The day I found out I was expecting my first child, my life changed forever. Suddenly, my body was not my own. Everything I ate, listened to, did and felt was now a part of creating another person! I took nasty vitamins for her, threw up for her, devoted a good part of my budget to her and went through hours of painful labor to bring her into the world.
And she was so beautiful.
Over the next several years I had five more children making six total-four through birth and two through adoption. And nothing in life was my own. Grocery shopping was about what to feed other people. My schedule was about how to get other people where they needed to be. I woke up when they needed me and went to sleep only after they were safely tucked in and (please, oh please!) sleeping soundly. I got a dog not because I love dogs, but because my children love dogs.
My body was their body-they came to life and grew inside me, fed from me, climbed on me, hung on me, followed me into the bathroom, smeared peanut butter on my arms, brushed my hair during Barbie movies, poked me in the eye when they wanted me to wake up and threw their arms around me, nearly knocking me to the ground in their enthusiasm.
As my family grew, meals got bigger, water bills more expensive, laundry became never-ending and my life was one eternal round of squeals of delight, cries of “Not fair!” school projects, birthday parties, snuggling on the couch in piles of books and blankets, cleaning up after lunch and looking for lost socks. I thought it would last forever.
Then one Sunday afternoon, I looked at my oldest daughter and realized it was time to let her go. She was ready to graduate a year early and head off to college. Sitting right there on the couch with her on the floor in front of me, I burst into tears.
“What?” She looked alarmed.
“I have to let you go, don’t I?”
She nodded and threw her arms around me in gratitude.
One by one, they all reached that point. College applications sprouted up amidst the homework, ACT scores and admissions requirements became regular dinnertime topics, my nights got later and later as I waited up for them to come home. One day I realized I could actually pee without interruption, and even though this had been the case for a few years, it still surprised me.
Last Friday, after weeks of planning, shopping, last minute projects (“Can you help me go through the boxes in the basement before you go?”) I dropped my youngest son off at the airport. He’s heading to another state to work for the summer before starting college and this crazy millennial version of adult life that only remotely resembles what I did at his age.
As I drove alone around the ring road on my way home, I had the strangest sensation. It was as if I was becoming unpregnant. My body is my own. My days are my own. My nights are my own. My fridge is my own. My water bill and toilet paper and vitamins and schedule and sleep pattern and … everything! Everything is suddenly back to being my own.
I had a flashback to standing outside the tiny apartment I lived in when my first daughter was born, holding her and feeling that nothing was ever going to be the same.
I was right. It never was. It never will be.
I am a mother. Sometimes I feel like I always have been. I know that I always will be.
Once again, my life will never be the same. I am unpregnant.
I came home and FaceTimed my oldest daughter and her three beautiful children, then called my son and his adorable little girl. The circle is starting again. My life is my own. But in a bigger way, my life will always be theirs. Babies are growing and learning and loving, and I am so happy that I get to be a part of it all.