‘Your little face is my universe. Your soft skin my life… ‘ Dominique McMullan poignantly describes the push-pull of motherhood as her maternity leave draws to a close.
You started crèche this week. I spent our final week in love with you, nostalgic for the maternity leave that’s still happening around me. It feels like a love affair that’s coming to an end. I hear songs on the radio and the lyrics remind me of you. I cry in the car as I watch you watch the world.
You are already so independent. You smile at me now, without cue. You sit up straight and focus on examining little things, passing them back and forward between your tiny, chubby fingers. You climb me, shouting, squealing, laughing. By the end of each day, I am worn away. Like a pencil drawing left too long in a notebook.
You were born in April and we spent the summer in front of Love Island; mindless and happy; feeding and napping. But memory is a funny thing. I also remember the day I woke up alone with you, sleep-deprived and panicked at the sheer thought of you, and I, and nothing to do all day.
It’s difficult to type this, but there were days when I longed to escape you
You felt like so much when it was just the two of us. Having you was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s difficult to type this, but there were days when I longed to escape you. I fantasised about going to a hotel, and sleeping alone among giant pillows.
You needed me. And at times, that felt claustrophobic. Dark places in my head worried I would never feel free again.
Meanwhile and simultaneously, I felt happiness that in my past life, was only reserved for the most special of rare moments. Joy flows out of you and into me; constantly, powerfully, overwhelmingly. There has never been bliss like it.
And I struggle to find words to convey it. We feel stronger now, the see-saw of motherhood has started to level off. But the push and pull I feel towards and away from you is still there. I long for you to go to sleep, and then count the minutes to wake you.
I know I am ready for work. I am excited to get back to my old brain, to go for lunch alone with a notebook and feel passionately about something outside of my house.
I am excited to wear clothes that don’t have to be stretchy and that won’t get chicken mush on them after ten minutes.
I worry there might be a moment in which you miss me, or in which you are scared and I’m not there
But meanwhile, and simultaneously, my heart is breaking. When I had you my mother told me that parenting was 90% learning to let go. I know all the things people say are true; that you will enjoy new company, making friends, being stimulated.
But I worry there might be a moment in which you miss me, or in which you are scared and I’m not there. Those thoughts are hairline fractures in my soul. The new, tender and vulnerable parts of me feel exposed. Your little face is my universe. Your soft skin my life.
Up until now your every light, pink breath has been near enough to hear and check. The world is so big and frightening; I wish I could keep you beside me for just a little longer. I wish you could always look up to see my reassuring smile when you’re not sure.
But motherhood has also split me down the middle, because I know now is the time for your first steps away from me.
Read more: ‘In one week I rang 24 different crèches in our area and was all but laughed at’
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