I've been trying to write some variation on this post all week. I've been a little busy at work, distracted when I'm not busy, with a brain that works on roughly the same level as the brain of a ferret hyped up on too much caffeine. It just hasn't happened.
Part of it has just been that this week has been a touch different than most - my friend who keeps Audra during the day was in Las Vegas having a much-needed vacation. Jason and I had to scramble to cover the childcare a bit, and we ended up with sort of an interesting puzzle of a solution.
For two days, she went to Emergency Daycare at a local church daycare that I'd already had my eye on in case they had any permanent openings later on. It seemed like a great way to sort of introduce myself to them, let them get to see that Audra is totally better than other babies, and hopefully kind of nudge my foot on in the door.
For one day, my sister-in-law and her boyfriend kept her at my in-laws' house.
The next day, my father-in-law took off work and he and sister-in-law had her.
On top of that, we planned last night to be her first Night Away From Home. She stayed overnight with my in-laws and Jason picked her back up today.
This all seemed perfectly doable beforehand. And it was doable! Just distracting and kind of crazy in retrospect.
Day One, I ran her by the church since it was on my way to work anyway, and it gave Jason and I about twenty minutes' extra time in the morning since he wasn't trying to make it to our friend's house before work. This all seemed lovely and luxurious until I realized I was kind of running late because I'd let myself get too luxurious. Of course, 'running late' for me still means 'running on time', so it mattered to absolutely no one but me...
I dropped her off and was greeted by three cheerful ladies, a couple of toddlers, and two or three babies already either dozing or sitting in this adorable little table full of baby chairs. They advised me to put Audra in one.
I did, then I sort of hesitated and just stood there, staring at her. "Can you tell I'm a first-time mom?" I asked one of the ladies, as my feet steadfastly refused to move.
"Everyone's nervous the first time," She said.
Audra, previously distracted by a little boy a few seats away, turned to look me right in the eye.
I realized, looking at her tiny little body, so small inside these chairs, looking at me with this sort of curious plaintive face... I was about to walk out the door and leave my four-month-old baby in the care of three women I had never spoken to before in my entire life.
For eight hours straight.
Sooooooo that would be when I started crying right there, in front of those nice cheerful church ladies.
They sort of cooed and comforted me and told me she would be fine, they would send me photos, what was my number, it would be okay, it's fine, lots of moms cry like this, they've seen this before, it's perfectly normal but she'll be okay, etc and so forth...
About a thousand ways to call in sick to work ran through my mind, a thousand reasons or excuses to give, a thousand variations on Jason's face when I told him I just couldn't do it, honey, I couldn't leave her. Then a different thousand variations on his inevitable gentle reminder that I was going to have to do this eventually anyway.
I said goodbye, and I left her furiously studying the facial expressions of the 6-month-old boy near her. I got in my car, pulled out to go to work, and then promptly pulled into a gas station basically across the street, where I cried some more, went inside with my horrible red face and got a latte from the lady working the made-fresh area at the QT (who made my latte exactly to my liking, and had the grace not to ask me any questions), then drove to work feeling stretched thin.
The nice church ladies not only sent a photo, they sent a couple of updates on how much she'd had to eat and how she was doing. By the time I picked her up that night, she had gone through all three outfits I'd packed and was snoozing happily in a hideously ugly 90's-era Mickey Mouse shirt and black and white checkered pants the daycare kept for just such an occasion.
I took her home, and I laid down on the floor with her on her playmat and hugged her until she squirmed away.
Then I got myself up Wednesday morning and I did it again.
Wednesday was a lot easier. The church ladies were familiar faces by now, and Audra smiled at them right away. I only lingered a minute or so longer than necessary.
They asked me to dress her in Christmas pajamas and said they were "doing pictures" that day. It didn't occur to me what that actually meant until Thursday, when I received a text letting me know that the proofs were in.
They did professional Christmas pictures of the babies in a little chair, in their PJ's! So despite my abject laziness in getting together an appointment for professional shots like I had planned, I got them anyway! Yay for laziness!
I mean - that's probably not the lesson I should take away from this, but... you know what don't judge me.
This time when I picked her up it was a little bit earlier than the previous day - the toddlers were still running around with toys, and a few babies snoozing in the little cribs (including mine). I took a second to look around. A little girl about the age of my friend's baby walked up to me and set a little stuffed toy at my feet, gave me a penetrating stare, smacked on her pacifier like Maggie from the Simpsons, and then wandered off.
"Are you sure you don't have any permanent openings?" I asked hopefully.
None yet. My fingers are still crossed, though.
This time I didn't feel like I had to hold her forever to make up for the day. I could see she'd been in a place with lots of fun - if, uh, lots of noise also (welcome to more than two children in any given location).
I felt good about all of this. I felt like I had redeemed myself in the eyes of the nice church ladies, hardly tearing up at all that second day. I felt like a grown-up Business Lady Doing Business Stuff rather than a scared kid who totally isn't old enough to be somebody's mother no matter what my driver's license or Audra's birth certificate might say.
The last two days, she was at Jason's parents' house, spending her days with his little sister who was on a short break from her medical program.
So, basically, she spent two days with people she already knew really well anyway. My sister-in-law's boyfriend fed her for the first time. She came back at night just tired and chill and having been fawned over and loved on all day long. She is definitely not a baby who hurts for attention, people.
Friday I went over to see her briefly after work, had dinner with everyone, and then we began the Grand Experiment of leaving her overnight with someone who is not me.
It went perfectly fine.
I took the long way driving home so I could listen to the first part of the This American Life program, winding around the quick roads home to take the longer ones. There was no baby in the backseat whose nap I was trying to time, no worry on bottles getting too warm in the car. I just... went home in my own time.
I took a bubble bath, and read some magazines on the couch. I kept catching myself thinking I heard Audra and having to remember that that would have been physically impossible. I made cups of tea for Jason and I that we actually finished while the tea was still warm.
I thought I heard her again.
I made it away from my daughter for a whole two hours before I texted to see how she was.
I fell asleep reading magazines in bed at like 8:45. I woke up at 9:30 thinking that Audra would need to have her last feeding for the night. I wandered out to ask Jason if he would do it, realized where she was, considered texting one more time and talked myself out of it, told Jason goodnight and then went back to bed and slept forever.
Well, sort of.
I woke up at 4:30 thinking that I hadn't heard the baby in a while, panicked, and had to remember she wasn't even in the house.
I gave up trying to go back to sleep at 4:45.
So, on this day that I could sleep in, in the blessed quiet of a baby-less morning... I woke up before dawn anyway.
On the up side, I had a little extra time to run by Starbucks before work and heavily caffeinate myself.
Plus, my mother-in-law sent me a photo wherein the baby had the same expression I have every single morning for the first two hours of my day:
She may look nothing like me, but at least we share expressions sometimes.
Now that she's done one night away from me I'm totally ready for Jason and I's planned trip to spend a night in Asheville soon, right?