Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The vast difference between the first and the last

I've been thinking about writing this post for a while now, and every time I've sat down to write it, I've stopped myself.

I tell myself that I should not write it because someone out there is going to get mad, someone is going to take what I say personally, as an affront to them and their experiences.

It's none of those things.

I'm speaking as to my own experiences in this life, sharing the things I've learned along the way, wishing that I'd learned the things I know now earlier in my journey as a mother.

I should know by now that no good comes of allowing what other people might think to dictate anything about how or what I write. I should.

And yet, I hold it back.

I've started doing that more, mostly because I'm just tired of living in a world where everyone thinks everything is about them.

It's not.

This is about me.

Read it or don't. I'm good either way.

I do have a lot of miles on me as a mother though, so there is that.

Time takes on a different meaning once you have children, I think. It no longer moves in any type of predictable pattern. Some experiences are over and done in the blink of an eye, while others seem to linger, wafting in the air around us indefinitely. There aren't do-overs in life. No matter how hard we might try, we can't wish for time to reverse itself. The moments are fleeting, the years zoom by even when the days drag on for an eternity.

I see these posts shared online, I know you've seen them. Some of them scold the world for telling mothers what to feel. Some lash out at the things people say, the advice people give, the recommendations those who've been there before might make. Some even do that at exactly the same time they are lamenting the disappearance of the village, if one ever actually existed. Some seem to beg for help and cast it off in the same breath. Some insist that mothers savor every single moment, that they push aside everything else they are feeling to live entirely in the present, because "one day" this or that.

Here's the thing. It's all true.

Every single piece of it.

I've felt all those things. I've written about most of them. I've been on both sides of it all, the defiant new mother determined to do things my own way, angry at a world telling me that one day I'd miss the newborn stage, that sleep deprivation is temporary.

I know now just how wrong I was.

This is the wisdom that truly can only come, I think, from having done this as many times as I have. If you've figured this all out on your first go-round, kudos. I don't think most of us do.

I know I didn't.

I think most of us are so caught up in trying to do everything right that first time, in forging our own path for our growing family, of fighting against all the advice we deem awful. We're tired and sleep deprived, we convince ourselves that things would be better as soon as they were walking or talking or potty trained or in school, not ever realizing that we would be trading one set of struggles for another or that raising children never gets less complicated. We didn't realize that the hands on part of parenting diminishes as they age, but that everything else gets harder. We thought we knew better.

I thought I knew better.

I know now just how wrong I was.

I know now that sleep deprivation really is temporary. I know that for all the celebrations of all the firsts that they accomplish, there will also come a last, except that the lasts don't generally announce themselves with all the fanfare of the firsts. You might not even realize a last has come and gone until enough time has passed that you've realized that phase, whatever that phase was, is over.

Done.

Gone.

Forever.

There are so many of those moments, these lasts, and I can tell you with more certainty than I can tell you anything else about parenting this truth - you will miss this.

You might not miss it right away.
You might scoff at the idea of ever missing it now.
You might struggle to imagine a world where you're ever past this stage.

But it will end and you might not even notice until one day you do, and when you do, it will hit you.

It will hit you with enough force to level a tall building.

The last time that you nursed your baby.
The last time that they crawled into bed with you in the middle of the night.
The last time they fell asleep on the couch and you carried them to bed.
The last time they reached out for your hand in public.
The last time they asked you to hold them.

You'll blink and in that fraction of a second, they'll be grown. On the other side of that last.

I know, I know, you're reading this and shaking your head. I see you in the trenches. I remember what it was like when I was there the first time, and I'm still with you there this last time.

I'm down here with you still, in the land of teething and sleep regressions and mysterious rashes. I'm here. I see you.

And I know that even as hard as this all is at times, as much as I am exhausted and touched out and overextended and overwhelmed, I know that I'm going to miss this.

When my last babe stirred beside me last night, cupped my face in his tiny hands and said, "Nini, mama", then scooted down to nurse, telling me, "Lub you, mama", before he suckled his way back to sleep, the tiredness that resides deep in my bones was swept away immediately.


I can sleep later.

I know that there will come a day when he won't be whispering to me in the middle of the night.
I know that there will come a day when he will sleep and I will sleep.
I know.

He'll never be this age again.
I'll never have another baby in this place again.

I know this, because I've been here before.

I know I will miss this.

I already do.

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