I only have 2 weeks left before my maternity leave ends

It occurs to me that this ritual is the first of many symbolic cords we will cut.

I only have 2 weeks left before my maternity leave ends

It's 3:17 am and I'm crying. I don't know why I'm surprised—I'm a crier. But that's usually at life insurance commercials or weddings. This is different. These are the silent, soaking wet tears that happen without control or permission. By the time I realize they're happening, it's too late. (I cried similar tears at the end of Coco.)

I suspect moms everywhere know this feeling, it's nothing new. But it's new for me.

In two short weeks, we'll be cutting the cord. Again. The first time was a flurry of nurses and gunk and numbness as they whisked you to the warmer to examine a limp left arm. You and I had been intertwined since you were mere cells rapidly multiplying in my womb and then suddenly it was over.

I enjoyed keeping you inside me all to myself, and as your due date came and went I was secretly pleased you were mine for a little while longer.

There I could know you were fed and safe, kept away from a nasty flu season, never-ending gun violence, and the ugliness that seems to monopolize the news these days. When you finally arrived eight days late, I ached to put you back inside of me.

These last 10 weeks have been a blur as you and I learned how to live together. We're still very much intertwined, but now we spend our days tangled in each other's arms in the me-sized dent I've carved out on our sofa's chaise. It's a mess of breast pads, burp cloths, crumbs from one-handed eating and TV remotes.

I feel like a mess, too. My hair is 90% dry shampoo and 10% spit-up. My body, once taut and full of life, has been replaced by a pillowy gut and angry purple stretch marks that dapple my thighs.

My phone search history is a two-part anthology of Things That Could Kill You and Is This Normal? My wardrobe consists of stretchy pants and milk-stained nursing tanks—I live in perpetual fear of answering the doorbell with a boob hanging out.

But you? You are perfect. I grew you in me and I continue to feed you from my body, somehow transforming my own cells into milk that reliably pours from my chapped nipples when you so much as look at me. You've recently learned to smile and you're exceedingly generous with them. Which makes this even harder.

You have no idea what's going to happen in two weeks. But maybe knowing is worse. Knowing is why I'm crying as I clutch you to my chest in the middle of the night long after you've drifted to sleep.

It's nothing new, but for you, everything is new.

In 14 days, I'll ditch the "mom uniform" I've been sporting for one of the many nursing-friendly dresses I've amassed during middle-of-the-night online shopping sprees. I'll put makeup over my under eye circles and product in my hair. I'll needlessly worry that you won't recognize me.

Soon our time together will be dictated by bus schedules and sleep training. You'll no longer nurse when you're hungry. When you're upset. When you're sleepy. You'll eat from a bottle that tries (and fails) to mimic my beat-up breasts, on a timeline dictated by the clock and the ounces of milk I'll diligently pump for you three times a day.

I'm lucky. I'll be handing you off to your father, who's been blessed with ample paternity leave that allows us to put off daycare until you're a little more robust. He's an amazing dad, but will he Google everything about your development? Suck the boogers out of your nose regularly? Leave you in a diaper too long? These are the questions I'll distract myself with as I sit in a tiny room silent but for the whir of my breast pump.

It occurs to me that this ritual—me returning to work—is the first of many symbolic cords we will cut as you grow toward independence. I'll mourn each one just as I'll celebrate them with pictures and posts on social media. Someday we'll become familiar with these transitions and hardly notice them as they pass us by.

But tonight—er, today because it's technically morning—I vow to cherish every second. Because even though all of this is new for me and you, we've successfully overcome a lot of newness in a short time. We'll conquer this, too.

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