Mothers are born with every egg they will ever produce. Once a month we let one go. One day, one goes on to become embryo, fetus, baby.
She will grow that baby inside for nearly a year. And then she has no say in when the baby moves out. But in many hours of labor, she struggles to let go.
I've heard many mothers say how their worry is multiplied once the baby is born. How can she possibly take care this baby 24 hours a day now like she did in the womb? And that's the next step of letting go. I think Elizabeth Stone's quote says it best,
"Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body."
And I, of all people, of course know that "Motherhood" isn't defined by the notion that we had to birth the child. Adoptive mothers join in with the letting go before we meet our child too. We let go of many things too such as the notion that we can be with him/her when we choose. Like we had Zoe identified for 7 months and loved her across the ocean while she was in a home in China. We missed birthdays. She had surgeries and we weren't there. She got a horrible case of chicken pox. She wasn't tucked in safely in my womb. She was experiencing life ... without a mother. And I couldn't get to her.
With Luke, even though I had him since he was 2 days old, he was not legally "ours" until he was 2 1/2. There was a birthfamily involved. And the social workers determined when he would go on visits, when he would go to the doctor, etc. Over and over he was taken from my arms and I had to let him go.
The letting go continues. The first time a mother puts the child down out of her arms and has to walk away. It might be only as far as the shower (a rarity, of course). Or the first time the child sleeps in the crib. There's letting go for the first night sleep in another room.
I've talked to many new mothers who say, "I miss them when they're asleep." (After they get a certain age, trust me, you are counting down the minutes to bedtime but until then, it's the same with most mothers! And your 6th child? You feel the same way about that child as you did your first.)
Then there's the letting go to take their first steps.
Letting the child hold their own spoon. Letting them put on their shirt (even if it's backwards) because they said, "I can do this myself".
Letting them go play with a neighbor.
Letting go on their first day of preschool.
Summer camp, College, Down the Aisle.
For those of us with kids with special needs, we often have to let go of the child over to the doctor. They poke. They prod. THEY have the say in what happens medically to that child and we stand by and let it happen.
And if there are surgeries, we have to let them go down the hall on a gurney. For me, that's one of the most difficult "letting go" times that I experience.
The letting go never ends.
Piece by piece, ready or not, they move on for the next stages of life. If we have equipped them right, they will be. They might mess up. But we have also taught them how to get up, brush themselves off and start over again. But a main goal of motherhood is to have a child that can be equipped.
Some of these are easier to do than others.
There are days we want to just make them babies again.
And our job? ... to Celebrate each stage. To Cheer. To pray. To love. Forever.
And yet ... we also are to hold on.
(I see the need for another blog entry on this part in my near future.)
Knowing the difference .... ahhh, That's why the most difficult job in the world is to be a Mother.