Motherhood is a slow release.
No sooner had I delivered our firstborn — after months of birthing classes and baby showers and nursery decorating — than the release began.
I loved the newborn stage. I loved being home on maternity leave and playing all things mom for the first time.
But two months in and our ruddy newborn, who only ate and slept, began to fill out to a chubby baby boy with milky white rolls and coos and long mornings of play.
“Oh I love this stage,” I thought, hoping time would linger right here.
But the slow release continued.
Toddlerhood moved into full-on childhood. Siblings were added to the mix, we moved houses and jobs and, before we ever imagined, girls were calling to talk to our just-turned-teen boy.
I have loved every stage and I’ve wanted it to stay just like it was. But, without permission, time moved on and lo and behold — I discovered that I loved the next stage as well.
Release to the next stage is right and good and healthy.
Rather than mourn what was we get to fall in love with what is.
I saw this so clearly about a year after my oldest, Ben, got married. We were attending a friend’s wedding, a young man Ben had grown up with.
The reception was held around Christmas in my hometown in the same restored hotel where I’d celebrated my own Christmas wedding reception 28 years earlier and boy did it take me back.
After lunch, as people milled around, refilling drinks and beginning to hit the dance floor, I sat at my table taking it in. I’d been seated at the next table over from Ben and his wife, Elizabeth, but we happened to be sitting back to back.
That’s when it happened.
I looked over to see another friend approaching Elizabeth.
“Congratulations!” she said with a big smile. “I saw Ben got accepted to medical school!”
And with those nine words, I felt the final snip of complete release.
For 21 years, my husband and I had poured our blood, sweat and tears into that boy. Our boy.
There had been countless moments in our home that had gone into shaping him, teaching him the values that helped him reach a dream he’d talked about since he was a boy. We had encouraged and helped direct his love of all things science; researched opportunities for him to explore medicine; sent him off with a packed duffel bag and his first VISA on a summer-long medical mission trip.
For years, he had home schooled around our dining room table. We were the ones who had scoured for classes and books and volunteer work that would prepare him. We had prayed through the college process, walked through the disappointments and gone with him when he was invited to explore an early admit medical program.
But the friend hadn’t walked to offer congratulations to me.
She’d gone to his wife. Ben was hers now.
And in this room where his dad and I had started our own life 28 years earlier, I felt the impact of complete release.
For just a moment, my thoughts swirled as I processed the shift.
Inside, I sensed a whole lot of ownership in the celebration.
But I was smiling on the inside, not sad or envious.
This release was right and good and healthy.
Elizabeth could cheer him on in a way I would never be able to.
I was clearly in a new stage. But lo and behold, I discovered bone-deep joy here and found I loved this stage just as well.