Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Last Can

I was in WalMart today, and as I was leaving the strangest thing happened to me.

Our WalMart is one of the ones that has the formula locked up with the cigarettes. Seems a little strange to me, terribly sad if nothing else, but that's how it is. I got in line at aisle 17 (where the lock-down is, the easiest place to get it), and as I stood there waiting in line, playing with Joey, willing myself to just remember to ask the checker to get the formula for me (I hate it when I forget!), I started crying.

"What is this?!" I thought. Josiah will be one on Sunday, and as soon as they turn one you are supposed to stop the formula and start them on whole milk. I knew this was the last can of formula I would buy. But this was not like the time that I bought Conner's last can or Micah's last can -- this is the last can of formula I will buy for my babies. (At least, it better be!)

This day, that is understandably a momentous one, should be full of relief and jumping for joy at the money that will not be spent at $25 a pop. That's how it was with the big brothers. But I was not overjoyed. I was sad to the point of tearing up in public.

Then Joey confiscated my pen, and proceeded to write on his face. Nothing like a rowdy almost-one-year-old to snap you out of your pity party! I got him (at least mostly) cleaned up and interested in something else, and by then it was my turn to start throwing my groceries up on the conveyer belt. When the time came, I did remember to ask for the formula, and as I did the tears returned. I tried to explain myself to the checker, but she didn't really seem to know what to do with me. I punched in my pin number, took my receipt, and headed out the door.

But by the time I got to the parking lot, I was sobbing out loud, could hardly see where I was going. This was the last can of formula I would buy. My baby is growing up, my last baby is hardly a baby anymore. We're down to just the afternoon nap bottle and the bedtime bottle, we're done with the babyfood, he's walking, and now we're just about done with the formula. I'm thirty now, out of the "young mother" category. (Well maybe not really, but it does seem that I've somehow stepped into some kind of other notch...)

This phase of my life, the phase where, for 5 1/2 years we were either pregnant, wanting to be pregnant, or carting around an infant is coming to an end. This phase of my life, that nearly every little girl dreams about and anticipates and longs for is over. My babies are growing up, and I'm getting old.

I never thought it would be the formula that would do this to me. That weird pinkish-purplish can of "powdered gold," as we sometimes called it was foreign to me just 5 1/2 years ago. Five and a half years ago, I was going to be one of those perfect moms who nursed her children until they were weaned. I was going to do this natural thing for them, this thing that my body was made to do, this thing that all the experts claim is the best for them, this thing that only I could do for them. No spending hundreds of dollars on formula for us!

But then the nursing didn't work with Conner and we had to embrace the formula. It took a long time for me to be okay with this. I felt as though I had failed him, I felt as though I had failed Bret, I felt as though my body had failed me. If Conner had been born a hundred years ago, would he have even made it? What kind of mother am I?

Eventually though, Conner continued growing -- better now with the formula -- and I knew that given the circumstances this was the best thing for us, and I learned to embrace it.

And then the same thing happened with Micah, and again with Josiah. It was on Mother's Day 2008 that I last nursed one of my children. I cried and cried that day. And now today, the day that I buy the last can of formula I have cried and cried.

Bret was in a meeting while all of this was happening, so I called my mother. She, of course, completely understood what I was going through. Just having someone to listen to me helped, and I was able to calm down. "Yes, it's sad," she said. "But really this is what you want. How much sadder would you be if they were not growing up? This is what you want." Yeah, yeah, yeah, I knew that. She is always so good to remind me that, no matter how much you may love this phase that your children are in, the next phase will have something about it that you love just as much -- even as your children become adults and then parents themselves.

She's right, and I of course did get calmed down and on my way. But that doesn't change the fact that this week has really been hard on me. And I don't doubt that Sunday (Joey's birthday) will be incredibly hard, too.

They tell you that all of this crazy stuff will happen to you when you become a mother, but you just can't completely understand until you're there. And as painful as it sometimes is, I wouldn't change a thing. Not for the world. My babies may be growing up, but they will always be my babies. I am so blessed and thankful that I am the one God chose to be their mother, and I am excited to see them grow and change. I am doing what I always wanted to do -- painful as it sometimes is -- I'm living my dream.

Now, to Ira and Lydia and Chris and Jodi and Robert and Tiffany and Kevin and Adam and Caroline -- I think I'm gonna be needing some baby neices and nephews to love on! You know what you need to do. ;) Tiff and Kev, I can't wait to meet Kaleb in just a few weeks! Thanks for coming through for me (it was for me that you're doing this, right!), and please understand if I just take him home with me. :) I'll probably cry when I see him, too -- except that I will probably have my own three clamoring all over me and be unable to think much about myself...


Lydia said...

awww....i'm so sad for you! I'm crying for you, too. They will always be your babies - if they're anything like me. I'm still a huge baby for mom and dad. And really - be excited. Being an aunt is awesome! You see how your boys love on us and are excited to see us. You probably have more years than you want of that coming - and you totally don't change diaper unless you just want, too! ;) I love you and I hope you have a lovely day today... and you don't look a day over 25...

Tiffany said...

So, you should really warn people when you are going to post something so emotionally full. Especially those that are pregnant and reading this at work!

And, although you were not the sole reason that we decided to have a baby, watching you and your three are definitely a major reason that I am sooooo excited! I can't wait for everyone to meet him!

Heidi said...

awww...Rachel, that was a tear-jerker and I want to say I completely understand but I can't...because we haven't gotten to our last one yet. But I remember telling myself that I wouldn't pick a final time to breastfeed with Ryan (which is probably why I didn't stop until he was 14 months..), everytime I started thinking about the last time I would nurse him I would cry and cry. (I think Chris probably thouhgt I was crazy...) but I know Mom's understand. I am not looking forward to nursing my last baby for the last time...I don't think I will handle it any differently than you did...I may be calling you for some comfort..!!

Amber Wurzbach said...

I remember feeling that way with each of mine, lol, I cry over every little thing they do. I still cry when it's Meg's first day of school and she's in the second grade, so I can just see how I'm going to do when Logan goes for the first time. The next phase in your life will be an exciting time but watch out it goes by fast so take it all in. I love girl and remember we as moms have the right to shed tears for our babies!

Hollie said...

Aww...Rach! I SO know how your feeling! Daniel's our last one and it's so hard to think that he will be 7 this year! Then I look at Destanie our 1st and she'll be 15!!! It's hard letting go! But it helps us to grow with them. My heart goes out to you, I'm praying for comfort and peace! Enjoy EVERYDAY! Love ya girl, I'm always here to cry with you!

Amanda Brooke Kilgore said...

My mom says the exact thing to make me feel better: They are supposed to grow up. But, sometimes I really wish they didn't have to. I find myself pondering the idea of baby #3 all of the time. Should we? Shouldn't we? Should we? Shouldn't we? I'm just not sure if I'm ready to let go of "that" part of my life - the part I wanted for so long - the part where I get to be a mommy. The formula didn't get me though. I WANTED to do formula, and I was so very glad when I didn't have to fork over $100 a month on that stuff. What DID get me was when Rhett started walking. It was almost like a panic - will this be the last "first" walk? And then I felt the extreme need to take every little thing in lest I forget a moment. I still feel that way. I think it all boils down to the fact that motherhood is so sacred, and it's not something one takes lightly; especially when you've been wanting to be a mommy ever since you were a little girl like you and me. It was our "dream", and quite honestly, it's HARD to turn the timeline away from the excitement of new babies and "firsts". I guess it's time to start thinking about other firsts like first report card, first girlfriend, first date, first car, etc. Gee - somehow those don't seem as sweet as first word or first tooth. The good news is that boys LOVE their mommas, and at least we know we will always be cherished and taken care of.
And on another note, WHY HASN'T ANY ONE OF OUR SIBLINGS HAD KIDS YET????? Am I EVER going to be an aunt??? I've got to get my baby fix somehow, and you KNOW that if I go for that girl I'll end up with twin boys! ha ha