Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A Mother's Panic Attack

I don't know what it is. Maybe the turning of another calendar year, the sentiments brought up by Christmas, potty training my baby and not changing a diaper for the first time in almost 9 years, or just Facebook memories, but for the past little while I've been confronted with the shocking realization that my kids are no longer babies and it's throwing me for a loop.

My 5 children were born in less than six years. I'm not just repeating this fact to shock and awe or remind myself because even I still can't believe it sometimes, but to emphasize how deeply, deeply entrenched in the trenches of new motherhood I was. There was always another baby, there was always more than one toddler, sometimes three. I can still honestly swear that I just couldn't even imagine a time where they would be even semi-independent from me. I would go from changing a diaper to changing a diaper to changing a diaper.

But now my older kids are just....kids. They're still young, precious, innocent, and sweet children, which I love and relish. But when I look back at pictures of a couch full of toddlers and toddlers holding their newborn siblings and realize that they'll never be that small again, that I'll never have just small kids again and it breaks my heart a little bit and I'm not sure why.

I've definitely not wished away their small children-ness even though I would have given my eye teeth for a whole nights sleep or the ability for one or two to put on their own mittens. I know I've lived their childhood with them fairly well, enjoying as much as possible their stages and growth, I have no regrets that I didn't savour each baby stage and wish them to the next quicker and neither do I regret the long days where I was more frustrated than doe-eyed at the sight of their patty-cakes.

And yet just thinking these thoughts brought on an almost panic attack feeling last night as I lay in bed. My throat chocked up, the heavy feeling pushed down on my chest, tears at just the thought of old pictures of my big kids as little toddlers.

It's not as if they're applying for colleges!  I know! I feel like I'm becoming the classic, stereotypical mother who laments as her children grow older, but I just can't help it. I've been so attuned to their stages and growth, most of the time celebrating their little steps towards independence and accomplishment, maybe this it just the normal realization of change finally catching up to me who is normally immune to such emotional dithers?

I know I'm also not mourning the loss of a "season". I still have small toddlers! I have no plans to never have children again - the thing with this open to life business is that we don't choose or make or even plan how our "seasons" of life will come and go, which is pretty hard to wrap our minds around.

It surprises me how much I feel just plain sad and heartbroken about change when at the same time I'm also really happy and encouraged in a way. I think it's almost as if there's this heart breaking and heart healing happening at the same time.

I know I think, and wish, and feel as if time, and my children, and motherhood reached a high point and just stayed that way - cemented where I wanted it to be, where it felt just right. But the reality is that motherhood and children and family is a constant thing, we're living in this stream of life and love that can't be bottled or stopped. Even though we think it'd be perfect -- it would really only be a puddle.

This heart breaking is probably a good thing. I'm probably beginning to realize and be grateful for how things were (however imperfect), how things are (flying by fast but still oh-so-sweet), and how things will be (probably imperfect and sweet). The heart breaking and heart healing is the way of motherhood.

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  1. I absolutely understand. There are no babies in our house, either. No diapers. No nurslings. And while we remain open to life, every month feels like I'm being pulled farther and farther away from that shore which seemed so chaotic and crazy when I was standing on it, knee-deep in babies.

    I can't explain the sadness. I love, love, love having a teenager, and I'm excited for more of them to be under my roof. I can't wait to see the kids' lives unfold and unfurl off down roads I won't follow. But there's something about not being that mother who always had a baby that is...unexpectedly sorrowful.

    From where I'm standing, I can't understand what God is trying to offer me, to tease out of me, and to perfect with these feelings. So I just have to wait and trust that good things are coming, despite the pain. Which is a pretty good descriptor of pregnancy, too.

    Anyway, thanks for writing this. But no thanks for the sloppy teary mess you made me.

  2. I only have two (5 and 3), but I feel this. They're still high maintenance, of course, but it's not like having babies/toddlers. I haven't changed a diaper since October. I LOVE the stage they're at now, I really do. They are sweet and hilarious and just independent enough that I can have a bit of margin in my days. I don't miss sleepless nights and all that not-so-fun stuff. BUT ...

    I'm 48 in April. It's still theoretically possible I could have another baby, but every month that passes makes it less and less likely. I don't need to have another baby. I am blessed beyond measure that I was able to have my boys at my "advanced" age. But I'm still a little sad every month that I'm not pregnant again. Every baby I see tugs at my heart. My 5-year-old asked me the other night if I would ever have another baby. I said, maybe, and I asked him if he would like that. He said yes. Sigh.

  3. Awww. I can't believe Nora is potty trained! I'm still in it. In fact, my right eye is nearly sealed shut with pink eye right now. But, I know I'm going to blink (ha!) and I'll be in the next stage. Sara is almost 4, and my first class of 4 year old preschoolers back in the day are now 13. I have no idea where the time went! I'm trying to enjoy it and cherish this time as much as I can!

  4. I love the way you describe motherhood as a constant process of our hearts breaking and healing--it is so true!

  5. My baby just turned 10. I swore I'd savor it, but I forget what it was like the last time she nursed. At this stage in my life, and with the age of my husband, I'm pretty sure we won't be having other babies.

    However, I have 2 in their twenties, just starting lives of their own, and soon to be 4 teenagers, and by baby caboose.

    They are amazing for who they are becoming, but you miss them as babies something fierce.

    Thank God for grandchildren.

  6. My oldest will turn 13 a couple weeks after our number seven arrives (God willing). It's a strange mix of emotions -- I love watching him becoming his own person but can't believe he used to be the baby and is now a teen. Day by day it can be so slow but then the years are flying by. I also have such mixed emotions during pregnancy --- sometimes I don't want to be pregnant another moment and then sometimes I feel so sad that it's always possible this is my last (I'm 40 -- we could certainly be gifted with more but you never know).

  7. Yes. I can relate to this so much!

  8. Is it strange that I feel like I can relate to this because for three years of fertility struggle it was my reality. The dawning realization that my baby was no longer a baby, and there was quite possibly nothing I could do to change that. I was not ready to be done with the baby/toddler years so quickly and it was so sad to see them passing so quickly

  9. I was having this feeling yesterday, just having one of them out of the house for a couple days a week has me looking over my shoulder and counting my ducklings because one is missing - and only for 8 hours twice a week! And I'm still choked up and wondering how it happened that my 24/7 rolling with the toddler squad is already coming to an end, in a way. And as his vocabulary matures and his little chubby cheeks thin out, I can see the 8 year old and the 10 year old and even sometimes the 15 year old hiding in that little boy face, and I honestly get teary eyed. Even though I'm so fat and exhausted I cannot fathom another pregnancy. It's such a mystery. A heartbreaking and heart healing cycle, you nailed it.

  10. It's all normal, it's bittersweet it is. {{}} I hadn't been over for a while and began coming over regularly again a month back and got such a shock to realise your babies had grown up and you weren't deep in just little ones. So surprised!
    My oldest is 22 now and youngest is 2 and all I can say is it simply rushes by, it really does. Bittersweet.

  11. This is how I feel right before I get pregnant :)

  12. There's just something about babies....

  13. It really is so bittersweet. I love that as the kids get older, they can do more things, be more helpful, and I love seeing them learn and grow. On the flip side, Gemma turned one yesterday, and is walking and starting to talk and just less of a baby now. How did this happen?? My third baby isn't exactly a baby anymore! oh, and now she's digging through the trash so I'd better run.

  14. I definitely feel this most poignantly right after birth. Holding the newborn knowing that every minute is irretrievable. What Kathleen Norris calls, "the long goodbye." <3


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