Friday, January 8, 2016

Saying Goodbye to Babies

My oldest baby is turning seven soon (SEVEN!), my youngest baby can write an 'S' for her name, my miracle babies are registering for kindergarten this month and now, when I make a rule, I have to abide by it, 100% of the time, or else someone catches me and I'm hooped. The tides are turning and my motherhood is morphing into something bigger. More, it feels, is at stake. The girls have long-term memory banks now, so there is fewer room for big mistakes. Their needs are becoming more complex, so careful thought goes into deciding when to start allowance, how to teach empathy and kindness, and when to let them take the reigns in the kitchen. It's big stuff.

Making room for all this big stuff means I have to really say goodbye to my days of mothering babies. Summer can hardly be called a baby anymore, potty trained and sleeping in a bed without rails, as she is. All through her pregnancy and first year I peacefully came to terms with all those lasts: last delivery, last night feed, last kid wearing the adorable pink flower dress. And when I felt the situation merited it, I made small ceremonies to say goodbye, to ease my soul out of mothering a baby. The last time I nursed Summer I let a few tears fall, held her close, watched her little head bob up and down, and had Rich take pictures. 

Though this is Abby and I.
Somewhere in the last year, I stopped having a baby in the house and just last night this hit me, hard. I only let it last an hour or two, knowing I needed to feel it, but not have it consume me. So I let nostalgia wash over me, and I said goodbye to peach fuzz heads, diaper cream, tiny fists wrapped around my finger, feet without arches, mouths without teeth, onesie snaps, rosebud lips, tiny lone socks found in toy bins, and the weight of my baby against my chest. It felt really good to take some time and feel gratitude. Lord knows there were dark nights I never thought these baby dreams would come true. Goodness, did they ever manifest in the most spectacular way.

I won't walk down the aisle at the grocery store picking up baby mum-mums or infant Tylenol. I won't pad wearily down my hallway in the middle of the night for a fourth time to feed a baby in a growth spurt. I won't wash a load of tiny laundry that smells of sour milk. I won't have an amazing rack again. I won't have a baby bag to cart around everywhere I go. I won't have a bucket car seat to leave marks on my arm. I won't have a tiny wool hat, made with love for a teensy bald head. 

I won't walk into an empty nursery with a swollen belly, pausing to look at the tiny clothes and books I've chosen for a mystery person.

Sometimes I swear I can feel phantom baby kick in my belly, or feel milk leak out. It's just a trick, I know, something to give me pause and remember the amazing journey my body took not so many years ago.

Our family is complete, and this is absolutely the way it should be, I know it. I have peace with this, and it came naturally. Saying goodbye to a stage that has lasted so long isn't easy, because it was so beautiful and tumultuous and challenging and rewarding and life-changing. God gave me a sentimental hart, and this is how I know to make my way through things: with intention, some ceremony, and then I can go forward. Nothing is meant to stay the same, and I'm so glad I learned to stop and take it all in as it was happening, at least every once in awhile.

We're moving onward and upward. We have bigger everything: problems, grocery bills, shoe collections, celebrations, adventures, fights, messes, feelings, energies, hair accessories. I am mothering four little ladies who can talk, dress themselves, run, climb, hide, and direct their own scenes. This is so different than keeping infants alive and healthy. This is trickier to navigate. I can tell you, though, watching my daughter draw a picture of a person with identifiable features makes me so much more proud than watching her learn to crawl and walk. Now, they are doing things exactly in their own way, and evolving all the millions of things they knows how to do.

Lucky me, I am surrounded by many wonderful women who are expecting or who have recently welcomed little people, and I fully intend to soak in baby goodness anyplace, anytime I can. As for me, I hope my own girls will let me wrap them up in my arms for a cuddle for a long time.

1 comment:

  1. Gosh lady! Are you trying to make me cry?
    Beautiful, yet, heartbreaking ... because it's hard to accept these changes sometimes.
    But yes, things are never meant to stay the same.


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