen my grip on my son's tiny, little hand to let other parts of life in. Just yet.
Ultimately, I refuse to guilt myself for feeling so attached to this baby I worked so hard to conceive and stay pregnant with. My labor and delivery was painful and emotional. Now, I have the privilege of caring for this beautiful, perfect, very wanted baby and I'm going to enjoy every last second of that. I'm going to soak up that look he gives me that says, "You are my world, mom."
Some day soon he'll be all grown up and may not even want to call his mama on the phone. So, for now, an hour away is about all I'm willing to venture. The truth is, I didn't have that much fun at the nail salon. All I wanted was to get back to him. When I did I was so, so grateful.
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.