The day before yesterday my husband called me. He knows I’m at work. I just started, surely he knows I can’t talk, I thought to myself. I quickly texted him but he called again. I answered this time, whispering so as not to disturb my neighbors. “I’m on my way to get Lola from school because she’s not feeling well,” he said.
My heart plummeted. Guilt set in. My eyes welled up with tears. Of course I knew the colds were coming. A runny nose is a common accessory amongst little ones particularly, in daycare. I know because I worked at one and my oldest went to school there. We were constantly sick. Not to mention a bug was going around her classroom. It was only a matter of time.
But I wasn’t prepared for the agony my already tender heart felt. I should be there to comfort her. I’ve always been there to take care of her when she was sick. My arms ached. I longed to hold my baby. To kiss her warm forehead and let her know that she would be okay.
Only I wasn’t. This time it was her daddy’s arms that comforted her. It was his voice that assured her she would be okay. And his face she stared at, eyes tired and glassy, from the grocery store cart when they stopped to pick up a few things to remedy her discomfort. Later, when she went to the doctor, it was Daddy who recited her symptoms to the physician, not me. Instead I looked at a few photos he sent my way. Photos of my sweet baby her cheeks rosy. And at lunchtime, I called and told her how much I loved her while Daddy held the phone for her to hear.
When I got home that night, I scooped her in my arms. Nana had come by to help out too. Again another set of arms that weren’t mine (but still comforting). Although it was clear she wasn’t feeling well, she somehow managed to give her mama a smile. Her voice raspy from congestion, she uttered the word “mommy.” Her warm body clung to me tightly and her tiny fingers offered me the blueberry her daddy gave her.
Blueberries are her favorite and she was giving hers to me.
It was my turn to comfort her. My turn to kiss her forehead and tell her that she would be okay. As much as I wish I could have been with her during the day, I was thankful that her daddy was. And, I was thankful that come nighttime, my arms were able to rock my sweet angel to sleep. The achiness they felt subsided. The guilt that weighed upon my shoulders began to lighten.
Yesterday morning, I woke up and read the words a friend of mine posted on Instagram ( a response to my post on the sadness I felt for not being there):
Mama, you are doing everything you can to be a shining example for the beautiful nurturing mothers that your daughters will someday be. Trust me. I know how hard it is to go back to work. You’re not alone.
I wasn’t alone. My feelings not foreign or irrelevant. Her words comforted my heart. I am doing everything I can. And right now, in that moment I could pick my baby up in my arms and hold her for a few moments before the duties of the day began. I could tell her how much I loved her and how grateful I was to be her mama. I could shower her with kisses and marvel at the miraculous being that is mine. That was what I could do now. So I did.
I am at a place now where I have been reminded that I won’t be able to wipe every tear, clean every runny nose or nurture her through every discomfort or illness. It is a lesson I tend to struggle with while on this journey. But life has again presented us with a chance to become well versed in it. But there will be tears that I can wipe, kisses that I can give and blueberries to share when we are reunited. And whenever I can physically be there, I most certainly will.
I’m doing everything I can and in doing so I have to tell myself that it is enough. I will continue to tell myself until it sticks. My love, whether shown in the middle of the day or in the quiet of the night, is a fierce love. A love that realizes that in working each day, whether at home or in an office cubicle, I’m still nurturing and loving on my babies. I’m just doing it in a different way.
Thankfully, my arms aren’t the only ones that can comfort her. Daddy’s arms are also her safe place — her resting place. Nana’s (arms) seem to do the job just fine too, and so do the arms of the teachers we are trusting to care for her each day she is at school. Her ability to rest is not contingent upon my schedule or proximity to her and thankfully, no matter how much time passes (even 8, 9 or 10 hours) she melts into my arms with great ease. She’s not worried about the fact that I wasn’t here when she had to go home from school, or that I wasn’t there to tell her not to play with the paper on the exam room table. All that matters to her is that I’m here now. Our family dynamics are changing, but the love and commitment we have to one another is still the same.
Today my littlest is still sick. Her fever off and on. Today my arms are the ones that hold her. Each and every day; however, I carry her — sometimes in my arms. Always in my heart.
For those of you who work outside the home, how did you handle the emotions you may have felt when you were unable to care for your baby?