I didn’t have to wear a nursing bra today.
I realized this as I was rushing madly to get dressed, as I’m in the habit of doing so that my husband can deposit the baby in the bouncy chair in our bedroom and get out the door in time to catch his bus to work, which, by the way, he never does catch in time and instead drives the car, because that’s what mornings with a baby do to your plans.
I’m also never fully dressed by the time my husband brings the baby upstairs, which means my son starts each day with an entertaining reverse strip-show from mama, where I shimmy my granny panties up under my towel to avoid hearing about this in future therapy sessions, trip into my cleanest leggings while singing a jovial rendition of “Wheels on the bus,” and sniff my nursing bras to determine which one smells the least like yogurt before clasping my boobs in place, then adjusting the straps so that my milk cannons are no longer grazing my lowest rib.
Then I throw on an easy-access tank top, hang my head upside down to throw my hair in a top knot while saying “boo!” through my legs, and if there’s time I smear concealer under my eyes like war paint before grabbing my now-frantic child, dancing him down the stairs, and getting him dressed for our daily walk to see the ducks at the pond in our neighbourhood, where my “quack quack quack!” never fails to illicit a toothy grin, unless anyone else is around in which case I look like a crazy woman quacking at a bored baby.
Today, as I stumbled out of the shower and automatically reached for the bra I’d left on the floor last night, I caught my breath.
I didn’t have to wear a nursing bra today. My baby was not kicking and yelling “BABABABABA!” in his bouncy chair. I didn’t have to rush. I could wear anything I wanted, even pants with an actual waistband. I could blow-dry my hair if I felt the urge. I could pour myself a hot coffee if I really wanted to be luxurious. My husband was taking the baby to daycare, and I had all the time in the world.
I picked up a regular bra and burst into tears.
“But, the ducks,” I thought to myself as I put on jeans – actual real jeans, not even jeggings, but normal human jeans.
“What about the fucking ducks?”
I didn’t have to wear a nursing bra today, and it broke my heart.
My baby is a year old, which means the government no longer pays me to say “quack quack quack!” while my son tries to throw his sippy cup into a pond. It means I have to earn a living, which is proving slightly frustrating after losing my job last year. And that means my sweet boy now spends his days at a nearby daycare while I write from home, surrounded by his toys and breakfast paraphernalia and tiny socks to constantly remind me that he isn’t here.
Today was his first full day, and I can’t believe how much I miss those ducks. Those stupid ducks. Those bloated, smarmy, likely-diseased ducks.
We survived his transition week, although not unscarred. I hadn’t been that worried about daycare since my son has always been social. The first few times we visited his new digs, he crawled away happily to explore the new toys, occasionally looking back at me to wave a plastic hamburger in the air triumphantly.
“He’s going to do great,” the teachers assured me.
I dressed him up in a smart little outfit for his first visit without me. Everything coordinated, from the cuffs of his blue cardigan down to the tips of his new blue shoes. My baby loves the word “blue,” and the word “shoe,” so putting him in “blue shoes” allows him to reach peak happiness. He kept kicking his legs and pointing at his feet with a wide smile.
“He needs to look good,” I explained to my husband as I carefully selected his outfit that morning, ” so that the teachers know that he is a special child, not some grubby run-of-the mill hobo baby.”
Once again, he crawled away happily as we entered the infant room. I told the teachers I’d be back in an hour, and I went to the daycare office to sign a stack of paperwork. When I was done, I went back to get my son, anxious to see how he’d fared.
I walked into the infant room and spotted the back of his blue cardigan, his little shoulders slumped forward, his head hanging down, as he sat pitifully in a teacher’s lap with tears and snot running down his face. I could hear his sobs from the hallway.
“He did well,” the teachers assured me as I held him to my chest and stroked his red face as he shook and bawled, “for about 30 minutes.”
I still lie awake at night picturing the delicate curve of the back of his blue cardigan, his shoulders shaking with sadness.
The next day, I tried packing his stuffed puppy, aptly named “Puppy,” in his impossibly small backpack. I told the teachers they should see if “Puppy” could comfort him if he was upset again. When I returned to pick him up an hour later, my baby was sitting on the floor, clutching “Puppy” to his chest, and sobbing. The dog was so wet with tears that I had to run him through the washing machine when I got home.
Over the week, my son cried less each day, and his visits stretched from one hour to six. He ate his daycare lunch enthusiastically, and even learned to nap with the other babies. I was a frequent visitor, to the point that one of the kind teachers pulled me aside and said “you know, he’s included in our numbers now. You don’t have to stay here.”
Another day, when my sister was helping me get the baby to and from daycare, a teacher asked if this was by any chance the first baby in the family. “What do you mean,” my sister asked as she hovered over the baby’s lunch to make sure everything was cut in appropriate sizes. “The other aunts don’t do this?”
Because I’m just writing from home, I have been able to be flexible with the baby’s drop off times. I take him in at 11, usually, so that he’s there in time for lunch but we still have our mornings together to go for walks, see the ducks, cuddle and nurse. But today I had an interview early in the morning, which meant my son went to daycare at 8:30.
I didn’t enjoy my hot coffee. These jeans are bullshit. My hair is still in a wet top knot.
I didn’t have to wear a nursing bra today, and it feels all wrong.