From Merriam-Webster:

Main Entry: 1dread
Pronunciation: 'dred
Function: verb
Etymology: Middle English dreden, from Old English dr[AE]dan
transitive verb
1 a : to fear greatly b archaic : to regard with awe
2 : to feel extreme reluctance to meet or face
intransitive verb : to be apprehensive or fearful

Interesting, to me anyway, that this dictionary entry for “dread” contains no real allusion to dread being a fear of something in the future. Dread is a slow fear, a protracted fear that lingers quietly in your mind for weeks. Dread is anticipation, but without the pleasant connotations that we associate with that word. Dread is a far-off court date or a future meeting with an ex. Dread is when we can’t stop thinking now that something soon is going to suck.

Dread is what I felt about the first day of school. But you know this.

You may also know, from personal experience, that dread is often misplaced. It can be a volcano, sure, but it can also be a tea kettle that never whistles.

Yesterday was my tea kettle. It went fine. I didn’t cry, not even a little. In fact, after I left Evan with Brian (who in turn left him with the sitter), I drove to school with good music on the radio and barely even minded getting stuck in traffic on the on-ramp to the highway. Near school I parked and walked to class in gorgeous, crisp fall weather. I smiled the whole way as I actually passed people on the sidewalk. This was my first time walking to school without a baby growing inside me in almost a year. It felt so liberating to stride confidently and quickly down the street. I felt so unpregnant.

At the same time, I felt babyless in another way, too. As I walked, I couldn’t help wanting to shout to everyone around me, “I’m a mom now, you know. I’ve got a kid back home.” Why I felt the desire — no the urge — to do this I don’t really know. I guess I felt sort of naked and lonely. And I felt like just another student walking to class when in actuality, I’m more now. I’m a student who had a baby. I’m a mom. Maybe that shouldn’t feel different, but it does. And while I was glad that I looked like just a regular student instead of a mom, I was also sad that people couldn’t tell just by looking at me that I’ve got this adorable little person back home waiting for his mommy to reappear and feed him and play with him. A tiny little version of me who is just saving up his smiles for when mommy gets home.

I imagine I better understand the teenaged boy who gets laid for the first time now. He imagines for years that losing his virginity will make him different. Older, cooler, maybe even more suave. But as he walks down the street post-coitus, he’s dismayed to know that no one treats him differently at all. No one notices. But isn’t he all aglow? Doesn’t it show somehow?

I’ll admit, I wanted someone to notice my glow.

In my building, on my floor, making copies in my departmental office, of course people noticed. They’d gotten a birth announcement email and had seen me at my biggest and most wobbly. And they asked, god bless them. They asked how he is, what he’s learned, what color his hair is, how old he is. They asked how we’re adjusting and whether I’m getting any sleep. Just talking about him made me smile, and I knew suddenly that I did have a glow. Ah, a baby glow.

On my way home, I realized that while I was excited to see Evan, I was also really glad that someone else had been taking care of him for a few hours. I appreciated the chance to get out and blend back in with the babyless.

Oh, and class went fine. But that I wasn’t worried about.


4 Responses to “Dread”

  1. 1 Julie Pippert

    OMG LOL likening it to American Pie-esque teen boys.

    I relished those moments of being back in my own skin. But…I was always in places where my babies were all around me because everyone knew and asked about them. So, that makes a difference, I think.

    Glad the class was fine and glad you found pleasure in that time. :)

    Using My Words

  2. 2 Christine

    i remember feeling like this during those first few times i was away from my first born. like–“hey look at me! i have a sweet baby at home. i am SO different.”

    great post.

  3. 3 Christina

    Yes, I’ve had that same feeling, too. You described that glow perfectly – like the teenage boy who gets laid for the first time.

    I’m glad the day went well for you!

  4. 4 Joslyn

    Julie I loved this post. For the record, I felt the same way on my first day of work after maternity leave for both of my babies…it’s such an interesting feeling going back to work…that combination of reclaiming your independence, combined with missing your babes… but I’m a firm believer that doing work that we love makes us more interesting women for our families…

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