Day one, hour one

It’s happened, I have dropped my daughter off in the care of relative strangers after two weeks of induction. I placed her on the floor where she eagerly joined her friends and started pushing balls around. I kissed her on her sweet little head and I said, “mummy’s going now”. She looked up at me and smiled, and then waved. I walked out the door, feeling OK. I looked back, she was still playing, looking around a little – I’m guessing (hoping?) for me.

I walked out the door mentally telling myself not to cry. As I walked out I saw another mum behind me and the tears began to fall. “I’m sorry,” I sobbed. “I haven’t left her before.” And the tears ran freely. The poor mum. She pat me nervously on the shoulder and told me it gets easier. I had to restrain myself from asking her if she’d like to go for coffee and talk about our kids while we waited for them.

Related: My first childcare experience

Then I walked home. I was so annoyed with myself for not driving. If I drove I could have sat in the car for a while and cried. But no, I had to walk down the street with the tears flowing and try to hide them. At least I had the sense to leave the pram at the centre instead of crying while wheeling a childless pram home. My chest ached. My stomach churned. I felt a pulling that was unknown to me. This was different to leaving her with Mum for the first time. This was different to her first sleepover (though a little similar). This ached all over and it felt like grieving and a horrendous break-up all in one.

By the time I got home the tears had stopped, the ache was still there. I thought “I’ll be OK” and then I entered the apartment. I saw her bedroom and tears threatened. Everywhere there were reminders of her. I saw her sippy cup on the table, her bib hung over the chair, an audible sob exited my throat. I practically ran to my laptop, shoved it in my bag and got out of there, heading to my local coffee shop, where the server very kindly agreed not to talk to me about my daughter, who they are used to seeing every morning.

Then, one of missy’s favourite waitresses smiled at me and said cheerfully, “You look so empty all by yourself!” I think she got it in a nutshell.

Now, I’m off to the hairdressers for a much needed colour and cut. It probably won’t stop the ache, but at least the foils in my hair combined with my vanity will prevent me from running back to the centre and pulling my baby to my chest and never letting go. I’m told it gets easier.

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Next: How to get the childcare rebate when you don’t need family assistance

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