Flying 1,300 miles away this week from my tiny baby boy seems like the worst idea ever right now. But let me back up for a minute:
When I first made plans to attend this particular work conference I’m headed to, I was 8 weeks pregnant. (32 weeks away from knowing what I was in for.) At the time, I knew I’d be leaving a 4-month-old baby behind, but it didn’t seem like that big of a deal. Three nights away. Three whole nights of uninterrupted sleep. Days of adult conversation and networking lunches. Evening parties and room service. I can handle that!
And now all I can think of is whether I can actually, physically get on a plane in two days.
I haven’t always been this way. When my birthday rolled around, 3 weeks postpartum, my husband was insistent we get out of the house to celebrate. He arranged childcare with my mom, made plans with some friends, and attempted to convince me to leave our brand-new baby home for the late afternoon and evening.
I didn’t need any convincing. I was ready to get out of the house, and, while I was a little nervous about leaving the baby, I was more concerned that I wasn’t all that concerned about it.
Was it OK to want to go to dinner and have a “normal” night with friends when you just had a baby? I felt a little guilty about my lack of worry that night, but I shouldn’t have.
The “leaving your baby” anxiety set in over the next few weeks, and now it seems like gets harder to leave him each time. I get knots in my stomach just meeting my mother-in-law to give her the baby for a few hours, knowing he’ll be an hour drive away from me should anything happen. When I drop the baby off with my mom (who lives approximately two miles away) I still insist she send me photo updates so I know my son is happy and healthy.
Of course he’d have to be extra-angelic in the days before I leave. That helps a lot, kid.
There’s a part of me that’s excited for a few days away. A chance to get some rest, to spend some time focusing on myself and my work, and to know that my husband will get some extra bonding time. Then there’s part of me that pictures every possible scenario in which the baby gets sick, or hurt, and I’m over a THOUSAND miles away from him.
My head knows my son will be fine without me. He’s got two grandmas who are more than willing to pitch in so odds are he won’t miss me in the slightest. I, on the other hand, will probably be tossing and turning all three nights, hearing phantom cries and reaching into non-existent bassinets.
This isn’t the first time I’ve left my baby overnight, but the three-minute drive to my parent’s house sure sounds much more manageable for this mama’s heart.
Maybe once I get on the plane my fears will melt away and I’ll feel peace. Maybe I’ll feel confident and focused in my non-mom role for a few days. Or maybe I’ll be the lady showing baby pictures to strangers she meets in the elevator. Or the one who asks her husband to leave his phone by the video monitor overnight so I can Facetime just to watch my son sleep. (That’s probably a little extreme, right?)
While the odds are slim (to none) that my baby will spend three days staring out the window looking for his mom, it’s heartbreaking just the same!
Right now, my suitcase is sitting in the middle of the living room floor, completely untouched. Taunting me like it knows it’s going right back in the closet without even being opened. I’m going through the motions of preparing to leave – cleaning, stocking up on groceries and diapers, writing lists of instructions for grandmas to follow, but there’s a big part of me that just wants to call the whole thing off.
And yes, vacuuming that rug is on my to-do list.
I know I’d regret it if I didn’t go. I’d be missing out on something that benefits my career, plus, having a few conversations with people that aren’t about diapers or formula might be nice. This is the separation anxiety mothers of sweet, perfect, tiny babies get. And one of these days I’ll have a toddler and will probably be booking conferences left and right, just looking for a few hours to myself.
I’m 99 percent sure I’m getting on that plane. And I’m 100 percent sure I’ll cry at least three times before I do. And a few times in the air, so be warned, seatmates. Just pass me a tissue and tell me everything will be OK. I’ll repay your kindness by showing you 3,000 photos of the cutest baby on earth.
All photos by Jamie Reed