“They grow up so fast.” You hear it over and over again from experienced moms, maybe your own mom, aunt, grandmother… and inevitably when you talk to a brand new mom, you say the same thing to her. The time goes so fast, they grow up so fast. You wish there was something more you could say, but how? How can you put motherhood into words?
That is one thing you can count on as a mother.
Sometimes the change creeps up on you and tackles you from behind.
Sometimes you can feel it slowly setting in, like watching the leaves slowly change in the Fall.
But nothing is more transitory than the phases of motherhood… “they grow up so fast” ringing in your ears…
Starting from that first trimester when you fear the morning sickness will never end, to waiting for the baby’s grand arrival, to wondering if you’ll make it through birth, and then each phase of your child’s life that comes and goes. While you are IN it, you feel stuck in time. Like things will never change and life will be like that forever.
You simultaneously want time to speed up, but know when this stage is gone you’ll pine for it.
I counted down the days until those postpartum hormones settled, and I could feel more like a normal human… but then that newborn smell… it’s gone.
And I would give so much to nuzzle my daughter’s now long curly hair and be transported back to those frantic first days just to smell that smell again on her then mostly bald head.
Time pays no mind to our wishes though.
It marches on at it’s own pace.
A pace that doesn’t seem steady.
It crawls along and then speeds up. It’s punctuated by these memorable moments frozen in time in our memories, or in the cloud in our phone in the form of selfies and family photos.
But the relationship you have with time changes so much when you become a mother.
And more than anything, you realize your powerlessness.
While you might have partially realized how powerful you are in the birth of your child, and the strength it has taken to raise that human… there are still many things in this world we can’t stand against.
One of those things is time.
Whether we are praying to just get through a few days to see that last tooth pop so we can sleep, or maybe it’s one of those days that you just completely feel the gratitude you have for your little family flooding through you… and you wish you could live in that day forever… we can’t make either desire happen.
We are not in control.
In truth, motherhood feels like an exercise in surrender.
Complete and utter surrender to nature, a Divine force, time.
We have some power to create the life and circumstances we desire, but in most cases, the best we can do is just strap in and enjoy the ride.
As much as we prepare, we can never be fully prepared for motherhood. Just like we can never be fully prepared for life.
Like giving birth, we can research, take classes, write the most thorough birthplan possible, hire a doula, make our partner read all the books, and more.
But when that birthday comes, we must be willing to go with the flow. To surrender to the process. To allow. To sink into a life changing, and sometimes life-ending, process that is one of the most joyous and terrifying a person can go through.
How can any person be the same after facing that?
But how do we actually surrender?
I am a type-a kind of person. I even plan our vacations down to the hour, putting down time and relaxation time in the schedule. (You can imagine how romantic that was during my honeymoon.)
My husband has been perfect for me in this specific aspect. He has helped me relax. To be present. To stop expecting perfection and the ability to control everything.
Case in point.
I always decorated my Christmas tree absolutely perfectly. You know, the bulbs spaced exactly apart with the colors judiciously placed throughout the tree. Any extras, like fake snow, was sprinkled precisely to create the perfect amount of coverage on every branch.
This would not do for my husband. He said I took all the fun out of decorating a tree.
He made me shove my whole hand in that bag of fake snow, get as much as I could fit in my fist, and then just throw it at the tree. Perfection be damned.
That first explosion of snow that fell so NOT perfectly all over the branches was like a physical manifestation of my soul claiming just a little bit more freedom.
Now I’m not knocking beautifully decorated trees.
This is a metaphor for my entire life, and the lives of many many many mothers.
We want to control so much because we love. We love so hard it hurts.
We want to ensure our little beans are protected, safe, happy. We want what is best for them.
But many of the biggest joys in life come from spontaneity and being present in the moment.
And in motherhood, we can’t plan for when they will take their first steps, or say “mama” for the first time.
We don’t know the precise day and time that they will finally write their name in scribbly little kid writing. We can just take each day as it comes and enjoy what happens.
We can’t fight time. We can’t stop it. We can’t speed it up. All we can do is embrace it.
The truth is that time is our best friend.
Think about vampires.
It’s a bit of a trope, right? That vampires are envious of the mortality of humans. The same could be said for other immortals, like the ancient Greco/Roman gods.
While we do everything in our power to stay young as long as possible, the fact that we age, grow old, and eventually die is what makes us human. It is what makes us and our lives beautiful.
As much as it would be nice to hit the pause button on time now and then, it would take the preciousness out of life.
The ephemeral nature of motherhood is a blessing and a curse.
It makes each moment precious, and each time we miss a moment, have a bad day or wish for time to speed up prick our hearts even deeper.
So we are left with just being able to tell the new mom “they grow up so fast.” Because how else do we say all of this and more to them?
And the other moms who have been around the block? When we say “they grow up so fast,” they know that we are saying all of this and more with just five words.
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