Parenthood is a bittersweet mix of emotions.
When you’re first trying for a baby, there’s unbridled hope that fades away to disappointment and dejection with the onset of each period.
When you finally see those two blue lines, you experience a kind of joy and excitement that can only be surpassed in intensity by the emotions you feel when you see your baby for the first time (but you don’t know this yet).
For some of us with angel babies, there’s a darkness that only fades the tiniest bit with each passing year. Unbearable sadness that makes your heartache.
The first time you see the flutter of your baby’s heart on the ultrasound and your heartbeat races almost as fast as his, you feel happiness, love and a bit of anxiety – “Am I really going to grow this tiny heartbeat in my body?”, you wonder.
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Through pregnancy, through the changes in your body, you experience more conflicting emotions.
Then labour starts. As the surges increase, their sheer strength hits you like a truck. You feel exhausted (an understatement, I know), as well as an other-worldly kind of emotion that hasn’t been coined or created yet.
Oh, the moment you meet, smell, touch, kiss your sweet baby! Did you ever feel so powerful to know that you created a child, have you ever felt so humbled that your little one chose you to be his mummy?
Have you ever felt love like that as you gaze in wonder at his face, his little finger and toes? Your child is perfection.
I’ve been through all this too, and while it was actually not too long ago, it seems like light years ago that my boys were tiny, helpless babies. It seems so long ago that they were cheeky toddlers.
I realized this one day as I watched them sleep, limbs entangled. I thought, “there’s no room for both of them anymore on this bed, I need to get a bigger one.” And then, I panicked. I felt an emotion that I had not experienced in my parenting journey so far.
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It was a gut-wrenching emotion that took the wind out of me. Like someone punched me in the heart.
It was pain.
Is the realization that your kids are growing up supposed to hurt so bad?
The panicked understanding that soon the cute little lisp will be replaced with clearly enunciated consonant and vowel sounds.
The pain of knowing that those arms and legs will never regain those baby rolls, that those millions of kisses and hugs forced on you will gradually decrease and soon, you’ll be the one demanding them.
Is it supposed to hurt so bad when you remember that the child who could neatly fit in a perfect, soft bundle on your lap, is now almost too big to sit there anymore?
Watching my kids grow up is a huge mix of bittersweet emotions…. and so we come back to parenting and the sometimes extreme feelings it involves.
Mums and dads, the saying, ‘they grow so fast’ – it’s not a cliché. It’s a truth. Children grow, at a scary pace. And the way for you to deal with the hurt of losing your little babies to time, is to slow down time when you are with them now, when they are still small.
Slow down your pace just a little bit to notice them when they are small. To capture moments that can be lost in a fraction of time in your mind’s eye.
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You might be trying to get something important done when your child comes up to you with a seemingly mundane request or question. Don’t brush him off. Listen to him. Soak up the memory of his eyes bright with wonder and excitement as he tells you his very important news. His eagerness to confide in you and his sweet smile as he realizes that yes, he has your full attention.
When he asks for that (millionth) final hug before bedtime, give in to his sweet demand. Hug him and hold him close to you.
Stop telling your baby to hurry up, that there’s no time. There is time right now, while he is still small. And later, when you have all the time in the world, your child won’t.
So, is watching your kids grow meant to hurt this much? I think it is. It’s an unavoidable emotion that comes with being a parent.