A friend of mine is pregnant. She had some difficulty getting there, trying for almost two years before seeing those two pink lines, but now she is over the moon and sick with hormones. She feels fat and miserable. She looks happy and content, magnificently plump. Whenever I’m with her or see pictures on Facebook of her growing belly or never-ending parade of baby shower gifts, I feel a little twinge in the pit of my stomach. At first I couldn’t understand it, I have three beautiful, healthy children of my own. We are officially done having any more babies, but a tiny part of my heart will always long for just one more. I think it’s natural as mothers to wonder when we are truly finished having children. It’s such a personal decision made even more complicated by finances, age, even our own family size.
Before my third child was born, I strongly felt someone was missing from our family. I can’t explain it, yet I knew someone else should be sitting at the dinner table with us, laughing around the fire. I prayed and thought and prayed and worried and prayed some more. My friend Jamie put it all in perspective. She said, “You’ll never regret the one you have, but you’ll always regret the one you didn’t.” I knew she was right and my son was born 10 months later. The unexplained feeling disappeared. I felt sure our family was complete.
I know exactly what my friend is in for. Those first magical moments of disbelief when your child is brought forth from your body into your arms, still wet from your womb. The feeling of that tiny being gazing into your eyes, peering into your soul the way they do. The first moment they latch onto your breast and you know without a doubt why you were put on this earth as a woman. The tears sparkling in your partners eyes as he holds his child for the first time and kisses your forehead whispering, ” You were amazing.”
I’ve had those moments now, three times, and my life is moving quickly onto new chapters. Instead of newborn diapers and burp cloths, we are picking out cleats and little mitts for Tee ball. We are driving to ice skating lessons and reading chapter books, instead of rocking into the wee hours with an over-tired infant. I miss those times, even though technically my youngest is still in diapers, not even two years old, yet every day he moves steadily away from his baby self into his new big boy persona. No more sippy cups for him, thank you. He can do it all by himself, or at least he tries. Soon he will be like the others, no longer needing Mommy for everything. I used to complain about the constant demands, the hanging off my leg, the crying to be picked up, but now I see all of that disappearing beyond the horizon and I’m sad.
Am I just an empty shell now? I am still the proud owner of ovaries and a uterus, but I will never again use them the way nature intended. Is my biology making me weepy about the vacancy down below? My stomach, soft after three pregnancies, will never again hold a little one. My breasts have fed my children over 4,000 meals and they too will soon be just my breasts, not someone elses comfort or nourishment. I should be happy about getting my body back to myself, but sadly I mourn the loss of my tiny charges and their wearying demands.
I try to cheer myself with the knowledge of everything else that accompanies new babies, things I won’t miss; sleepless nights, leaky nipples, middle of the night diaper changes that soil everything in their wake, recovering from childbirth, losing the baby weight (again), clumps of hair falling out, raging hormones, lack of sex, lugging around a heavy car seat, all those doctors visits, annoying advice from strangers, spit-up in my hair, not being able to drink wine, two-minute showers, and no time at all for me.
There are seasons to motherhood and they change and flow, often without warning. As our children grow and change, we too are forced to morph into unfamiliar roles. I was a mother to an infant then suddenly he is walking and saying Da Da and I am no longer the mother of a newborn, but an energetic toddler whose curiosity threatens to kill him. It’s an exhausting, never-ending, uphill battle we fight as mothers; our goal to raise our children the best way we know how always seems just beyond our reach. Just as we get comfortable in our role, we are thrown down a rabbit hole, searching in the dark for a light, a way out, for someone who knows all the answers, only to fall to the bottom in a dusty heap to start all over again.
When my friend catches her breath, meets her newest love and snuggles down into her cozy new life as a mother, these are the words of advice I will share with her: It’s a new season of motherhood. Be open to it. Embrace what comes your way. Enjoy each tiny moment. Stay true to your authentic self. Remember these days.
I’m still a little jealous. But I can’t look back now. There’s just too much joy and glitter on the road ahead of me. I can’t take my eyes off of it.