As I sat on my basement floor this evening, with tears rolling down my cheeks, up to my elbows in the boys’ old newborn clothes, I realized that motherhood is loss. From the very beginning, the moment you look at those two pink lines, it’s loss. You lose your life, to create a new, brilliant, terrifying one. Most of us do this by choice, bravely venturing into the unknown with ideas and ideals that quickly get tossed aside when the dream of a child being in your life becomes reality. Some of us get tossed into this by accident. That reality check is the hardest to cash, let me tell you. Some of us are lucky enough to get to do it both ways though.
Just the mere presence of a child in your life means you kiss goodbye that old life you had. 50 pairs of high heels in the closet, nope, now you get to buy diapers. Going out on the town on a whim? Ha! You have to find a babysitter, then you have to find the energy to get dressed, and go anywhere and be more entertaining to your significant other than an ice cube. Lets not forget that date now costs you double because not only are you paying for the date, but for the babysitter who makes it possible for you to go on said date. Your sanity, you can kiss that goodbye too. My father always told me, insanity is hereditary: You get it from your kids. Good Lord he was right! My children have been slowing nibbling away at my brain for nearly 16 years now. I keep wondering if there will be anything left to recover when they are all grown and leave the nest. I babble like I’m drunk half the time because I haven’t slept through the night in years. I can’t remember my kids names most days, “Seanny, Finny, Rudey, Seanny, Finn, whatever your name is! Leave the cat alone!” And don’t even get me started on the losses (and gains) my body has suffered!
It’s other loss too, deeper, more personal, more painful loss. It’s bittersweet. You take care of this growing life in your body with the sole purpose of bringing it to full term and bringing it out into this world. Then from that moment on, it is your duty, your one and only duty to that child, to raise it to leave. Every day you lose that child a little bit more, and every day that child gains a firmer grasp on their own identity and individuality. That tiny baby that you hold in your arms, that holds you captive, will be gone in a flash and will be asking you for the keys to the car. I watch my kids now, one only two years from graduation, another two years from entering school, and the third toddling right out of babyhood and into little boy terrain. It all passes too quickly. Even now I find myself missing those nights that I said I would never miss. Those nights where I was beyond exhausted, stumbling in the darkness in a mental state akin to a tortured war prisoner to a crib holding a crying baby. Swearing up a storm about how sleeping longer than two hours at a time was not a super human feat and that this child of mine had better get on board…and then, there was the quiet, just the two of us in the rocking chair while I nursed that baby and rocked. Yes, I even miss those nights already. Every teeny step, every new skill mastered, every new discovery, is one more step away from you. Loss.
Then there is the deeper, more tragic losses that come with children that I can’t even think about. Words are never adequate enough, either spoken or written, to capture the pain of losing a child. I can not even fathom that kind of loss. I don’t think I’m strong enough.
Motherhood is loss. Even deciding not to be a mother. We have decided that we are done having children. We just feel that this is it, these three, it’s where we need to be. I’m completely fine with this decision and at peace and even a bit relieved by it. Just the same, I found myself going through baby clothes to donate tonight, looking at tiny outfits that both the boys had worn and crying. Not because I wanted another baby, but because I knew that the babies, my babies, that had worn those clothes were gone, and in their place are two little boys, who will also be gone just as quickly. Putting those tiny outfits in bags and knowing that our babies wouldn’t be wearing them ever again, and more importantly, knowing that we would not be making any more babies to put in those clothes again, was a loss that hit me hard this evening. That chapter in my life is over, and it is one that is so important and dear to me.
I saved a few things, most importantly the tiny hat and socks I knit while I was pregnant with Finny. I can still feel the yarn sliding through my fingers as I knit those items up, wondering about the person who would wear them. They will be packed away next to his Big Sister’s socks and hat from the hospital. And these small tokens will be the only tangible reminders of the babies that my soon to be adult children, used to be. It’s bittersweet, losing so much, to prepare a human being to live their own life in the world. It’s like those baby clothes, donating something that I loved and cherished and took care of so that someone else can love and cherish and take care of them.