The last two times I had to do it, I at least made it to the parking lot. Today I didn't even get to the door before my eyes stung, my breath caught and I couldn't swallow the giant lump rising in my throat.
I am sitting in my clean house, on my own. No baby sleeping in his cot. No preschooler singing her songs. No big school girl. No husband. Just me, and the gentle hum of the airconditioner. And my chorus of sniffing and occasional sobs.
The Possum is having his first half day at daycare and I am bereft. My arms ache. My chest hurts. My breasts are already swelling and will meet with nought but plastic in an hour when normally they would be feeding my baby.
Last night, the idea of it all had me hiccuping myself to sleep in a tight ball, wishing that it was all some terrible terrible dream. That I wasn't handing my baby to someone else to look after.
I wish I could turn the part of me off that seeks for more out of life. I wish that I could be happy staying at home and looking after my family. I have been so happy the last few months. I have juggled and kept the house tidy and made meals and driven to swimming and ballet classes, all with a baby on my hip. I have not slept and mostly managed. I have looked forward each day to Bingley coming home. I have not yet felt the prickle on the back of my neck, the one of longing to be out doing something more.
I waited for it, because both other times, while sad, I have looked forward to getting to be "me" apart from my children. Of being able to work and study. To expand my mind and have conversations beyond what happens at home. To interact with adults all day and occasionally go to the toilet with the door shut.
But this time that longing had yet to settle in. And I'm just not ready. I'm not ready for someone else to rock him to sleep. I'm not ready for someone else to hold him as he falls to sleep, milk drunk and with that half smile on his face. I'm not ready to walk past his room and see it empty. I'm not ready for someone else to play with him on the floor as he giggles away.
He's trying to crawl at the moment. What if I don't see the first time he does it? I won't see his first steps. What if I don't hear his first word? What if he cries that special cry that is just for me? And I'm not there?
I tried to feed him before I left. He wasn't due for one, but he never says no and I wanted to. He pushed me away. Wriggled around so he could see the other small children. Light up with his cheeky smile, the only one of my babies that has my smile, that lifts his ears and crinkles his eyes at the corners. I know he will be OK. That although there will be days that he will be cranky and just want his mother, that most days he will be perfectly happy. He will bond with Loshni who looked after both his big sisters and still cuddles them every time we go in.
But this afternoon I will pick him up and he will smell like someone else. And whether he was fine or whether he cried for me the whole time, my heart will break. And I will nuzzle that soft downy milk smelling hair and cry some more.