As a mother to four incredible, healthy children, you might assume that it would be easy for me to say that I am absolutely done with having children. Surely, a mother such as myself has no right to grieve the end of my childbearing years. I should gracefully bow out, and pass the torch to the 20-somethings with big dreams and thin wallets.
Holding my fourth baby, my precious little boy with a smile that lights up his whole face and a temper to match my own, I swear I can feel my heart constrict at the thought of his “lasts.” The last time he drifts to sleep while nursing in the dark, or the last time he will cling to my leg pleading silently with his beautiful hazel eyes to pick him up. However, it’s quite the opposite.
I am all too aware of how quickly the time passes.
With your first child, you eagerly anticipate the “firsts.” The first smile, the first laugh, or the first steps. You gently encourage growth, and beam with pride as your child blossoms before your eyes. For some, there may even be a little bit of relief in the independence their baby begins to insist on.
At this point, I would give anything for just one more day to snuggle that beautiful seven pound baby I first set my eyes on a short ten months ago.
There is something so powerful about carrying a child. Having the capability to bring a new human being into the world is one of the most amazing experiences a person can have. I never anticipated feeling such an enormous, overwhelming sadness watching a pregnant woman walk through the grocery store.
I am grieving a process that has changed my entire life, and been its sole purpose for the last nine years.
My life went from thirsty Thursdays, to 2 a.m. nursing sessions. Instead of rushing to the gym after work, I rush home to pick up my babies and cook them dinner. Rather than spending hours scouring through my closet trying to find the perfect outfit for Friday night, I am racing to the store to pick up the newest Trolls for family movie night.
There are pivotal moments in our lives that change the direction entirely.
Realizing I will never again wait those painfully long nine months to see if my baby has brown eyes or blue, to see if all of that indigestion truly does translate into a head full of beautiful brown hair — it’s hard, y’all.
You would think I could count my blessings and sigh a long breath of relief that I will never again have to fit into painfully tight t-shirts at 38 weeks, or sport those dreadful mesh panties. Instead, I feel washed up. Old.
Rather than being asked if my baby is getting enough milk, or how long I plan on nursing, I am chomping at the bit and forcing myself not to give advice to my baby brother who just had his first baby.
Funny enough, I was not one of those women who glided effortlessly through pregnancy. For the most part, I actually disliked being pregnant. When you factor in sciatica, horrifying hormone changes, and endless bouts of morning sickness, it’s pretty amazing I had more than one child to begin with.
When you first have children, they often tell you how quickly the time passes, and to enjoy every moment. You obligingly nod your head, and roll your bloodshot eyes. How can anyone enjoy two hours of sleep at a time?
How did the roles shift so entirely? When did I transition from a young, new mother, to the seasoned veteran with scars to prove it? Next year, three of my four children will be in elementary school. My oldest will be in third grade.
Instead of celebrating for a job well done, I sneak into the kitchen after putting the baby to sleep, and drown my sorrows in a bag of chocolate chip cookies. With only the sound of the bag rustling as I reach in for number twenty-five, I stare at the enormous pile of clothes that no longer fit my baby. Reminders of the tiny little human he will never be again.
There are so many women out there who struggle to carry or conceive a child. Surely, I have no right to grieve an empty womb after giving life to four human beings. Right?
Life is funny. It keeps moving, changing, whether we are ready for it or not. Our children are a little bit older every day. We go through the motions, and often miss the “lasts” entirely without even realizing it.
If I had any advice to give, it would be to stop. Stop worrying about your messy house, and piles of laundry. Stop obsessing over the milestones your child hasn’t yet mastered. Put down your phone, snuggle that baby, and talk to your first grader. We don’t realize how quickly our children change. Their interests shift from Barbies and baby dolls to makeup and jewelry, seemingly overnight.
Try to find quiet moments in the chaos. See your children for who they are in that moment. They may not be the same version the next time you stop long enough to see it.