When Rian was born, we got loads of practical and thoughtful gifts for him. One of the gifts we got was a memory box - well actually we got two beautiful ones - and I love them.
However, there are some things you can't put into the memory boxes or the baby books.
I'm one of those people who likes to record life as it goes along. This started at a young age with what is known as The Suitcase. It's an old fashioned vintagey cardboard type suitcase that my parents used to own. When I was about 12, I started keeping my 'stuff' in it, all the important things I wanted to keep and cherish. I still have my suitcase, much to the amusement of my Dad - and it's a long time since I looked in there, but it is always amusing to see the things that mattered so much to my 12-year-old self. But I also have cards from each of my grandmothers, letters my Dad had written to me when he was at sea... things to cherish.
So it came as no surprise that when the biggest thing to ever happen to me came along, that I would want to keep a record of things. But the things I can't put into the memory boxes or put onto my phone are perhaps the most precious of all.
When I think of my time on leave with Rian I think of those things you can't put into a box - the sweet smell of him, the feel of him snuggled into me, the sound of his baby snores when the only place I could get him to nap was on my shoulder. The first time I heard him laugh his beautiful big belly laugh. His little fists grabbing onto my finger, his little hands rubbing my cheek when I fed him his bottle.
Of course, I do also remember the seemingly endless crying for hours when he had colic, the sheer exhaustion like I've never known it before, the explosive nappies... it's not all sweetness and light let me tell you!
But you forget those things, at least they're not at the forefront of my mind when I think about him. Every morning I used to go in to pick him up for the day. We'd wake up properly together and we'd look out the window and see the trees and the sky and the birds and have a grand old chat.
I'd ask him for a kiss, then I'd give him one... but one day I asked for a kiss and he leant over and planted his little face on mine and gave me one himself! It was amazing and one of the best things ever, that little moment. That memory is something I wish I could pull out of my head and turn into a tangible thing so I could put it in The Suitcase and carry it forever.
Now that I'm back at work, those things seem even more precious. When I was on leave there were days that used to feel never ending... I would sometimes be waiting at the window by 6pm to see Gavin's car come around the corner just so I could have half an hour to myself. And not even so that I could lie down and watch tv or read a book, it would be a precious half an hour so that I could do essential things like wash my hair! But the good days far outweighed the bad. I was very lucky to be able to take extended leave so I was two weeks short of a full year at home with him. And it was worth every penny.
The work guilts. At first, it was almost fun being back - the novelty of having a lunch break! Having a coffee and getting to finish it whenever I wanted. But that novelty soon wore off. We are so lucky to have Rian with amazing childcare so that's not a worry at all. But that fear of missing out... what if he walks and I don't see it? What if he says a new word? What if he forgets that I'm his mother? Yes, I know the last one seems a bit over the top but in fairness to him, he spends 12 hours a day with someone else and he's only awake for about 14 hours a day. I question constantly is this the right thing? This precious time which I know now goes by so fast, he changes so fast. I keep telling myself that I'm doing it for him, to be able to give him our best. But it does feel like a huge price to pay.
The nice thing is how much more precious the weekends are now. Those sleepy nap times which even now at almost 15 months, he will still only take in someone's arms. I love them. I know that some day it will be the last time he will sleep in my arms and I savour it, the snuggles and the kisses. 10,000 per nap I reckon. At least. And not one I can put in The Suitcase.