You wake up to the beauty of leaves freshly changed. You point out the window and tell your wide-eyed baby, “Look at all of the reds, oranges, and yellows! What a breathtaking morning.” He doesn’t respond but continues playing with his toy remote. The cheerful voice emanating from it plays in the background of your already too-crowded mind. 

You knew this day was coming. For a year, it hung over you like a dark cloud and finally today, it rains.

You hand him to her—the woman who will keep him while you cannot.

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Your time is up, hers is just beginning. You pray you made the right choice. You pray he understands mommy doesn’t choose to work, she must. You tried to find a loophole, but the thread just knotted tighter and tied you closer to the truth: to make a life for your babies, sometimes you have to leave them. Ironic or not. 

You hold back tears back until your throat burns. You didn’t put on make-up because you knew it would only smear. You kiss him and tell him you’ll be back. You’ve prayed angels around him, and you’ve asked God’s eyes to be on him when yours cannot. You pray for God’s strength because, God knows, this is your place of weakness. 

You hand over the bags you so lovingly packed. You open the car door and robotically drive down the driveway. You sob uncontrollably. The burst happens suddenly and startles you as it slices the silence. You cry for him, for you, for reality, and for a society that seems to promote the separation of mother and baby. You cry because time moved too quicklythe seasons didn’t stop. He will now have new experiences you aren’t there to see.

He will love more people, new people.

He won’t always, constantly, be under your watch. 

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On the drive back, the leaves are still revealing their splendor as they flutter and glow in the October sun, yet there’s no one in the backseat to tell. Wooden fence posts line the roads like aching ribs. The morning is still breathtaking but for another reason.

Before you start your day, you go back home to collapse on the floor because a part of you feels ripped and wounded to where it will never be the same.

Stephanie Duncan

My name is Stephanie Duncan. I live in Tennessee and I teach high school English. I have been married for seven years, and I am a mother to two beautiful children, a girl and a boy.