It’s amazing the difference just a few years makes. Not just in the predictable “ I now have a baby and a husband and a house instead of a final research paper and a date at the dining hall and a grungy apartment that I share with six people” kinds of ways.
Today, I’m traveling for work, and it will be the longest span of time I’ve ever been away from my baby since the day he was conceived. 17 hours.
I’m waiting for a plane home now, and only have four hours of this day left, but the newborn wailing across the terminal is not helping with the super-sensitive rocks on my chest that are literally about to burst since I didn’t get time to pump today.
It’s been hard. Harder than I expected. I feel out of place and uncomfortable. I feel like I’ve left for two weeks instead of less than a day. I have been striking up random conversations with women traveling with small children just so I can be near a baby. If you ran into me right now, you’d probably be a little creeped out.
As I stepped into the airport terminal this morning, the very distinct smell of rubber, industrial carpet, and chemical cleaners was all too familiar. In college, I lived across the country from Mr. Spaghetti. I spent a lot of time in airports then. Airports meant something completely different to me then. In a way, they became like a second home to me.
Then, that smell meant anticipation, excitement, and relief. That smell was synonymous with lustful kisses that would greet me when I landed, and the warmth I’d feel wrapped in the arms of the love of my life. Today, that smell was almost enough to turn my anxious stomach. It smelled like reluctance and worry.
It used to be that I couldn’t wait to buzz through the security line, popping off my shoes and whipping out my computer to slide through the x-ray machine in a little gray tub. I navigated security with grace and ease. Today, I fumbled as I tried to get out my ID and got flustered when I found a stray rubber duck instead of my boarding pass in my bag.
As walked through the terminal, I resented being dragged away from my home and my baby. It was all so familiar. The blue leather seats. The gray walls. The red and blue swirled carpet flanked by aisles of scuffed gray vinyl tiles. It was familiar all right, but for the first time I can recall, it was completely unwelcome.
As I sat in the boarding area, I felt more like a woman awkwardly waiting in a doctor's office for a sure-to-be uncomfortable annual exam than like a romantic jetsetter.
I never used to think about what airports meant to me, but all I could think this morning was what an incredible difference just a few years makes – in every way. Becoming a wife and mother has changed me to the core of my being. I will never experience life again the way “I used to.”
But I’m not complaining. And when the sweet smell of oatmeal shampoo replaces the weary stench of travel as I cuddle my baby up tonight, I'll know I wouldn’t change it for the world.