Where am I?
I've found myself in the part of this longest labor of motherhood where I am not nursing. I am not pregnant. I do not have a newborn.
For a little over twelve years, those three things have been my life. But now... Now my baby is almost two. In the blink of an eye, her cooing and grunting have turned into actual words, her wriggling has turned into running, and her small hand lets go of mine a lot more than it used to.
And my arms are empty more often than they have ever been.
It's strange here in this place. And I'm quite unsure how I feel.
There have been moments over the last twelve years when I've longed to have my body back to myself. To sleep more than a few broken hours during the night. When I've felt so completely "touched out" and run down that 'heaven' to me was five minutes completely alone hidden in my closet eating a donut that I didn't have to share, while simultaneously resting my eyes. But never in those moments did I actually understand or even dream of the reality of this one.
How long will I tarry here in this place? Will there ever be another baby for me? Or..is this just the beginning of a new stage in my life?
If you don't know this by now, my husband and I are open to life. While the last year has seen me in some devastating places emotionally and physically which led us to opt to abstain at times, it was not a permanent decision and was always governed by open communication and prayer. There very well could be another baby. But there hasn't been so far, and this is where I am right now, floating on these unfamiliar waves, wondering if they're taking me back to the shoreline that I've been so used to, or further out into unknown depths.
My sister just had a baby a few days ago. I got to see him when he was twelve hours old. I held him and focused on his sweet face serene in slumber. He was swaddled up in his little cocoon, abiding there in his perfection, completely unaware of me. I never saw his eyes flutter, much less open. In the last year or so, holding other people's newborns has not lent that well-known "twinge" of longing I usually feel when my own babies have gotten just a little too big. I have not felt that I necessarily wanted another baby, but was content to love on someone else's and hand them right back. To be honest, at that moment, I still did not feel that twinge. Don't get me wrong, I was instantly in love with this little boy, his smallness, his soft skin, the sweet smell of new baby, and the promises he embodied for my sister and her family. Holding him gave me such joy. But this joy was only partially mine, and most of it I had to give back. So I laid it down along with him, in the little bassinet in the hospital room. And then I left.
I went home to my own brood, to my sweet little two year old who came running to me, screaming "Mommmmm" and covering me with kisses as I walked in the door. I kissed her soft hair, smoothing a wispy curl between my fingers, and drank in her scent as deeply as I could. This is my life now, and every moment will continue to change, moving me along gently- and sometimes not so gently- into the next. Whether it carries me back to my familiar shoreline where I will be holding and nursing another sweet new babe of my own, or out in deep waters and resting content holding someone else's, it matters not. Right now, my journey looks quite different than it has these last twelve years, but I trust in its purpose, and in mine.