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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 My body, once taut and full of life, has been replaced by a pillowy gut and angry purple stretch marks that dapple my thighs.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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My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.


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