Four months after my daughter was born, I walked back into the office where I’d worked for a year prior to having her. Stepping into my cubicle was like stepping into a time machine. The date on the calendar read August 22 — four days before the day my daughter was born. A stack of paperwork sat to the left of my computer, exactly where I’d left it. There was an empty bottle of prenatal vitamins and some ginger tea in the drawer, small reminders of the pregnancy that had consumed so much of my mind. Family pictures sat on the filing cabinet, and a bottle of Bath & Body Works lotion sat next to the keyboard. Everything was the same. But I wasn’t.
Four months earlier, I wasn’t a mom. I didn’t have the stretch marks or the hair loss or the under eye circles to prove it. I didn’t have the all-consuming postpartum anxiety, or the ability to wear a baby while cooking, and the skill to eat every meal one-handed.
Colleagues stopped by every now and then, to ask me how I was doing and how things were going. Some passed me in the hallway and said nothing more than “hi,” as if no time had passed. For most of them, the past four months were just that — four months on the calendar. While I felt like screaming, “Don’t you see how different I am? Can you believe how much I’ve changed?,” most of them would have no idea, perhaps unless they’ve been there themselves.
That day was my first and last day back at the office. I was there to clean out my cubicle. To say hello to my former life and also wave goodbye. It was a bittersweet moment, one in which my daughter got to participate in, as she watched me clean from her car seat. Part of me was so happy to be back in the 9-5 working world, if just for a day, and another part of me knew that I wouldn’t be truly happy there unless I had my daughter beside me in her car seat everyday — because of that, I knew that I had to stick with my decision to leave.
These days, I do my editing job from home. I still have moments where I’m reminded that I’m not the same person I was when I began my job in the office over two years ago. My daughter is sick? She must come first. My daughter doesn’t nap? I will be working after dinnertime. I have to edit something that contains sad content? I am immediately thinking of my child.
Motherhood changes us. We enter into labor as one person, and we emerge on the other side as another.
Everything is the same, but I’m not.