I’m having a hard time letting go of my daughter as she is growing up. She’s getting bigger and older by the minute (seriously, did she grow 3 inches overnight!?) While all I want to do is keep her attached to me 24/7, that’s not my job as a parent. This parenting thing means that if we’re doing it right, we’re working ourselves out of our occupation. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want her to be 35 and living in my basement. But since she’s the only child I’ll ever have, every first is also a last, and it can be brutally bittersweet. When we were going through infertility, I made a promise each time I would see those two lines on a pregnancy test that I would protect that tiny little child to the very best of my ability.
But I couldn’t.
My body hated being pregnant. So much so that all my miscarriages were in the first trimester, all under eight weeks. By the time I was staring at a test for the 6th time, I knew my odds weren’t good. I still only had one little one running around the house. It was more usual for me NOT to have a pregnancy last. I knew that statistically, this one too would end up with me in tears, watching those two lines fade to one as the cramping started.
In the dark hours of the night, I would creep into my daughter’s room as a quietly sobbing mess to watch her breathe and sleep, holding onto my belly and feeling like an absolute failure. I was a woman. Pregnancy and childbirth were *supposed* to be what my body was designed to do! Instead of protecting that little life, my body did everything possible to make sure that I would never get to meet my “womb-mate.” Sitting there on her carpet, silently shaking with grief as the tears soaked my pajamas, I promised my daughter that even though I couldn’t protect her siblings from my own body, I could protect her.
But I can’t always protect her.
Like her mama, she’s fiercely independent. “I DO IT!!” was a constant refrain through her toddler years. My mom tells a story of me being six wondering when I could move out into my own apartment. My daughter made it to four before asking the same thing.
On the first day of preschool, with her piggy tails swinging to the same rhythm as her comically huge backpack, socks on the outside of her pants (“I like dem like dat!”), I was a freakin’ mess. Would she get along with the other kids? Would she make any friends? And would she remember to use the bathroom? Will I survive NOT hovering outside the door for the three hours she’s in there?! I had so many texts sent that day wondering if I was pressed against the glass of the windows. Confession: I was hidden around the corner of the hallway.
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Those hours were the longest of my life.
When she came out, grinning from ear to ear, one pigtail hanging by a thread, shoes on the wrong feet and a streak of blue paint over one eyebrow, she ran into my arms for a cuddle.
“So? How was it?” I asked her.
Smiling, she told me it was “awesome-sauce” and that she and another little boy took over the dinosaur table for the whole time. My helicopter mama soul eased a bit.
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That first experience of letting go was enormous.
It was stressful, too. The only thing that kept me from going in there and encasing my daughter in bubble wrap (with hand sanitizer smeared all over for good measure) was knowing that this was supposed to happen. I had to let go. She’s been to classes on her own since then. She has been part of a Sparks troupe where she had her first camping experiences without us. She’s been on trips with her grandparents. And every time, that little whiff of panic sets in, that I won’t be able to protect her, and what if something goes wrong? What if she gets hurt, or lost, or….dies? How do I keep my promise to protect her as she goes around in her daily life, away from me?
My miscarriages, though horrific and soul-crushing, pretty much hammered home the concept that I CAN’T DO AS MUCH AS I WANT TO PROTECT MY DAUGHTER. Short of locking her away in a completely sterile and isolated environment, she’s always going to experience pain, loss, or the unexpected. She needs to grow. I can’t protect MY heart from hurt where she’s concerned either. It’s going to happen. She’s going to be teased, fall off the playground equipment and break an arm, or be mean to another child. We’re probably going to get into some massive fights in the next years as she grows into the person she’s supposed to be while she’s clawing away at her independence.
And I have to let her go even if I don’t want to.
Often, it feels like I cling too tightly to the past, too tightly to those babies I never got to meet. It can feel like one endless loop inside my head filled with “if I only did THIS” then maybe the miscarriages wouldn’t have happened. I feel stagnant. Jokingly, I tell my girl to “just stay little” all the time. She rolls her eyes in her 7-year-old way and tells me flat out with all the subtlety of a steam engine:
“MOM! I HAVE to grow! I HAVE to! If I don’t that means I would be dead!”
I laugh it off but later, that thought rummages around my skull. She’s right. She has to grow, to become something apart from me because the alternative is where her siblings are. They DID stay little. She needs to get bigger, stronger, smarter, and more filled with “awesome-sauce.” And she will, day by day. I hope she takes her time.
Watch out world, here she comes, whether I’m ready or not.
Photo by Simon Rae on Unsplash
Jill Kawchak is the proud mama to one truly amazing daughter, the wife of a good man, and a companion of a very troublesome Labrador retriever. Her days are spent homeschooling from the shadow of the Rocky Mountains in Cochrane, Alberta, where her daughter constantly begs to go exploring. She had always wanted to be a mother and started TTC just after her wedding in 2006. Jill has been diagnosed with PCOS, and was told motherhood would be a difficult goal to attain, but after 3.5 years of infertility with one early loss, the clouds parted, and the sunshine that was a little girl with blue eyes and brown curls broke through. However, in the years since her daughter arrived, there have been another 4 early losses. After *much* debate, angst and tears, Jill and her husband, Mark, have decided to end their fertility journey and are now focused on ‘what comes next’. She writes to keep sane, and support those who are also experiencing infertility and baby loss.