There’s a shift happening in my life. I feel it. I sense it every single moment. My youngest, my baby, my last, is about to turn 4. The high chair, the pack and play, the bibs, the bottle sterilizer, the infant toys, the nursery decor have long since been gone. We recently took the crib down for the last time and when that big kid bed went up, another set of memories tucked away deep. Bittersweet mostly feels bitter sometimes.
With your first baby, everything they do is a first, for them, for you. There is celebration and journey ahead. With the last, it’s all the last. Sure, there’s still celebration and excitement, but there’s also so much finality to it all. First solid food, first words, first steps are lasts. Every new clothing size or diaper size is a size left behind. Every single first for them is a last for us.
You hope they will take just a little longer at everything they will naturally do. Slow down on the milestones, you will beg. Stop growing so fast, you will say. Crawl a little longer, you’ll hope. No more growth spurts for awhile, please. You’ll obsessively enjoy their baby rolls for as long as you possibly can. You’ll put off their first haircut and you may even breastfeed a little longer than you did the one before. But time doesn’t stand still for the heart of a mama. It moves along at it’s own pace, faster than we can stand to bare.
As I look at my growing taller every single second preschooler, on the last week of his third year, I ache deep within. It’s a whispering ache, reminding me every single second that he’s growing faster than I can control. Yes, of course I’m grateful. To have a healthy child is a blessing. I feel full of joy and love and all those motherly things I’m blessed to experience. But it hurts a little too.
And within it all, my motherhood is shifting. I feel as though this shift has been happening, without my permission of course, since we left the 2’s behind. But now, as we prepare to celebrate our last 4 year old, I feel as though I’m being forced onto a new path. It feels like the wilderness and I’m not entirely ready to go out there.
Now that the baby years have gone, I’m in a different stage of motherhood. It’s nice in a way. Life is more mine than it was a decade ago. My body is mine again. I get more sleep. Nobody poops on me. There are still cuddles to be had. Within this shift, I have less questions and more wisdom. More stories. More encouragement to offer. I can look lovingly at a struggling mom in the grocery store and tell her it will all be okay, because I know that for myself now, when there was once a time when I didn’t know if I’d ever make it through. When I see my baby niece, I can appreciate her more than I might have appreciated the babies in my family or friend circle when I too had a baby clenching to my body.
In a sense, a battle of child rearing has been won and I have the scars to show for it. The sadness for the stages left behind also walk alongside relief. Big relief. I know there will be more challenging stages ahead, new ones at that. There will be more shifts as well. But in this moment, during this shift, I will breathe.
To the moms I get to walk beside who have also been through it. To those who are still in the stages of firsts and long, long days. To the most seasoned moms amongst us. I value you. I see you. Each and every one of you. No matter the stage we are in at this very moment, there is a camaraderie between us. We get it. We have much to offer each other as we walk along our many different paths of motherhood.
The words motherhood and neighborhood aren’t so different when you think about it. Maybe they were never meant to be. You can’t have a neighborhood with one person dwelling in it. A neighborhood is a community. Behind every door you will find a different story of motherhood. A different family. Different circumstances. Different parenting styles. Different challenges. But we all need the same basic things to get through this motherhood thing. In this we can relate; love, encouragement, support and friendship amongst other moms is one of the best and most needed parts of motherhood.
Motherhood is a gift and it is constantly shifting and changing us. No matter where you are on the journey, never take a second of it for granted. The days are long and the years are short, as they say.
Nothing could be more true.