Not unlike labor

My first contractions usually came at night. They would be strong enough to alert me to them, but not so strong that they overwhelmed me. I’d waddle to the rocking chair, find a book to read and begin the rocking back and forth watching the clock and jotting notes about the minutes between the hard crunches across my stomach.

I’m one of those annoying women who didn’t mind labor too much (at least pre-transition labor… then it’s a whole ‘nuther story) and had all five babies at home. I did have one very difficult birth, but the whole thing only lasted forty-five minutes so… yeah. I know. Shut up. 🙂

In any case, tonight I’m pacing the floors and looking for that rocker. I want tea and a book. I want a blanket and soothing music.

My oldest girl is leaving home. There are half-packed boxes everywhere. And suddenly she doesn’t know how to pack them. She must have me. Never mind she’s had all summer and half of September. 36 hours remain and she must have my help. I’m annoyed. Cranky.

I want the room cleared of debris, but much of it has sentimental value: the script from Random Acts of Shakespeare (her second of six summer camps), silver heels from the prom, a red diploma, origami cranes she made with an old issue of Real Simple magazine strewn across the floor, scarves and perfume and that silly drawing a friend made in her psych class, Jane Eyre and Harry Potter stacked by the bed, pieces of paper that all have OSU letterhead and meant something Dire and Important only months ago (now irrelevant yet taunting – did I forget something? Is she really going?)…

Then there are the piles of clothes and sweaters and hoodies and skirts. Johannah wears skirts. She’s got scads of them and they each have a clip-on hanger. Two suitcases are full and we’re still washing clothes. I looked at her sideways while packing: “I thought you said you had No Clothes…”

“Oh Mom. I wear most of those t-shirts working out.”


“They don’t take up any space.”

And they don’t. Not really. Six of them are from Shakespeare Camps anyway.

Still, I keep wandering through the cluttered halls, agitated. Like labor. The pangs subside and I go back to working or writing or shopping. Like Sunday. At Costco. I walked through the aisles with Caitrin. Quaker Oats Granola! Johannah would like that. I’ll get it for her… oh wait.

And just like that, transition. A strong pang. I sucked in my breath. Breathe I remind myself. My eyes stung, my gut cramped. She won’t be here to eat it. And then it was gone. I moved down the brown sugar aisle.

The pangs are coming closer together now. I change the loads of her clothes from washer to dryer. Zing. I inhale, imagine Johannah’s smiling face at a football game, and it passes.

Right now as I type, in the other room four kids (who still live at home, who still include Johannah) are rolling dice, laughing and trading cards. Twinge. Another one.

The baby’s on its way. I feel it. Only a couple of final pushes and she’ll be out into a whole new world. But this time, without me. My big girl. My young woman. Her own person. Not a baby any more.

7 Responses to “Not unlike labor”

  1. Carrie says:

    Oh, I am bawling! For you, for myself, and this whole stupid system of having kids that just grow up! I wish we could turn back the clock!

  2. Julia S. says:

    Oh, sweet lady, breathe. In a few years when life changes pace again she’ll need you in a whole new way. Remember how it was with your own mother?
    Congratulations to you and your daughter for coming this far loving so much.

    Julia S.

  3. Rita says:

    Your metaphor left me breathless…and teary. It is all too brief.

  4. Becky says:

    You make me cry. I am scared of when that time comes for me. I think I’ll go hug my kids now and try to appreciate them as they are right now.

  5. Anna says:

    Life is full of so many phases, isn’t it?

    Just when we’re comfortable with this one, the road twists in a hairpin curve that wasn’t well enough signposted, and we find ourselves careening in an unexpected direction around the curve, fearful and dreading disaster, yet fully hopeful and expectant of success. The tyres screech, our fists are locked on the steering wheel, our eyes are wide and our foot hovers between brake and accelorator, not entirely sure whether any training we’ve had or previous experience equipped us adequately for THIS curve on the road of life.

    And then the bend is past and we’re on the straight again. Our breathing steadies, our sweat subsides, and life resumes at or close to the speed limit. All is well. We have survived.

    Julie, you teach us all so beautifully here on Bravewriter. You inspire us, guide us, direct us and reassure us. No doubt you have done the same with each of your beautiful children.

    My father used to say to my mother when one of us (5) wasn’t quite on track, or was in a phase that was comfortable for their parenting: “Never mind, Darlin’. Breeding will tell.” He meant that if all they had put into us to date was good stuff, that would surface in due course and all would be well. Johanna will be fine. You’ve taught her well.

    Julie, repeat after me: “Breeding will tell.” Breathe. In, out. “Breeding will tell.” Breathe. In, out. “Breeding will tell” …

    Big hugs from all of us down under, too.

  6. Kathy S says:

    You write beautifully. Your words speak my heart as I am in the same stage of life as you. This just stinks! (My writing is less eloquent.) Roots and wings is what we give them. I recently had an experience with my college bound son on a mountain top. I told him he’d speak of this night at my eulogy. Now he’s 1300 miles away! They will always love us, and now that my mom is in heaven, I can attest that they will always need us. Thanks for writing your heart.

  7. Colleen says:

    Aw, heck, didja hafta go and do that to me? Beautiful words, rich sentiment. So meaningful.