My arms and shoulders ache. I imagine it is from abandoning, deserting, throwing Moopet into the baby jail, behind the playpen bars of her new family day care place.
Actually, my husband did the heavy lifting of Moopet into the playpen, as I have bronchitis – and it may be this making my muscles ache rather than metaphors.
But nevertheless. My husband and I drove home in silence, which I intermittently interrupted with a status update on my emotions. “I am sad,” I announced, as we joined the main road. My husband squeezed my hand. “Now I feel depressed,” as we climbed the hill towards our house. My husband in response tried to fill the role of the jocular, rational one, but then said when we got home, “Poor thing. I am sorry, I shouldn’t start. But when she cries, I just want to pick her up and cuddle her too.”
We both plucked up as we thought of the benefits to Moopet. As an only child, she likes being around other kids (but can’t I just take her to more playgroups?) And it is good for her to spend time with other adults too and learn how to nap somewhere that is not her own room. And – what was the other thing – oh yes, we remembered how awful we felt when we sleep trained her, but how beneficial that was to her and us. We told ourselves that, back in tribal days, babies would have been cared for by a few adults while the rest went off to hunt, or gather (But couldn’t that adult be me? To which my husband asked, “Do you want to start a family day care centre here?” And I said, “No.”)
It is a bind you see. I want to work and do my PhD. Taking care of five kids in my home so I can be with my Moopet would be a step too far.
I hate, have always hated, these calculations of benefit. I have done them all my life. With a disabled sister, you ask yourself: what would be the benefit to her of me staying here in Qld versus the emotional cost to me of doing so? Always I come out on the side of me. There is an arrogance to assuming you can make a person happy.
Now here I am, back at my desk, writing about it while my Moopet plays with someone else’s mum. Here is the heart of it: I am jealous of others being loved by my Moopet. I want it all to myself! Also, I want to do the best thing by her. And finally, she is growing up, and I just seem to have sped that up, sending her away from me before she was ready to go of her own accord. I like to hold on to people until they wrench themselves away so I can always be the one saying good-bye.
I dramatise. I do it because these are words, you see, words to fill the gap between heart and the outside world. Maybe I should have stuck to describing the body blows. My chest hurts – I have strained a muscle in there, I am sure of it – the one which stretches the further away your baby goes. I reassure myself that I love my Moopet, and all this will work out.
A final note: I called the carer when we got home. She told me that Moopet had stopped crying as soon as we left. She is now eating some raisin toast. So I have taught her two good things to see her through this next stage of her independent existence: one, that there is always solace to be had from warm bread; and two, that we would never leave her with someone who did not know this and other, simple truths.