Shared Custody: My Biggest Heartache

Half of the time my heart is broken. I live in a world of frequent transition and separation from the one who makes my heart whole. She is at my breast for two days. She sleeps beside me. She feeds me her veggie straws with those soft, chubby hands. She excitedly says “mama, mama” and shows me her newest drawing. We go to swim lessons, play dates and music in the park. We take selfies, FaceTime our relatives, we laugh.

I will never forget her first night away. She was ten months old. I felt numb. I felt outraged. I felt lost. I slept on my couch. I woke every two hours to pump, terrified my supply would be diminished. I wondered if she was awake, rooting for my breast. I cried until I fell back asleep. I woke up panicked, wondering where my baby girl was, my reality hit hard, she was gone for the first of many nights.

I took a long, hot shower that morning. I slowly got dressed. I carefully applied my makeup and straightened my hair. I walked to Starbucks in a daze. The barista asked my name. “Thea’s mom,” I replied. I fought back the tears and raced back to our home. Her toys littered the floor. Her pictures adorned the walls and the fridge. How can we be separate? Less than a year ago, she was still in my body.

I cry. I count the hours, the minutes slowly tick by. I sleep with her stuffed piggy. I kiss her pictures. In those early days of visitation, I battled alternating between “mama” and “Candice” and I finally came to the realization that they are one in the same. I will never be just Candice. I am Thea’s mama.

In the days that she is physically present, I am the very best mama that I can be. In the days that we have the unfortunate circumstance of being separated, I am diligently working to be the best Candice, the best mama, the best ME.

My daughter is a beautiful, strong, intelligent toddler now.  I have blessed beyond belief that God graced me with an angel. I wish that I could say that our situation has gotten easier, but it hasn’t. I’ve gotten busier and more focused, but that ache remains.

I miss my daughter. I still count the hours, the minutes until that beautiful face is smiling back at me. The difference is that I no longer view time as my enemy. My perception has changed. I use those hours and minutes to be productive; I work, write, meditate and plan for our future. I do my very best to make magic out of what at times feels like an impossible situation.  I am stronger, happier and healthier.

Yoga, coffee, fresh air, and a good book.

It is finally time to pick her up. I am smiling from ear to ear. I can see her approaching, those green eyes shining, her hands outstretched, I hear her excitedly squeal “There’s mama!” I reach for her. I embrace her little body and kiss her chubby cheeks and smell her wavy hair. My heart is whole. I am Thea’s mama. She is me and I am her.

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