Last week I felt horrible and didn’t know why: walking through mud, thinking like mud, seeing through a tunnel of mud. Detached from Ingrid, and reacting to her clingy reaction by pushing her away. Honking at everyone who didn’t use their turn signal.
I didn’t get why. It seemed like it came overnight and for no reason, and it scared me that it hit me out of nowhere, in the middle of summer—the opposite of Eliot’s midwinter spring.
Then my therapist, whom I hadn’t seen in months but who listened on Friday as I stumbled through various ideas about the sudden blues (clouds, sugar, sleep deprivation, maybe my period) proved herself worth many times my ten dollar copayment. I mentioned in passing that Iris had turned one on Monday, and she said, “She turned one on Monday?” in a way that totally sounded more like, “Why have you spent the last forty minutes blabbing about insignificant things when this is so clearly the thing that is getting you down?”
That’s it, of course, and you are most welcome to unsubscribe in disgust now if you want, because I know I’ve mainly spent the past year gnashing my teeth about not being a baby person, wanting to sleep more, wishing we could get on to the good part where they are both a year older, etc. etc.
It has been hard, and a baby’s first year is not my favorite part and not the thing I’m best at, and with three quarters of my heart I’m thanking my lucky stars that we don’t ever, ever have to do it again. But I’m still sad that it’s slipped by. There will be no more babies in this house. I won’t be pregnant again, won’t doze with a sleeping newborn on my chest, won’t thread anyone’s boneless little arms through itty-bitty onesies. It hasn’t been my best season, but it’s one that I looked forward to, and it was studded with fantastically sweet moments, and it’s over forever. Iris is one. She walks. We’re done with babies.
What’s made me feel the most foggy-headed and heavy-limbed is that the transition sneaks by without ritual. Iris takes her first steps; she turns one and we eat cake. She turns from baby to toddler, and we mark that, sort of, but what about going from mother of babies to mother of older children? From woman with the intense, close, physical work of baby care in her future to woman who’s done that, who’s done with it, who sees it now from the other side, in her past?
As with many important passages these days, the rituals our culture offers are either medical (insert the IUD or give the husband the snip) or consumeristic (get rid of the Bumbo seat and the nursing pillow; buy a little red wagon). I need something richer than that.
So I’m going to make something up.
Because I write, there will be lists: what I’m sad to leave behind, what I’m glad is over, what I’ve learned. What’s not required of me anymore, and what strengths I need in this new, ever more babyless time. And what else I can be—creatively, spiritually, physically—as I move slowly, slowly away from the time when tiny, tiny girls were my every waking thought.
I imagine I will need to burn some lists and enshrine others in a little bottle. I’ll probably have to take a dip in some body of water. And maybe there should also be wine. It has to be part funeral, part baptism, part graduation party.
What will you do (what would you do, what did you do) to mark the end of your time as a mother of babies?