I was lying in bed last night after having put my one year old son (That doesn’t seem possible!) to bed. He’s beginning to wean, and as I imagined what the future will look like when I’m done breastfeeding, I couldn’t stop thinking about the tearing of motherhood. Tearing happens when something is stretched too far before it’s ready.
It begins during pregnancy. Your belly grows and, for most women, your skin can’t quite keep up with the speed of growth. It’s stretched and stretched before it’s really ready to be stretched that far, so you begin to see lines up and down your belly from the dermis of your skin being torn.
Then you deliver. As your baby is born you are stretched and stretched and if it’s too fast, you may tear once again.
But the physical tearing of motherhood can’t prepare you for the emotional tearing that is to come.
The tearing as you hold your new baby on your chest for the first time, realizing they are completely separate from you. You are no longer tethered together. Not one, but two. Pregnancy may have been difficult. You may have wished it to be over those last few weeks, but your body and mind strangely ache for that once again.
Your baby crawl then walks. You watch this little person who needed you for every little thing begin to need you a little less. This day came faster than you expected. That mama heart tears once again from being stretched before it was ready.
Then you nurse your baby for the last time. Those sleepless nights. The snuggled up feedings. The sore, chapped, cracked, bleeding (sometimes from being bit) nipples. You go through it all again in your mind and realize this day came sooner than you expected. Your heart wasn’t quite ready for this.
Then your baby isn’t a baby anymore.
They go to school.
They make friends.
They get married.
They have babies of their own.
Each step of the way, you realize that baby who needed you for every little thing needs you a little less and a little less and a little less until one day they don’t need you at all. You’ve done it. You raised that little baby into a full grown adult who is ready to take one the world. And all that tearing you did for them, all that tearing your heart did as you watched them grow, was worth it. Because not only did they grow, mama. You did, too.