I hadn’t planned on leaving my son for any reason during his first year of life. Not only because I’m breastfeeding, but because he is my right arm, my heart. Even the thought of leaving Lucas and being apart from him for more than 24 hours at this tender age had seemed unbearable.
However, life doesn’t always go as planned. When Lucas was just over 3 months old, I received a call from my best friend Natasha, that she has an aggressive form of advanced-stage breast cancer. I was devastated; how unfair for her to be suffering through such a life-altering disease at only 32. I wept many nights while nursing my son, I felt so helpless to help Natasha. I wanted to fly up to NYC and be with her immediately, hug her, talk with her, be by her side; but with an infant son this trip would be challenging.
No matter what I knew, I had to visit her. I thoroughly debated taking my son with me. However, as much as his auntie would love to see him (and I would prefer him to be at my side) it was just too risky with her formidable chemo regime and low white blood cell count. In addition, I wanted to devote my undivided attention to her and really be present and not distracted by my little one on my short visit.
Leading up to my trip, I grew nervous: Would he notice my absence? Would he cry all day? Would he be able to sleep? Would I? I realized as the trip grew closer that this trip was probably going to be harder on him than on me.
I departed PTI in early July, my stomach churning as I sat on the tarmac waiting to take off. I knew my little man was in the best hands possible. His father, along with his grandmothers, auntie, uncle and cousins were surrounding him and caring for him in my absence. Yet my fears and doubts consumed me. In fact, my usual nervousness about flying was dwarfed in light of this larger anxiety of being away from my son. After arriving in NYC, I briskly walked down the street amid towering skyscrapers, I not only noticed the hip New Yorkers, businessmen and tourists, but my eyes gravitated to babies and young children in strollers. I began to second-guess my decision not to bring my son.
Upon arriving at my friend’s apartment, I embraced her in the big bear hug I had been dreaming of over the past few months. We sat, I pumped milk and talked for several hours. We then went wig shopping and out to dinner and a comedy show. It was truly amazing to be at her side, and I grew teary several times as she relayed the frightening and isolating experience of the chemo she was going through.
My husband called my first night to convey that our little man had not gotten his afternoon nap and went to bed 2 hours past his normal bedtime. I was sick with worry. I wanted so badly to be in both places at once. The helpless feeling of not being able to comfort my child wracked my emotions so much I nearly threw up. I didn’t sleep much at all my first night away from my son.
However, when I talked with my mother-in-law the next day, I found out my son was back on his normal play-and-nap routine. What sweet relief! I relaxed a little, went shopping with my BFF, and we made a slow Italian dinner that night. Once again, I was reassured by a p.m. phone call from my husband that Lucas was doing just fine. Then, of course, I wondered if he missed me at all.
My last morning in New York, I spent some final hours discussing her treatment, her working with cancer, and the impending surgery and radiation treatment. As hard as it had been to leave my little man, I knew as I hugged my friend one last time before leaving that every bit of that stress and anxiety was worth it.
When I returned home that afternoon, my husband swept me up at the airport. He relayed all the details of our Lucas’s past few days. He proudly told me of getting up and changing and feeding him at night all by himself. When we returned, Lucas was napping. We he awoke, I burst into the room scooped him up, then nursed my aching chest. He smiled lazily, not overly excited, as if to say, “Hey mom, what’s the big deal, love you, same as ever.”
Dear Baby Lucas,
You are 5 and half months now. You are my heart, my soul, my daily blessing. I thank God for you every day.
I have so enjoyed spending the past 3 weeks with you, day in and day out, not having to go to work each day. You are getting more and more playful and curious every day!
I see the world through your new eyes, every new thing a wonder and awe. You are so strong, arching your back and buckling up on the changing table and your play mat. It’s getting harder and harder to change your clothes. I know you are just preparing yourself to roll over and crawl. You are also growing so big and long, when I look at your newborn photos I can’t believe you were ever that small.
This parenting thing sure isn’t easy. I worry about so many things related to you, because I love you so much. But it’s an adventure, and I am glad to be sharing it with you!