She’s Turning 13.

She’s turning 13. She’s excited and I’m a wreck.  She’s happy and I’m sad. It’s amazing how fast it really does go by yet how it feels like it creeps by all at the very same time. And somewhere in-between my heartache and my gratefulness and my joy; I’m struggling with this revelation of 13 years gone by and I know, in my now wiser motherhood yet with still so much to learn, the next 4 years will race past me even faster.

“The years will fly by” they told this once young mom but I just couldn’t believe it when I was looking up at those older, wiser moms from the bottom of the trench.

A baby myself when I had her and I never could have imagined 4,732 days ago the journey that 4,732 days would bring. It’s only now that I realize how much I didn’t know about life and the world and motherhood back then, all those days and years ago.

See, you don’t remember every detail from the early years of motherhood but you never forget that moment when your life changes forever.  When that fully helpless child is placed in your arms and you realize that your life is fully not your own and never will be again. 

Because right there, within the goop and the mess and the chaos; nine long months of joy that turned into barfing that turned into exuberant eating that turned into proud belly holding that turned into aches and pains that turned into excitement that turned into fear of the unknown that turned into pain that you fully thought might actually kill you and for a moment in the middle of the contraction you would have rather died; the pain ceases and you suddenly find yourself holding a tiny yet most profound miracle.  A wrinkly, flaky skinned, big eyed, curly headed, most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen, miracle.  A real, actual, God-given miracle. And you never, ever, doubt His existence again.

As that baby looks into your eyes, you realize that you’re meeting them for the first time yet it somehow seems that you’ve known them forever and it dawns on you that you’re forever changed without fully grasping what any of it means. And suddenly it’s as if your heart is living outside of your body.  All at once, everything in the world is both beautiful and terrifying all at the very same time.

And then they just let you leave, into the world, with this tiny human. You place that little girl, whose swimming in that little pink outfit that you picked out and washed with care and excitement, into her car seat and you nervously strap her in.

Suddenly you’re both set free and you just hope and pray you don’t ruin her.

You want to make her happy.  You will do anything to keep her safe.  You think to yourself how you thought you knew what love was before, but now you REALLY know.  

Then, long nights turn into mornings. An achy back and achy arms from desperately figure eight-ing and bouncing a fussy baby up and down the hallway while you both cry, and you’re convinced that this beautiful & exhausting, nocturnal creature, will never learn to sleep according to your own needs.  But alas, months pass by and she finally surrenders.  While the rest of the world peacefully sleeps, you both sleep too.  For the first time in what feels like forever, you find a little bit of relief.

In the middle of the the runny noses, the teething, the crawling, the sleep schedule changes, the growth spurts, the milestones, the tears, the feedings, the pumping, the tantrums, the timeouts, your own exhaustion, hearing “Mommy!” in the middle of the night every single night and your inner battle with irritability & patience; and you fully believe you will never have a moment to yourself EVER again.  

You start to question your sanity.  You question your abilities as a mother.   Am I doing it right?  Will I fail her?  How can I raise her to be confident and not make all the same mistakes that I made?  You want to protect her from everything and everyone.

And all of it; the long days, the constant changes, the hurdles, the tears, the milestones; everything seems to blur together until suddenly, the tide changes and your once helpless baby has transformed into a much more independent, full of personality and sass, walking, talking person.

Each birthday.  Each outgrown size.  The moment they want to do that thing you’ve always done for them, all on their own.  The moment they want you to pick them up but you realize they’re just too big and too heavy now.  The moment you realize it was the last time she ever fell asleep on you.  The moment when you can no longer soothe her to sleep. The knots in her hair that you brushed out while she whined and cried.  The moment the barbies and the dolls got put away for good.  The moment she realized the world isn’t filled with fairies and unicorns.  The moment she realized Elsa isn’t real.  The “talk”.  Her first bra.  Her first period.  

Suddenly you look over at your little baby and she’s a little woman.  

All the merciful strength that carried you and the years of survival as you battled through this motherhood, and you suddenly don’t feel so strong anymore.  Time stands still as you see how grown she is and you’re fighting back tears as a wave of emotion crashes over and you just give in. 

There, standing in front of this little woman, who still has those baby curls dangling across her forehead but her face has changed so much over the years, you weep for the decade and 3 years that now feel as though they’ve raced by you, when they once felt like they were creeping by.  

You’d give anything to go back to those days when you could hold her and protect her and rock her to sleep.  You’d give anything to bring back her innocence as she twirled around the living room in her tutu and fairy wings, wearing 75 bracelets and all the beaded necklaces in the world,  as she sang “Let It Go” for the 9 billionth time.  

And as you stand there, sobbing like a baby, with your arms wrapped around her, you swear you’ll never let HER go. If you hold on tighter maybe she won’t fight her way toward adulthood so hard and so fast. And then she looks at you, and says, “Mom, you’re so weird.” And you both laugh and the heaviness lifts a little. But it doesn’t change the fact that she’s growing up faster than you agreed to and so, for a time, the bittersweet feels more bitter than sweet.

And suddenly, it’s like that moment all over again, there in that hospital room, when time stood still and you had no idea what you were doing.   You were terrified you’d mess up this little human and now you just hope & pray that you haven’t messed her up too badly.  Once again you feel totally unprepared for what’s ahead but this time it’s for the teenage years and all at once you are overcome with love and fear all at the very same time.

I just can’t help but wonder how it all happened so fast.  4 years from now and she’s grown.  4 years ago and she was playing barbies.  I want to spend the next 4 years remembering every day that once again, someday, these will be the days I’ll miss. 

1,440 minutes to love her every day. 525,600 minutes a year to hold onto the moments with her that keep flying by.  2,102,400 opportunities over the next 4 years to watch her grow and make new memories to hold onto one day when my heart, once again will leave my body, as she enters into the world, but this time, without me by her side every step of the way.

To the mamas in the trenches.  To the mamas who’s knees hurt from rocking and bouncing.  To the mamas who desperately need to sleep.  To the mamas who feel like they’ll never be themselves again.  To the mamas who feel lost or overwhelmed.  To the mamas who are frustrated.  To the mamas who can’t see ahead of the terrible twos.  To the mamas who are all “Frozen-ed out”.

Hang on.  Hang on tight!  It really does go by fast and some day you’re gonna wish you could stop time just long enough to rewind.  

You’d stay up late all over again, rocking her to sleep. You’d do anything to have that sticky little hand held safely in your hand, or to be hugged again by that silly, little, tutu wearing toddler.  You’d choose to lay on the floor a million times more reading her silly stories and playing cinderella and barbies.  Or to trace her little fingers onto paper as you color together and she colors every single thing in shades of rainbow and loves to make everything sparkle.  You’d give it all to help her remember the way she used to see the world.  The way you got to see it through her eyes, right along side her. 

And you realize now, that those were the moments.  The rocking her up and down the hallway when you were so tired you could barely stand. The holding her as she slept and your arms ached. The times she asked you to play and you wanted to sit down or watch tv or do what you wanted to do, but you said yes instead.  Those were the moments that made her.  And you.  And you regret none of it.

And someday, you’ll realize it wasn’t just her that grew up so fast.  You grew up with her.  You changed too.  

You’re less selfish.  You’re more patient.  You rediscovered the world through the eyes of a child.  You may as well have a medical degree because you’ve nursed her back to health hundreds of times.  And your heart has grown each and every time she’s smiled or she’s learned something new or she hurt and you hurt too.  From the first time she rolled over to her first words to her first steps to every moment of joy and discovery and pain and love along the way, you will never be the same.  And for that you’re forever grateful. 

You learned very quickly in your motherhood that you are not in control.  You can do everything you can but you can’t always keep her from head bumps and paper cuts and you know that someday soon, you won’t be able to keep her from heartbreak either.   And as she’s constantly learning, even now, that she won’t always get her way, you’re learning that you won’t always get your way either.  And it’s in these moments of fear and frustration that you learn to depend on God.  You learn that you can’t do this motherhood thing without Him.  And you wouldn’t want to and you’re even more grateful you don’t have to.

And you just hope that it’s all made a difference. And you hope that she will someday look back and remember your love more than anything else. That she will always know how wanted she was and how loved she was and how loved she is.

13 years gone and 13 years gained.  It feels like a lifetime ago and yet it feels like I was just rocking her to sleep all at the very same time. 

Happy birthday to my baby girl, a baby no more but my baby she’ll always be.

Photo by Kristina Paukshtite on Pexels.com

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