I don’t know why, but 10 months seems so much older than 9. Perhaps it’s because of how much Leo has changed over the last four weeks; it seems like every day he is fine tuning a new skill and better understanding a little more of the world around him.
At times I see him pick something up, a toy or the TV remote, something he has seen a hundred times before, and really study it; as if looking at it through new eyes. He quizzically tilts his head to one side, and gently traces his finger over the buttons, or round its edge, then looks up at me, as if to say ‘Hey mum, did you know it did this?’
I love how chatty Leo is now too (of course, any child of mine was going to be a talker!) He babbles away to his toys; copyies sounds from our favourite songs; and Rosie the dog is greeted with a soliloquy each morning when she bounds into the bedroom. We meet up with our antenatal buddies each week, and when the gang gets together it’s a cacophony of squeals, shrieks and ‘doo doos’.
Then there’s the moving. I think I’m in denial that I have a mobile baby; when people ask me ‘is Leo crawling yet?’ my response is always, ‘almost’ or ‘he’s nearly there’ when in actual fact, whilst he isn’t zooming off in every direction, he is more than capable of manoeuvring himself around. And don’t even get me started on the climbing! This boy just wants to be on his feet all. day. long. I really should start babyproofing…
It is wonderful to see Leo’s personality starting to develop; he is turning into his own little character, with likes and interests and free will (plenty of this!) and each new day reveals more of this. It is a joy and a privilege to watch him learn and grow; he is loving and affectionate, cheeky and funny, and (nearly always) spends each day with a huge smile on his face.
And yet, lurking in the background of our happy days is the knowledge that they are numbered.
Every evening as I hastily tidy up all mass of toys and games, my eyes flit to the pile of documents towering on my desk and I feel a knot tighten in the pit of my stomach. They urgently require my attention (and my signature) yet I cannot bring myself to face them. They signal my return to work; the end of maternity leave.
This morning, as I turned over the calendar to reveal squares marked with days out, baby sign and swimming classes, and blanks for things as yet unplanned, my heart sank at the knowledge of what the next page brings. Nursery drop offs, commuter traffic, family time squeezed into the fringes of the working day.
It feels like we’re hurtling towards the end of our time together at breakneck speed, and I don’t think either of us are ready.
As I type this, I look at Leo curled up in bed beside me: snuggling his face into my elbow, his little fingers grasping onto my sleeve. Unable to fall asleep unless my body is pressed against his, how will he manage a full day at nursery, without me there to sing to him, and rock him?
And there is so much left for Leo to discover and do. Who will be there to hear his first real word? Will mine be the hand he tentatively releases as he braves his first, tottering steps alone? Where will he be when he does his first painting, or sings his first song?
Of course, I recognise that I am very fortunate to have been able to take the best part of a year off, and to be able to return to work part-time, but that doesn’t make going back feel any easier.
People keep telling me ‘it’s not as bad as you think.’ In fact, many friends say they relish the time when they can be their ‘old selves’ again: having adult conversations, drinking hot coffee, not having to constantly worry about their baby nose diving from the sofa or attempting to eat the dishwasher tablets.
I’m sure all this is true, and I know Leo will enjoy spending a day with his Nana, as well as making new friends at nursery. He is generally a sociable little boy who is happy to go to others and I don’t need convincing of the benefits of day care.
But still, whenever I think about the realities of spending 11 hours a day apart from him; rushing home to catch the end of bedtime; him hurting himself, or missing me, and me not being there, it fills me with guilt and dread.
Like many, my road to motherhood has been hard won. After losing Findlay, and the life we were denied together, the thought of being away from Leo day in, day out, breaks my heart.
We have 5 more weeks together; 5 weeks before reality intrudes on our little world. And I will try and enjoy every moment of those 5 weeks; this precious time which we will never have again.
Does anyone else struggle with the thought of going back to work?
Those who have gone back, do you have any top tips for making the most of my final few weeks, or things which you found made the transition easier?
I’d love to hear from you!