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...