This was a perfect moment. In the silence, with the hint of dawn peeking through the curtains, where promises of a better day were offered.
I stared down at the twinkling blue eyes of my sweet darling baby and knew hope for the first time in a long, long time. Grace was everything I didn’t deserve and everything I longed for. Just one look at her bow-shaped lips, wispy blond hair, and sweeping eyelashes and I knew, from the moment I first saw her, that I could never go back to the way I used to be.
“I’m so sorry I have to leave you,” I whispered, not wanting to wake her. We had a rough night and at least one of us deserved some rest.
I drew my newborn daughter close and breathed in the smell of fresh baby powder. To think I never wanted this experience, to never feel the slight weight of my child in my arms, to never see the twinkle in her eyes as she stared up at me and recognized me for who I was. Her mother. The thought that I never wanted to be a mother . . . how selfish could I have been? Everything I’d ever worried about became insignificant the moment I held her.
Grace’s lashes fluttered for a few moments before resting on her cheeks. I could have stood there for hours and held her while she slept, but instead, I gently placed her down in the bassinet and stepped away, careful to keep my steps light.
What was I thinking? To leave her after only one month? I wasn’t ready. She wasn’t ready. My heart splintered into tiny cracks with each step I took. What kind of a mother was I? I was abandoning my child for my career. I thought I could do it, that it wouldn’t be difficult for me, that like many others, I could find a way to juggle motherhood with my profession. What if I’d made a mistake?
“Are we ready?”
My breath caught as Nina’s voice carried up the stairs. I gently closed Grace’s bedroom door. Nina, our nanny/housekeeper/sometimes jailer, stood at the bottom. She held my travel mug in one hand and brown leather messenger bag in the other. Was I ready? Not really. This was the hardest thing I’d ever had to do in my life.
Nina’s face softened as she smiled. I liked to call her the grey dragon on my bad days. On my good days, she was my best friend. I’m not sure what I would have done without her.
“Does it ever get easier?” I reached for the coffee, took a sip, then grimaced. “Come on, Nina, not today of all days. Didn’t you get any of the French vanilla creamer I asked you to pick up?”
There was a look on Nina’s face that I wasn’t too sure about. Pity, maybe? I didn’t care. In the past three months since Nina first came to help while I was on bed rest, she’d been trying to get me to eliminate sugar from my diet.
“It’ll get easier. I promise.” Nina reached out and touched the sleeve on my jacket. “I need you to trust me. We talked about this, remember? One step at a time. Just like changing your diet to lessen the effects of your medication.”
I took a deep breath and straightened my jacket before smoothing out the one black pencil skirt I could still fit into.
“I’m not sure this is a step I can take today.” I knew I should, that was normal for most mothers to head back to work so soon after giving birth, but I’m not most mothers. I’m Diane Wright, CEO of HK Solutions, a cutting-edge firm that creates software for the blind. I needed to snap out of it but my feet were rooted to the floor as if cemented there. I listened for a sound, any sound, to come out of Grace’s room. All it would take was a small sigh, the beginning of a cry, and I would cancel everything and stay home.
Steena Holmes grew up in a small town in Canada and holds a bachelor’s degree in theology. She is the author of eleven novels and novellas, including Finding Emma, for which she was awarded a National Indie Excellence Book Award in 2012. She currently lives in Calgary with her husband and three daughters, and loves to wake up to the Rocky Mountains each morning.