Eleven and a half weeks ago, I stood in a dimly lit hospital room, changing a tiny girl out of a white cotton shirt and into a soft pink floral sleeper. I had packed a hat that matched, but it was too big for her. My hands were shaking and my heart was pounding as I placed her into her car seat and spent way too much time adjusting the straps. We were going home... as a family of three. I couldn't believe they were letting us take her home. Our girl. Layla.
That first evening was a whirlwind of wonderfully loving family supporting us and a hot dinner in our living room and another contender for “best shower of my life” and time spent in awe of the person we had made. Eventually we went to bed and it was so nice to sink in against our own pillows and blankets and linens (I may have--okay, definitely--cried in relief). Layla was pretty easy on us during our first night home… but I still didn't sleep a wink. Try as I might, there were no visits to Dreamland for me.
And the sun rose anyway. When Layla woke up at 3:30am and then again at 6:00, I felt grateful to my job for making me a morning person. I felt grateful to have Tom's support, grateful to be with someone who was already such a devoted dad. Sure, I was exhausted as hell… I had carried Layla to term and gave birth and spent 3 nights in the hospital and then came home with our newborn daughter. And yet, I was somehow fueled on adrenaline and wonder, wide awake taking in the sight of Layla in my arms. We got comfortable on the couch, cozy with blankets and pillows, and settled in to watch WGN Morning News.
We spent the first two weeks of her life holding on for the ride. After Tom's paternity leave (I am so glad he had the time; I only wish it had been longer), I still had 10 weeks left of leave. February felt like a lifetime away. So Layla and I started finding a rhythm, continued getting to know one another. I loved her endlessly the very moment I laid eyes on her, an emotion only magnified when they put her on my chest for the first time. Somehow I manage to love her more with every passing day.
Before I realized it, 10 weeks turned into 8, and then 6, and then 4. All the while, Layla continued to grow into this amazingly intuitive and sweet baby girl. Now, she smiles at me when I walk into the room and you should see the joy on her face when I lift her into my arms. She is starting to be aware of the world and the things going on around her. It is SO wild to witness! And so incredibly special.
Right now, she is sound asleep on my left arm as I type this on my phone with my other hand… I could probably put her down but I don't want to. I'm comfortable, and so is she. Friday will be my last week day of maternity leave… and then the next Sunday, it'll be my first shift in over 12 weeks.
I blinked and 12 weeks passed and my little girl began growing. I've gone on some adventures with her, but I've honestly spent a lot of time inside. Having a baby during the winter and the height of cold and flu season, plus the normal anxieties of going out with a newborn, turned me into a bit of a homebody. And I've been okay with that because I so love being home with her… but I know that I do better when I have a routine and am interacting with others. As much as I really don't want to leave her, I am lucky to love what I do, and to set an example for her of hard work and having goals. I won't be gone forever, and large parts of my routine with will stay the same. This will be good for all of us, her dad included. I am ready for the next part of this adventure, wherever it will lead us as a family of three.