There were delays on the Northern Line when I found them. I’d shoved my arm into the depths of my handbag; I was in up to my elbow, and rummaging around for my headphones. But I pulled out Jasmin’s Finding Nemo knickers instead. And at that moment, which was the same moment that the tube pulled in and I realised I’d need to push my way on because of the delays, I also felt like I was in pieces.
There are no more nappies. Not stuffed into drawers in the hall, in the bathroom, in the bedrooms, in the lounge, in the emergency bag in the car, in the nappy bags, in the nursery spare clothes bags.
I should be glad, I know, that we can pass on the 200 or so size fives I’d bought and never needed. And, I imagine, I will be once I appreciate how much easier life is without a nappy bag to pack and carry around. For now though, these signs that show me how much my children are growing up have knocked me a little off balance.
Milin, without us noticing, has stopped taking his beloved bunny to bed. He’s not been able to put himself to sleep without it since he was eight months old. Until this week. What will we do with those seven, faded, threadbare, bunnies? I always put one in the washing machine each morning. But this week, there hasn’t been any need.
I can’t, at the moment, escape the big and little markers such as these. They are the objects and forms and events and actions which are tangible proof of life with a two and four year old. Jasmin is doing an extra session at nursery each week, Milin tells me about the rallies he and his friends can manage at tennis, they can both dress themselves. We’ve accepted a school place for Milin, Jasmin will move into the ‘big children’ class in September. They are not babies.
But it is these two big milestones that have thrown me. Saying goodbye to nappies and to bunnies has made me realise – I might not be new to this thing that is motherhood anymore, but I will still be shaken by it, every day, as life changes and we grow.
I’m still able to be left feeling bereft when they barely say goodbye at the nursery door. They’re too busy, ready to go and have fun. As I watch them feed and dress themselves I want to delight in their independence – but instead I’m alone. I wish I would celebrate that they are growing and becoming braver. But each new feat brings a longing for what we’d come to know.
It’s around five years since I found out that I was pregnant with Milin. In those five years, life has revolved around my children – it always will, but our positions are shifting. Soon, I’ll add on an extra half day at work, they’ll add on hours at school and nursery. They’ll become more of their own people. Without me. But this is not just about their independence. Because really, every day of the last five years has involved a crumbling of the pieces that hold things together.
Motherhood has left me grappling at what’s left (of me). As much as I embrace that I am a mother, as much as I know that my identity will forever be intertwined with the existence of my children – I am lost.
With Jasmin’s Finding Nemo knickers in my hand, I stood on the tube platform this morning wondering, searching. I couldn’t find the stable ground. I am a mother who misses her babies but is overjoyed at her growing up children. I am a woman who no longer has the drive or career that defined the decade before her pregnancy. I’ve come to fear mortality, worry about the future, stress about stability, question myself endlessly. I’ve lost confidence in what I know, what I can do, and what I am.
Five years ago, life was lived in a naive state of optimism, of excitement for future achievements. I had ambition, dreams – I still do – but the successes are harder, the battles are not mine alone. They feel beyond me, too big for me and far outside my reach.
Motherhood did this. I was just getting to know who I was when everything changed. Five years on, it’s still changing, and I’m just about keeping my head above water, grabbing at the strands that resemble the things I know. They’re moving though. Now, they always will.
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