Tuesday, April 5, 2011

packing up the maternity clothes

Pregnant with my 1st child in 1990
Not long ago I pulled a box of maternity clothes out of the basement. It was the very last of the "baby" stuff remaining so it was a little bitter sweet sending it off to charity.  I am almost 43 and have children old enough now that they might be starting families of their own in the next few years. I feel very much at peace that my family is complete. And after 9 babies I think I got the full pregnancy "experience." But even still as I let the last box go there were pangs in my heart. Having babies was a huge part of my identity the past twenty years. I always had a baby in my arms or one on the way. It wasn't always easy, but the sweetness of a newborn smile made the hardships fade away. The wonder of new life kicking inside me was awe inspiring. It seems very odd that I will never experience that again.

We talk and read a lot about the stages of a child's development. Growing from babyhood in toddlers into school kids into teens. But do we realize that we go through growth stages as Mommys too? I think back at myself in this picture. I was completely clueless as to what to do with a baby. When they first placed my new son in my arms I was thrilled, but truthfully scared to death. Giving him a bath was a major event. Every "first" he accomplished was a wondrous achievement.  I worried over his every move, so anxious to figure out how to be a good mother. So afraid I would do something wrong and damage him somehow. He paved the way for his brothers and sisters as my guinea pig, and I did eventually chill out about so many things. He tells me all the time how unfair it is that I now allow froot loops in the house for instance. I'm sure he is right. I am a far different sort of mother to my three year old today than I was to him. I hover less. Worry less. But love just as much. People often think that the relaxed nature of mothers with large families is that they get burned out and stop caring so much. Not true. You just learn and grow along the way. There is a learning curve to parenting for sure and as you gain confidence that you can actually keep these little creatures alive it frees you to stress about fewer things. Enjoy and appreciate the daily miracles from a slightly different perspective.

One stage of motherhood has come to a close for me. My youngest is a toddler now and so the days of parenting babies are through. I will miss that very much. But sleeping through the night has its advantages too. And my mother assures me that Grandchildren are the great reward of parenting. All the fun with far less work. ;-) So I look forward to that in a few years. I am still in the throws of parenting the middle aged children, but am heading toward a new stage of parenting adults as well. No matter how old your children get you are always a mother. But this will be new figuring out how that works from more of a distance as they strike out on their own in the world. I think part of the challenge now is rediscovering myself a little bit. Now that the days of pregnancy are over I have more freedom to learn and try new things. I can take the lessons learned and share them with my children from a different vantage point. My heart will always tenderly miss watching my babies sleep in my arms. But the excitement of sharing my pictures from Italy with my kids was pretty amazing too. And climbing Mt Kilimanjaro with my 18 year old son this summer will be the opportunity of a lifetime. I wouldn't trade it for the world even though I might occasionally long to have him be two years old again...sitting in my lap curling my hair around his fingers while I read him a story. I will remember that moment when standing at the summit with my boy who is now taller than me.

Feeling a little wistful today. They are growing up...but I am growing too. Time to embrace the next stages with as much excitement as I did the ones that I'm leaving behind. I can travel now. Start a business now. Go to the grocery store all by myself now. It's wonderful really. But it would be great if someone I knew would have a baby girl again soon so I have an excuse to go baby clothes shopping. I'd appreciate it. :-)

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