Being a stay-at-home mom, I sometimes catch myself seeing other couples my age with nice cars and big houses and thinking, “How in a mother’s uterus can they afford that?! Oh yeah, two incomes.” I forget that some households have double the take in when the paychecks come. Nevertheless, I love our one income life and family and consider myself insanely blessed. Nice home, cute kids, good clothes, food, two cars….all of what we “think” we need to be “taken care of”. Still, having one income makes me REALLY hardcore love some extra money on the side. Because of that, in the past year or so, I’ve taken a liking to selling off stuff from our home in groups on Facebook. It’s sort of addictive, really. My life is sort of like a virtual yard sale. It’s easy money and no matter what amount it comes in…money is money is money and cha cha cha ching!
As of late, I have been selling off baby items since we are done having kids. A co-sleeper here, bath tub there and money all around, y’all Even better? Sweet SPACE! One thing they don’t tell you when you have kids is that half of your house will be overtaken with large plastic, multi-colored baby gear.
It wasn’t until two months ago that I sold my first tote of baby clothes….the clothes all of my precious daughters have worn season by season. Again tonight, eager to get things sorted, cleared out, and some more money on hand for the next thing, I began going through another season of clothes. And just like the first time, a feeling of vunerability swept over me. It’s the reoccuring feeling of a mother letting go…moving on. My mother once said that motherhood is a long act of letting go. She is right. And while it is such a joy to see your kids grow and a blessing to have them grow older, letting go is a slow ache. It hits you in moments, not in long drawn out weeks or months…in subtle moments standing over small clothes, thumbing down collars and pressing worn ruffles.
I pulled some shirts out of the tote and felt tears sting my eyes as they welled behind the surface.
“Aw, my firstborn worn this dress the first time I heard her laugh. I was having such a hard time then that that laugh was like rescue to my tired heart.”
“THIS oufit!!!! I remember each of my little ones wore this on Christmas and that stain on the collar was surely from my last born. She spit up as if she was getting paid to do so.”
I moved on to the next piece and just like the outfit before, I contemplated whether or not I should sell them. Should I keep them for my grandchildren? Should I save some things just in case? Sometimes it’s not even letting go of the children that gets you. It’s letting go of the symbols of when they were your babies. I know I’m only a season or so away of clothes where the feet of footed pajamas, no longer fit in the palm of my hand.
I continue to fold each piece, recall the little people who wore them and the pictures in my mind of them all in that certain dress or those cozy fleece pajamas worn on late night runs to the grocery store. I smooth the sleeves, fluff out cotton flowers and press down crinkled ribbons and I do so thinking of the mom who bought the clothes from me. I imagine that when she pulls them out, she will picture another little girl, her own, who will wear this outfit to her first Sunday at church and that outfit when summer hits and she smiles seeing her baby’s chubby white thighs. For me, there was a lot of love held in those clothes and as I pass them on, I’m happy knowing that another mother will find her daughters just as sweet in them.
It’s hard for me to believe that I’m passing these precious tokens of my memory on already. I’m moving on to a stage that another mother is just beginning. “It can’t be that this has come and gone so quickly,” I think to myself as my almost five year old runs through the nursery.
“Eden,” I call out.
“My heart is sad folding up all of these clothes.”
“Because we are done having babies and all of my sweet girls wore these tiny clothes and I have a lot of memories of you guys in them. I’m really going to miss them. I’m going to miss having babies.”
“I’m going to miss you being a mommy,too, ” she says.
“Well, I’m still your mommy. All of my children’s mommy. I always will be.”
“I mean, ” and she paused. “I’m going to miss watching you being a mommy. I’m going to miss watching you help someone grow.”
With tears in my eyes and a baby shirt in my hands I say, “Aw, baby thank you. Me, too. Me, too.” It was priceless validation that she thinks I’m a good mother and not only that, she has enjoyed watching me parent.
It’s a beautiful thing having a gift so precious that handfuls of Gymboree and Old Navy clothes in a hot pink tote can drudge up a slew full of memories and joy with bittersweet fierceness. Even though I still have a 10 month old as we speak, the baby years, the babiest of babies is on her way to growing up. Trust me, in the middle of the night I still pray that happens sooner rather than later but when you get a minute to stop, which milestones always cause you to do, it comes earlier than you thought it would, faster than you imagined, and pulls at even the heart that on most days, knows shes had her last.
As I went through the last few shirts, skirts, and tiny shoes, I went back to look at the closet one last time. Tucked in the back on a hanger, I see a dated, color faded and stained romper. “Huh,” I said thoughtfully to myself as pulled it off the hanger. It was one of my baby outfits, my mother’s last baby, that she had saved standing in a nursery some 31 years ago. It was a full circle moment when I found myself doing and feeling the same things my own mother did in 1980-something packing up things for the last time and keeping one thing that she just couldn’t part with. Motherhood, it’s moments, and emotions are all very timeless. I’m reminded of that all of the time.
Today my precious middle child turned three. Next week, my firstborn turns 5 and in 8 weeks, my baby turns 1. As a mom, I’m forever in the middle of moving forward with excitement and tenderly looking over my shoulder as I see the phase we left behind. I’m stuck somewhere in between ready to move forward and holding on tightly, both literally and figuratively, to a well-loved Onesie. I know in my heart that my next babies will be my children’s children and that all too soon, they will be sorting through baby clothes remembering what it is was like to live through the chaotic bliss of having babies.
Having all three of my children in 4 years has been and continues to be a wild and exhausting joy. One of my children will start kindergarten in the fall and another pre-school. During those days, my baby and I will have those precious one-on-one times that my older two both had. I will laugh on field trips, smile at the new art projects of my pre-schooler, be in awe as they learn, and watch my baby unfold into that toddler that is sassy and spirited like her sisters.
I will savor it.
I will wallow in it.
I will live in it and I will breath them in.
And when that time comes so unexpectedly like it always does where I realize we are on the precipice of another phase, I will let go. I’ll look back. I’ll feel the slow ache. And just like every stage, as my 4 year old said tonight, I’ll think of how I will really miss being their mommy just as it was in that moment…in that season. As my role changes and slips in to new seasons, I too, sweet child, will really miss helping my children grow in that specific way….just like every mother before me. I will look forward with hope, glance behind me and long earnestly, and in quite moments like tonight, cling to a small shirt in silence in dim lamp light and honor those tugging feelings that this thing called motherhood, was more than I ever hoped it could be.
Photo Credit: Joel Ham Photography