I did. And it was much harder than I thought it would be…
Before I had a baby, I’d never thought of going away without one. Surely wherever you go, they go, right? But sometimes life gets in the way, whether it’s work or maybe you just need a break with your husband, there will come a time when you have to decide whether to take your baby overseas with you, or leave them behind.
There is no right answer. Like the midwife used to say ‘every baby’s different’, I’ve always thought every mother is different too. Sometimes what works for one mum, would never work for another. Recently my mum, my sister and I went on a what could be called a pilgrimage to take my dad’s ashes back to his hometown in Ireland. We talked about taking the children, the husbands – the whole kitchen sink. And ultimately decided it was something that we needed to do together, alone.
The idea was that for the 14 days I was away Raff would go to daycare like normal and my husband would then be the one to do the pick ups/drop offs/bedtime routine every night. Nothing much would be changing for Raff. At first I was okay with it. Maybe, a little more than okay with it. I was looking forward to having a break. To having some uninterrupted time to sit and read or watch movie after movie on the plane. To stand up and proclaim ‘let’s go out’ on a whim. I longed for a day that wasn’t scheduled around sleep time and feeding. But as the day drew closer I couldn’t seem to get excited about going overseas. Sure it was a somber event I was going to, but I have lots of family and friends overseas and I absolutely love travelling. I realised, too late, that I was going to miss Raff terribly. My sister who has to travel to France twice a year for work, had warned me. But until then, I didn’t quite get it. Of course, I’d miss him. But the freedom. The absolute freedom of doing what I wanted for two whole weeks was so dizzily tantalising, that I couldn’t see straight.
On the way to the airport I felt ill. I fretted and I felt sick with worry. What if something happened to me? What if something happened to him? My husband was calmer, telling me not to worry. “I’ve got it all under control”, he said. And I knew he did. I knew I couldn’t have left Raff in any better hands. Still, I felt guilty leaving him behind. For thinking maybe, he was a little bit too much hard work on an already emotionally-charged trip.
It took me two whole days to finally relax. And by the third day, I pined for him. I would look at the clock, work out the time in New Zealand and think ‘oh he’ll be eating lunch now’, or ‘he must be getting in his jarmies for bed’. He was always on my mind. Sure I was having a great time shopping, drinking cocktails, indulging in long lunches – but I craved his affection, his kisses, his snuggles, his smiles. Strangely, I even craved the mundane things – the monotonous things I couldn’t wait to get away from. Like the bedtime reading where he forces me to read the same book over and over again until my voice is raspy, the nappy changes where he tries to squirm away, even the full-blown lying on the ground tantrums when he wants to watch the Wiggles and I say no. I guess I just missed him, all of him; the good and the bad.
What baffled me though were people’s reactions. No one seemed to bat an eyelid that I was away without my son but when I’d meet up with friends most would still ask ‘But whose looking after Raff?’ And I’d reply dumbfounded – ‘his dad, of course’. To me that was logical. And I knew if my husband was overseas alone, no one ever would ask him who was looking after the baby!
After a week I started counting down the days till I was reunited with him. I longed to get home. And it was nice for once, to have a reason to want to leave a holiday. Usually I have that last day holiday dread where your head is almost back in reality mode and you’re wishing you could stay where you are, paused in that moment forever. But this time, I was elated to leave my childless holiday. I smiled at the air hostesses on the plane, practically skipped through customs and happily made my way back into the arms of my baby. The reunion wasn’t all I’d imagined however. Raff clung to his dad and gave me a look of ‘don’t you ever leave me again’ before he eventually moved forward for a cuddle. And honestly. I hope if I do, it will never be for long…
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