Motherhood: The Ever Growing Distance
The other day I was running through the grocery store on a Sunday. I hate hate HATE going to the grocery store on a Sunday afternoon. Many times I vow to never go and typically it happens right after I have just gone on a Sunday. The lines are long and well I know you know what I am talking about. While I rushed around, Hayes sat in the seat of the cart content watching all the people walk past and smile at him. Someone makes a comment about his hair and we say thank you. Another older gentlemen waves at him and Hayes giggles. He is such a ham sometimes. We buzz through the veggie section and Hayes laughs at the Brussels sprouts and radishes. He finds them completely hysterical. Then a woman with a brand new baby walks past and in that second, my world stopped. I looked back at my boy, my sweet, wild as wild can be wiggly toddler boy and all those sweet moments of newbornhood I realized had been fading one by one flashed back along with all the emotions in just a beat of a second.
I have been struggling the last few weeks to handle this ever growing distance that has shown up as we approach him being 1 year old. Just before Thanksgiving Hayes began weaning. I have never been a woman who had to nurse. I had vowed to always live by the rule in motherhood that if it worked go with it and if it didn’t move forward and towards another solution. It is how I live and perceive life beyond motherhood, so when it worked for us I went with it. I made no commitment to the length and instead said I would stick with it till at some point it felt it wasn’t working for our family if it ever came to that, but overtime I found comfort in it and so did he. I found myself loving even the middle of the night wakings he would have when they were quick and just to eat of course. As much as I longed to know what it felt like to sleep through the night again and to retrieve my brain again, I enjoyed every ounce of those sweet moments of just him and I and the connection we would have. The more he moved and pushed away from me, the more precious I felt they were.
When we were going through our move for two weeks from Raleigh to Michigan, I had been extremely stressed and we had to start supplementing Hayes. Then cue getting a nasty case of food poisoning over Thanksgiving and an overnight trip away and Hayes began the natural process of choosing to wean on his own. Weeks prior I was ready in all honesty, but I had vowed not to make the choice about it till he was a year. Then one night about a week ago at EXACTLY 10 months he pushed me away and decided the bottle was his thing after weeks of choosing me. At first, I was confused but then it clicked that he was choosing to be done. My extremely independent wild child was telling me this time we enjoyed together was no longer necessary for him.
At first, I felt relief in so many ways. I am terrible at being needed. I don’t do well with firm commitments and enjoy the time I spend alone. I thrive on freedom which has been a struggle for me in motherhood, but love is a wild thing that makes you give things up you never thought you couldn’t. I knew that I could begin feeling myself again (those pesky hormonese that cloud and fog my brain as a new mom would dissipate) and my body now for the first time in over 2 years was 100% mine again for a time being and as much as it ever is as a mother.
But the last few days I have gone through this roller coaster of emotions and some of it has to do with those wonderful hormones, but some of it is the accepting and grieving of the closure of year one with him. When he pushed me away that night it was just like there was a light switch that flipped inside of him, and since then I have been realizing more and more how quickly this relationship between us has changed in such a short time. I know it continues to change, but the rate in which it changes in this first year or nearly impossible to grapple with. There is only so long you can hold them closely and only so long you can rock them and only so long that they will fall asleep in your arms. Those days are passing rapidly for me and some of it I think is him and how he is either fully on going after anything and everything or fully off passed out in his crib for the night these days. Cuddling doesn’t exist more than reading books from time to time or for the brief moment before a nap. He wants me to hold him but only to see what is on the counter. He wants me to hold his hand only for him to walk. Soon he will be running in every direction and though I will always be his safe place and where he finds comfort, I realize how precious more than ever those days in the beginning are. Even in the sleepless haze of it all and how I longed to have me back, I now know here in this time just how short those weeks and months are in the grand scheme.
Seeing a newborn baby reminded me of the coos and the little noises of my now babbling little boy. It reminded me that even in the difficulties of life there is nothing more precious than the moments we have with one another. There is nothing like having a child to know what it is to love something more than yourself and to continually watch this small part of you growing into something so strong and independent and then to daily step little by little further and further away from you both physically and emotionally.
That night as I put Hayes to bed, I tried not to think about how our routine has now changed, but instead I soaked up the smells of his little head knowing soon that it would soon disappear and smell of a little boy and one day a teenager and a young man. I cuddled him all that he would let me before he pushed to be placed in his bed to sleep through for the night (yes can you believe it?!) I have teared up so many times this week more or less because of the joy I feel that his desire of independence means I am doing my job well, but also out of grieving babyhood of him and that there is nothing that can be done to slow down this ever growing distance that happens day one of them arriving on the other side. What I find comfort in is that it all happened as it should and we survived and in fact, somehow we thrived even when we felt we didn’t. To be here approaching 1 year and watching him attempt first steps I know this is just as it is meant to be. Though it is so hard at times to say goodbye to those sweet days of babyhood and enter a new phase of toddlerhood, I feel I can leave this phase and part of this journey knowing I have done the best I could, preserved the moments as well as I could, and have learned to become my best self in the process.
So, I know there are many of you mamas somewhere in this journey that have found so much comfort in my posts and connection and I have to tell you that if you have a little one that still lets you cuddle them, cuddle them. Soak it up. I know now that when I even think of having #2 my calm will be far greater knowing how short the time is. It is hard work but those cuddles, those smells, those sounds, they are the most precious and fleeting thing in parenthood. I know now why parents cry at graduations and when their kids score goals or get a part in a play or get married. You forever still feel that child of yours as that sweet cooing and helpless newborn that broke you and taught you love you only know when you become a parent.
Other mamas, did you feel this as you weaned? I have a few friends who have talked about having some blues and sadness about realizing their babies are no longer baby babies. I am realizing so quickly he is a toddler now. My goodness it is both amazing, sad, exhausting haha, and best of all a complete blast! Would love to hear from some of you on how you felt when approaching the one-year-old mark.