I recently went on vacation to Toronto for 6 days. Before that I'd never been away from Charlie more than 3 nights. That was last January when I went to Hawaii and once the summer before when I went to Salt Spring Island with a few friends. My personal rule on both of those vacations was to avoid talking about Charlie too much...I was terrified that if I did, I'd get overwhelmed with missing my girl and be a plane or ferry ride away and would end up panicking because I'd feel trapped. I ended up really enjoying both of those vacations, I NEEDED both of those vacations. I came home feeling more alive and optimistic about Charlie and our life together.
So, when my friend Brooke invited me out to celebrate her 35th birthday (and surprise engagement!) with her and her friends in Toronto, I thought, "hey, I've never been away from Charlie that long, but I can do this, I need this, and it's a good thing for all involved." And I was right, it was.
In general, I feel pretty fortunate about all of the help we get with Charlie. I get little breaks all the time. Charlie is with Matt 3 days a week (although I visit pretty much everyday she's with him) and I get nursing in the evenings on 3 of my nights with Charlie, including weekends. I think about all of the friends I have that rarely get an evening out. They have 'date night' once a month with their partner and it costs them a fortune in child care so they pretty much have to eat at Wendy's just to afford their night out. I consider myself very lucky in that regard. On my first night in Toronto, I shot up out of bed at about 8am...I was having a nightmare about Charlie. I dreamed that Charlie was there with me and Brooke and I just slept right through for 12/13 hours and I forgot to take care of her and when I eventually remembered she was there, I ran screaming to 'her room' and she had passed away. And, that's the 'nice' way of explaining my dream...I'll spare you the details. I thought about my dream and what it meant, and I concluded that even though I get to go out on weekends, like any parent, I'm still always 'on duty', always just a phone call away. I've had more than one 3am emergency hospital visit turned 1 month life or death situation with Charlie, so no matter how much fun I'm having, I am always aware that I'm only a phone call away from an emergency situation that I'll have to tend to. Subconsciously knowing that, you can never REALLY relax. The second my plane landed in Toronto, for the first time in a year and a half, I was officially 'off duty' even though it was still possible something horrible could happen (which I was optimistic wouldn't happen) I knew that I could not tend to the situation. And I guess it just took a day or so for my brain to compute that. With the help of Skype and knowing how happy Charlie was at Canuck Place and with her poppa, I was relaxed and nightmare free for the remainder of my vacation.
Regardless of whether or not I felt I deserved the vacation, on my flight back I started feeling guilty about having 6 Charlie free days of fun. I know some parents who have 5 year olds and have never spent a day apart from them...how come it's so easy for me to do, ESPECIALLY when I'm told my time is short with Charlie. Shouldn't I be greedy and REALLY soak up the time I do have with her? Guilt. Guilt. Guilt.
Anyway, when my plane touched down in Vancouver I turned on my cell phone and Facebook said I had a message. It read:
I read your blog and I heard about your story through a friend. You and your amazing daughter are so inspirational. I am only 25 years old, single and not a mother. I honestly believe you may be THE strongest women in the world. I mean my mom is amazing don't get me wrong, but what you do for your little angel is absolutely inspiring. You are the mother I want to be one day. Please please don't ever stop writing.
I got teary. How did she know I needed that? I wrote her back and let her know how I WAS feeling and that her message made my day/week/month/year. What an incredibly sweet woman. Thank you again!
I'm home and the vacation is over, but I'm back where I belong and my biggest fan seems pretty stoked about it too! Best. Feeling. Ever.