There are so many hard things about being a mama. Night feedings. Tantrums. Teething. Potty training. Lack of sleep. Lack of “me” time. Lack of couple time. So much giving, over and over and over. But at the root of all of these things, I have found, is the hardest thing. The one thing I go to over and over again and again.
My torn heart.
My heart is torn because I am stuck in this back and forth of “stay little” and “please hurry up and get bigger!” And I can’t decide or agree with myself on what I want more.
I melt at the romance of a new baby, the tiny perfect bundle they make, the new pink paint in a beautiful nursery, the unworn smocked dresses and monogrammed blankets. The softness of their downy heads. The first smiles. The wide eyes and fat cheeks and cute naked tushes of my twins as they run down the hall toward their room after a bath. The first time I heard “I love you!” Their joy of saying “Mama!” when they see me again, whether it’s been five hours or five minutes. Holding a newborn under my chin. Snuggles in the middle of the night. Watching their eyes slowly closing as they suck on their evening bottle. Their sweet breathing as they hold their lovies in their fat hands and their little bottoms sticking in the air. I love the excitement of those first steps, the wrinkly neck folds of a 3-week-old, the tiny footy pajamas. I love my son’s arms around my neck in a death grip, the funny babbling sounds my daughter makes, talking in her own language. I love watching them get so excited over something as simple as bubbles, and the little roar they make when I say “What does a lion say?” I love their stumbling first words, the way they smell after a bath, they way they fit perfectly on my hip right now. I’m secretly thankful it took us so long to have our babies because now I have babies at home for longer. Slow down, we say to them, don’t get so big so fast! Hold close those moments, old ladies always say, don’t wish them away! And I know they’re right.
But then there the hard days. And the other side of my heart.
The side of me that can’t wait to leave the house without a giant diaper bag, 14 snacks, six pacifiers, wipes and sippy cups. The part of me that can’t wait for my 9-year-old to be able to drive herself to ballet class. I’m excited for the day we no longer need high chairs or booster seats, when the twins won’t throw their dinner all over the wall, when they won’t whine and whine and whine because they don’t yet have the vocabulary to tell me what it is they actually want. I can’t wait until they all can walk to the park without running into the street, and I don’t need to bring a stroller with me. There’s that slight jealousy I feel when I see a friend has packed up her kids and gone hiking in the North Carolina mountains — something I’m thinking we won’t be able to do until 2022 at the earliest. The relief I’ll feel when I won’t need to text 47 people to find a babysitter for two hours. The sleep I’ll catch up on when they’re no longing climbing into our bed at 1 a.m. The freedom of not having to watch my kids every single second so they don’t fall off the swing set. The ability to set them loose on the beach and flip through a magazine. To take a trip without a box of diapers, eat in a restaurant that does not provide crayons and paper menus, to stop at the grocery store and make it through shopping without a tantrum in the cookie aisle.
And then my 1-year-olds cuddle into my lap like warm puppies, or they giggle with the deep belly laughter only a baby has while I tickle them, and the thought I had two seconds earlier — I can’t wait until they can wipe their own bottoms! — flies out of my head and I just want them to be a year old forever so they’ll always fit so sweetly in my arms.
Why this never-ending back and forth in my heart? Why can’t I make up my mind? Why does my heart break when they accomplish a new task while at the same time rejoicing they can finally do it themselves? I can’t find any peace here, in this emotional rollercoaster of motherhood.
But they do grow up. Despite my torn heart. And whether I want them to or not. And maybe that’s a good thing. Because I’m not sure I’d be able to let them otherwise.