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In Which I Am Learning to Live With the Ache

by Sarah Bessey

we love

April 23, 2014

In Which I Am Learning to Live with the Ache

Our old baby crib is now sitting in pieces in the garage. We will take it to the dump soon (it has one of those now-outlawed dropsides so we can’t resell it or donate it). Whole sections of the bars are gnawed to bare wood by little teething babies, there are bits of sticker glue and swipes of Sharpie marker here and there, the screws are a bit loose. It’s in rough shape after nearly eight years and three big babies-to-toddlers in quick succession. There are a lot of sacred memories hidden in that dismantled old crib. The day we took it apart, I cried over that junky old crib. Goodbye, old friend.

It is likely that there are no more babies for us.

I was never one of those girls who wanted to have a houseful of babies, who just wanted to get married and have babies and stay home with them. I mean, I was okay with kids but it wasn’t my thing. I quit babysitting at 14 because I figured there had to be a better way to make money than that. And even after our miscarriages and challenges with fertility, I was unprepared for how completely transformative I found motherhood, how I loved even the mundane dailyness, how I found joy here.

I know that everyone’s experience is different, and I’m not saying that mine is normative but it’s real and I can’t deny it: I came into myself when I became a mother. I was reborn, all over again. The experience of pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding my babies profoundly changed me AND it changed my view of God entirely.

So, of course, it’s hard to know that stage of my life is done now.

But it is.

It’s likely that I won’t ever be pregnant again, that I won’t carry a baby within me again, that I won’t ever give birth again. (Yes, I’m one of those awful women who loves pregnancy and giving birth.) When I think about not breastfeeding – one of the most real things I’ve ever done with this body – ever again, I catch my breath with longing.

And yet, I love this new stage of life with the tinies. Just when I think we’re at my favourite stage with them, something new comes along and I think, “oh, wow! no, this part is my favourite!”

People tell you a lot about how much parenting will change your life and they’re right. But usually they mean that you won’t ever sleep in again (you won’t) and a few other things about how much we “give up” to become parents. No one tells you how much you’re going to laugh. No one tells you how much wisdom resides in these small humans, how much they will teach you about love and life and friendship and forgiveness and worship. No one tells you how good and freeing it is to leave your selfishness behind. No one tells you about recapturing your own wonder and innocence, about re-reading the Ramona books, about playing football in the basement, about birthday parties and snow days and every day beauty. All the best things I know about the big nouns and verbs of a life came back into my life because of them.

But there likely won’t be anymore Bessey babies for us. Our family is complete, it seems, we’ll always be a Five-Family, as the tinies call us. There are many personal reasons why we’ve come to this decision as a family.

In my head, I know that this is the right decision. In my heart, I know this is the right decision. Brian and I are in complete agreement.

And yet there is The Ache.

Always The Ache, right underneath my lungs, in the pit of my gut, the ache of what that means and the grief of moving on, of love, of knowing: No more babies. No more nursing quietly in the night. No more flour sack of milk-drunk baby bliss. No more gummy smiles. No more tiny diapers. No more baby clothes. No more crib. No more baby wearing. No more new baby smell. No more of the millions of moments that knit your heart so completely to another small soul.

The season of having babies – the one that so radically changed me – is over. I’m okay with that. Most days, I’m even very happy about it, relieved perhaps. It’s an intense season of life, make no mistake. We’re ready for this new season, looking forward with anticipation to new things. Other days, it’s hard.

I know we like to pretend like we can have everything all at once. It’s a nice illusion. But there are transitions in our lives: times for certain seasons and times when those seasons end. Are we happier for pretending that we can have everything anytime we like? Or are we better when we acknowledge the end of one chapter of our lives, grieve and sing and give weight to the passing of it, and move forward? To everything, there is a season.

I am starting to think that, no matter how many children we have, no matter the reasons why, no matter how old we are, when you’re done having babies, we always carry The Ache.

I have a friend who had six children, and she said that she had The Ache when they were done. I have other friends who had two, who had The Ache. Other friends who had four or five or six. I have friends who are in their thirties with toddlers, in their forties with teenagers, other women in their fifties and menopausal, and they still talk about The Ache: I miss that still, they say wistfully. That was a nice time in my life.

I don’t know that we ever lose that ache. I don’t know if we ever get rid of it. I don’t know if we should. Maybe it’s meant to be there with us. So I’m learning to live with The Ache now.

I’m learning to let it be there, part of me, probably always a part of me, without justification or change of circumstance. When you have been given the tremendous gift of being able to have a baby, to give birth to that baby, to love that baby, it marks you. It should, perhaps, and so this season has marked more than just my stretched-out body, it has marked my soul.

The Ache reminds me of the great and terrible beauty I have seen, of what love I have experienced, of the sorrow and brokenness of loss, of all the love that is still here, of the wonder and miracle of life, of the sweetness of co-creation, of the labour and release, of transcendence.

Praise God, my babies are growing up and that is its own joy and beauty. I’ll miss toddlers in the same way, I’ll miss preschoolers, I’ll miss their kindergarten self, their Grade Two self, as well, and so on through their lives.

Right now, the Ache is for no more babies in my life. This was a beautiful time in my life, please notice that it’s changing. But the Ache changes and grows as we move through our years, I imagine, perhaps in proportion to the life we live, the love we gather and give. Someday, I’ll miss these very days, talk about them with the same language, perhaps.

And in another few years, the blink of an eye, I’ll be sitting in a house, alone: the laundry will be done at last, the house will be clean – and it will stay clean, and the floors will be quiet, no one will be asking me for anything at all, my time will be my own, and I will feel the full weight of The Ache for which I’ve been holding vigil at last.

It’s simply the Ache of time passing, because this is what time does, and our souls are noticing the passing of a season, and it’s okay. It’s okay to let it Ache. It means we’re living and it means we’re loving our life as it stands, loving it enough to notice a transition away.

I am making my peace with The Ache, holding a bit of space for its presence in my life today. Someday it will be my old friend.

Sarah Bessey is a writer and award-winning blogger at SarahBessey.com. She is the author of Jesus Feminist. She lives in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada, with her husband, Brian, and their three children, Anne, Joseph and Evelynn. 

 

 

As moms, we have to let go of seasons, stages and favorites all the time as our kids grow. Some of those changes are welcome... and some ache. What has been the hardest for you to let go?

Related topics: Letting go, Jackie, Encouraging, Fear

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BTW, I hope that I can make it but this Fall you will be speaking at my church for the Women Who Inspire series!!!! We just talked about you and your book last week with my small group bible study moms!!! :)

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Sarah, thank you for sharing this! As I read, tears welled up in my eyes and rolled down my cheeks, for a few reasons. I have a son who will be two on July 10th, our miracle gift from God, after struggling with infertility. I will be 49 in September, so I know that this is our one and only. This little precious boy changed my life forever! So much of what you wrote about, emotionally, I feel I've experienced so far. My husband and I treasure this time, and yes, putting away baby clothes that don't fit, seeing photos of him when he was first born, that we will never have those moments again, how much I LOVED being pregnant, the baby showers, the surprise of seeing our boy for the first time (we didn't want to know the sex), the struggle with post partum depression and a fussy baby, all bring on the Ache. I've been thinking maybe there's something "wrong" with me, how emotional I feel but with what you wrote, I feel so blessed that God has allowed me to go through it!!!!

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Thank you for sharing! This is so, so relevant to what I feel and it makes me glad to know that I am not alone.

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This is me, today, as I sit sorting baby clothes with tears streaming down my face. There are so many hopes and dreams hidden in the folds of tiny outfits. But it is time to acknowledge the obvious no matter how painful. There will be no more little ones in our home and another family desperately needs these items. Thanks for a timely article that helps me remember that this will pass and that I am not alone.

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I felt the exact same way when we were done having babies. I miss being pregnant, having a newborn, that baby smell, holding a sleeping little one and rocking in the wee hours of the morning. My youngest is 8 now and I still miss it. I try to console myself by remembering that I won't have to potty train anyone else, won't have to deal with temper tantrums (at least not as much), etc. It doesn't make the ache go away but it helps. Now there are different kinds of aches: my oldest starting high school in the fall and being that much closer to leaving home, kid #2 getting ready to finish elementary school later this year. Being a mom is full of bittersweet moments like this, but I wouldn't trade it for the world!!

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Wow. I can so relate. We're "done" with two, but there are times I feel the "ache". And I have had a hard time parting with some of those itty bitty clothes and remembering favorite outfits and such. I also loved being pregnant and feeling the little one moving around inside. I remember after giving birth the first time and on my first outing to the grocery store leaving the baby with the husband how "alone" I felt as there was not another little being WITH me. Every age and stage definitely has it's pros and cons in the joys and frustrations...terrible two's and fabulous four's. I thank God for my precious little ones and for the strength to be content with what I'm blessed with. :)

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As soon as I started reading, I could relate in so many ways. The fun thing that we did with a similar style crib is that we turned it into a craft table. It gets so much use and the girls love it while I still get to have the memories. It gets so much use. Thanks for sharing.

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This is beautifully written. you have put beautiful words to my feelings! Thanks you!

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