The motherhood paradox

As I lowered my daughter into her cot this weekend I felt that familiar pang that comes with saying goodbye. I was kissing goodnight to the baby months for what felt like the last time. That sleep-starved haze in which the days and nights were blurry at the edges, that period of life with a small person who was finding their way in the world while I was also finding my way on an earth that seemed to have slipped off its axis – I was leaving it behind. My heart ached with a sense of loss while my mind almost turned happy somersaults. My heart was heavy with the feeling that my baby was growing up, while my mind was not-so quietly delighted by the same prospect. This, I realised, was the motherhood paradox.

We had finally dropped Jasmin’s cot mattress to its lowest setting. With her ever-increasing agility, we were worried she might try  to pull herself up on the railings and fall over the edge in the process. It saddened me to think that with this agility came a decreased dependence on me. She would never need me to pick her up or turn her over of lift her from one place to the other in the same way that she had done as a baby.  I had felt the same nostalgia when we lowered my son Milin’s mattress, and it was a similar feeling that accompanied moving both of them from their Moses baskets to their cots. Yet this move, the last before my son and daughter are big enough for beds, has left me in a new kind of turmoil. It is a turmoil I think I will always associate with the end of the baby months.

This weekend, as Jasmin slept lower to the floor than she ever had before, I couldn’t leave her room. I watched her while she lay still with her hands tightly clasped around her comforter. In her brother’s old white sleeping bag, she was in her usual almost-on-her-tummy position. I knew I wouldn’t feel her rest her head on my shoulder until around 6am when she woke me up tomorrow. It was hours away. She has taken to sleeping through the night.

What was slowly sinking in, while I sat a while in her darkened room, was what it meant to never get the baby years back. We don’t plan on having any more children, we feel our family of four is complete (and we are knackered and broke). My days of holding Milin and Jasmin in my arms while the rest of the world sleeps, night after night, are done. My days of holding them while they are so tiny, while they need no-one else, while they are so helpless and dependent – those days too are done.

My days of breathing in their newborn skin, my days of changing nappies on a child who cannot roll, my days of breastfeeding – these days are done. In a day not so far away, Jasmin will pull herself up to walk. She will start talking. She will keep growing up, quickly.

Now I understand the mothers who told me how fast the days and weeks and early months would go. You were right, if you told me that, they did whizz by too quick. Every night that felt it would never end, every day that felt time had slowed down further, together they sped by and suddenly my children have grown.

Yet while I feel an almost grief over the passing of the baby months, I also feel a sense of relief that is close to joy. Those nights which I spent too tired to get out of bed to feed my baby – those nights are done. Those days that I spent knowing a kind of loneliness only a mother could feel – those days are done.

In some ways, I’m glad I will never again know the terror that comes with facing a day with a breastfeeding newborn and an 18-month-old toddler. I’m glad I will never again feel the solitude that comes with talking to your children all day but having no-one talk to have a conversation with. I’m glad I will never again experience the melancholy that washes over you when you’ve had only two hours of broken sleep and you must get through the whole day before somehow getting through the night again.

The paradox is that while I feel immeasurable sadness at never getting the baby months back, I also feel glad to emerge from a life which I didn’t always feel was mine. It had been taken over completely while I was floundering to keep up. This is the paradox. I loved every second of the baby months, I’m heartbroken they are over, but I’m also relieved to have made it through them. What will come next? You don’t need to tell me the years will continue to go to fast. I’ve learnt that for myself.

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32 Thoughts on “The motherhood paradox

  1. What a lovely, true post. And it just continues – I have to remind myself of this every single day x

  2. Great post. I still hope to have a second baby but I’m still sad at the knowledge that one day there will be no more babies…*sigh*

  3. You made me shed a tear. I really miss those baby days and would do anything for them back. But. I’m glad I made it and life goes on with new challenges and loves

  4. Great post-Im currently feeling a lot of the things you describe here-I recently stopped breast feeding and moved our second child out of our bedroom.Its really bittersweet as our baby is growing up fast but I’m delighted to get to reclaim our bedroom!Ill miss the lovely baby grunts and snores during the night but at the same time will relish the peace and quiet.

  5. Lovely post. Share many of those feelings. I keep reminding myself that never letting go of the baby years would mean always having ‘just one more’ baby – I’m not sure my pelvic floor would cope with that! :)

  6. I needed to read this right now. Going through the baby stage and finding it tough, I find myself wishing away these early weeks. I think I need to cherish them a bit more. x

  7. A brilliant post. My youngest will be starting secondary school in September. And so it goes on. Joy that more time will be freed up for me, extreme sadness that they are closing in on adulthood.

  8. I am in turmoil as I feel just like this. And it is making me crave number three so much but I just don’t think it is plausible. I feel the same. It is bloody hard with two tiny tots and we feel just like we are getting out act together. But then I miss the idea of that little tiny human who smells so lovely xxx

  9. I sometimes think I wished away the first few months because he was such a terrible sleeper. I wish I hadn’t now but it does fly by so quickly. One thing I learnt though is that whendver a magical phase ends, another takes it’s place and they do stay cuddly and climb into your lap for a long long time to come. Xx

  10. Lovely post and so true. There is sadness every step of the way, at every passing milestone, but also happiness and excitement and what is still to come.

  11. Such a lovely post. I feel the same way, except my children are 10 and almost 14. Oh, how I loved those baby years. Oh, how I never want to have babies again. I’m still fairly young (35), but my baby days are over. I don’t even get those normal womanly pangs of, oh I wish I had another. Nope, not for me. I’ve loved every stage along the way in one form or another. On a side note, don’t think your children won’t need you. My 10 year is asleep in my bed right now because his many bug bites from our adventure in the woods two days ago, “only don’t itch when I sleep in your bed, mommy.” And so it goes…

  12. Aww such a beautiful post! My eldest just finished 1st grade and littleMiss turning two this month. The other night my husband and I just looked at them while sleeping and blurted out “they grow up so fast”

  13. skimmedmiilk on June 16, 2014 at 8:01 am said:

    Beautiful and heartbreaking, I don’t think there is a mother anywhere that can’t relate. OH suggested we sell the cot when Mini Milk moves up to a bed, and the thought filled me with pain…I want to fill it with a new occupant.

  14. Time just disappears-my daughter is growing and changing all the time. There’s always a touch of bittersweet in every stage as they grow I think-especially if you’re like me and think a lot about such things :)

  15. Absolutely beautiful post and beautifully written. You couldn’t have described it better. I can relate so much to this with Missy Moo growing up too quickly and being my last baby. Each time I have this “motherhood paradox” as you call it, when she stopped feeding, when she stopped using bottles, when I lowered her cot, and now as she moves onto cows milk I feel like I have a baby no more and that it really is the end of the end for baby days in this house. Sad and exciting and so many mixed emotions. Lovely post. #magicmoments

  16. Lovely post. My son has just started writing his name and my daughter has just taken her first steps. It really does happen in the blink of an eye.

  17. Lovely post and so true!

  18. Such a lovely and true post x

  19. We went to a camping trip and my son met this girl. My son is going to be 4 & the girl is like 7 or 8. She likes my son too. My son said she his brother =P

    All our trip she just stayed with her and her alone. Its nice that she is so into my son as well as older girls usually snobs my son.

    Inside me theres a bit of pain. My son doesnt need me that day cuz he’s got a new friend.

    Its bittersweet this motherhood thing. #magicmoments

  20. Your posts are always so beautifully written, I love them. I’m still at the “two under two” stage, youngest is 3 months the oldest is 21 months. So I always read your posts so fondly, I know what I have yet to come!xx

  21. Such a lovely post. My oldest two are 18 months apart and it was such a hard, busy, lovely, lonely time. They are now 7 and 6 and it does get better and better. Their jokes are now belly laugh funny xx enjoy the next stage

  22. mummydaddyme on June 16, 2014 at 9:41 pm said:

    I really loved this post Kiran and I completely relate to it at the moment. On one hand I am so terribly sad to leave the baby days behind, LL is becoming a little girl very quickly and leaving the baby days behind her a little bit more each day. We are pretty sure we aren’t going to have anymore children, that our family is complete, but there is a little part of me that can’t bear to think that the baby days are behind us now. But then at the same time, there is also a part of me that feels like I am starting to get a little bit of ‘me’ back, does that make sense? Now they are a bit older, I am getting my fitness on track, enjoying finding my style again, and enjoying some me time without them. So basically what I am trying to say is I am so torn about how I feel. Haha what a rambly old comment- sorry! x

  23. We won’t be having any more children, and I understand this bittersweet feeling. I miss having a tiny baby, those special moments when it’s just the two of you. But, each new stage is so exciting, and I’ve loved each one so far. Beautiful post x #MagicMoments

  24. I completely understand this feeling, it is heartbreaking but at the same time there are new adventures to have. I know we won’t be having any more children, I love the two I have and like you i’m broken. I am just about catching up on the years of sleep deprivation but thinking about not having those snuggles and breastfeeding cuddles, makes my heart weep. A lovely heartfelt post that I am sure is echoed through every mum. #magicmoments

  25. What a beautiful, bittersweet post! Every moment is precious from birth to adulthood, so many more adventures to come, so many happy memories to look back on! Enjoy every moment!

  26. Totally true *sniff sniff*
    I love that you stopped, seized, stayed in and kept the moment alive with your post <3

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