The tide changed. It just happened. While I waded in the deep waters of new motherhood, the tide was shifting all the time. The waves were softening. Receding. Retreating. But I didn’t notice.
I started with changing diapers and rocking teeny tiny babies. Nursing them to sleep and swaddling them tight. 2am feedings and sleep regressions and teething. First fevers and worried nights. Belly laughs and tummy time and baby wearing. High and fast waves. Keeping my head up. Treading water. Learning to swim. Energized, though, by the miracle of it all.
And then? Suddenly I was potty training toddlers. Teaching ABCs. Begging gentle hands and share with your friends. Toddler beds and pull-ups and temper tantrums. The water around me pulling and tugging. Knocking me off balance. But revealing new treasures that were covered by deeper waters.
And then? I looked up and it was time to work on reading. Swimming all the way across the pool. We picked a big girl bike and took off the training wheels. I teach kindness and inclusion. Responsibility and independence. Consequences. The waves are gentler here but steady and unceasing. Constant. Exhausting. But calm when I let be it. I can stand here in the shallows. I’m used to the tug and pull of the current around me, but the water can be ever unpredictable still. I’m confident, but wary.
The tide changed while I was in the midst. And now I see it. It’s all different. I know the little years are far from over. My children are only 1 and 3 and 4. I will still have temper tantrums and diapers and belly laughs in my life for a while. ABCs and life lessons. My early years work is not over. But there is calm now anyway. No new babies. No big changes. A season closing. The tide going out.
And I don’t know how to be in this place. For more than five years I was either pregnant or breastfeeding. No time in between. Nursing one baby with another in my belly. A constant motion of preparation and change. Exhaustion and sweetness. Anticipation and contentment. Anxiety and self doubt. New motherhood. But now? It’s quiet. I’ve made it through 3 pregnancies. 3 newborn seasons. 3 years of breastfeeding. I’ve potty trained 2. Put 2 in big girl beds. Taught 1 to ride a bike and make her own bed.
I’m entering a new season. Of early childhood. I feel washed up. Waterlogged. Proud and satisfied. Confused and unsure. What happened? I was in the deep. And the tide changed. And I’m here. Standing at the edge of something new. Wondering. So what?
I’m not as needed. Physically. The greatest change is that I’m not breastfeeding a baby. For 3 whole years of the last 5 - for the 1st entire year of each child’s life - I was the only one to put them to bed. My babies never took bottles and I stopped trying. So? No bed time babysitters. No trips. No girls’ nights. Everything had to fit around nursing a baby to sleep. At the time it felt like an eternity. But? It’s gone. Finished. Just like that. And you know? I’m stunned. How can it be? But it is. And what I’m coming from? The bellies and babies and breastfeeding? The sweet miracle of it all. It changed me forever. And is gone. The question that keeps running through my mind? So what?
So what? So what will I take with me from these years? What lessons. What truths. What moments. So what will my purpose be now as a mother? When they squabble and bicker and push. When they compete and defy and lie. When they are doing the excruciating work of becoming themselves. How will I choose to respond. To show up. To love. To lead. And? So what will I become? Now that the tide is out and I can see my feet. How will I remake my life now that I’m out of the constant rhythm of bellies and babies.
So what? I’m not sure. But I’m walking slowly. Checking the sand for treasures. Watching the water recede. Wistful. In Wonder. I was in the deep. In a mystical kind of high waters. The high tide of new motherhood. Where the waves were high and fast, but my heart was pounding with energy and awe. New life. The midst of miracles. And now? The tide has pulled the waters back out to sea. And I’m in the sand. With my girls. And my husband. For a while now. So what? What treasures can we find. What castles can we build. How fast can we run with the sun on our faces. We are here now. So what? The high waters will come again. They always do. We can’t stop the tides or what they bring along. When they come we will swim. We will swim and work and hold tight until the tide changed again. But today we are here. And we’re building castles in the sun.