A few months ago I gave birth to my last baby. In predictable fashion, the time has gone remarkably fast. One minute he was emerging through a ring of fire, and now he’s growing out of small white onesies and requesting beer with dinner instead of breastmilk (just kidding, he prefers wine).
It is easy to panic about this passing of time, especially when everyone tells you to soak in every minute before it’s gone. It’s like if someone told you to really enjoy your ice cream cone now so that next week when you’re craving one, all you’ll have to do is remember today and you’ll be satisfied.
I wish that’s how it worked. I wish that three or five or seventeen years from now when I’m craving that newborn smell and the weight of a baby on my chest, all I’ll have to do is close my eyes to experience it again.
Instead I’ll only feel the familiar ache.
A few months ago a friend was crying over her daughter’s loose tooth. “Something is wrong with me,” she said. “There is nothing sad about a loose tooth.”
No, we said shaking our heads. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
This past fall, I took my first baby to Kindergarten. He was ready, I was ready, but when the time came to leave him at the door–he clung to my arm and asked me not to go.
“Stay with me,” he said, tears in his eyes. “I don’t want you to leave.”
“You’re going to be so brave,” I said to both of us.
Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
Yesterday a friend wrote to me and said she was failing as a mother. It’s so overwhelming. I can’t be everything to everyone. I’m doing something wrong.
No, no, not at all. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
For a long time I looked for some sort of cure for saying goodbye to this phase of life, hoping that when the time came, I’d be ready. Equipped with all the tools to manage and cope and not drive everyone crazy with my inability to let go. Mostly I hoped to simply feel ready to move on; happy to say goodbye to the stained highchair, tall stack of diapers, and bulky pack-and-play that never folds down quite right. Instead I am so relieved to learn the truth. That just because it is hard to say goodbye to these baby stages doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
I am and will be so many different kinds of mother in this life. A mother of babies, a mother of toddlers, a mother of pre-teens and teenagers and 30-year-old men. And when I look back at the mother I was to these small children and feel that familiar ache, I hope I sit with her. Let myself grieve what she lost in late night feedings and celebrate what she has become. Just as there is room for joy and gratitude and exhaustion in parenthood, there is also room for what comes with saying goodbye. And for me, that is a lot of sadness and emotions.
Please keep Austin in your thoughts.
The door is not closed, but it will close someday one way or another. And when I find my heart heavy, I know what to do. I will look to that mother, rocking her baby in that well worn chair, and I will sit with her.