For the last seven years of my life (excepting the most recent 6 months when my daughter weaned off breastfeeding) my body has been performing miracles. Seven years ago, I became pregnant with my first child, a son, and have been nursing a baby or pregnant twice more since. My body has done amazing things. And over the past seven years I have felt like I was fulfilling a marvelous purpose and calling. I was doing something that only women get to participate in. Only a woman can do. And something that some women are heartbreakingly unable to do even when they so desire it. This was a special time.
It has been a time of incredible growth for me. My body was stretched, broken, and became unfamiliar to me and yet at the same time gave me my three beautiful children. I have survived the pain of an unmedicated labor, the mental and physical trauma of an unsuccessful delivery, the pain, confusion and terror of an unplanned c-section and have healed from it while caring for a newborn. I have felt the joy and the fear of conceiving again. Have carried a tiny person around in my body while chasing another tiny person around my home. I have watched with joy and awe as doctors performed a planned c-section to deliver my second son to me. I have felt shock and amazement at reading the positive pregnancy test and felt determination and confidence upon finding out I was pregnant with our daughter. I have felt scared and empowered beyond anything I have ever done in my entire life when I finally was able to deliver our daughter after many hours of labor with the help of my husband and wonderful nurses in a moment that I was unsure would ever happen. I was unsure if my body could birth a baby vaginally until the moment my daughter was born. It was the most affirming and joyful moment of my life so far.
Through all of the last seven years, as hard and as frustrating and even painful as it has been, it has also been a time full of purpose. I dove deep into pregnancy and nursing and learned everything I could about what it meant to give life to a baby growing in my womb. I learned so much about how to care for myself and the child inside of me and then how to care for and feed that child once they were born. It felt like everything was new and exciting and filled with tiny and special things. Special booties, special swaddles, special clothes that smelled so wonderful. Cribs and carseats and lovies. Strollers and toys. There was so much to learn about these tiny people in my care. It has made the last seven years full of excitement and feelings of …well…specialness.
This third time around has been even more special. I have felt like I finally know what I am doing. I knew what to expect. I had experienced all the pains before and knew how to deal with them. I knew how to balance a baby in one arm, a toddler in the other and guide a little boy in a task all his own. This time, I was confident that I could handle being a mother to a newborn.
What I didn’t expect was the heartbreak I would experience when the realization came that I was no longer in the “baby phase” of life. My baby daughter is almost two years old now, my middle son is growing bigger and stronger and more little boy like and less toddler like each day and my eldest son is finishing up kindergarten. I no longer count how many months old anyone is. My body is no longer necessary for their sustenance. And as free as I thought I would feel, as much as I longed for these days when my back ached and my breasts hurt because they were engorged with milk for them, I also feel hollow now. My body has served a grand purpose. A special purpose. Yes, I will go on serving in new (and old) ways. My children still need cuddles and care, tears wiped and boo-boos kissed, but my womb will not be carrying another life inside of it and it has left me feeling surprisingly empty and as if I am falling short of my purpose and ability. This special chapter of my life is coming to a close. Like the ending of a good book, I am mourning the loss of this world. And although I know a new book is being written even now, with its own unique challenges and rewards, the ending of this time still hurts.
Perhaps some day I will not feel the heartache that comes each month when my body bleeds to let me know that it is empty and not doing that work any more. But I’m not there yet. Like every worthy and honorable challenge in life, it was the journey that has meant the most and now that my journey through childbearing years is completed I am sad to not be on that road any more. It was such a beautiful time and it passed by me so quickly while I was working so hard to survive it.