Sunday night. The night before my return to work. My first day in work for over a year.
For nearly 10 months I have lived and breathed my baby. Nappies, sick, muslins, more sick, bottles, weaning, poo, more poo and even more sick… this has been my life. Laughs, giggles, smiles, Rhythm Time, coffee shops, Bubbles, Sensory… my life has centred around my baby and the new friends that we have made. But it was time to go back. Back to the old me. Back to teaching. I was excited, looking forward to seeing old friends and getting a bit of me back. And then it hit me.
Tomorrow it won’t be me.
It won’t be me who changes your nappy, it won’t be me who chooses your outfit. It won’t be me who breathes in the first smell of you in the morning, it won’t be me who sees your face light up as I peep my head into your nursery. It won’t be me who makes sure you have your smushy blanket when you are ready for a sleep. It won’t be me who picks up the debris of food that you will discard as you have breakfast and lunch… it won’t be me who hears you giggle; it won’t be me who watches in delight as you dance and sing along to Doc McStuffins…
It wont be me.
I was devastated. As I’m sure millions of women before me have done I sobbed. I sat in the car with my Mum and sobbed, She cried too as she knew exactly how I felt.
How is it possible to experience two sets of completely contradicting emotions at once?
One half of me was so excited to return to my old school. I left three years ago and have missed everyone so much. Having resigned from my post of Head of English everyone seemed shocked that I was giving up teaching – not giving up, but taking a step back in my career. My plan was to go on supply and then this job landed in my lap. A chance to go back at my old school. It was like putting on a pair of comfy old shoes… they’ve been tucked away in the wardrobe, but as soon as you put them on they are so comfortable and familiar that you wonder why you haven’t worn them for so long! So I was excited. Planning lessons gave me a little thrill; I was ready to use my brain, to be challenged; to make a difference again. But I was devastated. The pain in my heart was so real. The thought of leaving my baby, my beautiful girl and not seeing her all day. To hand her over to someone else who would enjoy the wondrous moments when she smiles and giggles. The potential ‘firsts’ as she nears crawling and standing and walking. My heart literally broke as the thought of not seeing her became real.
I felt like I was in mourning but wasn’t sure what for. I couldn’t imagine how I was going to be Miss Herridge and Mummy at the same time, but not only this; by going back to work I was losing more that just my maternity. I was losing our special secret time. Our special mummy and baby time that no one else can intrude on. The special times where we could just be together and just be. I was mourning the loss of the seemingly endless possibilities that maternity gives you. At one point it seemed that it would last forever and that I would never survive, yet here I am and it is over. I felt like I hadn’t done enough, that I had wasted time, that I had moaned too much ad not appreciated how special those months were.
I was mourning the loss of life as I knew it.
My play dates with my new mummy friends, nick named ‘the mummy mafia’ the groups that I love taking her to, the endless possibilities of maternity had come to an end. It felt like I was losing her. It felt like I would never be with her again, I’d missed my chance and now I had to go back to my old life. Of course this is silly, but at this point I had only ever been a teacher and a mum separately, never both together.
I sobbed myself sleep that night. Thankfully I slept. Annoyingly so did Emilie and so Daddy’s offer of doing the night feeds wasn’t needed. I kid you not. She hasn’t slept through since December and she did Sunday night! Oh well, at least I slept.
I woke up early and started our new routine. I went to work for five days. I wasn’t the one who did all of those things in the daytime but as soon as I arrived home from work she was mine again.
In work I felt alive. Novelty maybe but I loved every minute. Even the challenging students, the banal low-level disruption and the 50 minute commute to work. I loved the chance to catch up with old friends, to reminisce about students of years gone by and to have a giggle. I can even confess that for most of the time I forgot that I was a mummy and didn’t think about what was happening at home. Of course I checked my phone, but honestly I was back in the flow of teaching and I couldn’t have been happier.
And then I went home.
I drove home so excited to see her. A friend had described this experience as being more exciting than Christmas. As I came in the door I heard her… when I saw her that rush of love was all consuming. No words can explain how I felt to be home and with her again. And then the guilt kicked in. The mum guilt. I’d led a life of me and had enjoyed it. Surely I should have missed her.
Why didn’t I miss her when I was in work?
Of course I missed her, but how was it possible to miss her when I was with her? When I was at work I was fine, but now with her in my arms I missed her with every part of my being. I held her like I never wanted to let her go. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I kissed and smelt her hair.
This carried on for three days! Every day I would be fine all day and then would spend the evening fighting back tears or just down right sobbing.
On Wednesday we ran out of formula so I begrudgingly went to ASDA. I was knackered. (so knackered in fact that I didn’t collect the £10 cash back on the self-service till!) When I returned (not realising that I had left the £10 until the next day) I was utterly devastated to find that Emilie had gone to bed at 6.30pm. She was gone and I was crushed. I tried to get on with things… lunches, washing up whilst brushing away tears and doubling over into sobs. I was an emotional mess and felt like I was the only person in the world that had ever felt like this.
I reached out to the Facebook support network and as always my fellow ladies didn’t let me down. I was flooded with comments of support and solidarity; reassurance that I wasn’t the only psycho crazy mum who was struggling to cope with a new split persona. That’s what I am now a split persona. I am Miss Herridge and Mummy and I love both.
Reading these messages made me realise that it is a grieving process. As one of my friends so eloquently put it, I am grieving the loss of my maternity cocoon. I thought that this was a lovely way of thinking about it, I have been keeping Emilie safely in our cocoon. But now it is time for us both to emerge and spread our wings as beautiful butterflies.
We may not be in the cocoon anymore but we will always fly together.