I really didn’t know what to expect from Baby O when I went back to work 2 weeks ago. For one thing, he still had one mom at home, the lucky duck. The wife does not go back for another week. For another thing, we’d been diligently giving him at least one feeding by bottle a day since he was a month old, even though all the pumping made me cranky. Still, it was a big transition – and he showed us this each day.
Here are *my* observations on his 5 stages of grief…
Stage 1: Irritable Oblivion.
On Sunday night and Monday morning, Baby O had no idea what was happening. Yet, he sensed something was happening. His moms were extra anxious, there was a distinct bustle disrupting the otherwise leisurely calm that marked our pace while all three of us were home together. Still, as I got up and dressed in the morning (admittedly a rarity so early in the day) and tried to have a meaningful play session and then a heartfelt snuggle before I went off, he was oblivious to the moment being of any kind of import and a little irritable that I was rushing along his usually chiller mornings. Hey, this kid likes his routine.
Stage 2: Shell shock.
When the day came to a close on Monday at 5pm (my new working parent schedule in effect), I bounded downstairs (only a little late) to greet the wife and Baby O who had come to pick me up. I imagined the big smile I’d get from my monkey who would be extra excited to see me after a day apart.
Instead, I got a blank stare. Pretty much the expression he had all night. It evolved from a distinct discomfort and wariness at looking at me after a day spent adapting to my absence, to a purely shell shocked state as all three of us were together for the remaining hour of his day. This gave way to extra feedings all night, signaled to us by more hysterical-than-usual cries.
Stage 3: Anger.
This is where he lingered for the better part of the week. He would quickly pivot from a big, hearty smile for the Wife to a grimace at me, hardly without skipping a beat. Indeed, he went a full 4 and a half days without giving me an inkling of a smile. Not only that, for a couple days – night and mornings – he would yell at me. He was a “talker” by this point (in his own babbling way) and we were familiar with his routing of “downloading” with us at the end of the day, as though (we imagine) he’s telling us all about what happened from his perspective. This week – and directed only at me – he yelled with an angry intensity for over 20 minutes each time. Yikes!
Stage 4: Reluctant adapting.
By Thursday night it seemed Baby O had reached a point of trying to adapt to the new reality. He was not psyched but not pissed – and he was flirting with the possibility of sending a smile my way. He was more chill and he didn’t complain – and he even managed to sleep better with only 1 wake-up Thursday night.
Stage 5: Acceptance-ish.
By Friday, O finally seemed to have a routine down. Of course so did I and maybe my relief at the end of the week infused him with more calm, as well. I even got a smile on Friday night when I came home, which was all the more heartening knowing I didn’t have to put us all through separation the next two days.
And his acceptance-ish on Friday gave way to pure glee all weekend. Everything felt right in our small world, as the three of us were together without pause. And with Sunday night came renewed anxiety, and on Monday a repetition of the pattern – only a little faster to move through the stages and a little pissier at having to repeat something we all felt we had gotten through.